Thursday, August 30, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 8

Learning and Using Sign

I never quite knew what sign language was, even when one time I was with my family visiting a family friend. We went to church with them and then to their house afterwards. The husband's wife's parents were deaf, didn't speak, and only signed.

I never learned sign up til I was on a school bus with some others who signed, much less understood what it was. That wasn't til about fourth or fifth grade when I was taking two school buses to school. The first one took me to a school that used sign and voice, and the second took me to my school. My own school was oral, and never allowed us to use sign. I've mentioned before that the no signing part was an emotional issue with mom and I. John Egbert-Mindfield's The Speech Therapist Says ASL is Too Hard to Learn article reminds me of what I went through. I'm sure at least some deaf readers here identify with that posting. It's not that it "was going to be hard to learn," rather, they were afraid I was going to lose my voice if I learned sign and just used it.

It was on the first bus that I started to learn from watching the other kids. But even then, they kept giving me trouble when I watched them, and I got in trouble for doing just that. "AHH! *NOSEY!*" Can't I just learn from watching you guys?! I started learning on my own the manual alphabet, which took a week, then picked up some here and there. Up to seventh grade, I was able to learn some here and there due to some others that were in my homeroom.

Then from the middle of seventh til tenth grades, there wasn't much. Nevertheless, after that til I graduated from college, my learning and use of sign took off since I was always around other deaf who used sign. Around eighth and ninth grades, I went to this deaf camp in Louisiana. This was the first real exposure to those who didn't talk and used mostly sign. I did manage to keep in touch with a couple other people, and occasionally saw this deaf pastor who I previously couldn't communicate with since I didn't know sign. I could finally communicate with him as we I bumped into each other in different places over the years.

Then with high school in Illinois, I was picking up on sign all the time as my homeroom was a deaf special ed classroom and we had our own little deaf group that talked and had lunch together at times. Where they are today, I don't know.

With attending NTID in Rochester, NY, my learning sign had taken off just from my constant interactions with other deaf out there. But of course, there was a certain trio of ladies who helped out a little, two of whom didn't talk, the other did.

Next - Speech therapy


Deaf Pixie said...

It is really very interesting when I read the stories from your telling stories about give you up into Adoptive parents and I would love to read your stories.

(Deaf Pixe)

ASL Risen said...

Very interesting on your Part 8. I didn't learn how to sign until I was 16 years old after I got my driver license. I happened to learn ASL from Deaf Italian mainstream girl up in west suburban of Chicago! My parents was so furious to find out that I did sneaked off to my home public library where I did learn alot ASL from that Deaf Italian mainstream girl! We exchanged our time while I did dropped her off home from her work at my home public library and she did taught me a lot ASL the same time for almost 3 years when I was very lonely Deaf student in hearing Co ed Catholic high school.

Ethan said...

I just started seriously learning sign language when I was 30, although, my first class was in high school at a local community college. The teacher was hearing and was really miserable. It made me not want to learn sign language. Moreover, my parents did not want me to learn sign language. They said I was better than that. I took another class when I 27 and I loved it. The teacher was Deaf. Now I hang out with Deaf folk.