I’m Proud of Being Deaf
Lauren submitted the first draft of her essay to me when she was sixteen and a student in the EDCO Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Newton North High School in Newton, Massachusetts. In its first incarnation, Lauren’s essay both enticed and baffled me. It was composed of a number of vivid and engaging story fragments scattered among sentences — in some places whole paragraphs — I could not understand. Although all the words were in English, parts of the essay seemed to be written in another language entirely. And in a way they were: Lauren’s natural language is ASL (American Sign Language). She also uses a hearing aid and lip-reads and often uses speech together with ASL to communicate. Writing in correct English sentences is a skill she was just beginning to master.
I worked with Lauren on her essay over the next year. At first she and I made a couple of unsuccessful attempts at communicating about it directly through letters (unsuccessful because Lauren’s written English continued to be an enigma for me). We then called on the aid of one of Lauren’s teachers, who was able to ask Lauren my questions in ASL and record her answers for me in English. This tactic worked well. The final version of Lauren’s essay blends her initial draft with bits of our later correspondence and transcriptions of her conversations with her teacher.
I will tell you how I became deaf and how I feel about being Deaf. 1
I was born hearing. The doctor measured and weighed me and everything was fine. I weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces and had blue eyes and a lot of hair on my head! My family was so happy to see the new baby. My mother and my father were so happy!
Nine months later, I became very, very sick. My mother took me to the doctor and I had a high fever of 103. A few weeks later, I was home with my mother. She was cleaning the house and the refrigerator. I was playing with toys and sitting in a walker to help me to learn how to walk. Then my mom went to get something and heard a box or something fall off the refrigerator. It made a really loud sound, like “BOOM!” My mom was so scared. She looked at me and I was playing with my toys, laughing and talking with them. My mom was shocked. Later, when my father came home from work, my mom told him about this. My father was surprised and got a pan and big soup spoon and banged it behind me, but I did not turn. Then they took me to Children’s Hospital in Boston. The doctor found out that I was deaf from the bad fever, which had damaged my ears. My right ear had an 85-decibel loss and my left ear had an 80-decibel loss.2
Two years later, my mom took me to a speech school for deaf kids in Boston where I first learned how to speak. Then two years after that, I went to a school for the deaf near Fitchburg. I think it was the CAPS Collaborative Program. It was an oral school, so I didn’t learn sign language. I communicated by speaking, lip reading, and listening (I have some hearing). My mom felt bad that I didn’t learn sign because I didn’t understand other Deaf people.
When I turned eight, I went to another school called Beverly School for the Deaf [BSD], where I learned to sign. I don’t remember if I had a hard time learning to sign, but I don’t think so. When I was fourteen, I went to the EDCO Program at the Day Middle School in Newton. Right now I am in high school.
I feel like I have changed since I have been in high school. At BSD and the Day Middle School, I ignored the teachers and sometimes I did not feel like doing my homework. I noticed that my attitude was negative and my grades were going downhill. Since freshman year, my attitude has changed. I listen to teachers and do most of my homework everyday. EDCO is giving me a better education. BSD was too easy for me. Teachers did not challenge me, and I did not learn how to write well. Now I am learning to write sentences correctly. I am being challenged more and learning more. I’m so happy!
Also, at BSD we used English sign and I want to use ASL. ASL is a beautiful language. It makes me proud of being Deaf. It has a lot of action, and I like the amount of expression used. Since I learned it, I understand people clearly. ASL is fun; I can chat and socialize with Deaf friends, and we understand each other easily.
But I do have a few hearing friends, too. Deaf and hearing people are just the same. My hearing friends are very nice people who talk to me a lot. I teach them how to sign and they love it! I play with them and chat with them. We love to talk! I am a happy person and have made a lot of good friends.
1. Editor’s note: The word “deaf”
is capitalized when it refers to Deaf culture or to people who identify
with Deaf culture. It is generally written with a lowercase “d”
when it refers to either the physical phenomenon of deafness or to the
overall population of people who are deaf.
Linda Hillyer, compiler and editor of Listen to Our Stories
logo art by Adiyana Paramita
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