Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It Boils Down To Language

About 12 Years ago....

So we put our newly identified deaf baby into his stroller and started walking to the bookstore. I occurred to me half way there that he was facing away from us. So he had no way to know if we were even there. We stopped and turned the seat around so he could see us. When we got to the store we found a stack of books. There was all sorts of information and we didn't really know what we needed so we bought it all. We bought books about sign language, deaf education, memoirs and deaf culture. I was startled by the choices. I guess I thought there would be a golden manual waiting for us. A step by step guide on how to raise my precious boy but what I saw was a random patchwork quilt of opinions.

At home we dove in dividing the stack into 2 piles. One for sign language the other for research. We each picked a book from the research pile mine was " The Silent Garden". i picked this book because it was written by a deaf professional and it appeared to be as close to a guide book as I could hope for. Looking back this was an excellent choice. I read it in one sitting and it affirmed my instincts that we must become fluent in ASL. No matter what happens he would have a first language. I began taking notes, the first of many over the years, and organized a plan. Where in the morning I felt helpless I was now seeing a glimmer hope. I continued to read all of the books we had purchased and started feeling a sense of urgency, he had already gone 10 1/2 months with out and real communication.

That day we both decided to spend every free and not so free moment learning ASL. The method I chose was a book, " A Basic Course in Sign Language" by Carol Padden and Tom Humphries. It was published on in California where we lived so the dialect would be pretty consistent with our area and the authors were reputable. My husband signed up for college ASL classes.

At work between shots while the crew was lighting I would pour over this book. Three and one half months later I was conversational. The really cool side effect of this at work study was crew members started to learn with me. One of the Assistant Directors got so fluent we could sign across the set not even using a radio. One time they were having problems keeping a guest actor on set. I was with her and she kept ruining to puke every time she ate. I was to far to walk over and tell them and if I broadcast this bit of valuable info she would of heard. So I signed it across the set. From then on we used it as an effective tool to talk on set when the cameras were rolling or we needed to share sensitive info about a cast member. When my son would visit the caterers had enough sign to take his order with out my help.

My husband had a great teacher who was deaf and a performer. One assignment was to tell a personal story. My husband chose me but there was one problem. He mixed up the signs for hamburger with wife. *this is really only funny if you sign, sorry membership has it's privileges.

The next step was to get an appointment with the school district early intervention program. This is where our story turns into a saga.

School is awesome. He loves his dance class and auditioned for the dinner theatre. For his monologue he chose a story he wrote when he was 9. Here is a clip of his original performance of " The Ice Cream Store" at Deaf Nation when he was 9. The are 2 pieces on that clip.

The audition was really fun for him and he was cool as a cucumber even though he was so nervous.

Every week they have a showcase. This is where all of the kids watch performances from students and professionals in the arts. Well the first one was a concert and they put an amp next to him so he could feel the music. The Principal didn't think it was good enough so he did some research and found an amp system that works through the chair so he can feel the separate elements of the music. Did I mention we love this school! The funny part is it is called a buttkicker.


  1. Wonderful performance! He's a cutie! :-)

  2. Thank you Kim! Well poo, I think he is cute too just don't tell him I said that. He is 11 now and "cute" is not cool.

  3. I'm impressed that you thought to turn him around in his baby stroller so he could see you. That shows perception of what he is experiencing, key to connecting with a deaf child. Congratulations, and congratulations to Hayden for a fine performance! He has a great future in communication!

  4. Thanks Dianrez. I look back and giggle at how we tried to learn about what he was living. He was so little and had no idea what the fuss was about!