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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Education in America: Voices of Children from Inclusion Settings

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   When I was growing up I had a very positive attitude toward hearing people. I could basically get along with anyone. As I
   got older, I felt more distance, more isolation from hearing kids. At the time, it didn’t really bother me; I got used to it as it
   happened. I really thought it was just the environment I was in, that it really wasn’t anything important. But then, about the
   time I got into sixth grade, I began to become interested in the Deaf community and started to have less patience for
   hearing people. . . . My feelings started to change. Once I understood the ease of communication among deaf people, I
   sensed a change in my personality . . . at least regarding hearing people. I wasn’t able to be as active or involved with
   hearing people, and I didn’t enjoy just being passive and quiet, so I don’t bother with hearing people so much anymore. I
   will say, however, that it did provide a good challenge for me to go to a hearing school because it forced me to interact
   with hearing people and that has its benefits, like for my future employment, for example.

Some deaf students may experience more frustration as they mature in the school system, while others might find more acceptance. For signing deaf students, though, the change in the way students socialize may affect the level of interaction they have with that social circle. While hearing students are moving away from playground games and toward intricate social systems of “who likes who,” the deaf students may feel more and more alienated. In Ashley’s experience, the isolation began when she discovered the deaf community—a group of people with whom she shared a language and could easily identify herself. However, it seems possible that the isolation had been a part of her life before that time, and it was only at that time that she discovered what she had been missing. This sense of awareness has not yet reached the other deaf students. If you do not know anything could be different, than you may be less likely to be frustrated with the system and more likely to believe that your feelings of alienation are normal.

From Julie and Ashley’s comments, one might assume that younger deaf children have a more positive social experience. However, the youngest participants, Zack and Kyle, both described in vivid detail their misery and frustrations in social relationships at the elementary level.

While Julie and Ashley’s social experiences became worse as they grew older, Leslie felt her social experiences were improving. However, it was during this time that Leslie became increasingly more capable of communicating clearly through speech and listening. Again, perhaps this is indicative of the benefit of being able to speak and communicate directly with others within the school environment.


The Qualities of a Good Interpreter

What makes an interpreter good?

During the conversational interviews with deaf students, the students spoke freely of their relationships with interpreters and the interpreter qualities that they felt were most important to them.

   I had a good interpreter . . . Karen . . . I really liked her. I thought of her as a friend.

   It’s really important to me to have a good relationship with my interpreter. [It’s also important] for the interpreter to
   translate every word, so I can understand clearly.

   I know in elementary school, I had [an interpreter] and she was like my friend. We just really connected, and we got along
   very well. She knew what I needed, and I knew what she needed. So I think basically it is key that you talk to each other.
      I don’t think interpreters should just strictly be professional and never talk to the kids, and I think the kids should be able
   to talk to the interpreter without feeling uncomfortable.

   Interpreters should do their work their way. Some interpreters are friends with the deaf students, I don’t know, but I don’t
   think it makes it any more enjoyable.

   They can’t be stuck up or be such a nit-picking professional. They need to have a normal body type, not way over weight.
   They need to have a cool personality, not strict or overbearing, telling me what I can and can’t do. They need to be
   emotionally stable—I mean, not really shy or embarrassed to speak up and comfortable in their surroundings—not nervous
   or obsessive about everything being perfect.
      For example, my interpreter got hit by a ball once in gym class and she didn’t blow up or get mad about it. My interpreter
   and I are pretty close. She and I talk a lot. Actually the three of us, including the deaf education teacher, are really close
   and work well together. We do a lot of fun things together, maybe more than we really should, but I really enjoy being able
   to work so well together with them.

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