Yesterday I skipped the arduous pool cleaning session at my son’s school in order to attend a lecture at the Deaf School. It was given by a young deaf woman who works at the school’s dormitory. Her talk was directed toward the junior and senior high school students, but there were many teachers and mothers in attendance.
Her story was a familiar one: Deaf child is integrated into regular schools. Child doesn’t understand everything that’s going on, but manages to get by. Child goes to college and at last meets deaf peers. Child finds tribe! Child (now young adult) learns sign language. Child wholeheartedly enters Deaf culture. Hearing her speak reinforced my conviction that the School for the Deaf is the best place for my daughter. I can understand parents wanting their children to learn to live in the hearing world, but as a non-native speaker of Japanese, I know how stressful it is to not be able to understand half of what is going on. I am most at ease when I am with my foreign English-speaking friends, just as Lilia is most at ease when she is around people who can use sign language.
The young woman also told the students that they need to speak up when there’s a problem, and explain to hearing people what they feel and how they can be helped. I thought this was sage advice, and also interesting because Japanese culture teaches people to be patient and silent in enduring hardship – gaman.