Tag Archives: special needs

10 of 10 (reblog)

The following is an article found on another ministry site, Deaf Child Hope, written by the founder of yet another ministry, Duane King of Deaf Missions.

The interesting thing about facts is, no matter who tells them, they remain true. I hereby invite you to catch the vision of reaching deaf people with the gospel, preferably while they’re young enough to be guided and guarded by it.

10 of 10

Continue reading 10 of 10 (reblog)

Patrick Speaks

Patrick Speaks is a short video about a deaf young man in Uganda, and others like him.  They have a unique opportunity, thanks to one person who chose to learn, then return home to make a difference.

At the end, Patrick is granted a sign name…the sign they use means “Smile” in one or more sign languages.

It turns out this video is an excerpt of a 25 minute video titled “15 and Learning to Speak” from the UK channel “Unreported World”.  The longer video has an interpreter using British Sign Language (different from American Sign Language).

Enjoy the smiles, and understand the story that is at the heart of deaf culture – the essential need to communicate, and the experience of being alone while surrounded by loved ones.

Sim Games – a metaphor for life

Many are familiar with the popular Sim (simulation) games, known by titles such as Farm Town, FarmVille, YoVille, Millsbury, Mafia Wars…   They have a basic pattern, granting ‘energy’ points at a rate of 1 per 5 minutes to a maximum determined by your level in the game.  A player expends these energy points at different rates depending on the task, and may earn ‘money’ credits which can be applied to upgrades, etc, etc…  If you’ve been active on Facebook for more than 3 weeks, you’ve at least been invited to participate, if not hooked, on one or more of the offerings.

Stay with me, we’re switching topics, but they’ll tie together soon…

Several people in my circles, including myself, have a variety of ailments that impact our physical health and real life energy levels.  We’ve just about got the medical encyclopedia covered, with Lupus, Fibromyalgia, MS, Cardiomyopathy, Rheumatoid Arthritis, PTSD,  chemical imbalance depression, and more.  Each of these are invisible to the uninformed eye, but can wreak havoc with little or no notice.  We may be inexplicably exhausted after apparently no greater activity than socializing with friends or sitting behind a desk for 8 hours.

Here’s where the topics tie together…  I was once asked to clarify the impact of my condition, explaining it quickly to a group of young college students.  I went for the fastest shortcut I could find, energy points in sim games, and they understood immediately.  I’ve since been asked by friends to help explain why they may need down time, even away from loved ones.  This is the best I’ve got.

In the sim games, once you’ve picked & planted corn or played parlor checkers with your friends until your energy points are down to zero, you are left with three choices:  Spend electronic money credits to get electronic decorations, spend real legal tender money to buy more energy points, or step out of the game for a period of time while your energy points regenerate per schedule.    In real life, you may be able to spend legal tender money on hiring help, or grab a sugar/caffeine buzz, but the reality is, once the body has hit its limit, you’re down until you can rest & regenerate.  There’s no option but to step out of the game temporarily.  Continuing to push because you’re not dead yet can be, in some cases, deadly.

So, if your friend or loved one says “I need to stop for a while”, take their word for it.  Trying to explain the above to people who haven’t experienced medical fatigue just uses up more energy points, and for us, those are a premium.

Long Story Short

Admittedly, 46 years of impressions, studies, goals, successes, failures, pep-talks, and restarts is a long (LONG) story. Likewise, compressing it all into one line conclusions and whether current status can be considered progress or regress is another challenge that leaves out far too many details to satisfy most. I find myself back-pedaling to explain, then running off on a tangent to share an exciting episode, and then trying to recover as I see my listener’s eyes glaze over with the universal question: “Huh?” Herein is my attempt to convey the important details of who I am, where, why, and what’s next. Continue reading Long Story Short

Deaf Ministry Considerations

I have yet to assemble what could be called a ‘white paper’ on deaf ministry, but here are a few key points:

90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents…

and most parents are encouraged to focus on oral (lipreading & speech) training and avoid use of visual gestures, with the objective being the ability to conduct life and business in a hearing society. This puts most deaf people at a linguistic disadvantage, as they cannot sample and passively absorb language structure like hearing babies do, much less the idioms and allusions that are so common in our society. All children reach a peak of language development between age 6 and 9, after which further growth is a matter of vocabulary and the mind literally and physically shifts from a linguistic focus to using language as a tool to acquire new ideas. When hearing children begin to get reinforcement and correction in math, science, history, and faith, through a language they absorbed naturally, deaf children are still memorizing mouth movements and how they associate with concrete ideas such as milk, dog, and chair. New ideas not only require the work of processing the idea itself, but the work of processing the words by which that idea is transmitted. By the time they are adults, a hearing and a deaf sibling raised in the same aural/oral-focused household will be far apart from one another in matters of faith, politics, and business – it will seem that the deaf person is weaker, when truly, they are simply less informed because they didn’t absorb the onslaught of random information that hearing people almost cannot avoid. The situation is not nearly as bleak for deaf children raised in deaf households, or at least homes where the parents seek out deaf resources and signing models to first give their children the gift of language, then the gift of new ideas and a second language (English) by which to communicate them.

The common notion that all deaf people are skilled at speech-reading…

and/or written English is an unfortunate and somewhat lazy myth. What they read is a matter of memorizing patterns more than the easy flow of ideas that we enjoy. Written English is a representation of spoken English, but hearing adults don’t realize that as they read words they’re going through the phonetic exercise to mentally hear what the author is saying – it has become second nature to us after the brief kindergarten episode of cat-bat-hat-mat and ‘See Spot run’ books. There are rare people at the edge of the bell curve with an amazing gift for lipreading, and I know one of them, she is legendary among the deaf in Columbus. The majority of ‘normal’ deaf people get, at best, about 70% of what is said, and that requires a lot of contextual gap-filling. It also requires direct eye-to-eye contact and concentration which can be broken by a head turn, the speaker moving back & forth (as in preaching), the distraction of peripheral movement, the existence of facial hair, deformities such as hairlips or speech affected by stroke or palsy. Deaf people will nod and smile, as any of us would, to avoid appearing inferior among the dominant culture. If the information is important enough, like a medical diagnosis, they may ask once or twice for it to be repeated and they may do investigation on their own after the fact. They have learned, one by one and in communication with others, how to cope with their heads held high. They are not inclined to put forth the effort to cope any more than they must to maintain employment and important relationships, nor would we be. Because of this, they may enter a church once, but they won’t stay if someone doesn’t put forth a little effort to welcome them and ensure that they get something from the service. Hearing teens are leaving churches in droves because it’s what their parents dragged them to and they’re of age to make their own decisions. Deaf people raised in a hearing church without resources in their language will leave twice as fast as soon as they have opportunity to do so, and for essentially the same reasons.

There is a risk, a huge one, of people intrigued by sign language who study from books…

and begin waving their hands at the front of a church. Their heart is in the right place, but without proper training, their minds and hands don’t quite know what to do.  I was once one of these, and determined to get proper training, which set me on my current path (with a few detours). During my training, I signed the story of David and Goliath, and placed an 18 pound birth canal at the end of Goliath’s spear. I’ve corrected young ladies who signed the song “I’m trading my sorrows” as “I’m trading my apologies” – the sign for sorrow/grief is different than the sign for sorry/apology. The sign for shy and the sign for prostitute are very similar. Deaf people may or may not, to varying degrees, have the patience to work with such a person, and the clozure skills to understand what the object of the message was. On the flipside, if a church hires a qualified interpreter, he or she may get all the signs right and still blow the doctrinal concepts because they are of a differing faith. ‘Born Again’ means something entirely different to a Buddhist than a Baptist.

The pattern of communication is different…

in hearing culture and deaf culture. A hearing presentation will build intrigue by giving tidbits and examples, then make the point with an ‘aha’ statement that ties them all together and leaves a strong impression to be pondered later. It has been described as a point-down-triangle approach. A deaf presentation starts by stating the point, expanding on it, then restating it. It has been described as a diamond (like the card suit) approach. Whether it’s a story, sermon, or sentence, the key element is presented first so that everyone is working with the same idea, then it’s clarified and polished. The English sentence “I bought a shiny red V-8 car yesterday” is translated in sign as “Yesterday, a car (V-8, red, shiny) I bought”. They are also more direct with a few signs per concept, as opposed to our many words per concept, and they don’t beat around the bush with niceties and euphemisms. There is one sign for pretty that can be used with more or less emphasis to mean the gamut of English words like attractive, lovely, beautiful, gorgeous, handsome, etc. If something is ugly, they’ll call it ugly – not to be impolite, but because there aren’t a dozen ways to say “less than appealing” in sign language, and they prefer unambiguous communication. It’s much easier and clearer to say “No” than “I’d rather not”.

They are operating with a completely different schema of referential information…

Hum the Twilight Zone theme, the Jaws shark theme, or the ‘ree-ree-ree’ from the Psycho shower scene, and 90% or more of your audience will be all over the concept whether they’ve seen the films first hand or not. If you were to refer to “the grassy knoll” for example, most minds would jump to the JFK assassination and the idea of a conspiracy on that phrase alone, or “Et tu, Brute?” would bring up the idea of betrayer and perhaps Judas, because they have become common cliche’s that may be heard over and again in a variety of environments with the same phraseology and meaning. Just as a blind person doesn’t know or likely care that blood is red and blue is a royal color, an illustration of harmony vs discord doesn’t say as much to a deaf person as Paul’s reference to the eyes and hands of the body. Someone engaged with the deaf community will be able to employ appropriate references, such as the deaf idiom ‘train-zoom’, which means the discussion is too far into topic for us to back up & fill you in.

Finally, the deaf community is, to varying degrees, a closed society…

with all the suspicion and insider/outsider dynamics that title entails. It is the nature of humans to progress from curiosity to understanding to exploitation and control. Look at the stories of Native Americans, African Slavery, and European Jews. Generations of deaf people have seen sign language be taken over and mangled by those who would insist on making it more English, more like the majority language. Some have lived through the days when deaf residential school and signing teachers were the norm, transmitting the concepts of math, science, and history through a common and shared language with it’s own grammar and structure. They remember when the deaf teachers were marginalized and dismissed, and the schools shifted their teaching language from sign to oral because hearing people decided it should be so, or they brought in hearing teachers with limited sign skills or artificial English-centric gestures. They remember having their hands tied or taped behind them, their knuckles rapped with rulers, all in an attempt to force them to abandon sign language. Just as we try to teach new generations about the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11, the stories of oppression live on in the deaf community, and they keep their guards up just in case. They’ve endured isolation and insults among their own families, even loving families who simply didn’t realize how much communication and camaraderie were happening just beyond the reach of their deaf children. The world is no more accommodating to deaf people than it is to those affected by various forms of dwarfism. Short people have to fight to see and be seen, deaf people have to fight to hear and be heard, and they’d rather interact with people of common experience than with the majority who see them as a curiosity. For this reason, when they have a deaf club, deaf church, or deaf event, hearing people will need to ask permission to enter, be ready to present a respectful attitude and some credentials or someone to vouch for them, and take it on the chin if they’re denied access. If a hearing person is granted access, they must be very careful not to jump in & start playing hero or supervisor. Deaf people are quite capable, proud, and independent, they don’t need or want nursemaids or bosses, pity or patronizing, and they’ve learned to spot it from a mile away.

There is, in my unverified opinion, one thing almost every church can do to be deaf-friendly…

aside from the obvious smile and handshake that should be offered to everyone. Identify someone with excellent dictation/typing skills, and make available a means to publish the content of the sermon as it is being preached either on a laptop in a pew or on the overhead screens used for lyrics and PowerPoint slides. This would not only be helpful to the signing deaf, but to the late-deafened and hard of hearing for whom a sign language interpreter would not be useful. It’s a start, and it says “we’re willing to make some effort”.