Sophomore Ike Valencia uses sign language to communicate with his mom
Valencia's ability to use sign language since he was young has brought Ike and his family closer to their mom, who is deaf
October 13, 2015
At six months old, sophomore Ike Valencia was using sign language to sign the words, “milk,” “cookie” and ”more”; by kindergarten, he was better at signing than he was at speaking, reading or writing. Ike’s parents, Bob and Debbie Valencia, worked to ensure American Sign Language was his first language and natural for him, because his mom was born deaf.
Having a family member who is deaf has definitely brought its challenges, and Bob said that the biggest one was trying to communicate with each other at night.
“Sometimes, having another hearing person would be easier, like when the lights go out, we go to sleep, there’s no more talking,” Bob said. “[Debbie] would have to feel my hand whenever we wanted to talk.”
While communicating in sign language has its disadvantages, Ike finds it useful when out on the football field.
“It’s really nice because we can talk from a distance, and, in big crowds, it’s easy to communicate with each other,” Ike said. “I can be playing football and turn around to sign to my parents.”
Ike’s sister, Mill Creek Middle School eighth-grader Maddie Valencia, also learned sign language when she was little, and, just like the other members of her family, she is very defensive of her mom.
“The one thing that bothers me the most is when people say, ‘Oh, I’m deaf, I can’t hear anything,’” Maddie said. “I get really protective because you don’t know what it’s like to be deaf, you don’t know what those people go through, so I always have something to say to them.”
Ike and Maddie are very supportive of their mom and help her whenever she may need it, which, as Bob said, is exactly what family is about.
“We as a family make life easier for her for some of the things that she can’t do,” Bob said. “So, she depends on the kids a lot, but that’s what family is for; they don’t mind helping.”
To Ike, translating for Debbie is a typical part of his life, and he doesn’t mind going out with his mom because they have always had a great relationship.
“My mom and I are very close. I’m always around her; whenever she goes to the store, I talk for her, and whenever she goes out, I am with her,” Ike said. “Sometimes [my sister and I will] interpret for her, but it’s a regular thing.”
Although many may believe that having a family member with a hearing impairment would pose to be a challenge, Ike and his family said, for them, it was not the case. Knowing this, Ike said everyone should remember, “She is just like anybody else.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled a source’s name. The correct spelling is Bob, not Bod.