Book tells the story of living with deaf parents

Marina Bay Sands (MBS) staff painting tote bags for underprivileged mothers at the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) yesterday, ahead of Mother's Day today. MBS has partnered SADeaf since 2013. Ms Grace Phua with her parents Angela Lee and
Marina Bay Sands (MBS) staff painting tote bags for underprivileged mothers at the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) yesterday, ahead of Mother's Day today. MBS has partnered SADeaf since 2013. ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM
Marina Bay Sands (MBS) staff painting tote bags for underprivileged mothers at the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) yesterday, ahead of Mother's Day today. MBS has partnered SADeaf since 2013. Ms Grace Phua with her parents Angela Lee and
Ms Grace Phua with her parents Angela Lee and Barnabas Phua. Ms Phua hopes her book Mommy, Can You Hear Me? - dedicated to her mother - can help raise awareness of what it is like to be a child of deaf parents.ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM

Author drew on her experiences growing up and hopes to raise awareness of such families

When housewife Angela Lee, 58, opened the birthday gift from her daughter Grace Phua last year, she was surprised to see her own artwork on the cover of a book titled, Mommy, Can You Hear Me?

Ms Phua had written the book which educates children about living with deaf parents, and dedicated it to her.

It was based on the experiences of Ms Phua, 26, and her siblings, as Madam Lee and her husband Barnabas Phua, 63, are deaf, while their four children can hear.

Last year, Ms Phua had asked Madam Lee to draw a picture of four children and their mother. The Web designer, who is the second child, did not tell her mother its purpose but told her "to make it look like the mother wasn't listening".

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On receiving the book, Madam Lee said in sign language: "I was very happy when I received it, and I think this happiness will stay with me for a long time."

The book was officially launched at the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) yesterday.

Sponsored by Marina Bay Sands' (MBS) corporate social responsibility programme Sands for Singapore, 500 copies of the book will be distributed to libraries, childcare centres and kindergartens.

MBS president and chief executive George Tanasijevich said: "It is our hope that Grace's story will help everyone gain a better understanding of the challenges and triumphs faced by children of deaf adults (Coda) and more importantly, inspire everyone to overcome difficulties."

MBS has partnered SADeaf since 2013. Staff attended the launch yesterday and, together with SADeaf beneficiaries, painted tote bags to be given to underprivileged mothers for Mother's Day.

Ms Phua said the idea for the book came to her in 2015, when the loud sound of her mother vacuuming distracted her when she was studying.

At first she felt angry, but then she asked herself why she felt this way. "I mean, my mum can't hear herself, she can't hear the vacuum cleaner," Ms Phua said.

The short moment triggered memories, such as the siblings getting locked out of their home for hours without their parents realising - because they could not hear the doorbell.

Said Ms Phua: "I thought, why not write a book to pen down all these sketches about how my parents went through life and how we felt growing up?"

She hopes the book can help raise awareness of what it is like to be a Coda. For example, she and her siblings learnt sign language before learning to speak.

"In primary school, knowing sign language was quite cool," said Ms Phua. But secondary schoolmates who saw them signing to their parents would laugh at them.

"That's when I realised not everybody accepts sign language."

SADeaf executive director Sylvia Teng said the book was special because it puts the focus on Coda.

She said: "Our community is not only for the deaf and the hard of hearing. Their relatives, their children, their siblings are also part of our extended family."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 14, 2017, with the headline 'Book tells the story of living with deaf parents'. Print Edition | Subscribe