Mall Santas, It's Time To Learn ASL

Hey Santa! Before You Disappoint Any More Kids, It's Time To Learn Sign Language

It's not that hard. Seriously.

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Imagine this: you're six, waiting in line for ages just to see that big man with the fluffy white beard. Johnny said that he pulled it right off one year, but no one believed him—after all it's SANTA for crying out loud! No one can pull off Santa's beard! One hour, two hours, three... and finally, you're on his lap! His lips open and—

You cry. His lips are moving, but you can't understand him. Santa, someone who was supposed to fly all over the world in one night and know how to speak in all languages for all children, couldn't speak to you. You couldn't hear him, and he couldn't figure out a way to help you understand him.

Next year, you're traumatized. The next, too. And the next, and the next, and the next. Eventually, your parents have to explain that Santa isn't real just so you don't feel left out, like that big jolly man didn't love everyone in the world execpt for you. You're deaf, and Santa doesn't like deaf kids.

Now let's go back in time, maybe a week before you went to go see Santa. Santa went to a seven day class on how to say "Do you want a big present or a small present," "Are you excited," and "Act out [sign he doesn't know]." Santa wouldn't necessarily need to know the sign for "dinosaur," that little six-year-old child could simply tell Santa about the giant dinosaur they wanted by acting like a dinosaur. They would know that Santa liked them, and they would have a great time—just like every hearing child there.

Unlike most spoken foreign languages, American Sign Language (ASL) doesn't take years to figure out. After two years of German, I still can't say "I played a really fun video game when I was a child," but after two classes a week for 42 weeks, I can easily sign things like "I really need help with my math homework. I had to pick up my medication and the pharmacy closed during class, so I had to miss it."

21 classes and I could sign things like that. 21 classes and, while I'm still a slow signer, I can keep up in a conversation and gifure out how to sign words when I don't know the actual sign for it. I can act it out, look silly, look excited... and guess what? Mall Santas can do this, too. Seven days to save a child from the idea that Santa doesn't love them enough to learn their language.

This lack of support is just one of the many signs of audism in America, a lesser-known form of oppression that states that people are superior based on their ability to hear and prevents the adequate treatment of Deaf individuals. Most people are hearing, so why should we accomidate the Deaf? Why do basic doorbells that alert the Deaf to visitors cost a minimum of $30 while a more advanced one for the hearing can be found for as little as $13? Why do people stare when I sign in public, but not give me a second glance when I'm speaking? Why did the servers avoid us like the plague when I was at a Deaf event, but suddenly crowd around me when they found out that I was hearing?

We have treated the Deaf horribly over these past few decades. Institutionalization, being refused an interpretor after being arrested, being forced to speak when they can't hear what they're saying... It's time to stop. Let's start reforming the way we treat the Deaf by starting with their children and making sure that their holidays are as merry and bright as everyone else's.

So come on, mall Santas. Let's take seven days to learn some basic signs and make some children happy this Christmas.

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Don't Judge Me For Wanting To Be A Special Education Teacher

This is my passion.

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The summer before coming to college, I had an experience that changed my perspective of everything I wanted to do in my life. I went from being a BioMed major to a Collaborative Elementary Education major. During this experience, I saw a fire light inside me to help these students with disabilities reach their full potential.

Sadly, many people still view children with disabilities as people who don't belong in society. They don't accept them like they accept "normal" people.

Well, I'm here to tell you that if that's how you view them, you are 100% wrong.

All of these children will do something with their life. Something GREAT. They might inspire others, contribute to society, work jobs that others refuse, whatever they do, they will far above and beyond to do the best they can.

I want to be a special education teacher because these students deserve to have a voice just like any other person in the world.

They deserve to get every chance for help in order for them to succeed. Yes, it might take a while for things to process or instill in their brain, but I strongly believe they are worth every second I will spend teaching them.

There has been so much fighting for students with disabilities rights so they can have an equal opportunity, and I feel like I should keep fighting for them. Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has been around for over 40 years and keeps being edited and updated to bring these students the help and supports that they need.

So, please, when I tell you I want to be a special education teacher, don't make sad faces or feel bad for me. Don't look down on me or judge me. This is my passion. These students deserve just as much of a chance as anyone else.

Just pray for me to be the guiding light I know I can be for these students. Pray that I can make an impact on their learning and in their lives.

This is what I want to do with my life and I think I can make a real difference in these children's lives because they deserve it.

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It's National Eosinophil Awareness Week And More People Should Be Talking About It

It's time to raise awareness about eosinophil-associated diseases and support those, including myself, who are affected.

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For anyone who is unaware, May 19 to May 25 is considered National Eosinophil Awareness Week as recognized by the American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders (Apfed) since 2007. The purpose of this week is to raise awareness and help educate individuals on the various eosinophil-associated diseases. Despite its existence being virtually unknown to many people, this week has become very significant in my life and I think more people should be having conversations about it.

If you had asked me about eosinophil-associated diseases two years ago, I wouldn't have been able to say a single thing besides maybe defining an eosinophil the way I learned to in my AP Biology class senior year of high school. But as of a few months ago, it has officially been one year since I was diagnosed with an eosinophil-associated disease — something I never imagined would happen in my life. While I won't share too much of my own experience because it's honestly quite personal and still a little sensitive to discuss, it's safe to say that eosinophils completely changed my life.

I was fracturing bones like it was my job — I think I had upwards of nine stress fractures in my legs and feet in a year and a half time period. I had to stop playing sports my senior year of high school and couldn't run at all. I was nauseous 24/7. I was rapidly losing weight to the point where I had lost close to 35 pounds and none of my clothes fit me. I couldn't swallow anything, including water. Eating was painful. I had no appetite.

I was sick and in pain ALL the time to the point where I would get emotional or even cry.

I missed school days, tests, exams, social events, and eventually had to quit my job for an entire summer because even getting out of bed was hard for me. Ultimately, even the decision about the college that I chose to attend was partially based on my health and the doctors I would need to visit frequently.

But the most significant thing was that I was experiencing severe depression and anxiety and was honestly just straight-up scared. Think about it: I was experiencing a wide range of life-altering symptoms yet no one could figure out why and even when they did, there was no cure and only limited options for treatment. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many patients and their families. The process of diagnosing an eosinophil-associated disease can take years and require pretty much every medical test you can even think of because these diseases are all classified as rare diseases.

I was experiencing symptoms for a year and the journey to an accurate diagnosis took about a year after that. The journey itself was not easy, as it involved numerous doctors and countless medical tests to eliminate other potential diagnoses like cancers, parasites or even celiac. Since then, I have been involved with treatment for a little over a year. For me, treatment involved several medications and steps, including gaining the weight I had lost.

But the main piece was cutting pretty much everything out of my diet, meaning no gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, seafood, or nuts. Gradually over time this treatment involves reintroducing the foods individually (each for a three-month period) to see what can be tolerated or which foods make my eosinophils act abnormally and then restricting my diet accordingly.

Since starting treatment my life has been gradually changing in a positive manner, which is something I couldn't have imagined when I initially became ill. Yes, I will still be sick for the rest of my life and experience the chronic waxing and waning of this disease, but hopefully years of experience and knowledge will make me better equipped to handle it. One day there may even be a cure. But until then I will continue to raise awareness and participate in National Eosinophil Awareness Week in solidarity with the few who are also sharing in my experience living with an eosinophil-associated disease.

While I wrote this article with the intention of participating in Eosinophil Awareness Week by raising awareness and educating (to some extent), it was about more than that. I wanted to give you a synopsis of my story and the challenges I face to make this week more understandable and more real. This was because I know that eosinophil is not only challenging to say (even I struggle) but also challenging to conceptualize.

If you're interested in learning more or you're still confused, I recommend doing some quick reading on Apfed's website because they are extremely helpful in the way they simplify the complex information.

If you would like to see what you can do during National Eosinophil Awareness Week, you can also click here to visit Apfed's day-by-day guide for the week, which included some fact sheets, information about wearing magenta to support the cause, and other information about individual participation.

Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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