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"Evan, you need to learn sign language,” my mom said.

“Why?” I asked her.

“Your dad is deaf.”

My mom told me this when I was five. My dad was born deaf, but some people aren’t. They become deaf through an accident or sickness. My dad is also adopted. His parents didn’t want him because he was deaf.

At that time, I only knew some sign language. It was mostly food so that I could tell my dad what I wanted to eat when we were home alone. It took about three years for me to learn sign language.

Once I got it down, I stood in front of my class and taught them sign language. None of them really understood it but they tried. Every day when I came home, my mom would teach me a new sign so that I could show it to my class. A lot of people thought it was cool that my dad was deaf. I even had a baby sister, and I ended up teaching her a little bit of sign language.

Now I’m going to teach you a sign. This sign is the letter “e.” Take your hand, open it, and crunch your top fingers. Do that with your thumb and put it to the side. If you want to learn more look at this picture.

When people see me signing to my dad, they always stare. Some people stare a lot. It makes me feel weird when people watch. I kinda get mad and want to tell them to mind their own business. Instead of watching us so intensely, people could watch YouTube to learn more sign language and understand me, my dad, and our family better.

My dad’s signing impacts my family because it makes it harder for him to get jobs and stuff because bosses and employees don’t always understand him. It impacted and continues to impact my mom because when they met my mom had to learn sign language. Then they had kids and had to teach us. When people come to my house, they normally are scared at first. Then they get to know him and they think he is funny. My dad has a good sense of humor. A fun fact is that all the kids in our family have names starting with an “e” because it is the easiest letter for him to pronounce.

From all this, I learned that life can be really hard when you have a disability. My dad can’t talk very well since he has never heard someone talk, so he doesn’t understand it. He also doesn’t know how loud he talks because he can’t hear himself. My dad has a really good sense of humor, but you only understand it if you know sign language.

No matter what language you speak, you can be American. Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Sioux, or sign language, it doesn’t matter; what makes you American is that you vote and love your family. I am so proud of my dad for just being a good dad and helping even though it is tough for him.

© Evan Gault. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.