How To Stop The Cycle Of Deaf Isolation

how to stop the cycle of deaf isolation

How to stop the cycle of Deaf isolation

When I was younger, I made a promise to myself and I am so glad I am sticking to that promise.

I promised myself that when I have my own family, I will no longer accept Deaf isolation by hearing people.

As a child, I had a lot of hearing friends. We had sleepovers, hung out at school and played many different games. It was easy to communicate through gestures since most of our times were spent playing. As we got older, it became harder for me to feel included because not all of them could sign. Teenagers like to sit around and gossip and I was often lost.

I was told, “It’s nothing.” “You would not understand.” “It’s not important.” “I will tell you later.” “I don’t want to repeat as it’s a long story.” I often received a summarized watered down answer when I ask what they were talking about. Over time, I gave up on asking and went to another room. It was better to be alone instead of being lonely in a hearing crowd. Our friendships started to fade away. By the time I entered high school, I had more Deaf friends and maybe two hearing friends.

I received the same treatment from teachers, coaches, bosses, co-workers and people I looked up to. They were supposed to care about me, yet they made me feel inferior. It was not a great feeling to feel like you are not as important as others. I was starting to actually believe I was inferior.

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It was not their fault but my own. I did not want to be a hassle. I did not want them to think I was trying to steal the attention. I did not stand up for myself. I did not educate them. I swallowed the hurt and tried to move on.

As I became older, I became tired of feeling like this. I was tired of being forgotten. I was tired of being denied information. I realized I deserve better. I realized I was not alone in this. Nearly all of the Deaf people I meet experienced the same problem. I asked them, “What did you do?” They gave me mixed answers. Some avoided the hearing people like the plague. Some stood up for themselves and educated their hearing peers. I made a promise right there that someday when I have my own family, I would teach them that Deaf isolation is unacceptable.

how to stop the cycle of deaf isolation

Deaf people work twice as hard their entire life to fit in a hearing-centric world when it should be our world, too.

I am going to stop the cycle with my own family.


Now, I have a two-year-old hearing daughter. I want her to view spoken languages and signed languages as equal. Hearing people and Deaf people both deserve the same rights. As her mother, I deserve to know the conversations my daughter is participating in when I am in the same room. I do not want other people to tell my daughter things that they are not supposed to. I do not want there to be secrets. I do not want her to learn that it is acceptable for other people to disrespect me. I do not want her growing up thinking it is fine for her to do the same to her own mother. I do not want her to follow societal norms and give other Deaf people the same treatment.

So, how am I going to do that? How am I going to stop the cycle?

I want all of the people who know sign language to converse with my daughter in both English and ASL. So simple, yet people act like it is too much work.

I do not demand non-signers (people who do not know how to sign) to know sign language. However, it would be nice if they learn some basic signs. I mean if they are going to be a part of our lives, at least, help us out. People who do not know sign language often do not realize that in all of our conversations, we are working hard to understand everything. Sometimes we misunderstand things. If you are friends with someone who knows a different language, it is always polite to learn some basic words in their language.

Since we communicate in ASL for the majority of time at home, I do not want that to end when we are out in the public or have guests over. That will teach my daughter that ASL is supposed to be left at home and only with her parents like it is not important. When my daughter starts to have friends over, that will be a different thing. I do not expect the same treatment from children, it is mainly the adults. Children have their own secret language anyways, hearing or Deaf.

I never want to have the feeling that my immediate family is leaving me out. I don’t want to feel inferior to my daughter because I am Deaf. If you dismiss a Deaf person’s request to sign at the same time you talk to their children, you’re teaching their children that their parents don’t need to be respected. You are teaching their children that hearing people are superior and they are better than their own parents.

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.

I am her mother, so I deserve that respect. I deserve to be a part of the equation. I deserve to be involved. I deserve to feel important. I deserve to teach my daughter that Deaf people can be treated the same way as hearing people. If more parents do this small change with their children, it will help to reduce the Deaf children/adults isolation dramatically and help join both worlds together.

 

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8 Discussion to this post

  1. Stefanie says:

    This was a fantastic post! I’m so sorry you often felt/feel isolated I do think that basic signs should be taught in school. I have a 2 year old son who has Down syndrome. Although he is verbal, we still use signs while we teach him words. I think it’s important for him to know how to sign and it’s important for me to know basic signs. I do come in contact with many kids who have Down syndrome and quite a few of them are deaf or non-verbal. Even my 3 older kids are learning basic signs. It’s so easy for the general public to overlook these issues, so bringing about awareness is a great thing!

  2. Tiffany says:

    Beautifully written and articulated so well. Thank you for being brave enough to share your heart. What an amazing platform you have in your blog to also share your words. I’m sure they will help many people break the cycle and view things from another perspective.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you for the kind words. This is one of the reasons I wanted to start blogging… to bring awareness about Deafness and to give people a different perspective of it. Thank you again.

  3. Laura says:

    This was an interesting post. As a child of a Deaf adult, I see this from your daughters point of view. I was constantly used as the “interpreter” for my mother by other people and I hated it. It’s a lot of pressure for a small child to have to communicate for adult conversations and issues because the adults are too lazy to do it themselves or the professionals like doctors and dentists do not want to follow ADA laws and hire certified interpreters for their deaf patients. They think its ok to expect a child or family member to interpret during the appointments. It still goes on today. I hope that your child never experiences these things. It’s good that you are standing up for yourself and asking for the communication from others. I look forward to reading more posts from you.

  4. I am so happy I came across your blog by chance a couple of weeks ago. I am finally getting around to reading it now after having it bookmarked since then. My 3 year old son was born deaf. He now wears cochlear implants but regardless, is and always will be deaf. He is young enough now to not have had to face many challenges, although he is much more withdrawn than his peers because he doesn’t yet speak more than 20-30 words. He knows some sign language but what others around him know is limited. I know as he grows, his challenges will become more pronounced and I’m praying that he is able to have the confidence to advocate for himself when I cannot always be by his side to do so. Deaf deserve all of the same rights as everyone else, and they are just as amazing and can do amazing things. My son proves this every day to me. He is so intelligent and visually-dependent, and it’s breathtaking to watch him progress. I love this post and shared it with my FB friends & family. I can’t wait to read more.

  5. WE (hearing parents) need you and your daughter too, for the same reasons. We need our hard of hearing son to see us sign outside of the home. We need him to know that ASL is a vibrant language with a vibrant history. He prefers English now, even though he clearly understands ASL better and express himself better if only he used ASL. Why does he prefer English? Because no one around him uses only ASL, and too many people around him DON’T use ASL.

    If you isolated yourself and your daughter, we’d never meet you. We’d never find a place for our son to be comfortable. He’s not “deaf enough” to be enrolled in school with Deaf peers, but not hearing enough to thrive in that world, either. He needs you, we need you.

    I recognize that the barriers are greater for you than for me, that the doors slam easier on you. Even if those doors are closing in innocent or ignorant ways, it still hurts. But keep knocking, because a family like mine is probably just around the corner, and we yearn for friends like you.

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