Define CODA.

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The other day I saw a post by a friend of mine, they had been posting similar things over the past month or so, out of a great sense of despair.

I identified with their struggle and suggested they sought counselling as I knew it would redirect them to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Yet, another post. More complimentary comments which were all true but not the answer they sought. Cyber friends cannot bring someone out of their depression as they are not qualified to do so. One can only reassure and when this wears off, more cries for help will inevitably be made. So once again, counselling was suggested..

Another day, another post. Someone else suggested counselling.

Another day, another post. Someone else once again suggested counselling but tailored for CODA’s. They identify themselves as a CODA of which, my sister and children are also one. This meant, they (finally?) listened..

CODA’s are forced to take on the role of being an interpreter (and then some) for their parents who happen to be deaf and in return tend to feel, they are the parent of their parent(s). This can sometimes make them feel “special” and above others.

Only natural.

But, what about deaf children of deaf adults, or hearing adults? Whichever way the situation is reversed, there is and always be another in the very same position, feeling the very same emotions. What exactly sets a hearing CODA apart from others who have also been forced to take on such a role?

Does this mean that being a CODA however you wish to identify with or define it, would not really make any difference to who the counsellor may be, due to the more familiar core issues being scratched, at the surface? Granted, if the counsellor is deaf aware and appropriately qualified, they may be able to connect better but is this necessary when the client/CODA themselves happen to be hearing? Having a deaf aware & experienced professional, who is qualified at an interpreting level also, means the client is free from any prejudice but this works best when the client themselves is deaf.

People should always retain the right to choose which counselling service they would prefer and most will advocate for their right. It would mean then, they are “at home” with the counsellor and feel more or less, understood. Listened to. So long, both the counsellor and the patient are comfortable.

An example. 

If people wish to be specific, let them.

Just beware, of organisations taking advantage of one’s disadvantages.

I am more at home, with those who are prepared to step into other people’s shoes and walk at least a hundred miles in them. With those who are willing to keep an open mind and are not afraid, to explore the differing perspectives. With those who are willing to accept honesty, the truth and introspect themselves in order to improve. Otherwise…

Que sera, sera.

Being a child of deaf adults means we experience the same prejudices and take on the parental roles, regardless. Our life experiences may differ yet to a counsellor, the symptoms are the same.

Don’t forget, my parents are deaf. Therefore, I do understand. My sister understands. My children understand. My friends, also understand. You (will) understand.

🙂

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

Rumour Has It…

That I have had a breakdown. Hmmm, I must admit that when I heard that, I just had to laugh. Granted, for those of you concerned enough, it was not at all funny but alarming enough for you to actually approach me and find out the truth, for yourselves. I would like to applause those of you for having enough respect for me, to come to me, rather than conforming to the peer pressure of Chinese whispers amongst yourselves.

gossiping

“What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t witness with your mouth.”

As for the “breakdown” – it is absolutely and utterly untrue. IF there ever were one, it would have been before I founded the Tree House. There was a time when I was kicked whilst I was down but those who did not dare to look down on me – whilst I was down helped me back up again. After the Tree House was founded, there was another time when a good portion of my previous admin team tried to undermine, overpower me but I stood my ground, stood up (much to their horror hoping that I would stand by) and removed their flaws from damaging me, relatively the Tree House further. (A survival of the fittest of course) They still and will always try their best to damage it but that is their problem, therefore their waste of (negative) energy. These people are behind me, and so it should be the case, for you too.

I have now reached the stage where I do not need social media in my life – any longer. Social media has become quite the tool for sociopaths. It sucks people in, makes them mindless of others and sadly, the preciousness of face-to-face values is lost on most. If anything, the Tree House has been a lifeline to me for the past two years. I am oftentimes (albeit surprisingly) reminded that people can still be humane, respectful, kind, considerate, honest and genuine.

I do appreciate social media in the sense that it has reconnected me in the past, to long lost family and friends, for introducing me to some newfound friends that have brought laughter and tears to my heart. For reminding me, who not to be, who to steer clear of and just how twisted and bitter some people can be. That is not the way I wish to use my second chance at life – most people only get one chance and if they could turn back time and change certain aspects of their lives, they would. Thus, why, I am because I can. I have once again found the balance in my life in order for me to cherish life and social media is not part of that equation.

Look to the person next to you, to the cashier in the shops, to the stranger opposite you on public transport. Consider how they may be feeling or what they may be going through. They would love a friendly smile just as much as you do. Smell the freshly cut grass, cherish chocolate even – as a treat mind you! Strive to be righteous, honest and the best one can be. Find a way to being happy from within because being happy for a reason is dangerous since that reason can be taken away from you.

There is certainly no need for me to broadcast why I have taken a step back, a sabbatical, especially when it is for very personal reasons that only my family and a selected few friends deserve to know. They have after all, always been there for me.

Please, trust in me that when I say, I am more than fine, I am actually anticipating all the joy the future has in store, for me, and my children.

For… “What is coming is better than what has gone.”  

Onwards and upwards – Positivity rules!. 😉 😉

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

One Year On – Something Inside So Strong.

Upon reflection on how The Tree House has been nurtured since the seed of reality was first planted one year ago, how it has grown into a strong foundation and radiates with the warmth of the light from within. It is those who are able to welcome, include and consider diversity – all the various communication needs or abilities regardless, who exhibit a true strength of character.

Combine that strength with a sense of mutual respect for all and genuine intent to effect change for the better. Barriers are slowly but surely being broken down as the way forwards is being paved by those unsung, for simply being true to themselves and others in standing tall with courage.

With each and every one of you, wherever you may be – over the past year, there has been something inside growing ever so strong. Moreover, because of you wanting to be accepted for whom you may be and to have your voice – you are why we continue so. Onwards and upwards – wherever it may take us.

We are truly honoured to have been graced with the pleasure of your company.

Here we humbly share with you our very first anniversary tribute.

Thank YOU!

Can you tell who is hearing, hard of hearing, deaf or deafened in this video? Can you tell who relies solely on sign language to get by? Can you tell who is a CODA? Can you tell who is a lip-reader? Can you tell who tries their best to adapt to present company? No because that is the beauty of being so diverse and inclusive of all. All of which is not obvious in making this video and soundtrack possible.

Unfortunately we could not include all the clips and photos we were provided for this compilation as we sadly could not fit it all in order to show the full extent of the diversity. Thanks ever so, to all of you who contributed and supported us in the making of this video. It is very much appreciated – more than you realise. Please take your hats off to Paul for his time and patience in editing and compiling the videos together which produced the awesome final cut.

The full lyrics to the sound track on our video can be found by clicking on this link: (Something Inside) So Strong by Labi Siffre.

To view Sambuca’s or Danielle William’s (full length) signed song to the soundtrack “Something inside so strong” please click on these links: Sambuca’s signed song or Danielle William’s signed song.

Please feel free to join our rather diverse Facebook discussion group.

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Positivity rules!

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

La Famille Bélier / The Bélier Family

The French film, “La Famille Bélier” (The Bélier Family) is apparently being boycotted. Why? One may ask.

Here is a couple of (quoted) paragraphs from the deaf sportspeople to give you an insight;

“The film uses hearing actors to play the roles of deaf characters, the result of which is an embarrassing and crass interpretation of deaf culture and sign language. Make no mistake, this is like blacking up for the Black and White Minstrel Show. Couldn’t find any deaf actors? Just get some hearing ones to wave their hands about. It shows a level of disrespect for deaf people and disregard for a genuine language with the nuances of any spoken language. In the UK there is a pool of experienced deaf actors and sign language interpreters. If the same exist in France, shouldn’t the makers of Le Famille Bélier have called upon them? And if they don’t exist, we should be asking why not.

Deaf people’s culture and experiences have long been appropriated for the fascination and entertainment of others, and in the process kneaded into a bastardisation bearing no resemblance to real-life experiences, because it is rare that deaf people are actually involved in the production process. Accurate representation of deafness is a good thing, it can entertain and educate in equal measures – but films and TV shows about deaf characters, told through a hearing lens, using hearing actors with pidgin sign language, are demeaning, depressing and cause more damage then good.

My initial reaction after reading through it all was to think objectively (as always) and responded to several links of the source (as written by Rebecca Atkinson of The Guardian) which is being widely publically shared hence my now, very public thought on this topic.

When the casting team find an actor or actress who happens to be deaf and experienced enough to play the part satisfactorily then they may sign them. Just like with the Olympics, if athletes meet the standards they then qualify to compete. The very same qualification process applies to deaf sportspeople too.

I do not see why (deaf) people seem to keep spitting their dummies out all the time – has any deaf people actually auditioned for the part?? Some are dubious as to whether they actively sought deaf actors out for the part but nonetheless I am sure they advertised and did their research as all films and actors do as that is their job and one would hope they fulfilled the requirements.

It is being portrayed overall as an insult to the deaf community when this does not mean it is the general consensus of the whole yet very diverse deaf community but individual interpretations based on personal experiences and emotions which are most likely reactions upon impulse. Just because some people are boycotting this film whilst encouraging others to do the same, does not mean everyone else needs to follow suit.

 “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

“Happy” Days!

Thank you ever so to our Technical Support, for helping us to produce this delightful video and to our daughters for being so brave in signing this against their usually extremely shy nature at their school’s summer fair.

We wish each and and every one of you a very “Happy” day – every day!

Guaranteed to make you smile and feel good.

– SJ.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Deafinitely Theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe.

A play by William Shakespeare performed in British Sign Language (BSL) by Deafinitely Theatre seemed inconceivable to some so I was most interested to see how it fared in a language that was so beautifully visual to that of the equivalent in written form. There is nothing like this available in mainstream theatre nowadays so there is a new world opening up hence making this my very first time to see a show of this nature – to experience it without having to read the synopsis in a programme during the interval.

By Deafinitely Theatre
By Deafinitely Theatre

Naturally, when a spare ticket was available after reading favourable reviews by friends, I grabbed the opportunity to seize the day and looked forwards to it tremendously, not knowing quite what to expect and experience. Just that I was “in for a real treat!” Everyone seemed eager to watch such a play of which we had all read great reviews about, inevitably making us all the more inquisitive. It seemed extremely apt that a play by Shakespeare was being performed at Shakespeare’s Globe. Seeing the Globe in all its uniqueness and glory gave me a sense of the individuality and era of the times.

The Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre

I had only studied Hamlet at school and the old English still fascinates me yet how could a play by Shakespeare be transformed into sign language? The best thing to do was to forget about trying to figure it all out and just enjoy every moment, absorbing the whole atmosphere which had brought together a mixture of hearing and deaf people together. The community spirit was once again alive – this was of more importance.

Photo by Daniel Ondiz
Photo by Daniel McManus

Sounds of mystical music started to play live on stage, the performance was about to start! Faeries came alive setting the play into motion. Summarised captions were available at a certain height either side of the stage. As the show started to gain momentum, the whole experience started to be realised. “Puck” (Alim Jayda) by far was the most eye catching, who delved into character from start to finish being able to multi-task signing, acting and speaking albeit mischievously. “Bottoms” though, was my favourite as he (David Sands) managed to *really* make me laugh. “Hippolyta/Titania” simply wowed me. “She” was performed by a girl called Nadia Nadarajah, who I first met when she arrived at an old school of mine, being only 11 years old. It was such an honour to be able to watch everyone, to see how Nadia’s confidence had bloomed and who she had become since our school days. The overall passionate acting by the whole cast made up with a mixture of hearing / deaf actors and actresses some of whom are also CODA’s, well and truly brought the stage and the Globe’s spirit alive, leaving everyone feeling exceptionally impressed.

Photo by Heidi Robertson.
Photo by Heidi Kovisto-Robertson.

Watching a show, which seemed to have been adapted integrating the old with the new, in sign language – I find it immensely hard to put into words. As actions speak louder than words – some of you will know the score. The feelings, sights and sounds experience of it all I had never felt before. The sun was shining, a cool breeze could flow – a pigeon would swoop by, live refined music was being gently played setting the mood. The talking hands and body languages in silence was simply breath taking and an art form in a class of its own. Having loved each and every minute, I could now understand how a written play could be transformed into a visual yet very speech rendering show. Perhaps, not ideal for children as there was adult humour evident also. A thoroughly truly magical yet sensational and unique experience – one I would love to experience again. And again. And again!

Also one, I would highly recommend you to see.

Once the notion the show and experience of it all was ending, I felt sadness at having to leave the whole setting. Stepping through the antique doors of the Globe, it was clear as day Fate had decreed a group of old school friends were to meet once again at the very same performance on the same day, after many years!

Tammy, Louise, Andrew, Sara and Emma - Friends reunited.
Tammy, Louise, Andrew, Sara and Emma – Friends reunited

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

Other reviews:

As quoted in the The Guardian‘s review regarding Deafinitely Theatre of their 2012 Globe to Globe production of Love’s Labour’s Lost
‘Deafinitely’s aim has always been to bridge the gap between deaf and hearing audiences, and the gap gets smaller here. It’s not only a new approach for existing Shakespeare fans; it also provides a great introduction to the playwright…… Definitely, I’d say, theatre for everyone’

As quoted in a review by Laura Seymour who is writing a PhD thesis on cognitive theory and Shakespeare in performance:
“This production’s mixture of British Sign Language, visual vernacular, and other visual storytelling (always arresting even to this non-signer, though I definitely understood the sign Quince was using for ‘Bottom’), and its continual, gently atmospheric background music, perfectly encapsulates Deafinitely’s mission to provide a theatrical experience that is inclusive of both Deaf and hearing people, and both those fluent in British Sign Language and those who cannot sign.

Interestingly, the moments when I felt the audience most came together were when the converse was true of the characters: when the mechanicals made visible the gap between the Deaf and hearing characters among them. Here, moments of misunderstanding or wilful misinterpretation were a delightfully innovative way of bringing out the humour in what Shakespeare intended to be a hashed, misread, and atrociously acted play-within-a-play.”

Look Up.

Irony at its best.
Irony at its best.

The very first time this video by Gary Turk appeared on our Facebook group, the consensus was one of which “Ah this is nice, Thank you” as if to say “Thank you for the reminder”.

Whereas the second time it paid a visit, the reaction was somewhat mixed. It provoked thoughts, emotions from within and flashbacks of the past.

A member who shared their thought “He makes a lot of interesting points about the socially isolating aspects of social media and technology, which I agree with, but it is very one-sided, from his point of view. He ignores the positive aspects of it, such as how technology can improve and change people’s lives and how powerful social media can be to share and exchange information rapidly and widely and how people can feel connected and part of an online global community. Nothing will ever replace physical interaction and real-life experiences but social media, if used sensibly and well, can be a very powerful means of communication. The internet has been revolutionary for everyone.”

Another member remarked “The Internet is the best thing to happen to deaf people for centuries. For the first time ever, we can talk to one another on an equal basis with hearing people. It has been hugely empowering and that is why I get so angry when people misuse it for bullying and manipulating others. We have never had a chance before to discuss ideas that matter deeply to us on a national and international basis.”

Before the internet and mobile phones were readily available, many deaf parents had to ask their relative or child who happened to be hearing, for their assistance in making important phone calls for them, translating and so on. The first sign of freedom came in the form of pagers, receiving communication and to be reassured in my mum’s case for example:  “I’m on my way home” or “Please can I have a lift?” et cetera. Next came the internet, mobile phones and now smart phones…. Deaf people could now be more independent and sort out their own finances online, correspondence could be sent instantly and we could keep up with one another in real time. No more waiting several days for the postman and no more waiting until the next deaf pub to see friends in order to make arrangements.

Perhaps, the internet has played a part in the decline of deaf pubs – a place where masses of deaf people could commune and catch up with one another which for some, was as little as once a month. People were now able to text one another to make arrangements, use Skype or Facetime to have that crucial face to face chat. We were now on a par with the hearing society. Having access to a visual platform gives us the independence and means we very much needed.

Social media then exploded. I was very hesitant to sign up and in the beginning would only use it for family. Eventually old school friends arrived on scene and with practise came experience and confidence. One day this was quashed by a bully who thought he could manipulate me. The internet and mobile phone services gave him a confidence that he was anonymous to me from behind a screen and a mobile number. Being me, I managed to work out who he was and he fell into a trap by confirming his name. He panicked and relatively sent me death threats. Which I kept as evidence for the police who gave him a warning. Since then, I had learnt to keep most everything as evidence – just in case. I became ultra-cautious of everyone but on the other hand, I have met and made some new friends who I cherish and look forwards to making more although, I believe in quality rather than quantity.

Without the internet, many of us would not have found several of our long lost relatives and childhood friends yet without electricity, this would not have been possible.

But… There are social media groups and people who use social media (in other words is just a platform for them to use) who abuse the guidelines which are there for a reason – to protect the users and the members. Dangerously, the delusions of grandeur and power trips which feed their ego and their characters determine their fate because with actions comes consequences. It is only those who can remain true to themselves and retain a level head that will in time see past the falseness, the drama and people’s manipulative ways, succeed due to experience and honesty – which is the best policy.

For most, the internet has its pros and cons. The cons of which I have mentioned and conclude the internet is a very dangerous place indeed. It has at one point managed to destroy my heart and soul but here comes the pros because as always there is a balance – it has also saved me from disconnecting with my family and friends, some of whom have proved very inspirational to me and are the main reasons behind why the Tree House was built and especially why, it keeps on growing stronger. Healing my heart and soul with love and laughter.

In order to get the best you deserve, you need to give your best otherwise you will get what you give. Fate works in mysterious ways and decrees what we do, who we are and teaches us how to be so “Look Up”, find the balance and enjoy life – it is what you make it.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

Why deaf people make better drivers.

As a young girl I remember the shocked expressions on my hearing friends faces when they finally realised my mum was going to drop them off home, by car… “Can your mum drive?!” would be their usual question “But she’s deaf… how can she drive?!” would be their usual response. They would sit in the back of the car looking very nervous indeed. One friend even wanted to strap all three seat belts on?!

Anxious...
Anxious…

So it is a very “Well done” to people like Muneeb Ahmed who is a deaf driver that overcame the doubters at a Derby taxi firm. Who is believed to be the UK’s first deaf taxi driver.

Lately some questions arose such as:

“Is it safe to let deaf people drive?”

Of course it is safe for deaf people to drive, if anything they would make better drivers due to the power of their observation skills because deaf people tend to use their other senses more so relatively is much more visibly aware of what is happening around them. Except they would not be distracted by screaming children, the radio, music players or mobile phones. Consequently their focus whilst driving is 100%. In fact, it has been proven that deaf or hearing impaired people are better drivers, with fewer accidents or mishaps.

A car bumper sticker.
A car bumper sticker.

“How would deaf people know if an emergency vehicle wanted to get by?”

Deaf people will use the traffic around them as a guide whether an emergency vehicle is nearby – cars start to move over also by using the sides and rear view mirrors for the flashing lights as those are easily seen.

“Is it Legal for deaf people to drive?”

Really?! What a stupid question to ask – If hearing people can play music which is blaring out of their sound systems how can they hear if emergency vehicles are approaching? There is no hearing requirement at all to be able to drive so it is not illegal. As long as everyone keeps their wits about them, use their vision and don’t try to lip-read passengers or sign to them which inevitably breaks one’s concentration. Regardless of the fact that deaf adults have better peripheral vision.

Some CODA (Child of Deaf Adult(s) have been known to respond to questions like these with “My parents have super eye powers!” 😉

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

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