Friday, February 15, 2008

Growing up deaf while Understanding English

My wife and her kids who are hearing are catching on why I speak differently and why my english could be off.

From birth up to until I was about 4 years old, my family didn't know I was deaf until I had a hearing test in a famous hospital in Boston. I could hear loud noises but I could not communicate or even talk normally. As soon as they found out that I have a major hearing loss, my grandparents got me a new hearing-aid and I actually remembered the first day I actually HEARD anything including my mother's voice and of course a TRUCK outside the hearing-aid store. My first hearing-aid was a Zenith.

Then before attending deaf school, I was in speech therapy and then soon, I was able to talk basic words but not really having a converstation. Soon, I started attending the Boston School for the Deaf for 7 years which was an oralism school (now closed). I was not to learn or use sign language. Therefore, for 4 years or so, I had to learn how to speak before I learn to understand the english language.

I really wished I learned the english language, even through sign language because I wanted to communicate effectively. Today, even though I can hear and can communicate effectively. My grammar will always be off and words I say will always be off the mark.

In "person", I am mildly reserved and low-key person because I am usally afraid of saying something wrong grammar or speech. I am not big on small talk. I usually prefer in-dept discussion about important issues rather than small talk.

After years of thinking, I wished I learned the english language or even really communicate before I was 4 years old. I did wished that I learned sign language so I can be ahead on my "communication" skills regardless whether I can or cannot speak at the time. Its the communication that is very important and I have missed out ALOT and I had alot of "catching up" to do when I got older. The major challenge facing kids with hearing impairments is communication.

Along with my deafness, I had to struggle with the conditions that affect the development of my communication skills within personality and intelligence. Today's experts says that "Age of onset plays a crucial role in the development of language". It took me YEARS to catch up with I noticed deaf people with sign language didn't have that much of a difficulty.

I don't care what the expert says. My experiences speak for themselves.

Now... please keep in mind.... this is NOT my parents' fault nor my families. I blame this on the "so-called" experts on deafness who really didn't know it all like Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired. My family were relying on the experts and they said oralism was the way and speaking was the most important part of my education whether or not I understood english well enough.

My mother have done so much for me and I could NOT asked for a better mother. She did the best as she could as she listened to those around her. I had the best care and I have the best love that a child could have. But, I didn't really understand "relationship" and I could not understand the communication was an important part of all human relationships.

What can parents of deaf children do for their kids? Make sure they can communicate effectively so they can have a "normal" relationship. I have learned that many children with hearing problems will face both experiential and language deficiencies. My speech is so good that no one will ever know that I am deaf but if they listened to my grammar, they will figure me out.

I will say that I am jealous of those deaf people who grew up with sign language and learned the english language later because today, they are better communicators than I am. They are more advanced in grammar than I am. Does not matter how well I can hear. I will never be good in speaking and I will also never be wonderful in sign language. I will always be stuck between the "hearing" and "deaf" world.

The deaf culture population represents about 10% while people like me are 90% of the population. It would be very nice to be part one or the other.

As this moment, I am more acceptable to the hearing world because there are those who don't care how I speak. There are those deaf who would care how good I sign. If I don't sign that good, I am not considered deaf.

This is a TOUGH world out there.

Now.. battling with Multiple Sclerosis is another battle and a different ball game. LOL


Anonymous said...

Thanks for visiting my blog via Lisa. This particular post is interesting to me: My husband is working with Ukrainian professionals to help them adopt an early-intervention program for children born with disabilities or suspected disabilities. He has a great speech pathologist who has come from Seattle twice to help with this issue. Your insight re communication vs language is very for thought, for sure.

Casdok said...

It is a tough world. Your mother sounds wonderful.

I thought my sone was deaf until he was diagnosed. I still use sign language with him as he dosnt speak and words are to stressful for him

Theres a party over at my blog, hope you can come and bring your family and frinds!!

Merelyme said...

you are such an amazing person jim. i had no idea you had gone through all of this. your communication skills are wonderful i think. you make me think about so many things.

Laurie said...


When you write, your grammar is just fine. In fact, if you travel to different parts of the U.S. there are many different dialects and many different ways of saying the same thing. My biggest challenge is the heavy Tennesse accent and grammar! But, "I ain't gonna go thar, buddy!" (smile)

I, too, had a mother who believed in me and believed in oralism. I wouldn't be where I am today in my life if it wasn't for her strength and determination. I need to learn sign language and am going to consider taking a class soon.

By the way, I found my OLD Zenith body aid the other day going through some old love letters from my husband. Brought back some memories but I hated that thing!

I'm sorry to have to deal with MS along with a hearing loss. We all have a journey and a story to tell. . .

Have a great weekend. Laurie in TN where people talk funny!

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

What a moment that must have been when they turned on your first hearing-aid!