An Unforgivable Sin
Unknown to me, my father enrolled me in a local oralist school when I was 8 year old, hoping I would learn to speak rather than to sign after one particular frustrating summer. I committed an unforgivable sin. I taught my classmates sign language at lunch for a while but after the school found out, no one would sit with me at lunch again and for the next 3 years, I sat alone at lunch.
I was also forced to write hundreds of sentences saying I would not sign again every Friday without exception. I would watch my classmates line up, walk out to the party with other classes while I stayed behind to write these sentences. At first, I was in despair. I hated being singled out from the rest of my class. I was constantly bullied. I was encouraged to act like a hearing person, to conquer my deafness. I also prayed for my hearing loss to be restored somehow. I hated being deaf.
To Conquer My Deafness
At age of 9, I contemplated suicide as I did not see my way out.
No Way Out
Week after week, month after month, year after year, I continued to write these sentences, I will not use sign language in the classroom long after I stopped signing altogether while my classmates went to the weekly party, the party that I never went to. I realized one important factor, they put "sign" and "language" in the same sentence, I realized I was truly bilingual by writing and signing even though I would not dare to sign. Finally, I was kicked out because I was a failure as I could never master speaking or lipreading.
I was sent to a school where I met other signers like me and I was able to breathe again. I was able to dream again. Then I met Deaf adults. I was in awe.
When I learned about deaf residential school, I begged my father to send me there for years and when my father finally agreed, I went and saw how sign language was not only widely embraced, it was also revered. I was in blown away.
Embracing Sign Language
Deaf school was truly a place a hope I met so many successful Deaf role models and I was given many opportunities to grow.
Opportunities to Grow
After graduating Deaf school with honors, I went to Gallaudet.
I earned 2 college degrees and worked at Gallaudet University where I met many remarkable Deaf people from all walks in life. I married, started a family and taught/trained 15 years before launching my business online.
A Place of Hope
I promised myself I would not allow anyone take away my ability to express myself or cheapen my language or alter my identity as a Deaf person again.
Truly Deaf and Bilingual
At the oralist school, I wrote a total of 15,000 sentences on not using sign language because the school believed that sign language would harm a deaf child's ability to speak or lipread when in fact, the sign language helped me grasp the English language and and today, I am in business raising awareness that sign language can truly enrich Deaf children's lives, developing more sign language resources. After all, give your Deaf child a gift of bilingualism can boost your child's brains.