My Asl Experience
September 10th, 1994 was my first day of 6th grade. This was also the first day that I came in contact with the Deaf world.
During recess, my friend Elizabeth brought out a new girl by the name of Megan Leschly. She was deaf, and her interpreter, Ms. Rosener, did not go out to recess to help her communicate. This was the day I started to learn sign language. From 6th grade to 8th grade Megan went to public school with me and all of our group of friends. We celebrated everything together, even Ms. Rosener went to her going away party we threw at my parents house.
In those 3 years I saw a lot of deaf culture, and I can now see the negative side of things. Her mother (who adopted her) didn’t know sign very well, and her brothers and sisters knew the alphabet at most. Going to her house I got to see first hand the flashing lights when the phone rang, or the door bell rang, always having closed captioned on the television, getting to use the TTY operators when I called (I think they got annoyed with me a lot, because I always forgot to say, “Go ahead” at the end of my statements) and unfortunately the cold side of a family that didn’t make many other attempts to reach out to her.So looking back now, I understand why she went away to high school. The first time I’d seen Megan since 8th grade was last summer. Our mutual friend, Maria had kept in better contact with her over the years than I have, so it was natural for Maria to invite Megan to her baby shower. Megan and I talked a little bit, but not much.
Just enough to realize she was moving from San Diego to Colorado to live with her sister. I was bummed, seeing I didn’t even know she was in town, much less in the same neighborhood as I was!With the magic of face book, I saw that she had moved back to town in March and we met up for coffee just to catch up on a million years. The first time we met for coffee was at Starbucks in La Jolla. (Middle ground, since she’s living in Carmel Mountain area now, and I’m in Pacific Beach) She brought her son, River, so I could meet him a little more. He is very shy, and clings to her like flies on poop. I told her I was taking a sign language class, and she said my sign was very good as it was but was happy that she peaked my interest in it.We talked about her mom, (who was also my 8th grade math teacher) and how she moved to Oregon with her new husband.
She told me how after 8th grade she went to Model Secondary School for the Deaf. She loved the fact that she was able to learn freely. There was no barriers, which is what lead her to apply, and get accepted into Gallaudet. She graduated from Gallaudet in 2006 with a degree in Social Work and Communication Studies. Her senior year she ended up getting pregnant and hasn’t spoken to the father since graduation.I learned that she is planning on staying in San Diego because she has an excellent job at Purple Communications as a San Diego Center Supervisor. It was nice talking with Megan because I didn’t have to feel nervous about talking to a total stranger, and when I had questions about signs I felt comfortable enough to ask.
I asked about raising her son, who is hearing, and she feels that she is lucky in the fact that she is a deaf mother. She can and has communicated with him from such a younger age, than many hearing parents do.She said younger children can sign before they can speak words, so she feels very grateful in that sense. That meeting at Starbucks was probably a good, solid two hours. Enough for me to drink 3 coffees and River to finish his coloring book, run around and get fidgety. I know River loves dogs, so I invited them to the San Diego Humane Walk with Henry (my Cocker Spaniel) and I. The morning of the Walk, Henry and I met River and Megan at Mission Bay around 8am.
This was a good time, because we weren’t busy talking about each other or catching up. We were talking about the people at the event, and I got a lot of finger spelling in trying to spell all the dog breeds names that I knew. During the walk we even met another deaf man, whose name I want to say is Gabe (I’m horrible with names), but his Boston Terriers name was definitely Pixie. Gabe and Megan talked for half a second about dogs, and what a nice day it turned out to be. We separated ways around 10am when all the raffles and the Walk was over.It is interesting to see that after learning in class, how Gallaudet teaches a lot of finger spelling and not true ASL, I see it in Megan. I would never point it out, but it was just a very interesting thing to take note of.
Over all, I’m glad we had this assignment, though I would never look at Megan and think about talking to her was for a school paper. This class, made me more comfortable and more up to par with speaking with her than my jumbled up 8th grade sign language mess. From me to you, I sincerely thank you.