Skip to main content
Monthly Archives

January 2014

image of blog pages

‘I Think Differently’ by Brittany Barry

By Lifestyle, My story, News 10 Comments

Brittany in her ASL videoI used to think something was wrong with the way I think.

Now I know that I just think differently.

The main reason is that I first learned language in a different way.

I heard things in English but said them in another language—sign language.

I did this because even though I can hear, I have speech challenges and am deaf in one ear. I live in two worlds, hearing and ASL, and neither world exactly understands what’s its like to be me.

I don’t think in a straight line.   

I think in all directions at once. For example, when I buy a gift,  I know that person in 3D and know what is perfect for them.

I think now and ahead at the same time.  

I plan my week on the weekend and get up very early in the morning so I am prepared. 

I organize what I learn in folders in my mind, like school folder, family folder, birthday folder, shopping folder, where you put your keys folder.  This lets me remember everything I see and hear.

ASL feels different than English.  You see it, not hear it.  For example, when you want to say good job, you hold up your thumb.  That’s what ASL words feel like.

I think of words 3 ways at the same time; the thing, the word and the sign.

Sign language skips a lot of words so its easy to leave English words out and put them in the wrong order. 

I want to walk  is  I want walk. 

 I will ask her to pick her up  is  I will ask her to picking up her

Two different words in English, can be one word in sign.

You put your hand on your chest to say both My or mine.  So writing ASL to English might be Mine clothes are on the table.

One sign can mean 3 English words.

Moving your hand in front of your face means pretty, handsome, beautiful. 

Some words I have never said. I might know the sign but I have never heard the word or the answer.

For example, my driver’s test asked about an intersection. I have been in an intersection before but had never had a word for it.  So when I read it, I didn’t know what the word meant.

Reading helps me with language, but I still need to translate words. 

Math has more language to deal with than people think and they assume I know what things mean. A lot of words mean different things in math than in English like times.  

For algebra, I need to write every step. I like to check it right after so I can clear my head.  On tests, if there are a lot of steps to remember, I get blank and nervous. Geometry is easier for me than algebra because its not a lot of steps.  

To me, sign communicates feelings, not just words. Just like music.

I can communicate important things or deep feelings by writing them.  But I am grateful to have someone who understands sign.

I have to be determined and creative to get help because teachers don’t understand me. 

When people are not patient and try to do things for me, I have to either fight back or give in.

In big groups, its hard to get people’s attention so I have to listen carefully and wait a lot.

I work really hard and have to hold a lot of things in my head.

So what does this all mean.  It means:

I am creative, resourceful and determined

I am super sensitive to seeing and listening

I really want to communicate

I want the world to see who I am

Sometimes I’m exhausted.


image of blog pages

Brittany’s Story

By Lifestyle, My story, News 5 Comments

Check out Brittany in her American Sign Language Music Video just below!

I have a speech disability and hearing loss in in one ear.  Because I can’t talk, I have been using sign language to communicate with my family since the age of two.

Throughout elementary and middle school I struggled with the limitations of my disabilities, but I have also found different ways to communicate and overcome many obstacles.  For example, a difficulty was when kids would tease me or bully me in school.  As painful as that was, I refused to be silent.  I always told the teachers or my parents what was happening and managed to have good friends at school.

YouTube Preview Image

I have been mainstreamed in school my whole life, and my peers did not know sign language.  Since I started high school, my old friends began to change and became distant from me.  High school has been a very painful experience in many ways because of isolation and depression.  I often asked my mom if I could be home-schooled because it was so hard.  But the pain of high school has led me to in the past four years to get involved in the world of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people where sign language communication has been easier for me.  I took American Sign Language classes at College of Marin where I became a teacher’s aide.  Later I went to a camp at Gallaudet University, and I was also a counselor at a Lyons Club camp for Deaf kids one summer.  What I realized from these experiences is that I feel the most comfortable with hearing or hard-of-hearing people who know sign language like me.  I don’t identify as well with the Deaf community who have their own culture and cultural norms.  In many ways I feel I am living between two worlds, the non-signing and hearing world, and the signing Deaf worlds.  This is not an easy place to be.

An example living between two worlds is that sometimes it’s embarrassing when I use sign language if I am out at a restaurant or when I meet new people.  They assume I am Deaf, and I feel misunderstood.  On the other hand, I am not fully comfortable communicating with Deaf people because the way I like to communicate is with my voice and sign language at the same time, and most Deaf people just use sign language.  Because I can hear, I also rely on listening to people speaking.  If a deaf person signs really fast and they don’t use their voice, it’s hard for me to understand them.

But on a positive note, I have some advantages because I can communicate in two languages and be part of both the Deaf and hearing world.  In many ways I am able to relate to people from two worlds.  I have had some amazing opportunities like making a music video with a Deaf performer, and meeting Deaf celebrities like Marlee Maltin, Sean  Berdy and Sean Forbes. I think when I could not communicate with hearing people at school I became a very good observer and listener.  I have learned to listen to other peoples’ ideas and opinions.  I notice that because I am such a good observer I remember things very well. I am also a visual person and use my eyes all the time.  When I remember things, I see pictures more than remembering the words.

I am continuing to search for better ways to communicate and make friends who are like me.  I would like to find a community of people who can sign and talk.  In choosing a college or university I am hoping to find a signing community.  My goals in college are to study fashion and marketing and continue to play soccer, but I also hope to find a place in the college community where I feel like I fit in.

Brittany Barry