Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Last Gasp

Some would argue that my son is part of the last gasp of a dying culture. I am sure there was a mother in 1880 thinking the same thing.

I don't focus on the arguments for or against our choice. There is a reason for that. I can't change the opinions of others. I support the choices other parents make. I can enjoy sharing the joy of life with my son. I just think every child can enjoy all their body has to offer. I will not stand on the edge of a cliff staring at the end.

What surprises me is a culture that grows outside of itself. I see things that indicate this growth everyday.

When my son was two a new friend was frustrated that he acted up when she tried to take my husband's attention away. She tried gifts, fun adventures and finally took an ASL class.

She is now an interpreter.

When I worked on a TV show my son would come to visit often for lunch. The caterers would get confused when I interpreted. They learned how to take his order. He would walk up an request with ASL chicken or fish, veggies*yes!* , or rice all by himself. I would be sitting near by chatting with friends.

The assistant director noticed the connivence of sign. We would skip the radio after he was fluent to talk about the actors in delicate situations.

As my son grew people would ask questions. They would learn but they, for the most part were hearing.

I started to teach ASL to hearing parents and their children. My son was a guest teacher. He would come and tell stories and show them his poetry, read books using his language. He would entertain them and show them the beauty of his world. Several entered interpreting programs. Many still use ASL at home.

When my son goes to mainstream schools he is not cast out. He is not asked to speak. The school he attends now has added a third level to their ASL program. The students work hard to gain fluency just so they can "talk" to my son.

He is cast in a musical. The director is learning how to make a deaf kid "sing". So Deaf West is introduced to the school culture. His theater teacher is finding ways to integrate ASL into the class. They both saw Howie Seago preform in Ashland this summer.

Yesterday we took a train to go see "Cirque De Soleil". A Deaf cast member has been added. My son chose a hearing friend to come with us. This 18 year old kid is conversational in sign because he was in a theater company with my son. This year he is starting college. Guess what..... he wants to become an interpreter.

I could go on and on.

So as I stand at the edge of the cliff, the edge of the end, I chose to look forward and enjoy the ride.


  1. Last gasp? Maybe an exaggeration: they said that about oralism, then hearing aids, now the CI. Demographics have changed, but schools for the deaf and colleges still exist and continue to thrive with a healthy mix of all kinds of Deaf people.

    Now, a hundred years in the future, we may have changes now unimaginable today. However, not all causes of deafness will be curable nor will technology be infallible. We may have a whole new generation of "crossover" Deaf people--those who find deeper satisfaction in companionship among their own kind, who have found technology to be an incomplete solution, and still need support services.

  2. This culture. Can't. Go.

  3. the last gasp

    depends on ur vantage point i guess
    the Gasp -
    for some - the town criers keep riding through Deafville shouting out the CIs/AVTs are coming the CIs/AVTs are coming - and while yes we have seen an increase in folks with CIs we havent really seen a decrease in signing - sooner or later most folks come home.

    or the Gasp -
    ASL in a Pepsi commercial and ASL from outerspace or ASL on broadway or ASL on iphones or ASL for Hearing babies

    or the Gasp -
    for air of the kid in the mainstream program trying to "fake it to make it" and only able to come up for air intermittently. the kids who are told speak and listen and if u cant full - pretend

    there are more Gasps

    but definitely - it aint the last one by a long shot and anyone who is preaching that old song is singing to a mighty bad tune. if they TRULY believe we r facing the last gasp - then they best be leaving behind a MIGHTY trail of their own efforts to stop the annihilation of a culture, a lanuguage and a people


  4. Please read my whole post my friends

  5. Access is a double-edged sword and a real issue for deaf culture, if they embrace fully what they ask for then the present system/community will not survive in its present form. I suppose the real questions are: can they hack mainstream even with support ? and, do they really WANT to ? Or want to sit in the middle (Which I can suggest cannot work). 1880 no CIs. no digital aids, no recognition of sign, schools that were noting but institutions despite what the deaf loved about them, they were kept apart from mainstream, and sign language and oralism taught as opposing modes. I totally am against the silly season in Canada that wants to reject something of no relevance whatever to today's issues. There is no support for a 'back to the future' approach. Youth won't accept it.

  6. hi mel

    not sure if ur note is in response to my comment

    i did read ur whole post and found it inspiring. ur perspective is always very positive and refreshing. it got me thinking about how ur family is not gasping but instead seeing and seeking the promises and the potential of the language, the culture, the people - multilingualism, multiculturalism, humanity

    and that is all good. probably what i should have simply written was AMEN to your post ; )

    my other *last gasps* were things i have seen folks a saying and not what u and your family are experiencing. u all dont seem to be gasping at all or sucking in air but rather soaring on that ride. and that is a good thing

    very much appreciate what u wrote.

    ur main point is the outgrowth of cross-cultural contacts and the beauty and wonder of it but cuz of me place in history i zoned in on this place where folks r proclaiming "the last gasp" and why they might be singing that tune and what it might mean

    ur predominant msg shouldnt be ignored

    i do apologize if my comment looked as if i hadn't read and processed urs. feel free to remove both if u feel they distract or distort.

    much peace

  7. Apologies if I went off topic. You're appreciating the experience of raising a Deaf son and sharing the experience with other people, and I was remarking that Deaf culture isn't disappearing despite what some people say.

    Everyone has assets to contribute and some of these gifts develop from their differences. The contributions are often mutually beneficial.

  8. Hey my friends, please no apologies! I love and embrace your comments.

    My point is more how Deaf culture will not be demised. It grows with out prompting. Despite technology
    *at this point i have to post because my computer crashes*

  9. When two cultures come together and say, "we" rather than exclaim "other" it is always a good thing.