‘A Few Snapshots Of My Life As A CODA’ by Sara Huang

sara

As far as CODAs go, I was a pretty straight-laced kid. I never snuck out and tried my best to follow household rules. But there were definitely times when I used my parents’ deafness to my advantage. I loved to listen to music LOUD. I’d crank it up at home and my parents were none the wiser. Other neighbors apparently griped and called us as THAT house. The loud house.

Going to backtrack. For the first seven years of my life, I was home-schooled by my mom and pretty much existed in a deaf bubble. During those years, I developed some “deaf habits”. I spoke VERY loudly, never really cared about how loud I was being, copied the way my parents pronounced words (musk-el instead of muscle) and always read books out loud. I never learned to read silently. I’d pass gas whenever I wanted, not knowing it was embarrassing to do it in public. When I finally went to public school, carrying on with all these habits, I got a rude awakening. My peers thought I was very odd and I was often excluded. I had a very lovely teacher though. She got me though some very tough times.

I also went through a period when I thought my parents weren’t really deaf. I was young; maybe six. At the dinner table, I asked my mom, “Are you really totally deaf?” She answered “Yes”, but suspicious six year old me demanded proof. I screamed at the top of my lungs and asked if she heard me. She said “No.” Unsatisfied, I shrieked even louder and asked again. Answer was still no. Stubbornly, I took a deep breath and screeched as loudly possible. I asked if she could hear that. She said, “Barely,” and told me to cut it out. I stopped questioning her after that.

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Mom

I was also one of those CODAs that couldn’t sign well. I developed odd habits. At first, I’d sign with just one hand. Then I became completely reliant on fingerspelling everything. My parents tried to break my habits, but I wouldn’t stop. Communication issues became a major issue later on, especially when I was getting bullied at school. My mom would ask me what the matter was because she could see I looked depressed, and I’d just clam up because I didn’t know how to express my feelings to her.

I can sign pretty fluently now. I think it happened after I moved to Taiwan. I realized how precious my family was and really wanted to interact with my parents on a deeper level. I studied books, watched YouTube videos, and Skyped frequently with my mom. We can talk about almost anything now, and I’m still learning. I came open up to my parents about just anything.

Unsure how to wrap this up, but I hope you have enjoyed these few snapshots of my life as a CODA. It is a major part of my identity and I am proud to be one.

Fin.

By Sara Huang.

Sara Huang with a grasshopper made out of grass.

Sara Huang, with a grasshopper made out of grass.

Family Are Half The Problem? by Mervyn James

Recently in the USA, I read about a proposed bill to prevent family members being allowed to Interpret for deaf who may have been abused in police abuse/investigation cases. Frankly, I am surprised it is ever allowed to happen anyway. This issue is a particular ‘hobby horse’ of mine and having hearing family offer me their help, and seeing their surprise at my refusal, (And calling me ungrateful!), I see this very sensible bill suggestion as a vital part in making deaf aware of what they are actually doing to limit the support they need, and thus with this case I read, then allowing the abuser, to further abuse.

This Bill is LONG overdue, but why is there no such effective ruling in the United Kingdom? Or opposition to deaf groups that fiercely defend the right of family support, simply because they do not understand the issues involved? The deaf community has been very slow in taking up professional and unbiased support, and their reliance on family members can only mean they will suffer more abuses too, some by default, others by design. In Wales a deaf mother with 3 children STILL relied on her 77yr old mother to help her at the GP’s after she refused to use a terp supplied by the Dr claiming she had a right to use whoever she wanted, a right an BDA advisor defended (and no doubt her Dr approves of!). Or the 18yr youth in Blaina who had never attended the Doc with an interpreter in his life… or made any calls to them.

But the bill in the USA would only limit the ‘ban’ to suspected sexual abuse cases, when there should be a blanket ban on ALL family acting as bona-fide interpreters who are not even qualified, or even eligible by age. That ban should extend to health and every other area, and for deaf to be prevented from using family support even by choice, if it means that family member is acting as an interpreter without skills.

The confusion whereby deaf ardently campaign against untrained support, whilst STILL themselves  using that unqualified help  to cover 65% of all help THEY get, and thus killing own support demand,  is a glaring expose’ of how deaf are pretty much architects of their own access limitation. Is the reliance on family due to love? Or sheer laziness or inability to wean themselves away from that type of help?  We read of horrifying cases of 7yr olds acting as terps, going to Drs to discuss sex and other personal health issues with parents, children expected to tell terminally ill parents about their own forthcoming demise… and even Banks, to discuss personal accounts by what is obviously biased, untrained and definitely NOT neutral help. No chance of cutting brother Jim out of your will when he is translating for you! As suggested in the case of suspected abuses, it is totally out of line to allow a family member who may be the one abusing you, to translate on your behalf…

By all means take your family member with you if you are too nervous, by NO Means allow them to then translate or even make your decisions for you. Would other readers support the ‘NO FAMILY HELP PLEASE’ approach? Or do they still reserve the right to use who they want? Some deaf excuse it all by saying, ‘My support isn’t there, I really have no choice.’ Of course you DO, and the law exists to empower. Factually, the illogic of the statement has missed the point, you don’t ask, then, you won’t get either.

We battle daily systems trying to circumvent access by asking us to ‘Bring a family member with you.’, or ‘Give us your hearing family contacts then we won’t have to ‘bother’ you with details…’ If the deaf cannot see the total wrongness of all this, then why campaign for BSL or any other access at all, if basically they intend to use family anyway? I advised one hearing mother to refuse, and force her deaf child to ask for pro help, at least, make that call on their behalf to set them on the right path, she totally refused stating my advice was tantamount to asking her to neglect her own child.

So hearing family need to get wise too, do they even know if the terps they get are suitably qualified is particular fields of health etc….. Let’s face it, when you are no longer there, what legacy have you left that deaf family member who can no longer rely on you and is pretty incapable of asking for it elsewhere? Also what are you teaching that deaf family member? It’s certainly not self-reliance is it? Maybe Mum and dad prefer to have their children reliant on them, or are being over-protective. Start day one, get a terp in straight away and/or teach your child to do it themselves.

By Mervyn James who can also be found “At The Rim”.

Mr Mervyn James

Mr Mervyn James

 

One Year On – Something Inside So Strong.

Upon reflection on how The Tree House has been nurtured since the seed of reality was first planted one year ago, how it has grown into a strong foundation and radiates with the warmth of the light from within. It is those who are able to welcome, include and consider diversity – all the various communication needs or abilities regardless, who exhibit a true strength of character.

Combine that strength with a sense of mutual respect for all and genuine intent to effect change for the better. Barriers are slowly but surely being broken down as the way forwards is being paved by those unsung, for simply being true to themselves and others in standing tall with courage.

With each and every one of you, wherever you may be – over the past year, there has been something inside growing ever so strong. Moreover, because of you wanting to be accepted for whom you may be and to have your voice – you are why we continue so. Onwards and upwards – wherever it may take us.

We are truly honoured to have been graced with the pleasure of your company.

Here we humbly share with you our very first anniversary tribute.

Thank YOU!

Can you tell who is hearing, hard of hearing, deaf or deafened in this video? Can you tell who relies solely on sign language to get by? Can you tell who is a CODA? Can you tell who is a lip-reader? Can you tell who tries their best to adapt to present company? No because that is the beauty of being so diverse and inclusive of all. All of which is not obvious in making this video and soundtrack possible.

Unfortunately we could not include all the clips and photos we were provided for this compilation as we sadly could not fit it all in order to show the full extent of the diversity. Thanks ever so, to all of you who contributed and supported us in the making of this video. It is very much appreciated – more than you realise. Please take your hats off to Paul for his time and patience in editing and compiling the videos together which produced the awesome final cut.  

The full lyrics to the sound track on our video can be found by clicking on this link: (Something Inside) So Strong by Labi Siffre.

To view Sambuca’s or Danielle William’s (full length) signed song to the soundtrack “Something inside so strong” please click on these links: Sambuca’s signed song or Danielle William’s signed song.

Please feel free to join our rather diverse Facebook discussion group.

To be notified instantly of any new articles by The Tree House, please feel free to follow us on Twitter @treehouseviews, subscribe to our Facebook page and/or add us to your circle on Google + .

 Positivity rules! 

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

KODA in Kindergarten Holiday Concert.

I saw this last winter and came across it once again so just had to share with our beloved dwellers! Carpe diem x

“Very entertaining video of a KODA (kid of deaf adults) enthusiastically singing holiday songs using sign language and animated facial expressions. Watch this and it would be the best 3:40 minutes you’ve spent in your day.”

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

Signed Songs = Visual Treats.

The school’s summer fair was imminent and there was to be a talent contest too, not only our daughters promised the crowd a catchy tune but they hoped the general public would be bowled over by their signing they had taught themselves – especially. To raise the profile of a visual language they had come to learn and accept as an alternative.

My daughter’s expression was one of such concern that I looked outside – The day had looked set to be a great day out in the school’s grounds but lo and behold, the heavens opened. It had started pouring cats and dogs! Not literally of course (!) though I know some people would have preferred it to rain men instead 😉 Each to their own.

Raindrops falling on my head.

Raindrops falling on my head.

It now was time for us to go, grabbing my oversized “family” umbrella; we hurriedly splashed our way into the school only to find pandemonium. Everything and everyone was getting soaked wet through. We stood in the playground a while, cherishing every sense the rain provoked. The light changes, the air felt cooler, the rain refreshing faces. Musical tinnitus wanted to take over to the tune of “I’m singing in the rain” Yet I had to refrain…. and contain myself.

Whilst waiting in anticipation for our daughters’ turn, I could see people really straining to hear what another was trying to say. “If only they could lip read” I thought, and “if only they could sign”. For if they could, they would not be experiencing any problems or restrictions whatsoever in communicating. The noisy chatter and the blur of people, not only in the background, was starting drain my energy, all by trying to focus on what was going to happen next so I did not miss the start of our daughters’ performance.

I was determined to make the best of this moment, as a mother and as a deaf person. I decided to just concentrate on the stage and watch all the children revel in their newfound confidence. There suddenly appeared our daughters on stage. As a mother, I fumbled for my mobile phone and pressed record, my trembling nerves seemed to synchronise with my daughter’s yet as a deaf person, I very much loved each and every second of this sensational moment albeit visually.

After all, how often is it we get front row seats to a live signed song on stage?? Especially by two very (brave) young girls who are extremely shy about performing to the public. A choice they decided to make themselves, was one that deserved cheers and a round of applause. Looking around me; I could see amazement and pride beaming from amongst the crowd. It was as though they had never seen a performance of the like before and whom I am certain of, most probably had not.

Fidelma, who was so proud of them both expressed that “It was a true pleasure to watch two normally quite shy girls up on the stage sharing something that they both knew was pretty special. Not everyone realised they were signing (probably thought it was just actions) but those who did were very impressed and were all talking about it. Watch this space; the girls will be back with more songs and signing…. (Aoife loves having a ‘secret’ language to share with Nidaa!). What a great way to learn to sign and raise awareness without even realising it. Well done girls!”

My mother who is also deaf had come along for the whole experience and this was her reaction at the end of the day “Just to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the summer fair, every stall holder (parents and teachers) appeared to be very deaf aware and communicated with me very clearly (obviously not with sign language but spoke clearly and sooo easy to lip read) so Sara, I would say you have made more of an impact over the years than you realise x”

And last but not least, I shall leave you with one more video which was shared to our FB group earlier on this very same day. Here is a video which was done by Firbeck Academy, who has a singing choir and a signing (British Sign Language) choir. They have come together to do the hit ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen. Enjoy.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

(Apologies in advance for the poor sound quality – the noise was indeed “unbearable” as Fidelma described it and some silence would have been very much appreciated during the talent contest. Nonetheless, very proud of both the girls.)