Starting off the school year with a new classmates who are not familiar with your multilingual/multicultural household can be challenging; below are some tidbits of information you can share with your new classmates to assist the conversations! Learn more about the questions that kodas are often asked.
Classmates often ask kodas questions about their families using phrases like “hearing impaired” or “suffer from hearing loss.” Use these exchanges as an opportunity to educate your peers on the terms preferred by your family.
Many Koda families use a mixture of spoken, written, and signed languages at home, while others do not use sign language to communicate. These differences make us unique. You should share with your classmates about your communication style. For instance, if your family uses a signed language, like American Sign Language, you can share that you make use of a different modality than spoken languages, like English. This means that signed languages use handshapes, movement, facial expressions, and space to convey meaning. There are also differences in sentence structure (grammar).
An interpreter may be present during classroom activities or after school events. You can explain to your peers that when your family interacts with non-signing hearing people at school or the doctor’s office, an interpreter is hired to bridge the differences between signed and spoken languages. In fact, interpreters are also used in Video Relay Services (VRS), a system that connects audio phone calls with video phone calls through an interpreter.
Many people carry negative assumptions about deaf people (Kodas often note that classmates state, “Oh I’m so sorry. It must be hard that your parents are deaf.”). As Kodas, however, we are aware of all of the positive aspects of Deaf life. The idea of Deaf Gain encourages us to focus on what Deaf people can do and on the many contributions deaf people have made. Be sure to share these with your new classmates! From the American football huddle to the benefits of biodiversity- there is a lot to be proud of!
Koda families may utilize space, light, sound, and vibration in ways that are different than hearing families. From video phones and vibrating alarm clocks, to rapping on the table and signing through windows, you should share these technologies with your friends! For instance, “The lights at my house flash when the doorbell rings,” or “We watch television and movies with the captioning on.”
Your friends may be intimidated by the language differences and feel uncomfortable about introducing themselves to your family. Encourage them to say “Hello!” If they don’t know how to sign, explain that it is okay to gesture, write on paper, or to type out messages on their phone. Teach your friends more phrases here.
Some of your classmates may ask silly questions about your family. You can remind them that deaf people can drive, read, work, and become award-winning dancers, like Nyle DiMarco who beat out many hearing dancers in 2016.
As your classmates are introducing themselves, many will share their nickname or preferred name with the group. You should feel welcome to explain that a name-sign is an important signifier of one’s membership in the deaf community. Yours was given by your parents, but many other people get their name-sign from community members. Name-signs are often given because of a certain internal or external characteristic or trait. If yours holds additional meaning, share this with your friends.
Members of the deaf community have a unique culture. Kodas often exhibit some of these cultural norms and behaviors. For example your new friends may notice that you use facial expressions and gesture, or tap on shoulders and floors to get attention. You can explain that these behaviors are typical expressions of the deaf community.
Be sure to share with new friends the aspects of being a koda that you enjoy. Whether it is going with your family to open-captioned movies or being bilingual/multilingual, being a koda can be a lot of fun and you can be proud of the things that make you unique!