Justin and Rachel Vollmar and their three older children are part of the Deaf community and consider their deafness as part of their cultural identity. Their fourth child, Clarisa, is DeafBlind, which presents a challenge, but one that the Vollmars are better equipped for than most families would be.
“When Clarisa was born, my wife Rachel and I immediately agreed that we will modify our family to Clarisa's needs and make sure that she is fully involved with family at all times.”
What is the best way to do that? They are figuring it out as they go along. Most DeafBlind people are born with some level of deafness and slowly lose their vision. They have early exposure to language and a visual concept of the world and social interactions. (Helen Keller also had this; she became DeafBlind as a toddler). A baby born DeafBlind doesn’t have that, and the case of DeafBlind from birth is very rare. The Vollmars have consulted with teachers, specialists, other parents of DeafBlind children, and importantly, DeafBlind pro-tactile advocates. They have made public their journey to find the best way for Clarisa, and it’s a remarkable model of how a family can bring a child into their world by being truly attentive to her view of the world.
Clarisa is almost a year old now, and her family has been communicating with her in American Sign Language delivered in a pro-tactile way since birth. After all, babies are exposed to language a long time before they can use it themselves.
Read about Clarisa and her family at mental_flosss.
Follow Clarisa’s progress at Facebook, where videos are delivered in sign language with captions and images are tagged with machine-readable descriptions.
(Image credit: Clarisa Vollmar at Facebook)