The Dinner Table is No Laughing Matter
Today’s article about the Dinner Table Effect in the Limping Chicken reflects the author’s own experience and I absolutely take no issue with anybody’s personal experience of this effect. However, Liam’s concluding comment of “Forget it, I’ll eat in the living room” is not a solution for many people.
Not all people experience this, but having provided therapy over the last decade to Deaf children and young people, more than half of them dreaded this issue. The problem was not that Christmas Dinner is hard - but that Christmas Dinner reminds you that your family did not effectively adapt to your needs when you were born.
The Dinner Table Effect is not a problem - it is a symptom of a much deeper problem. The problem that despite being screened and diagnosed as deaf within a couple of months of birth, the medical and social care communities rallied around the family to focus entirely upon fixing ears, rather than upon ensuring a rich language environment for the child. For a deaf child, that language environment must be visual, accessible, and effective. This does not mean an English-approximated system of gestures. It means a signed language with a grammar that has evolved naturally within the ecosystem of deaf people across the millennia.
The child’s window for acquisition of their first language is at best five years from birth; and that first language - any language as long as it is effectively embedded - is the foundation of all later cognitive development: educational attainment, social skills-building, theory of mind development, income, and quality of life. Remember too that developing a first language does not restrict developing a second, or a third. Indeed - the sooner you establish your first, the more easily you will learn others.
The Dinner Table Effect is a reminder of the harm that naive health and social care professionals can do to confused and vulnerable parents upon the birth of their deaf child, and the distraction from, or direct rejection of, Sign Language that they engender.
When your car breaks down you catch the bus. You might prefer to drive but if you spend five years tinkering with the car you will miss the party.
Read more about this issue in the Harm Reduction Journal.