katharine is challenged

in november, i took on the challenge to learn ASL by the end of the year. as 2008 rapidly approaches, i’m proud to say that i’ve learn how to finger spell and still working on conversational signs and grammar. at this point, i can tell you what my name is and how i’m doing. i have not learned any curses yet (i’m sure when i do, i’ll use them all the time…mostly in frustrating classroom situations).

i’ve mentioned before that i do have a hearing impairment. it’s frustrating because it is an invisible disability and i can participate in enough conversations that people can easily forget about it. i got this book, Missed Connections, a few weeks ago and it’s really helped to ease some of the irritation i’ve had with myself. my disability is like a strict parent, putting limits on who i can and cannot talk to and where i can and cannot go. and it colours the way others may see me. i can be seen as dumb, aloof, rude, racist, dull, slow, and/or bitchy all because i don’t contribute to a conversation or respond quickly.

i haven’t yet found a clear, concise way to explain my condition to normal people. what i experience in daily interactions is a bit like a game show…sometimes it’s Wheel of Fortune and all the vowels are there, i just have to fill in the consonants. sometimes it’s the Match Game without the euphemisms. i can fake my way through most days if i’m surrounded by clear English-speaking people. if you’ve got a heavy accent and want to engage me in a conversation, brace yourself for a blank stare and half answers. know that i respect your culture and nationality, we just can’t have conversations on the bus or in the supermarket.

i spent a lot of years avoiding my disability and letting it push me into a social anxiety disorder. while i’m far from conquering the invisible beast, i am striving to work with it and getting more interested and involved in HOH (hard of hearing) advocacy. if you’re on the same party cruise with me or are close to someone with a hearing impairment, i recommend reading Missed Connections. it was published in 1999, so the information about hearing aid technology might be slightly outdated, but the experiences shared in the book still ring true (that’s not just your tinnitus acting up).

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