What I talk about when you ask me about my deafness

Reblogged with the permission from Alvan. I think I should follow the suit as I have been asked/questioned about it many times. However, this may be slightly different from him as he is renowned for being the writer, as well as the deaf advocate. Like him, I am another deaf advocate. I am seen as the musician or deaf performing arts practitioner here in Singapore.

*When and how did you lose your hearing?
LG: My deafness was discovered when I was two. Its cause still remains unknown. Even, my family members did not know how I became deaf. At that time, my hearing loss level was moderate-severe. Now, it has worsened to profound-severe. This deteriotation in hearing loss does not affect me very much as this deafness is part of me.

*How did you feel about wearing hearing aids? Have you ever considered the cochlear implants?
LG: I am comfortable with my hearing aids (HAs) at this moment. They do not mean to restore hearing; only to amplify sounds. I am not advertising any HAs here. Choosing HAs is upon the audiologist’s recommendations and the user preferences. I know my own preferences very well; this does not mean I can hear speech well. I can speak well, but I have my deaf accent. I got to know it through my experiences with many taxi drivers, and GRAB/UBER drivers. The drivers often asked me which country I come from. I replied that I am born in Singapore, and they told me I do not sound like being the Singaporean here. They insisted that I might be from Philippines, Malaysia or Thailand. I told them that I am Deaf…. or “Death” – I might pronounce wrongly. They were surprised to know that I am Deaf! Some of them continued chatting with me to know more about deafness in Singapore.

Hmmm, I have not considered the cochlear implants. They are too expensive for me, especially when I am now the adult. I am not comfortable to have any metal installed in my head. I am okay with my HAs as I can take them off anytime as I wish. Instead of getting the cochlear implants for myself, I’d rather spend money on travelling and other useful things, in order to enjoy the rest of my life.

Technology that enable deaf and hard-of-hearing to hear most of the sounds is ever improving. I think we should welcome that technology as it is meant to enhance/improve our everyday life. Now I explore communication technology, such as speech-to-text, as it helps improve my communication or social skills when meeting people at work.

*Would you like to share your journey or experiences when you were learning in school in a mainstream environment? What were your challenges when you were in school in a hearing environment?
LG: Before I entered my mainstreamed secondary school, I was enrolled in Canossian School for the Hearing Impaired (CSHI; now renamed Canossian School). I was happier there; we felt no different from one another. I still keep in touch with my schoolmates & classmates because we shared many similar experiences when we were very young. At that time, it was the transition period when we had to switch from using Singapore Sign Language to Natural-Auditory Oral approach (that requires us to speak in a natural environment). This did not benefit all of us; some of us received speech therapy till the teachers trained us through our graduation, while the others did not. I still remember some punishements – if we were caught using sign language, we would be fined 50 cents or be stood outside the classroom. Some teachers slapped us or hit our palms hard.

My struggles started in my secondary school. I had a few deaf classmates, however we were often isolated. We relied on lipreading only; at that time, we were not aware of our needs – having a sign language interpreter or a note-taker. We did not interact much with the hearing classmates. (READ MORE)

Now, I study the BA in Sociology with Communication at SUSS. I engage sign language interpreters and notetakers to cope better with my lessons. I wish this could happen earlier when I was in the secondary school, and I believe with this access, I could excel better in my studies.

*When did you learn sign language?
LG: Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) was my first language; I acquired it at CSHI since my enrolment at my age of 6. I then learnt English Language. I learnt to speak with the assistance of speech therapy for almost 13 years. I do not speak SgSL with my family members; mostly I speak in broken English with them.

I learnt more about SEE2 when I was accepted to become the sign language instructor with the Singapore Association for the Deaf. I taught SEE2 there for 8 years. After that, I established ExtraOrdinary Horizons and I now teach Singapore Sign Language to the public. I also give private tuition in SgSL. Anyway, I have studied sign linguistics online, and attended a few workshops in Singapore and Malaysia.

*Do you think it is necessary/important/better that children with hearing loss learn to sign?
LG: I agree with Alvan; he has mentioned that “it is important for deaf children to acquire language at the same rate as hearing children, and have the same access to language”. As part of the ableism, the ability to speak (verbally) is additional plus-point for Deaf. However, it is not comfortable to make such judgements that might lead to comparisons.

As the World Federation of the Deaf advocates in its mission, every deaf child has its rights to Sign Language. Some people may think signing may be hindrance to the speech development; this is actually not true. Still, whatever it takes a deaf children to excel, I need to emphasise that language is essential in early acquisition, let it be signing, speaking or other approaches used. At this moment, I have been tutoring deaf children. They have different needs, and they are different learners. I can tell you based on my experiences, though I am not qualified enough…LANGUAGE FIRST; cognitive development is very essential, so it should start at a very early age.

*How did you appreciate music, especially with your hearing loss?
LG: I learnt music since very young. When I was ten, I was chosen to play in the deaf percussion band, and at that time, that band was being established by the first-timer band instructor who had no experience with Deaf. I then learnt more about mallet percussion. Actually, musicality comes from you. With my deafness, I still had some of my residual hearing. This vary among different deaf people; some hear better than other counterparts. Musicality means the sensitivity to, knowledge of music. I rely on seeing, feeling and interpreting music most of the times. I am different from others you might name; Azariah, Beethoven, and Evelyn Glennie. We have our different experiences with music. Unlike them, I did not acquire much of music since very young. Partly because of my deafness. It is really amazing for me to carry it on till now.

Being in the deaf percussion band was really fantastic. Really FUN! When I entered the mainstreamed secondary school, I was chosen to be in the concert band. Again, by the same teacher. I was assigned to perform the solo song, “Happy Mallets” at that time. I felt more competitive as I knew I was different from hearing musicians. So, I went to the National Library to read up more on music. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me the piano, so I drew many bars, just like xylophone. I imagined playing bars on these paper virtually. It was not easy for me.

After my poly diploma studies, I resumed my percussion studies. I obtained ABRSM Grade 6 and 8 in Percussion (with Merit) in 2017. Now I am the member of the Purple Symphony, which is the only inclusive orchestra of talented musicians with or without special needs. I am the only deaf musician there.

Apocalypse Later

Time and again, I’ve been asked variations of the following questions pertaining to my deafness. It could be in casual or academic settings (as the ones below are), but they’re at heart the same questions. And after the latest, why not make it public? Next time anyone asks.. here you go. (And there will be many next times.)

* When and how did you lose your hearing?
>> Was diagnosed at age 8, in primary 2, during an MOH checkup in school. Failed the hearing test. Was then sent to the children’s clinic at Outram for a more advanced test and proceeded to flunk that too.

* How did you feel when you had to wear hearing aids?
>> Memory is fuzzy now. It’s more than 30 years since I first started using hearing aids (HAs). I vaguely remember being self conscious about wearing them and also disliked the sounds…

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Remembering Lee Kuan Yew (1923 – 2015)

RIP LKY

In memory of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, our Founding Prime Minister of Singapore. Thank you for contributing to our Singapore Story and making us what we are now. You are our greatest Old Guard – our best Leader of Singapore! May he rest in peace…

Today, we sent our deepest condolences to his family.

EO Horizons’ Second Overseas Achievement: ASEAN Festival of Disabled Artists 2014

Last December, ExtraOrdinary Horizons went overseas upon the invitation to perform at the ASEAN Festival of Disabled Artists 2014 in Myanmar as our second achievement. Lily was excited to represent Singapore for the first time to showcase unique deaf performing arts in percussion and song-signing.

Organised by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and Myanmar Independent Living Initiative (MILI), the ASEAN Festival of Disabled Artists 2014 was the first festival for people with disabilities in Asia to present their different performing arts forms & styles, ranging among music and dance. Also, the visual arts exhibits were showcased. It was proudly supported by the Japan-based Nippon Foundation. Many participants in 10 countries and 168 artists with disabilities attended the festival for 7 days.

On the first day, Lily and her volunteer-friend, Aaron arrived at Yangon, Myanmar. They received a warm welcome with open arms from two staff. They were then brought to the Yangon International Hotel for rest. The next day, they visited the Mary Chapman School of Deaf that is located quite near to the hotel. There were a lot of interaction between them and deaf students. If time allowed, Lily wished she could share her inspiring experiences with their deaf peers. She hoped they will never give up on achieving their dreams.

ASEAN 1

Lily performed at the Opening Ceremony that was held at the Myanmar International Convention Centre (2) in Naypyidaw on 3 December 2014. Its opening ceremony was the most important event to MILI! It aimed at changing perceptions on disabled and promoting awareness on their amazing arts.

ASEAN 2

She went to meet the group of Deaf drummers from the Nippon Taiko Foundation. They were delighted to meet again for the second time. Before this festival, they met in Cambodia for the SPOTLIGHT – an Asian Festival of Inclusive Arts in 2008.

ASEAN01   ASEAN02

At Yangon, the festival continued on 5 December 2014 to celebrate the abilities of the disabled. She performed several items in mallet percussion (xylophone) and song-signing: Flight of the Bumblebee, Happy Mallets, Alla Turca, Crying in the Rain, Let It Go (Deaf Version). The closing ceremony marked the success of the festival on 7 December 2014. The MILI was greatly applauded for their hard work, courage and grit, despite their small number of staff working for this festival. Amazingly, it was their first time making it happen!