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Why the Deaf Community Is So Important to Me as an Autistic Person

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You know that feeling when you walk into a room and you instantly feel loved and accepted? For me, that is what the Deaf community is like. People don’t care that I sign a little awkwardly or that I can’t make eye contact. They love me regardless. That is what makes the Deaf Community such a special place. So many different personalities, backgrounds, opinions and different identities. Deaf Autistic. DeafBlind. Deaf and Disabled. Of course we don’t always get along 100 percent of the time. But we all have something in common — we cherish American Sign Language. It provides access to everything we need to know. We are able to tell amazing stories. We can describe, in depth, our day using only our faces.

I remember going to one of my first Deaf events. I was so nervous since I had only been signing for a few months and wasn’t confident in my signing abilities at all. I had spent the day with a couple of other Deaf friends and we had been signing back and forth. They drove me to the event. Once I got there, there was maybe 20 people just signing and I was completely overwhelmed. After a little while I started joining in on conversations and expanding. People kept asking “Did you grow up signing?” “Where did you get your sign name from?” “Do you need anything/need me to _____?”

It was so amazing that people thought I had grown up using ASL. That people wanted to know the story behind my sign name. People were actively asking how to accommodate my needs best. It was one of the first places where I could be myself, awkward signing and all. By the end of the event I was freely signing and having the most fun I’d ever had.

Being in such a loving and supportive environment has helped me grow. I have been able to discover more about myself. I have people who understand the same daily struggles as me. They don’t mind when I complain about how exhausting my day was because chances are theirs was the same. I have a whole web of experience and information. If one of my friends doesn’t know something, at least one of them will know someone who does. Being in the Deaf community is incredible and I am so lucky to be a part of it.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Originally published: January 3, 2017
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