We shared a room for a couple of years until she moved out. At last, after watching her sign to an invisible being in the ceiling above her bed, it was long overdue. My father did not know what to do with a daughter who was deaf. She had made it through high school in New York City where people were more used to difference. My hope is that she was not made fun of there. I know when she was younger her atonal voice and her attempts to communicate in public were made fun of.
There was a class for deaf students at Bryant High School in Manhattan. It was only recently that I learned that she did not learn to sign until she was sixteen years old. The trend then was to teach deaf children to speak. They needed to learn to use language, to use their voices. My sister is profoundly deaf and cannot hear, so language connected to voice is useless to her. She needed to be able to use American Sign Language. ASL was forbidden. Schools and doctors and educators alike told my parents that my sister would not be able to live in the world if she did not learn to speak.
This was an impossible task for my sister. Her lack of confidence already withered from being forced to speak and learning to read lips, left her demoralized.
By her senior year she was used to travelling on the train from Queens, where we lived, to Manhattan. Growing up, there were countless mornings she did not want to ride the train with my mother to the school for the deaf in Manhattan. Mornings filled with her tears and vomiting from being so upset were common.
Now, as an adult, I want to understand how her inability to communicate, to find her language for so much of her early life, affected her.
We are delighted to welcome Gloria Saltzman as a new member of Write On Mamas.
L is for Language
April 14, 2014 By 13 Comments