Mom’s Video on Everything She Learned After Son Born Deaf Goes Viral


When Callie and Leo Foster discovered that their newborn son was deaf, they panicked.

“We were left reeling on the day he was diagnosed,” Callie Foster told Newsweek. “It was a moment filled with confusion and grief, as we grappled with the fact that Luca had never heard our voices or the comforting shushes meant to soothe him. We mourned not only for the silence enveloping his world, but also the idea we had as parents for how we would confidently raise him.”

The first-time parents had no idea how they’d be able help Luca feel comfortable in a loud and lively world, and so they turned to others who had tread this path before for support.

The best advice they received came from a parent of a slightly older deaf child.

“All that baby needs is love and language,” the woman told the Fosters.

The LA-based couple heeded her words and set about easing their son into different modes of communication. The family have since garnered a large following on social media after sharing snippets of their journey online, and are now using their unexpected internet fame to highlight the importance of American Sign Language (ASL) and everything else they’ve learned since welcoming a deaf child.

“In Luca’s first year, our communication was tactile, visual and verbal. I sang to him by letting him feel the vibrations on my throat and used ASL to bring the music to life. Every day was filled with signs,” Foster said.

Couple
Leo, Callie and Luca Foster. The Foster’s felt “grief” when their son was born deaf, but they’ve since learned ASL and want other hearing parents to do the same.

@thelacouple

How ASL Helped Luca

Two tests determined that Luca was profoundly deaf and in need of “major surgery” if he were to ever hear or communicate. The family’s initial path pointed towards cochlear implants—an electronic device that stimulates the auditory nerve in the ear’s cochlea, which can allow some deaf people to perceive sounds.

“This changed when we noticed Luca’s response to sound with hearing aids. This observation led us to reconsider and ultimately delay the implant surgery,” Foster said.

Luca began to respond to his parents’ voices as a one-year-old, after they placed all their energy into “love and language.”

Cochlear implants, while beneficial for some, eliminate any natural residual hearing that a person has. For Luca, that could have meant losing his actual level of hearing, which, as it turned out, was much better than the initially diagnosed “bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss” when he was six-weeks-old. The two-year-old no longer qualifies for the surgery.

“We had been initially advised that cochlear implants won’t work with his level of hearing loss, but decided against them regardless and went forward with total communication after more than one year of talking, singing and signing to him,” Foster said.

“Our hearts exploded when Luca started signing back to us,” the Fosters say in one of their viral videos. The Instagram post has been viewed more than 3.8 million times since it was first shared to the platform on February 26, and chronicles the couple’s journey with ASL. The viral post introduces audiences to the many challenges the couple faced when Luca was born, and the strides they made in communicating with him after they learned ASL and applied it to the way he was raised.

“Shortly before he turned two, doctors did another auditory brainstem response (ABR) test to figure out his hearing thresholds,” Foster said. “To our surprise, results showed that Luca is mild to moderately hard of hearing, a miraculous shift from his initial diagnosis.”

“Had we proceeded without questioning and further testing, we might have never discovered that Luca had more hearing capability, and he would have been left profoundly deaf by the surgery,” Foster said.

The couple told Newsweek that the experience showed them the importance of a thorough evaluation and of second opinions in diagnosing hearing loss. This is just one of the messages they’re now sharing online to boost visibility of the challenges facing the deaf community. They also want their followers to understand how significant ASL is in making a world full of sounds accessible, in an unconventional sense, to deaf people.

“We Should All Learn ASL”

The sobering reality is that while 90 percent of deaf children are born to two hearing parents, only 10 percent of those parents learn ASL. This prompted the Fosters to act faster in their own ASL journey and advocate for other hearing parents to start one.

“The lack of ASL knowledge can create a profound disconnect within families. It moved us and we felt a sense of gratitude and responsibility embarking on our ASL journey, not just as an educational endeavor, but as a commitment to ensuring that our family’s bond remains unbreakable,” Foster said.

“We believe that ASL can serve as a bridge, fostering inclusivity and understanding,” she said. “My dad had taught me the ABCs when I was a kid so that’s where we started. I perfected signing the alphabet. We jumped in free ASL zoom classes and I watched as Luca’s little hands started to move alongside ours, and his eyes soaked up every sign.”

The Fosters say that Luca’s second diagnosis was a result of them allowing his identity and confidence to flourish in spite of his unique challenges, all through their use of ASL.

Although they’ve paved the way for Luca to express how he’d like to communicate when he’s older—through the endless signs, speech forms, finger spellings, gestures, and hearing aids that they’d introduced him to over the past two years—the couple are still not comforted by the level of inclusion the deaf community feel in U.S. public life.

In 2021, about 3.6 percent of the U.S. population, or about 11 million individuals, considered themselves deaf. The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates that 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss.

“The U.S. needs to foster greater accessibility and inclusivity for the deaf and hard of hearing. This goes beyond closed and open captioning; it means integrating ASL into our education system and normalizing visual interpreters in media to bridge gaps and enrich lives across the community,” Foster said.

“We should all learn ASL,” she added, but only the White House could enforce such a requirement.

For the Foster’s the effort has been more than worth it. The couple advise families to embrace their deaf child or children with love, and immerse them in language, both spoken and signed.

“Beyond the practical benefits of communication with the hard of hearing community, ASL enriches us in ways that transcend language barriers,” Foster said. “It opens ourselves up to new relationships and experiences and also champions a society that values every individual’s voice.”

“We have fallen in love with a new language and being hearing parents, and after immersing ourselves in deaf culture, our initial worries for Luca’s future have transformed into a steadfast optimism,” Foster said.

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