Ease of Communication, our first ASL family class

Yesterday was a day I waited patiently for. I knew it was the best thing that could happen, that we would do as a family. I only recently learned it would be ASL as opposed to SEE sign, American Sign Language instead of signing exact English. I never really knew how Jack and Alan would learn SEE sign. I’ve been studying SEE sign for years and still feel it is difficult to use. What happened yesterday morning was the opposite of SEE sign. My family went to our first ASL class. We went to San Francisco. Our teacher is amazing. I had to break all my SEE sign habits to start learning ASL grammar. Fiona did well, my husband did great, it was his first real exposure to ASL in real life, my son hid under the table the whole time. We are signed up for a twelve-week course. I think we will need to go on longer after this session ends, at least Fiona and I will. We also all enjoyed hanging out in the city after our class.

I feel very distracted today, I have a bunch to do, laundry, dishes, lots of cleaning and organizing. It’s hard to focus, I feel I need to write or paint, but I can’t today. Well I’m writing now, only for a minute, the kids have been watching TV all day! Maybe we’re all just tired. It was a long day yesterday. The thing that has got me so distracted today, is the same thing that has been distracting me for a long time. I feel like I’ve been from one end of the spectrum to the other since Fiona was born. I was at the beach the other day and opened a notebook to write in. I read a passage I had written a while back. I was shocked by what I wrote, it was before I ever visited CSD or knew about ASL. I was writing how important sign language was, that I didn’t understand why there wasn’t more support for it. I didn’t understand fully that feeling I would get after a parent training in LSL, but I got the feeling and wrote about it. I didn’t understand the feeling I got when I was told that hearing aids and the FM system should not be used together with an interpreter in the classroom. I wrote about it, I asked questions, I did research.

I didn’t know the history of ASL, that it was banned, not allowed to be used in classrooms. Our Early Intervention program, even though it is Total Communication, has even started to shift into large portions of the day without sign language, which is SEE sign, to listening spoken language only. So, everything that the deaf community has been fighting for, which is a human right is still threatened, even here. But I didn’t know any off this, I was so ignorant. I just always knew as a matter of pragmatics Fiona and I needed to learn sign language and as time went by, I knew Fiona needed an interpreter in Elementary.

The ironic thing is everything I’ve been saying, and feeling has been true all along, at least a HUGE body of research supports deaf/hoh kids to learn sign language early on, that it only helps. But Fiona had to lose almost all her hearing in her left ear to get things into motion, the interpreter and the family ASL class. I don’t know if we would be here if we hadn’t gone a week when Fiona had the ear infection in her right ear, and she couldn’t hear us. I always knew we couldn’t count on technology 100%. I live daily in a situation where Fiona’s hearing aids don’t work perfect, hardly at all. I have to repeat almost everything I say to her. Imagine if we were totally fluent in ASL? Everything I would say to Fiona, if I signed it in ASL she would get it the first time. Imagine that? How amazing would that be? It would create a totally different reality and living situation for our whole family. So much more relaxing.

But we were given support in using Fiona’s hearing aids correctly. But never given the answer or support, “What about when the hearing aids don’t work?”.

At least now my family will be working towards a better future together, an easier way to communicate.

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Thoughts on Motherhood Through the Eyes of an Artist