Morphosyntactic Empathy

I posted this on a class forum, re-read, and realized it was far too creative for clinical lingo… decided to post here.

I feel that I have had the most enriching, enlightening experience this semester working with 6 students with hearing impairment. They are all in the same X grade mainstream class, with an interpreter and pull-out SLP/TOHI/SpEd services. Five of them are fluent in ASL; 2 have cochlear implants; 1 is getting CI this summer; 1 identifies strongly with his hearing peers; and 1 is also a user of African American English (and not ASL). So enamored with the illustrative and comedic nature of ASL that my students so beautifully portrayed, that I took up a beginner’s ASL course. Inspired to learn more, I’ve mastered a few signs that help me when I lead sessions (but most importantly, fingerspelling). I’m constantly consulting visual ASL dictionaries online to translate and figure out what they’re trying to convey using their hands. Because ASL is so very visual and its grammar is so different from that of verbal SAE, digging deeper allowed me to also unveil the inner workings of the language structures in their minds, framed by the structures and limits placed upon their linguistic perceptions by their language. Not only can i identify their translation of ASL grammar into spoken English (eg, “Me eat yesterday” for “I ate yesterday”), but I can – just a little more clearly than before – understand their perspective, which is such a huge part of empathizing.

Morphosyntactic Empathy

Is ignorance painful? Is knowledge a weakness?

If you could learn the terms on which you die, would you seek the truth? Would you live the rest of your life knowing, counting, and expecting that dark mysterious Dead End? Or would you rather be dining at a friend’s, casually catching up over tea, when suddenly your own brain – your body and your soul and your mind – betrays you in an act of poor circulation and sends you face-first into your tea cake, vomiting and spewing into oblivion.. and then no more? What if the last thing you knew was that friend’s face, that piece of gossip, and that tea? And depending on site of lesion, perhaps you knew just then, that you were dying by the pain in your head, the taste of the bile, and the sound of your friend’s screaming… screaming… screaming?

Is that a blissful way to die? By not knowing when you will consciously act for the final time? I do not know. The alternative is almost scarier – to live in anticipation of the end, but do we not do that already?

No living human can answer any question posed here. No; in fact, we can only remember that death is the end and forget it until it comes.

Is ignorance painful? Is knowledge a weakness?

Magic is might.

The return from vacation is always a happiness-threatening, energy-draining, optimism-killing drag. The return from your #1 Destination – a whole world that you first created in your 11 year old mind via the powerful words of an author, then readjusted and protested in your mind when 8 movies depicting it were released, then were enamored by after finally walking the streets – is possibly the most odd and frustrating feeling I have ever felt. I am unfamiliar with this sensation. Wanderlust always head butts me in the face and drags me out of the house as it pleases; but the 3-day venture into the Wizarding World at Universal Studios was head butting me backwards into the theme park and nearly convincing me to drop my life and become a Universal employee.

It’s not every day that your lifelong obsession becomes tangibly, physically real. It was unlike any other trip I’ve taken because my dreams and loves and wishes came alive before me, so briefly and so strikingly perfect. I could look at the same visions of buildings and objects for hours at a time because they formerly lived only in my mind. Even the amusement park rides were amazing.

I could have filled a Butterbeer goblet with the tears of joy shed from start to finish.

Pictures and stories to come!

Magic is might.