Where’s your communication book? I’ll ask your teacher to tell you.
It’s the most common phrase that is signed in my household, aside from, I love you, and Go to sleep already.
The problem is, of course, that my son Alex doesn’t ‘speak’ the same language as I do, and sometimes I’m the one at a huge disadvantage. I, whose life consists of putting words together to make meanings clear, am unable to communicate with my own offspring. What kind of sick force in the universe came up with this irony?
Tonight I had to try to explain to Alex why he wasn’t able to eat from my plate. It’s something that I allow him to do on occasion–not something I allowed my other two sons to do–since he doesn’t eat much more than one piece of anything, being that he’s tube fed. But now, since I’m not sure I’m completely over this bug, it’s a no-no. Germs are not something I often talk about, and so once again I’m faced with my lack of knowledge, and my incompetence in being fluent in American Sign Language.
Can you fathom the frustration at not being able to say the simplest of things? With a hearing child, the conversation would be over in four or five sentences. “I’m sick, and if you eat from my plate you might get sick. Why? Because there are these things called germs – tiny things like bugs crawling around in my food. You still want some? I thought not.”
Instead? It’ll have to wait until tomorrow.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful that I have the resource of the Deaf school to back me up when I need it, and especially that they are teaching my son to communicate with his peers. What scares me are the stories I was told by a few different Deaf people of their hearing families – that they grew apart. The Deaf have their own community. In fact “Deaf” is capitalized when the word is used to describe a person in the same way American is – because it denotes that very community. It’s only by virtue of the fact that Alex has a global intellectual delay that I might have to care for him well into adulthood.
In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to learn his language. Because once he’s twenty-one and has to leave school, I won’t have a communication book to write in. And I’ll be at a complete loss for words.