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Deaf man struggles for understanding

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By Daniel J. Vance
MS, LPC, NCC

Over the next two columns, I will be sharing the tragic story of “Joshua,” a deaf man in his 40s, and “Cindy,” his older sister. It will become obvious why I can't reveal their real names. Cindy has been reading this column over the Internet.
“Joshua was born totally deaf,” said Cindy in a telephone interview. “In the '70s, doctors told parents to have their deaf children trained in oral speaking and lip reading versus sign language because they would have to integrate into society. However, my brother went to a deaf high school and learned sign language. He was so much happier there because he was finally able to communicate with others in his own language (which was sign language).”
But his new-found happiness had an unexpected result: he did not sense a need to speak, read or write English well before graduating.
Due to being deaf as an adult, Joshua was eligible for government assistance. “He'd start a job and when it didn't go the way he liked, he knew he could quit because (government assistance) would be waiting for him,” said Cindy. “He hasn't worked at any job for long. Having that (assistance) available has definitely harmed him. He's good with carpentry, plumbing, welding, and electric. He could make a living in any of those areas if he had to. But he doesn't have to.”
Ten years ago, Joshua began using marijuana. Eventually, his use became so problematic Cindy wouldn't let him visit her home for fear Joshua would offer it to her children, like he had already done to her other brother's children.
Over time, police arrested him for growing marijuana on his porch. Said Cindy, “His ignorance of law because of his inability to read and speak English is huge. He's a smart guy but ignorant about how the world works. As hearing people, we get a lot of information through our ears as we listen to things like television news from the time we're little kids. We don't realize how much information we gather through our ears.”
Joshua honestly thought because the marijuana seeds had come from a European country where marijuana was legal, he could legally grow plants here. He served several weeks in jail, but that didn't end his marijuana habit.
Next week, learn about Joshua's current deaf-specific struggles while serving a three-year prison sentence.
Contact danieljvance.com [Blue Valley Sod and Palmer Bus Service make this column possible.]