MONA


I was born in a small town in Southwest Oklahoma, and was not diagnosed as Deaf until I was approximately 18-months-old. When I was two-years-old, my family moved to Los Angeles, California so I could attend the John Tracy Clinic, a world-renowned school for the deaf.

I grew up in a mainstreamed public school, where I was placed in a hearing classroom. How can I learn at the same pace as everyone else when I have to compete by trying to lip-read a teacher in a class of 25 or more hearing children. I was blessed to have peers who were in the same boat as I, trying to keep up. We were seen as freaks and had to wear our big hearing aid boxes with wires attached to our ears. We were taunted and tormented by the other children. Sometimes, they pulled our hearing aids out and we had to stick together in a corner to avoid the hearing kids. We made up our own signs, not knowing the true signs of the American Sign Language (ASL).

I was blessed to have a love for books, and the books alone educated me. I had a thirst to learn everything by reading various books, newspapers and comic books. I have heard that I am in the top 10% of self-educated deaf people in the Oralist method. The rest fell wayside and abandoned. They don’t have any education and cannot talk or even write. Their concepts are severely affected, too. The emotions of a deaf Oralist are very low, and they have no self-confidence in facing and living in the hearing world. When I was 18 I met someone from the State School for the Deaf in Riverside, CA. I had grown up thinking that only the losers sign and called the school a zoo. In my teen years, I had been threatened to be sent there when I rebelled against teachers and my parents. If I had only known that I would have been much better off if I learned to accept my deafness.

If only my family and I had accepted my deafness and embraced signs at an early age, I would have been a totally different person and I would have total communication with my family members, instead of them not knowing how to interact with me. It is like a man not able to see; there are always people helping guide him around. We, as deaf people, do not have that kind of help or access. Hearing babies pick up language daily, while deaf babies do not. It is a great handicap that the deaf person has to carry the rest of their life. If I were exposed to ASL at an early age, I would have been able to build up language and concepts at the same rate as other children and would have been able to communicate with my mom, dad and siblings.

I grew up angry and had to have counseling when I was in my 30s. I feel like I have lost out on so much, not being able to communicate with my dad, my grandmother and the rest of my family. I could lip-read my mother very well and she became my interpreter. I had problems communicating with my own children, they would have much preferred to be in the hearing world. No one in my family tried to learn ASL to make it easier for me or tried to meet me half way. If only I had accepted my deafness and used ASL as my first language, I would never have had the problems of having a wall between me and my family and the hearing world.

I reunited with my classmates that were failures at the school we attended, and was surprised to know that they were superior to me in education and superior in their own deaf identities. They were so comfortable with themselves and their limitations while I was trying to be the hearing person. I have learned that it never works and you must accept your own limitations and make the most out of what you have. My classmates went on to college and have successful careers. I didn’t have any deaf role models growing up and spent most of my years trying to fit into the hearing world.

I give all the credit to my mother; she was awesome and was so patient with me when I was growing up. She taught me so many things, but one most important – the love of our Father in the sky. I truly believe there is a reason why I was born deaf and have had hearing people come to me and say I am an inspiration to them. That brings me so much joy. My daughter has learned to sign and is teaching her children to sign to my husband (who is also deaf) and me. This has made me so happy, that I am now able to be myself and to communicate freely with my grandkids!

Mona
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