Child of deaf adult

A child of deaf adult, often known by the acronym "CODA", is a person who was raised by one or more deaf parents or guardians. Millie Brother coined the term and founded the organization CODA,[1] which serves as a resource and a center of community for children of deaf adults. Many CODAs are bilingual, speaking both an oral and a sign language (in the United States this is commonly ASL), and bicultural, identifying with both deaf and hearing cultures. CODAs must navigate the border between the deaf and hearing worlds, serving as liaisons between their deaf parents and the hearing world in which they reside.[2] Ninety percent of children born to deaf adults can hear normally,[3] resulting in a significant and widespread community of CODAs around the world. The acronym KODA (Kid of Deaf Adult) is sometimes used to refer to CODAs under the age of 18.

CODA communicating with parents using video technology

Potential challenges facing hearing CODAs

Hearing CODAs frequently feel caught between two cultures, in a situation similar to that of many second-generation immigrants. Their parents frequently struggle to communicate in the majority (spoken) language, while CODAs are usually fluent bilinguals.

This dynamic can lead CODAs to act as interpreters for their parents, which can be especially problematic when a child CODA is asked to interpret messages that are cognitively or emotionally inappropriate for their age. For example, a school-aged child may be called on to explain a diagnosis of a serious medical condition to their deaf parent.

In addition, CODAs are often exposed to prejudice against their family. Many people may assume that the entire family is deaf because they are all signing. Sometimes such bystanders may make negative comments about the deaf in that family's presence, not realizing the child can hear. Deaf parents may not adequately understand that while a deaf person can look away or close their eyes, a hearing person cannot chose to ignore hurtful words so easily.

CODAs face unique challenges beyond being the language interpreter and mediator. Many deaf parents hope for a deaf child , in order to share their world. The discovery that their child is hearing can elicit an emotional reaction analogous to that of hearing parents discovering their child is deaf.

A CODA's hearing status is usually discovered in early infancy, when the child is seen to react to sources of noise outside their field of view. While many deaf parents either do not grieve or overcome this grief before the child is old enough to notice, unresolved grief over the child's hearing status can damage parent-child relationships. The child may feel unwanted or 'not good enough'.

Discordant hearing status can also pose practical problems. Deaf and hearing people differ in visual attention patterns, with deaf people being more easily distracted by movement in peripheral vision.[4] Deaf parents often instinctively use such movement to attract their child's attention, which can lead to difficulties engaging in joint attention with hearing toddlers.[5] Parental sensitivity to child cues modulates this effect, with highly sensitive parents being more able to adjust to a child's differences from them.

Support organizations

Millie Brother established the organization CODA (Children of Deaf Adults) in 1983 as a non-profit organization for the hearing sons and daughters of deaf parents.[6] Its first annual conference took place in 1986 in Fremont, California.[7] The conferences have grown and have taken on an international status, with attendees hailing from around the world. CODA aims to raise awareness about the unique experiences and issues of growing up between these two cultures. It provides a forum for CODAs to discuss the shared problems and experiences with other CODAs.[8]

Regardless of the spoken and sign languages used, CODA believes that such feelings and experiences that derive from the binary relationship of the two divergent cultures are universally felt by CODAs. CODA provides educational opportunities, promotes self-help, organizes advocacy efforts, and serves as a resource for CODAs raised in both signing and non-signing environments. Since its founding, CODA, which is currently based in Santa Barbara, California, has attracted between 500 and 600 members; it has five chapters around the country (this information is from a NYT article from 1986 and is out-dated. Current membership numbers are not published on the official CODA Inc. website and there are 5 regions listed on the CODA website with many branches under each region, including international branches).[9]

There are support groups for deaf parents who may be concerned about raising their hearing children, as well as support groups for adult CODAs. One organization, KODAheart [10] provides educational and recreational resources for deaf parents and hearing children through an educational website and pop-up camps. Several camps have been established for KODAs:

• KODA MidWest, which is held in Wisconsin and has several sessions ranging from 7 - 16 years old, Counselors- in -training (CIT) at age 17, and Counselors ages 18 and older. With three sessions a summer we add a lot of variety in ages to our campers and end up being full each session. [12]

There is also CODA UK & Ireland.

Notable CODAs

Fictional CODAs

Related Deaf Culture acronyms for identifying family members



  1. Robert Hoffmeister, Open Your Eyes: Border Crossings by Hearing Children of Deaf Parents: The Lost History of Codas (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 207.
  2. Kerri Clark, Communication & Parenting Issues in Families with Deaf Parents and Hearing Children,, (April 2003)
  3. Glenn Collins, The Family; Children of Deaf Share Their Lives,, (December 1986).
  4. About CODA, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-29. Retrieved 2010-03-18. (2012).
  5. CODA events Archived August 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. About CODA, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-29. Retrieved 2010-03-18. (2012).
  7. Glenn Collins, "The Family; Children of Deaf Share Their Lives,", (December 1986).
  9. NorCal | Services for Deaf & Hard of Hearing, Inc
  11. Gannon, Jack. 1981. Deaf Heritage–A Narrative History of Deaf America, Silver Spring, MD: National Association of the Deaf, p. 413 (PDF Archived April 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.)
  12. Gannon, Jack. 1981. Deaf Heritage–A Narrative History of Deaf America, Silver Spring, MD: National Association of the Deaf, p. 414 (PDF Archived April 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.)

External links

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