Archive for January, 2013


A World Without Music??

musicIf you ask a hearing person what they would miss most if they lost hearing they often say music. I don’t think they realize that a life without hearing does not mean being condemned to a life without music.

Being deaf does not require disconnecting with all of the joys of the hearing world. It simply means that at times you must have a positive outlook, a different perspective and open eyes to a multitude of ways that music can be embraced besides listening with ears.  Music can reach deaf audiences in several ways here are a few it may be by feeling the vibrations from speakers and floors or watching lyrics flow from the hands of a skilled signer.

To answer the question…a world without music? No, you may exist in a world with music.

Below are some visual examples of  amazing videos that are one of the ways deaf people enjoy music.

deaf manSign Language is  a Deaf Language not a Gang Language, there’s a difference!

A deaf man by the name of Terrence Daniels was stabbed because gang members thought he was using gang signs. This is an unfortunate event. It reminds me of the world we live in where cruel or uneducated individuals see gestures and mistake them for gang signs. Have they ever heard of American Sign Language??? Maybe not because as an ASL educator I am still defending ASL as a language.The North Carolina Terrence Daniels, 45 was signing with another deaf man and a third person saw the two of them signing and  stabbed Terrence Daniels multiple times. Thank God he is in stable condition and made it through the attack and the arrested the man who stabbed him but what is the aftermath of this attack? Will gang members target deaf individuals or will they become more aware of sign language? Will deaf individuals become fearful to use their language freely in public and not worry about someone harming them because they mistake their signs for gang communication? Too many questions and thoughts.

I think this further upsets me because in my area there have been two attacks on deaf individuals. I am not sure if the assailants knew they were deaf and purposely preyed on them or they  acted out of opportunity either way it is inhumane to hurt another person. Law enforcement managed to arrest the individual responsible for these attacks but it still does not excuse that it happened.

My family and I grew up in the inner city. My grandmother would always tell my mother and brothers to sign low, put their hands down or to wait to talk when were in the car. I know she was not embarrassed but afraid of gang members that might mistake my family for rival gang members and this began at an early age. They listened but it did not make them feel confident about their form of communication. When my twin brother became a young man he experienced the very incident my grandmother wanted to protect him from. While at a store with a friend, the two them were signing and gang members saw them and begin to harass my brother and his friend and began to bust my brothers car windows until a resident in the area told the gang member he was deaf and to leave him alone. The guy gestured a warning to my brother and left. Thank you to that person who helped my brother but they never arrested the guy who vandalized my brothers car. My brother learned to be cautious of  but never let that incident change how he used his sign, how he felt about hearing people and how he lived his life but it changed me. I make sure to advocate for the deaf community and educate others with a passion because no one deserves to have an experience like my brother or Terrence did.

According to the website www.projectcensored.org  individuals with disabilities are more likely to be victims of crimes. They estimate about 5 million individuals are victims of serious crimes annually in the united states. How can we decrease this number? How can we protect this unique population? How can they protect themselves?

We must be the voice and educate others, the deaf community cannot be afraid to use their language and gang members must be held accountable for harming innocent people. “We” the hearing and deaf communities must stand together and protect each other. I know it’s easier said than done when fighting against individuals who care for no one and nothing and believe in killing and bringing harm to anyone they can but we must be the change we want to see like the person who stood up for my brother.

Below is an article about the incident:

Deaf Man Stabbed

Sean Forbes is a Deaf musician with a passion for sharing music with everyone especially the Deaf community! Love him!\

Check out the flyer below:

Sean-Forbes-Feb-1

Kids Can Sign!

kid signKids Can Sign…..Kids Can Sign…..Kids Can Sign!!!! It’s like a chant because it is true!

I love to see little ones signing! It is astonishing at an early age when they have not formed communication (speech skills) but they can gesture (sign) word to express how they feel.

I am a child of deaf adults and I learned to sign at an early age. I remember signing more than I talked. As a matter of fact, I learned speech from my close family members, t.v. and the radio. I always tease thank goodness the radio and t.v. shows were a lot better at that time, who only knows what I may have learned if I listened to what was on t.v. today. Anything I needed I had to sign to communicate with my parents and siblings. I did not appreciate it as much as I do now. When I gave birth to my first child her grandmother taught her the signs she knows and still remembers at eighteen years old. I am thankful to my mom for giving us a gift that has benefited us in so many ways and moreover a gift that no one can take away. When my mom passed, she stopped signing as it was difficult for her to do without thinking about her grandmother. However, when you put her in a signing environment the signs flow from her hands as if it were yesterday. This proved to me firsthand that once you teach children they retain it especially if your routinely use sign language in their daily lives.

In general it has been said that children who learn sign langauge early on have less issues when comes to frustration, temper tantrums and aggressive behaviors. It also helps increases interaction between parents, educators and children.  Children also build self-esteem by making them feel capable and proud they are able to communicate. If we can start our children off on the right foot why not?

One of the best gifts to give our children and help them start off on the right foot with academics and training for future employment is the gift of being bilingual. There are several commonly used languages in our great country English of course next is Spanish and after that is American Sign Language as other languages rise and become more common, our children need to be bilingual in one of these languages, any popular language. I cannot think of a time where being bilingual has not been a benefit to me or my oldest daughter.  Teach your children ASL from birth and start them on the path to bilingual success.

There are resources below to continue your reading about the benefits of sign language and children.

Benefits of children learning sign language

Baby Signs

The benefits of sign language for all children

Benefits of Signing with your Child

One of my students shared this story with me and my heart was saddened but I understood. This is a must read it is short but it made me think of how much I missed my twin brother. There were so many things in life we did together and when he passed away I did feel a part of me change and I always feel as though a part of me is missing.

In Belgium a set of 45-year-old twins who were deaf and becoming legally blind decided to end their lives together at a hospital, they felt they could not live the rest of their lives without being able to see each other.

Each us have our opinions of what we would and would not do. However, as individuals we have the right to make our own decisions. It is sad for a person to end their life but it reminded me of the bond between siblings. Also, that these twins were bonded by their multiple disabilities and had made a life together that they could not see living apart or without sight.

I think of how some siblings cannot be in the same room together. My thought is to appreciate the people in your life and the bonds you have created you never know when a decision or act may change your lives. A simple I am thinking of you or forgiving a situation to re-connect with family is all it may take. When we don’t have anyone else it is said we will always have family.

A link to the article is below:

Faced with blindness deaf twins choose euthanasia

The first experience of a mother and child is the flutter of movement in our stomach. At that point we realize that we are carrying life is in us and we are now responsible for another human being and within a matter of months he or she will be cradled in our arms. We look forward to perfection as we imagine ourselves counting all ten fingers and all ten toes, looking at eyes as wide as if they are smiling at us because they are familiar with our presence. When the time comes and we deliver our bundle of joy and perfection we can’t wait to teach them everything we know and have experienced so they can grow into the perfect healthy being.

Some people may think to themselves “I would never expect perfection just healthy” but what does healthy entail? All ten fingers and toes? Both eyes,hearing, a strong heart and lungs, and a sound and capable mind?
What happens when something is not healthy, normal or perfect like we want? How do we feel and what do we do?

The first moment your realize that your child does not respond to sound and may be deaf, what do you do? Create the sound again to be sure, think a hundred thoughts of what “if’s” or call your physician? You want to know what’s going on and when you find out your greatest fear/concern of your child being deaf is confirmed, you are speechless and cannot understand what happened. If you have never experienced deafness, the language and culture your mind is wondering what is it and what does it involve.

This may not be the experience for every parent but a number of parents have experienced this and looked to guidance for this situation. Deafness is not a disabling, limiting or negative experience with the right tools children can grow into the perfect and healthy beings you seek to raise.

Being deaf may be a challenge at times but not an obstacle that can’t be overcome. When you first find out your child may be deaf it is best to see an audiologist. However, commonplace now is for infants to undergo a hearing test for early detection of hearing loss. After the audiogram confirms the amount of hearing loss and the amount of what can be heard a decision may need to be made. Sometimes the hearing loss can be assisted with the use of hearing aids, or partially restored with a cochlear implant and the other end of the spectrum it may be too great of a loss and not be able to be restored. I am not a doctor but sharing information that I have encountered. It always best to seek a professional opinion as this blog is for basic informational purposes.

When you find out your child has a hearing loss seek all opportunities that may be best for your child however do not forget about seeking professionals in the Deaf community. The Deaf community can be one of your greatest resources. You can learn about the opportunities available to your child academically and socially, the language and culture. Sometimes parents listen to only one side “the medical side” and forget to listen to the “deaf side”. Your child can live in both worlds. Communication is key! No matter what it is important to find a way to interact with your child rather you focus on speech classes or sign language your child will need consistent interaction with language. I think it is great to teach children both speech and sign language but the choice has to what is best for your family.

There are mainstreamed school where they attend classes with their hearing counterparts and residential/day schools with programs geared for the deaf population. Employment opportunities are available to deaf individuals and it has been shown that there are successful deaf individuals activities, educators, lawyers, entrepreneurs and more…these individuals had support, faith and belief that they could be do what they put their mind to and they have accomplished greatness.

If you are seeking additional resources your local social service agency, medical organization and education system should be able to give your resources to point you in the right direction.

The thought for this blog is to remember that we love our children unconditionally and despite the challenges we may encounter we seek the best for them and encourage them to be their best. Always think of the word “ability” instead of “disability”.

“Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.” Lady Bird Johnson, former U.S. first lady

The Sense I Can Live Without

We have five senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. What sense could I live without??
The answer is a no-brainer, it would be hearing. Maybe I am a bit biased because of my background and experiences but it is what it is.
There are two worlds: the hearing world and the deaf world. The hearing world relies on their ears and the deaf world relies on their eyes. I am already living in a world where silence makes no difference in life, the deaf world. Actually, I live in both worlds. As a hearing person I live in the hearing world but as a child of deaf adults I live in the deaf world too, this is a privilege. Growing up in a family of deaf individuals and acquiring sign language skills, I have never thought of my hearing as a necessity which is why I don’t have to think twice about living without it….it would be an easy choice.
In the deaf world sound is not important because the world I live in we are visual and expressive beings. I know we can enjoy sound through touch, feeling vibrations move your body and soul all without sound. We can enjoy sound visually like a work of art that stirs your spirit and causes your mind to think about all the possibilities of what you could do with that picture or  sign. If you remember the saying ” A picture paints a thousand words” American Sign Language (ASL) can be as descriptive and beautiful as a picture. During conversations ASL  paints a picture that is so clear a non-signer could understand one part or another.

I could go on and on about the benefits of ASL and why it is such a great langauge but the point is to support why my hearing would be the first choice I would live without. I never said living without the sense of hearing would be easy. I am sure people can think of many reasons why that is a necessity and I may agree with most but it is an individual opinion. All I can share think of the opportunities available that would allow a person to function which is how I think. Of course, ASL would be my first choice instead of the other opportunities but that is another blog.

In closing, my hearing is a non-factor because I have a method of communication that would allow me to function in a hearing society. I have a community separate from the hearing world who would accept me as I am. I would have an identity to be proud of…deafhood… to embrace who I am as a deaf individual. Besides, there are so many things in this world I could go without hearing…that would actually be a blessing to not hear half of the stuff I hear on a daily basis.

What sense could you live without?

 

shhWhat is the best strategy to learn American Sign Language???? By immersing yourself in the language and culture. This means signing and not focus on talking which is imperative to signing success.

Returning to a classroom full of talkative, hyper and at times non-attentive high school students, this is the number one  strategy students put last on their list even when enforced. I understand that learning a new language can be confusing and overwhelming and there are times when voices need to be used but there are many times if students focus they can express themselves with the vocabulary they have (which is similar to talking only with hands). I share with students the scenario that when deaf individuals find themselves in a situation with a communication barrier they cannot turn their voices on, so they figure out a way to communicate with ASL. I expect students to do the same as best as they can.

I find that the best signers are those who not only focus and use the voice off rule in class but put what they learn to use outside of class. I remind students that ASL is similar to math if you don’t use it you lose it. You may feel confident in class but when you leave a signing environment you lose what you learn unless you incorporate it into your daily life.

I share my passion and respect for American Sign Language not only because it is part of who I am; a bi-lingual bi-cultural individual  but I know its beauty and benefits to the hearing and deaf cultures. I want my students at any level to love it as much as I do or at least respect it because “American Sign Language is to the eyes as words are to the ears”  -Ken Glickman-

Sooooo……Voices Off..please!

Cover of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

Cover of Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

This excerpt is from the Dr. Seuss book “Oh the Places You’ll Go”. I love this book because it empowering and encourages world exploration. To remember that change may come, things may happen that you dislike, or you may not understand why something happens just be positive get back on your feet and try again. I think the ending to this book is great to close my blurb with.

So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.

Ok….what is this Dr.Seuss blog about you might ask?

Every year I give a children’s story assignment to my ASL students. Some of the books students choose are fabulous but the number one desired author for this assignment is Dr.Seuss. Dr. Suess is an entertaining and creative writer however; sometimes his books do not lend themselves well to conceptual ASL.  I have tried to figure out how to get students to understand the importance of visually performing a Dr.Suess book whose language can be twisty-turvy at times  and conveying  it clearly in the wonderful signed performance at their level of course.  Today, I saw Keith Wann’s Dr. Suess video in ASL it was fantastic. I am already a fan of his and the great comedy he produces so it was a joy to see this and I will show it as an example to students of how a Dr.Suess story can be performed. The book he signs is “Oh the Thinks You Can Think”. Enjoy!!!