A Glimpse Into
the World Of The Deaf

The association I had with the Deaf World is very special to me. It’s 35 years of our lives. The following is written to give a very small peek into another world that few hearing people realize is out there. We have no idea of how hard it is for them to cope in a hearing world—a world of communication. It’s always a shock for parents to come to the realization that their child is handicapped in some way or another. Did you ever know a mother that didn’t count her newborn’s fingers or toes, checking everything out to see if it is “normal”? I can remember my mother saying that about her seven. And what if it isn’t? Some come through it and are strengthened by it, and others aren’t. Sometimes they walk away not being able to cope with it.

Many parents never learn to sign or communicate with their children. These children with special needs are sent away to be raised and educated by strangers and come home usually once a month to visit. Without parents who can sign, the summers can be lonely for them. They are anxious to return to the security of their friends. At graduation it becomes almost like splitting up a family. Many will never see each other again.

“Last night Julie cried herself to sleep,” a night supervisor at KSD told me.
“Why?” I asked.
“She said she so desperately wants to be able to communicate with her parents but they wouldn’t make the effort to learn how to sign.”
“How old is she?”
“In her teens.”

I reflected back to when we first enrolled Melissa in KSD. It was the year Tim started kindergarten. Tim was Melissa’s security. It was almost as if he could read her mind. He told us what her grunts meant. They were inseparable up till this time. Melissa was excited about starting school at the same time her brother was. Then we had to tell her she was different; she couldn’t go with him. Her hearing ears would be in a different place--she would be alone for the first time and it frightened her. Now she didn’t want to go anymore, and she balked, and cried, and pleaded, and tore my heart up. But God was still there...one day at a time.

Tim got settled in school and Melissa got unsettled in. She tried to communicate the only way she could—sign language—but they wouldn’t let her. “Don’t sign to her,” we were told, “They will try harder to learn if you don’t use signs.” That proved to be baloney. We went through hell that first year because of this Oral Teaching. I wondered if Melissa or myself would make it. She begged me through her eyes every day to please not make her go to that school. With tears she clung to me, but she had to learn.

I can remember my mother leaving me crying at the door of the day care center at the age of 4, scared to death of that big place with the mean women who made me drink that awful glass of tomato juice and cod liver oil mixed in it. To this day I can’t stand that juice. I know my mother had to work, but it traumatized me for many years. And now I had to take my own daughter to a place where I knew she was miserable and struggling with fears that I couldn’t help her understand.

Children came from all over the state to live in the dorms. I was so grateful that Gene could work in Olathe so we could live there.1 It would have killed me to have to send her away. I couldn’t have done it. It was hard enough with just what we did have to do. I understand why today some foster and single parents defy court orders to return children whom they have grown to love so desperately. Love is precious. It is eternal. It is unforgettable. Love is a powerful thing that can tear the heart apart.

“Surely there must be a better way,” I thought. I felt learning should be an exciting thing, not a punishment for being “different.” But what did I know in the eyes of the educators? And Melissa wasn’t the only child having problems. There were a few others that were not developing as they should, but we didn’t know that until later.

Finally in desperation, her father and I decided we were going to communicate the best way we could, and that was to sign to her.2 We didn’t care what the school said. KSD leaders called us in for a conference. “You can’t ask us not to! It’s the only way we can communicate with each other,” we explained. “She is deaf. She isn’t like us so why should we make her live in our world?” There had to be giving from both sides. When we left the meeting you could feel the tension. We didn’t know what would happen, but we knew we were going to sign to our daughter. We wanted her to understand.

 


God Sends Help

It was true that God moved us to Olathe. I was drowning in Independence. He started letting us know what He was going to do by showing me the kitchen in which I’d be feeding my family, but I didn’t know that’s what it was.

I dreamed I was looking at kitchen cabinets with ornate wood work. I knew there was something about this place involving me but I didn’t understand anything else.

God didn’t interpret the dream. I just saw cabinets, and was left to wonder why. Strange, these unexplained visions and dreams.

One night I had a dream of a beautiful school teacher who loved Melissa very much. She said that we had been moved to Olathe to put her in the deaf school, and that she believed Melissa could hear.

When we knew we must move to Olathe to put Melissa in school, I was balking like a mule. God was going to heal her. He promised--she didn’t need a deaf school, and besides she was only 6, (well, 7). We still had a few months for Him to do it in before authorities would force us. She wasn’t emotionally ready and neither was I. An angel had to push me all the way (Gene).

Gene applied at the FAA, was rehired that day, and assigned to the Olathe Center as an Air Traffic Controller. Now we had to move. On Sunday, Gene found a house to rent in Olathe, and dragged me to the front window to look in. It was locked up, but we could see through to the kitchen, and there were those ornate cabinets! I would have known them anywhere! Rats! Gene got the key from the landlord, and as I walked from room to room I knew this was the place. I was resisting the very thought of coming here, yet I knew God was guiding our lives and I must follow. He was my friend, not my enemy and I loved Him. All things would happen for our good. I believed that with all my heart.

We went back home to Independence to sell the house. Gene put an ad in the paper on Monday; our neighbor saw the ad on Tuesday, and came over and bought it as an investment on Wednesday. He said he’d been wanting to buy it for some time. In one week we were packed up and gone to Olathe. Melissa was 7, Tim 4, Judy 6 months, and I was 3 months pregnant with Debbie. I wasn’t a happy camper.

God indeed moved us, and through us had plans to help make the world of the deaf a little easier for the new little children coming to KSD. Maybe if I could have seen the big picture it would have helped, but as in all trials we have to walk in faith—blind trust.

State School System Changes

So here we were in Olathe, taking it one day at a time. To our surprise and joy, KSD listened and saw the problem. They acknowledged that when the children reached junior high they signed anyway. It was natural for them. KSD responded by hiring a hearing teacher who had deaf parents. It was Melissa’s second year at KSD when she came, and she fell in love with Melissa. This Jewish lady had a little girl close in size and age to Melissa and they became good friends. This love helped Melissa blossom. We felt such a closeness to them that when I bore my testimony to her about Christ healing Melissa, she believed me, just as I’d seen her in my dream.

This beautiful lady took these problem children into a special class teaching signing and lip-reading. It worked so well that the next year the same children were in it. Melissa made such great strides that it astounded the Principal. The third year, KSD converted to a new method of teaching. They called it Total Communication (TC)— lip-reading and signing.

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The story was written in the Kansas City Star reporting the outstanding achievements made by the young, first year students under TC training—2,000 words in two months. Melissa had been a great blessing to KSD. The results were worth the effort put forth and the frustration suffered. Gene and I gave a sigh of relief.

 

Footnotes
1. And that was God’s plan—to send us to live in Olathe, Kans., the home of the State School for the Deaf. Gene had to come to this decision—to move his family there. It meant returning to Air Traffic Control work which he didn’t want to do. But he did, and it was the greatest blessing we could have received. It set the stage for everything else that followed in our life. God wanted us in Olathe, Kansas.
2. We learned sign language from classes offered to parents by KSD.