Life as a CODA

By Blake Kim

 CODA, an acronym: child of a Deaf adult. In a world where communication often feels effortless, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the different lifestyle of having parents who cannot hear. This lifestyle gives many people questions. Can you blast music at home? Can they speak? Do you know American Sign Language? This is the world I’ve known, constantly getting these questions, growing up with parents who communicate in ways that aren’t always heard. I’ve grown up translating and requesting interpreters for my mom, and it’s something that is normal for me. 

Being a CODA may seem difficult, but there are many benefits to having Deaf parents. One of them is knowing ASL. I can sign to my sister and mom without anyone understanding, which helps me communicate in so many ways. For example, if I lose my voice, I can continue to talk to my mom. I can talk to her in a crowded room, or even from a distance, I will be able to communicate with my parents, as long as I can see them. Learning ASL is also beneficial because in children, it has proven to improve learning speed. 

One of the downsides of using ASL is that if I need to call them, I have to use Facetime. My hands must be free and I need to make sure that I am looking at the screen when I call. Sometimes, I also interpret for them, whether it be at doctors appointments or school events. I want to make sure they are kept in the loop. There might be a few disadvantages, but I really appreciate knowing ASL; it has made me, me.

 I am also involved in the Deaf community, always getting exposed to different experiences and perspectives, meeting new people. Knowing a culture you are a part of is important for a few reasons: cultural awareness, education and personal growth. I feel connected to more than just my immediate family; to my parent’s friends, their kids, and even random strangers that happen to know ASL. I can’t count how many times I have bonded with someone I had just met, because we both knew ASL or are involved in the Deaf community.  

So, to answer your questions, yes, I can blast music at home, but I have to be mindful of the volume because I still have neighbors and a hearing sister. Yes, my parents can speak, and yes, I know ASL. Being a CODA has shaped my life, and I would never wish for anything else. What may seem not so normal to the average person, is normal to me, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.