in any language…
The credit card slip Tang’s mom signed this morning was a mere formality. Truth be told, I would see him for free.
Tang is every bit the nine year old boy you might expect. He laughs, loves playing jokes, is interested in everything he sees, tries to fool me at every turn, and wants to touch everything. He approaches every VT activity with a balance of tenacity and observation; trying to determine which results or behaviors will give him the most positive reaction – and the most negative. He loves the fun activities, disdains the boring ones, and finds new and amazing ways to improvise; hoping his new found shortcut will somehow win him favor. To go along with this, he has a smile that lights up the office.
Adopted from a Chinese orphanage 5 1/2 years into his journey, Tang is deaf, non-verbal, cannot read, has no language base, and communicates only with gestures. His mom tells me that ASL (American Sign Language) classes have been tried unsuccessfully, in large part because Tang was deprived of language for the first five years of his life and lacks the necessary foundation. So to say he “signs” in the traditional sense, would be a stretch. With Tang, it’s more a game of charades. And somehow, he always gets his point across.
Watching Tang and his mom communicate is like watching an exquisite ballet where neither the dancers nor the audience is aware of what will happen next – they just make it up as they go along. And yet it never disappoints. When I asked his mom if she knows what language he thinks in, her response was simple…”No”. She explained to me that when she first met Tang, he had memorized about 20 improvised signs for the necessities of life – food, drink, bathroom, etc. “We just sort of built on that”, she explained. Since American Sign Language is primarily based on the English language, trying to teach Tang became futile. “It’s more a game of associations and memorization”…. “And sometimes”, she admits, “we just make it up”.
Tang finished his second visit with me today. His visual prognosis is good, and his mom has hopes that a successful VT program will be a lead in to ASL being more effective the second time through. She hopes to give Tang the means to harness his intelligence. So do I.
For now though, I show Tang the “what and how” of each activity, and he reminds me of how much I love my job…