Elementary Signing and Lipreading

I was blessed that I didn’t stand out too much during my public school years. Kids who made fun of me did it in a joking way that was no different than making fun of my religion. In fact, they probably made fun of my religion more than my deafness. They often said, “Jesus loves you.”
I responded, “It’s so nice to be loved.”
The boys love to say, “I want a fig newton” or “Olive oil” because when you read lips, they come across as something else. A couple of them would say, “Read my lips,” and then proceed to do the Bronx cheer. Cute, huh?

There was a guy named Robbie who loved to fingerspell with me from across the room. I may not know ASL, but I know the finger alphabet. A girl did a report on Helen Keller in 4th grade and gave everyone a card with the finger alphabet. A few of us picked it up.
The finger alphabet also came in handy when I was dating Paul. We don’t use it as much anymore. I guess after 17 years of marriage (as of June 11), we can read each other’s minds well, but not 100%. When we went to the movies or got into a “too dark for lipreading” situation, he would fingerspell.
Lipreading has gotten me into trouble a few times. A mom was telling me her family was moving this summer to Alaska, or so I thought. Before I figured out it was Atlanta, I proceeded to discuss Alaska in general terms.
While playing mahjongg, one of the players was quietly talking to herself. “Don’t cuss!” I told her.
“What? What? I didn’t say a bad word,” my friend replied. Blush. She didn’t. She was talking about some of her moves without giving anything away.
Another time, my son said, “I want to put chocolate chips in my milk to add more chocolate since there isn’t much chocolate milk left and I have to add regular milk.”
“Chips???” I questioned.
It was “syrup.”
My daughter was getting ready for her first year in middle school. “I want Porsche…” she said.
“You want a picture of a car for your locker???” I asked.
“No, put…
Who knows how many embarrassing moments I’ve experienced from “misreading” lips.


  1. My kids, especially the youngest, can fingerspell and know some basic sign (I took a couple of courses in ASL as I was working with developmentally delayed children with hearing loss or speech impediments, and public television does fingerspelling as part of the alphabet here). This is *very* handy across rooms, down the street, when I lose my voice, when I’m on the phone and they want to know how to spell something…
    I confess I’ve also tortured a few friends in pubs and late nights. Somehow it’s easier to sign than to find my voice when I’m tired, sick or partied out! 🙂
    One apartment I lived in had a custodian who could neither talk nor hear. Knowing basic sign and finger spelling was a great asset to getting one’s toilet fixed quickly. He was a super custodian, and relied on writing a lot, so someone who could “talk” with him was a pleasant break.
    My favourite lip reading game from childhood was mouthing “elephant shoes” to friends! 😀

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