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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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The Cry of the Gull
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“The pediatrician thought I was crazy,” my mother says. “He didn’t believe it either because you seemed to react normally to sounds, but it was the same old story—you were really just feeling vibrations. Yet when we clapped our hands next to you or behind you, you didn’t turn your head in the direction of the noise. You didn’t respond when you were called. And I could tell it wasn’t normal. When I used to walk up to you, you seemed so surprised you would practically jump, as though you had become aware of my presence only a split second before. I started thinking I had psychological problems, especially since the pediatrician still didn’t want to believe me even though he saw you for checkups once a month.

“I set up yet another appointment with him to discuss my concerns. That’s when he bluntly told me, ‘Madam, I strongly suggest you get counseling!’ Then, he slammed the door on purpose and since you just happened to turn around, maybe because you had felt the vibrations or simply because you found his behavior strange, he said, ‘You can clearly see the idea’s absurd!’.

“I’m angry at him, and at myself for having believed him. After that office visit, your father and I went through a period of real anguish. We observed you constantly. We whistled, called you, slammed doors, watched you clap your hands and swing as though you were dancing to the music. One minute we believed you could hear, the next minute we thought you couldn’t. We were totally confused.

“When you were nine months old, I took you to a specialist. He lost no time in telling me you had been born profoundly deaf. It was a tremendous shock. I couldn’t accept it and neither could your father. We kept telling ourselves, ‘It’s a misdiagnosis. There’s no way.’ We went to see another specialist. I was so hoping he’d grin, reassure us, and send us home.

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