CODA stands for Children of Deaf Adults and typically that group of people would be made up of hearing children that grow up in a Deaf household. About 85%-over 90% of Deaf parents have hearing children, or ‘CODAs’. Some CODAs have parents that restrict how much sign language their child learns which really limits the child in how they can communicate their feelings to their parents. Most CODAs learn sign language, some learn enough to act as a communication bridge between the Deaf and the hearing world. This can be both a blessing and a burden but is definitely a responsibility that is given to the child at such a young age.
CODAs will often be translators for their parents which is not always a good thing. Children will often be the translator for “adult only” topics. Imagine trying to understand all the words of an adult’s busy life as a child and then needing to translate it. Bills, medical appointments, etc. are some of the things that CODAs translate, though they may be confusing and potentially inappropriate. CODAs taking on this responsibility isn’t all bad either though. To many CODAs this responsibility comes with it extreme rewards like being bilingual and learning how to communicate within two cultures, learning how to carry responsibility at an early age, and more. There are many stories that CODAs could tell, some positive, some negative. Some CODAs strive to be Deaf activists and fight for Deaf rights and are very protective of their family while others distance themselves from the Deaf culture.
Selma Lagerlof definition of culture has two elements: 1) “Culture is learned” and 2) “Culture is forgotten in the sense that we cease to be conscious of its existence as learned behavior.” I grew up in a semi Deaf household; my parents are both hearing but my grandparents on my mother’s side are Deaf and lived with us for most of my life. Being exposed to Deaf culture and learning the many little aspects of life through Deaf eyes became my norm. I remember the first time I saw a TV that didn’t have any closed captions; I was around 10 years old and was visiting a friend’s house. We sat down to watch TV and I felt something was missing but I couldn’t put my finger on it until later. My mom’s side of the family is from Romania so we would have many Romanian friends and family over. They all either Deaf or at least knew sign language. I met a Romanian when I was 17 years old who was not Deaf and did not sign and I was very confused as to why. I know it is silly to think that but I grew up in a world where all Romanians knew sign language. The point I am trying to make is that CODAs that grow up in these two worlds have a different learned culture and a different learned behavior than other hearing people.
Awesome essay that focuses on communication between Deaf parents and CODA children:
Great source to find some in depth information on CODAs and Deaf parents
Scholarship essays written by CODAs about their life as a CODA.