I began teaching myself sign language in 1997 upon becoming aware that mainstreamed* Deaf kids were attending my school. I have always hated being sociable in environments where everyone is shouting over the top of everyone else. My middle school’s lunchroom was certainly like that every day, and so were all of my extended family gatherings. After feeling like I could not fit in with the verbal majority I decided to see if I could fit in with the Deaf kids. Initially I did not, but after nearly two years of rejection I finally did.
The first book I purchased was The Pocket Dictionary of Signing. Most of the directions on how to make the signs were clear, but considering currently available technologies, I would highly recommend against my method. I did not become fluent until 1999, and still did not have a full vocabulary in sign language until 2003.
From 2003 until 2012 I was so much more comfortable communicating in sign language because it does not require extra force in sending a message like speech does in loud environments or at far distances from the listener. I love those facts about sign languageJ! In Cincinnati I perceived a bias against it in most of the people there. In Orange County, California I perceive an even stronger bias against it because most Deaf people in Cincinnati are mute and most Deaf people in Orange County are not. The Deaf of SoCal feel a need to develop speaking voices because society doesn’t want them signing except amongst each other. Their speaking voices often cause sensory overload for autistic folks because they cannot hear how loud they are. We autistic folks who have learned sign language have a duty to educate the Deaf that they should never verbalize to us because they cannot hear how loud they are. We learn sign language to improve communication with them and others who have learned sign language.
I have dealt with service providers in Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services who I felt did not listen attentively and wished I could have been signing with them. My final service facilitator with them actually did have signing skills which he used with me when we were physically present with each other.
Due to the stronger bias I perceive against sign language here in Orange County, I have given up my pursuit of a social life in the SoCal signing community because most of the sign language users seem to prefer to live in Los Angeles County. I do not feel safe on the streets or buses in most cities in LA County and do not plan to have a personal vehicle even once I am making money.
* "Mainstreamed" refers to students with disabilities who participate in non-special education classrooms.