It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Life has been crazy… but, good. AC is finishing up 6th grade, his first year of middle school. He’s done remarkably well. We had his 504 plan meeting last week, and basically will just repeat it for next year. The main thing it entails is the use of the FM system, and some basic consideration. Right now, it seems that is meeting his needs. AC actually won two awards last week at the awards ceremony – one for being on high honor roll with distinction all year, AND the other was a math award. We’re very proud of him.
Next year, he will be in 7th grade, and will take ASL (American Sign Language) as his foreign language. He’s looking forward to that. I just finished up a little beginner ASL class for staff where I work. I learned a lot, but feel like I have so much to learn. ASL, and the Deaf culture in general, are very interesting. I hope that AC will enjoy learning more about it next year too. He’s already learned a little with me. It already is fun, and also handy. Like, when he didn’t have his hearing aids in, I could sign some basic ASL (like, “Go to Bed!” or “Did you finish your homework??”) to him without him saying, “what?” 10 times…. Of course, then he said, “I don’t KNOW ASL yet!”.
The more I learn about Deaf culture, the more I realize that AC doesn’t fit into the Deaf world. With his mild/moderate hearing loss – he is currently, and always has been, completely immersed in the “Hearing World”. Still, he isn’t QUITE like all of his non HOH peers & family. He is a bit “caught in between worlds”. (I still like this article about this: “A Dual Identity Critical for Students“). It will be good for him to learn about both worlds – and then, maybe someday, he can feel like he has the best of both worlds. His learning ASL is vital for him to do that. I wish we would have started earlier with it. Better late than never, I guess, right?
For my ASL class, we read a book, called “A Journey Into the Deaf-World“. Very interesting. It certainly gives one a better understanding of the history of Deaf culture and ASL in general. You can find the book here if you’re interested: http://www.amazon.com/Journey-Into-Deaf-World-Harlan-Lane/dp/0915035634
I also had to write a little paper for the ASL class. The assignment was to attend a Deaf culture event, and write a brief reflective paper about it. I attended an event called “Eyeth Day”, and if anyone’s interested – here it is:
I attended “Eyeth Day” at the University where I work, with a few classmates from our ASL Level II class. This event was held right on campus and was basically a simulation of a Deaf town on “planet Eyeth”, with various businesses, etc. Students attending river campus that are taking ASL had to complete certain tasks at each station as they played the role of the customer visiting the town. Luckily, the actors took it easy on myself and our group, since our ASL skills were not nearly as advanced as most of those students.
Before this event, I had never heard of “Eyeth”. The whole concept is actually quite intriguing. The idea is that “Earth” is related to the word “ear”, reflecting the predominantly hearing world we live in. Whereas “Eyeth” is related to the word “eye” and portrays a pretend planet where communication and life is based on a visual world. On Eyeth, Deaf culture and sign language are the norm, and people who can hear and use spoken language are the minority. While only pretend, when I participated in this simulation it was easy to feel as if I was, indeed, part of the minority.
The first thing I noticed when arriving to this event was the lack of noise. Specifically, the lack of the sound of people talking. Usually, when I go to an event of this size, and with that many people in attendance, I can hear the noise long before I reach the actual room of the event. However, this was not the case. This was a huge open room, with people and stations everywhere, and the only sounds were of footsteps and a cough here or there. This is so different from hearing dozens of people talking at the same time. I found the quiet a bit unnerving. It made me apprehensive to talk myself. It felt like if I did talk, the whole room would hear what I said, and also that I would stand out as doing something “wrong”. Here, ASL was “right”, and speaking English was “wrong”.
Since my ASL skills are only at the beginner level, it was difficult to follow the ASL conversations going on everywhere around me. It was also a bit intimidating to step up to one of the simulation stations knowing that there would definitely be some confusion involved. I quickly realized just how little ASL I knew, and how hard it was to grasp what little I did know when it seemed like everyone’s hands were moving faster than the speed of light. I tried to gather as many clues as possible by watching what others were doing, body language, and facial expressions. These things helped, but, could not take the place of understanding the signs themselves. I imagine this might be similar to a Deaf person trying to read lips, or trying to follow a conversation when there is not ASL involved.
My classmates and I began our journey through Eyeth, starting with the Travel Agent where we saw a familiar face playing the part of the ticket agent. It was Lori, our teacher, who helped set the tone in a fun way and ease or tension. Eventually we made our way through almost all of the booths, including a doctor office, a paint store, a real estate office, and a French Sign Language (or LSF, langue des signes française) class. We messed up a lot, misunderstood a lot, laughed a lot, and ultimately, I think, learned a lot.
I noticed that the Deaf people that were acting at the different booths were quick to figure out what the level of other’s ASL understanding was. The more we knew, or seemed to understand, the more complicated things they asked. For beginners, like myself and the others from my class, they asked easier questions and helped us through a bit more. It made me wonder if many hearing people are nearly as observant or intuitive? Unfortunately, I am guessing they are not. I imagine Deaf people are more able to pick up on signals and read people’s body language, etc. They seemed to do this so naturally. I was impressed.
Participating in this event was a positive experience. It gave me a glimpse of how Deaf people must feel as they navigate through the hearing world. It was easy to get an idea of how common tasks and everyday necessary encounters can become frustrating and challenging. I could also get a little better understanding of how it would be easy to feel alienated, misunderstood, or judged.
I realized that this was similar to how I felt when, as a teenager, I visited France. I knew very little French and felt very much like the outsider and had trouble communicating. At least at the Eyeth Day event, nobody hissed at me like they did on the streets of France because I was an American. Actually, everyone on Eyeth was very encouraging, engaging, and a good time was had by all. I would recommend anyone, learning ASL or not, attend an Eyeth day event like this if possible.