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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.


Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Susan MacKay says:


    What you wrote is so beautiful and it helped me to better understand ASL and what it must be like to live between the world of American Sign Language (ASL) and the wprld of oral language and how it shapes how you view the world in multiple dimensions. COOL!

    Since I don’t know ASL, it was really interesting to learn about it. Thank you for sharing this. You are, as always, an inspiration. Keep writing!

  • Lesli says:

    My God! That is so awesome and deep. It reminds of the great struggles that Helen Keller went through to understand and be understood and to finally become a great and respected person…………..Pop Pop

  • Gary Douglas Levine says:

    Gary Douglas Levine
    I get a great feel for your triumphs! Keep at it. You have determination and people who love you and believe in you!

    • Vhenz says:

      MSeptember 13, 2012I have to agree with K here. I do get a negative vibe about CIs on this post. Anyhow let me ask a qteusion:Why are some deaf people so against CIs but embrace hearing aids?

  • Grandma=E says:

    dear brittanyi read your letter on my friend’s computer. i always knew your fine qualities and your capabilities. the letter you wrote is exceptional in explaining how you cope and how your mind deals with managing communications. I can now understand fully how I can let you alone to figure out things for yourself before I think you need my help first when we are together. I love you too much. I wish you success and happiness . In my heart I know you are capable of making your dreams come true. I’m looking forward to seeing you in my WHITE SHOES. LOVE FROM MY HEART FOREVER. GRAMMA E.

  • Stan Kaplan says:

    My God! That is so awesome and deep. It reminds of the great struggles that Helen Keller went through to understand and be understood and to finally become a great and respected person…………..Poppop

  • Allan Halprin says:

    Brittany is an amazing person!”

  • Camille says:

    Wow Brittany! I loved reading this and I have and always will admire the way you go through life with so much determination and grace. You are truely an amazing person. Love yah 🙂

  • Natalie Breuner says:

    This was truly a great article Brittany! I am so impressed by your depth, and I have gained a lot of clarity. I have always known that you are so smart, and it is not fair that you have to bottle up all of your beautiful thoughts. Keep on being you, because there are plenty of people out there who already understand you, just like I do.

  • ME (Brittany Barry) says:


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