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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Daughter, Hearing Father

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I cried all the time because I was so frustrated and overwhelmed with advanced math, vocabulary, and grammar. I tried to communicate so hard with my classmates. It was a few weeks before they accepted me into their groups. Sign language unlocked my communicative barrier and pressures, and I learned so much from educational conversations.

Hao Wen went on to earn a bachelor of fine arts degree in illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. Now, she works as a CAD (computer-aided design) designer for the family business. She recently married her college sweetheart, Steven Glass, who is a deaf man from Alabama. We stay in contact with Hao Wen via e-mail and still see her on occasion.

Hao Wen’s First Day Babysitting Miranda

Hao Wen also recollected the first day of being our babysitter and what our daughter Miranda was like when she first met her:

When Brenda picked me up after school, I was kind of nervous. She knew almost no sign language. When we arrived at her house, we wrote to each other; however Brenda was anxious to learn and preferred to communicate with me through sign language. She was so eager to learn more from me about the different methods of sign language, ASL, PSE, and SEE, and Deaf culture.

I noticed that Miranda ran around and rarely looked up. Brenda told me she only made strange noises when she wanted something. I tried to chat with her but she wouldn’t look at me. So when she wanted a piece of cheese, I taught her the sign. I told her to sign ‘cheese’ before I gave her some. That was her first sign: ‘cheese.’

Inventing Instant Messaging

Believe it or not, I invented instant messaging. It happened when I bought a second-hand Macintosh computer from my office to go along with the Classic II that I already had at home. I set the two computers up on the same desk. When I turned them on and opened the word processing applications the first few times Hao Wen came over to look after the children I’m sure she thought I was crazy. I communicated with Hao Wen by typing words on one computer screen while she typed on the other, taking turns to look over at each other’s screens. Why did I resort to this expensive, high-tech “solution?” I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my signing skills and was concerned that we wouldn’t be able to communicate effectively. Fortunately, I soon developed enough expressive and receptive skills that my two-Mac electronic instant messaging idea was mothballed. I wonder if all those in the Deaf community using instant messaging realize they owe a small debt of gratitude to moi?!

For several years, depending on her schedule, Hao Wen babysat Miranda and Terence. We wanted Terence to know how to communicate with his sister, so it was important for him to be exposed to a deaf signer as well. Hao Wen was quite fond of him, describing Terence as “shy and sweet.” Terence liked Hao Wen as well and she became a part of our family. We enjoyed her company so much and we learned a great deal about deafness from our daily contact with her.

We were extraordinarily lucky to have Hao Wen come into our lives when she did, and our luck with finding great Deaf role models would continue after we enrolled Miranda into the Happy Hands preschool at the BRCD.

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