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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Amy Signs: A Mother, Her Deaf Daughter, and Their Stories
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Sadly, but what is general true for many Deaf people is that their relatives donít sign. Or far worse for the Deaf person, even their parents and brothers and sisters donít sign. My brother and mother can sign, but what about my other relatives? Many deaf persons are left out when their hearing family gathers and everyone is talking through voice. Most deaf people donít rely on lipreading in a large group of people. Itís hard to catch what they are speaking. In general, deaf people are left out, feel alone, and are not able to be part of the family conversations. Sometimes deaf people donít even know what has happened to a family member, such as who moved away, got married, divorced, or had a baby.

There is a term for when Deaf feel ďless thanĒ or invisible. It is called audism. Audism is prejudice. It occurs when a hearing person acts superior because of their ability to hear and speak over those who donít.

Do I feel that way with my family? Yes, but I know they donít really mean it, but it happens anyway. It is really very boring when I sit all myself and wonder what they are talking about. They donít learn how to sign, but once in a while they will use paper and pen to communicate with me. Still, most of the time, when they are having a conversation, I either read something or watch TV if I am home. If weíre in a restaurant, I look at the surroundings while other relatives are chatting. Yes, I ask them sometimes what they are talking about, and they either give me simple sentences or say, ďItís not importantĒ or ďIíll tell you later.Ē

At a young age, my brother and mother learned how to communicate with me through sign language. My mother was a stay home mom, while my father worked many hours at the store that he owned. You could call him a workaholic. My father did not learn but a few signs. He did not communicate with me much like John and Mother did when I was young. At age seven my parents divorced. After that I usually visited my father at the grocery store or at his home once in a while if he was not working. We didnít use sign language to communicate. Then and now, I relied on my brother by asking, ďWhat did father say?Ē Sometimes father and I wrote messages, and I tried to lipread him. If we were talking about something simple, I could understand him. Even now as an adult it is the same.

I know itís not possible to have ALL relatives learn how to sign, but the parents and siblings of a deaf person should learn how to sign because they live together daily. Itís important to have family communication at home, so the deaf person can feel and be part of the family and know what is going on. Living with my mother and John, we talk a lot because they sign to me. And I either sign or use my voice to them. I am so glad that John and mother can sign even though they are not fluent in ASL. I donít care if we sign in Alien Sign Language or other odd sign languages, as long as we COMMUNICATE.

Growing up, I am very close to John because he is my only sibling. John now lives in same town as me and does many things for me. We communicate a lot. Sometime I sign and use my voice when I speak to him. Of course, he does not use voice back to me but signs only. He is the best brother you could ever ask for.

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