Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Jessica on ASDay
Jessica's original post is here, and it has been reproduced below.
My entire life I have felt out of place. I am Deaf and attended a public school until I was 11 years old. While in the public school, I had no sign language interpreter and could not understand what was being said in the classroom. I felt different amongst my classmates and I knew it was because I am deaf. Kids were not including me in their activities and would tease me that I could not speak "properly". This changed when I attended a school for the deaf. All of the students and teachers could sign. I was more included at that school. However, I still felt different from them. It seemed impossible that I could still feel different and I constantly searched for answers.
I was 30 years old when I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Light-bulbs went off in my head and I understood why I felt different in my entire life. One of the most important understanding I gained was why I seemed to struggle with some aspects of American Sign Language (ASL). The language required that I understand facial expressions and body language. Since non-verbal communication is not Aspergians' strongest suit, it helped me to understand my frequent frustrations related to ASL.
Whenever someone pointed out the "obvious" signs of an individual's emotion, I would beat myself up how I could have missed that. I am Deaf and should instinctively be able to interpret the appropriate non-verbal signs in ASL. Sometimes during a conversation a friend would bring up a particular non-verbal sign that seemed to be obvious and I would question myself whether I was incompetent in interpreting the invisible signs without assistance?
I was constantly doubting myself whether I had shown the appropriate facial expression or body language to communicate non-verbally. Too often I have questioned myself whether or not that I had presented myself correctly and perhaps should have "known better". I wondered why it seemed to come naturally in others while I had to constantly practice by myself in front of a mirror. Occassionally I would have someone give a perplexed look whenever I was signing and I would wonder was it because I shown something facially or physically wrong?
Over the years, I started to harbour secret resentment towards the non-verbal communication aspects of ASL. It seemed too complicated and stressful to maintain appropriate facial expressions and body language. Thus, I started to intentionally become stoic in order to keep myself "consistent" at all times. It was just easier that way to have one simple facial expression. No more self-analyzing required and I resented the expectation of using proper non-verbal communication in applicaple situations.
Now that I have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, I am slowly letting go my resentment towards non-verbal communication and to embrace ASL more. I am realizing that ASL does give me benefits in many ways. If only I had knew about the neurological difference I had all those years. I would have minimize my self-badgering and self-doubt.