Living Loud in a Quiet World

10-30-2002

Denise Portis
Homeschooling 5 years +
Taught ASL 3 years +
Bachelor of Science

Due to an accident at six-years-old, Denise has been hard-of-hearing most of her life. In recent years her hearing has worsened to the point of needing hearing aids, amplified phones, etc. In spite of this, her passion has become that of teaching ASL to homeschool students and adults in her area.

Living Loud in a Quiet World

Homeschooling grants certain privileges; one being that of accessibility to “elective” classes for our children. My own experience has shown that more and more homeschooled students are taking advantage of a “new” second language …that of American Sign Language. Many parents and students are not aware that ASL is the 4th most common language in the United States! Recent statistics show us that in the U.S. alone, 1 out of 10 are deaf and 1 out of 3 are hard-of-hearing! Although many hard-of-hearing individuals may only have a small percentage of loss, these people may have trouble hearing in certain situations.

I have always taught more than simply “sign”. I have seen that “deaf and hard-of-hearing etiquette”, leaves a far greater impact on a student than learning some simple yet “fun” signs. Don’t get me wrong! Obviously you MUST learn “sign” to learn ASL, but I have learned that learning about the deaf and their culture, greatly eliminates the “myth” that they are aloof and withdrawn. By learning some “do’s” and “don’ts” a student can learn how those without hearing may “perceive” certain situations. As ASL is comprised of facial expression and body language, HOW you say something is very important. There is no other culture so talented in expressing themselves.

Learning ASL can greatly benefit the “marketability” of your student’s resume. A very small percentage of hearing people know ASL, but more are learning each year as the language’s popularity grows. Employees who know ASL are needed in every area of our workforce. Those in retail, government, teaching, medical, etc., all can use ASL. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people are in the same need for services as the hearing. They need doctors, lawyers, counselors, teachers…friends – and that brings me to my biggest passion…

As we homeschool our children, we hope that they will be doing more than pouring over schoolbooks! I know that my husband and I want our children to work just as hard at developing relationships with people. Because I am hearing impaired myself, I ask my children to “Live LOUD”. I am teaching them to “speak” with their faces, their bodies and their hands. I read lips, and my children know ASL, but I “get” much more of a conversation when they “Live LOUD”. Isn’t that what every homeschool parent wants? It’s almost like saying, “actions speak louder than words”. Learning ASL is wonderful, but I challenge students to pray for and LOOK FOR an opportunity to develop a relationship with the deaf. We desperately yearn for our children to have more than “book knowledge”. We want them to “live”…and we want them to be role models, leaders. We want them to “Live LOUD”.

The only way the hearing can develop and nurture relationships with those who are hearing impaired is to learn their language! The deaf are bi-lingual themselves! In school the deaf learn to read and write, just as our own hearing children do. But they learn the English written language! If a person REALLY desires to form a relationship with someone who is deaf, shouldn’t they try to learn their language as well? I believe that friends can enrich our lives, and make us better people. Deaf people have a very unique perspective on life! What you SEE, is real. They “speak”, but in a different way than the hearing do. However, they have the same emotions that we do. They, too, need friends to enrich their life. The one thing I hope for ALL of my students is that they will develop a relationship with someone who is deaf. They will be “richer” for it. They will learn to “Live LOUD”. And learning to live this way, will only make them better friends, spouses, employees, etc. Look for ASL classes in your area! Learn to “Live LOUD”!

Denise Portis
©2006 Hearing Loss Diary

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