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 as an oral and a sign language, and bicultural, identifying with both deaf and hearing cultures. Codas often 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.

The CODA Identity

CODAs often find themselves in the middle of two worlds: the "hearing world" and the "deaf world". While they might find some similarities between themselves and their hearing peers, they might also find that their upbringing within the Deaf community and culture sets them apart. Many CODAs do not identify with the "hearing world" or the "deaf world". Rather, they simply identify as CODAS: a bridge between these two worlds, but not within either.

Coda communicating with parents using video technology

Potential challenges facing hearing CODAs

The challenges facing the hearing children of deaf adults parallel those of many second-generation immigrant children. Just as many first-generation immigrant parents frequently struggle to communicate in the majority (spoken) language, and come to rely on the greater fluency of their bilingual children, so deaf parents may come to rely on hearing children who are effectively 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. The isolation can deprive the child of normal social skills. 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 choose to ignore hurtful words so easily.

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.

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 [9] 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:

  • Camp Mark Seven, which was established as the first KODA camp in 1998. They have two two-week programs for campers from 9 to 16 years old.
  • Camp Grizzly,[10] which hosts a one-week program for preteen and teen codas
  • KODAWest, which is a week-long camp in Southern California held annually in the summer for campers from ages 8 to 15, Counselors-in-training (CIT) from ages 16 to 17, and Counselors from ages 18 and older.
  • 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. This camp offers three sessions a summer with substantial variety in campers' ages and is often fully enrolled each session.[11]

There is also CODA UK, Ireland, Hong Kong, Germany, Italy and France.

Notable CODAs

Fictional CODAs

Related deaf culture acronyms for identifying family members

  • OHCODA – Only Hearing Child of Deaf Adults (deaf parents and deaf siblings)
  • OCODA – Only Child of Deaf Adult(s) (no siblings)
  • COCA-CODA – Child of CODA Adult and Child of Deaf Adult
  • KODA – Kid of Deaf Adult(s)
  • GODA – Grandchild of Deaf Adult(s)
  • SODA – Sibling of a Deaf Adult(s)
  • SpODA – Spouse of Deaf Adult


  • Paul Preston (1995-09-01). Mother father deaf: living between sound and silence. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-58748-9.
  • Leah Hager Cohen (1995-04-25). Train go sorry: inside a deaf world. Vintage. ISBN 978-0-679-76165-5.
  • Kambri Crews (2012). Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir. Villard. ISBN 978-0-345-51602-2.
  • Guido (2012). Adytum.


  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, http://lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-layout/coda.htm, (April 2003)
  3. ^ Glenn Collins, The Family; Children of Deaf Share Their Lives, https://www.nytimes.com/1986/12/15/styl-lives.html, (December 1986).
  4. ^ Bavelier, D.; Tomann, A.; Hutton, C.; Mitchell, T.; Corina, D.; Liu, G.; Neville, H. (2000). "Visual Attention to the Periphery Is Enhanced in Congenitally Deaf Individuals". The Journal of Neuroscience. 20 (17): RC93. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.20-17-j0001.2000. PMC 6772982. PMID 10952732. S2CID 1599866.
  5. ^ Waxman, R. P.; Spencer, P. E. (1997). "What Mothers Do to Support Infant Visual Attention: Sensitivities to Age and Hearing Status". Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. 2 (2): 104–114. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.deafed.a014311. PMID 15579840.
  6. ^ About CODA, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-29. Retrieved 2010-03-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (2012).
  7. ^ CODA events Archived August 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ About CODA, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-29. Retrieved 2010-03-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (2012).
  9. ^ http://www.kodaheart.org
  10. ^ NorCal | Services for Deaf & Hard of Hearing, Inc
  11. ^ https://kodacamp.wordpress.com
  12. ^ 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)
  13. ^ 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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