Friday, October 16, 2009

Chaplin at the Expo

About 11 years ago.....

When my son was about one year we were frantically tying to find deaf culture. We were told by our case worker to go to Deaf Expo.This was the first time we were surrounded by deaf people. As we entered the room we felt overwhelmed and intimidated. Our son was sitting peacefully in his stroller wearing his little blue ear molds. We had been trying to do everything right for him and this was part of the deal. The first thing we noticed was large circles of people blocking the aisles signing. We couldn't pass without disrupting them and had no idea of the etiquette needed. I was buying every book and device I could get my hands on and the transactions even made me nervous because I was very insecure about my limited signing. I must have apologized a thousand times. Everyone looked so at ease and we felt like outsiders.

We were just starting to feel relaxed when two men who appeared to be in their fifties walked up to us. We were used to people approaching us because my son was a cute baby so it was a complete shock when their faces became hostile and one man pointed to him and gestured for us to throw away his aides. We were deer in headlights for a moment then something really cool happened.

A week before we were guests on a panel for college students studying deaf education. After the panel a line of deaf students formed a line in front of us offering to help. Well it turns out one of the students was working at a booth right next to where this confrontation was happening. She swooped in and told the men that we were doing the right thing and they needed to support us not ridicule. They apologized and added the aides were evil, then walked off into the crowd.

We have attended this function every year since.

2 years ago...

Eight years later when he was nine my son performed his ASL poetry at Deaf Nation. He chose a word poem, number poem and a comedic sketch. A wonderful deaf man who had taught him acting drove up in the worst traffic for no fee to coach him before the show. My son considers him to be brilliant so this was an honor. My son had created his work but needed a deaf adult to fine tune his stories. I sat and watched them work and saw my son as a different person. I was so touched this man would sacrifice his time to help him and grateful for his gift.

The day was wonderful. After his performance people swarmed him and of course we were proud parents. So were his grandparents who really didn't understand what he performed but understood the reaction from the crowd.


Tomorrow he will perform again at Deaf Expo. We enjoy this event because it is a place where our family can relax. We catch up with old friends and check out cool new technology. We don't have to wait for interpreters and my son doesn't have to be patient with hearing people. His is thinking of a poem about Cuba (the theme at his new school which he is fascinated by), an ABC poem based on Chaplin's "Goldrush" and a comedic piece based on the style of Chaplin, his first hero. He rarely chooses deaf as a theme but more topics that resonate with him. When he expresses himself this way often deaf people resonate with him.

Some of his hearing friends from his new school will go . The expressed how nervous they are because of their limited signing. They may apologize a million times and ponder how to walk through the circle. If you see them please let them know they are doing the right thing.


  1. Beautiful vignettes! Hope you realized though, that the idiots criticizing the aids was focusing only on objects and not on your child or your decision to use them...even though, they were very boorish! Hopefully today the atmosphere is more cosmopolitan than back in the 90's, (and even in the 70's when Deaf identity was just beginning to be a concept.)

    Expos are fun socially however the real seat of Deaf culture are in the schools and colleges where Deaf people go to get an education in the arts. Most now focus on cultural aspects and display awesome works by students!

  2. Dianrez again, you are so right!
    First about the men who were so upset, this was 11 years ago and the enviroment was very hostile and divided. I feel a lot has changed.

    My son developed a love for ASL as an art form at the state school. There were a few Deaf teachers who were great role models. Also he had the peer inflence to learn how to play with language. We understood the value in this and how it effects other areas of developement. The deaf school still includes him even though he mainstreamed this year. Friday they invited him to join the school to watch a Deaf comic. They went out of their way to make sure he could attend. Even though we had to move on they are still part of our family.

    Today was great fun for him. I was home sick but he sent pictures and told me all about it after. He saw many friends and enjoyed his mentors perfomances.