Monday, June 10, 2013

Special Guest Blogger Cory Hunt of Nightmare Playgrounds: Deaf Kids Don't Listen

Now, before I get a bunch of hate mail for the title of Cory's post, read it! Read every word, don't scan it. I haven't edited or changed it.

I'm proud to call him my friend. Love you, Cory!
Cory, at West Coast Haunters Convention last week.
Deaf Kids Don't Listen
By Cory Hunt 
One of the great joys of my life is being with people who are enthusiastic, curious, willing to be themselves and let you be you.  I have always tended to find myself drawn to the outcast of society.  And, pretty quickly, I realized that we are all outcasts in our own minds.  There is a whole side topic in this thought that I am going to shy away from.
Because what I want to talk about are some awesome deaf kids, their cool teachers, and how they hear us better than we hear ourselves.  More importantly:  the lessons that we can learn from them and how to better work with them.
I have never been deaf.  I have been hit hard and sometimes had the wind knocked out of me.  The greatest result being the weird underwater sound where echoes and voices like The Peanut's teacher come through... or the overwhelming wheezing noise my diaphragm is making as I try to draw in breath.
So, the closest thing I have is when I wear earplugs at the shooting range...but trust me...that isn't is impaired...but it isn't deaf.
This weekend I spent having a great time at West Coast Haunters Convention.  This is an amazing event that helps raise money for the Oregon School for the Deaf.  ( If you watch Extreme Home Makeover you might have seen the episode where the boys "prison plan" dorm was completely revamped... as well as their haunted house.  Their haunt raises money for their school and helps cover costs that as a society we don't even consider.
The school is a k-12 with programs that extend until kids are 21, teaching life and survival skills they will need to try and thrive in a hearing world.  That is a HUGE chunk of time, training, and funds for a school where the kids spend all week there and go home on weekends.  This school is their many senses of the word.  And these teachers and staff see them as their children.
Last year I taught a class on queue line acting and safety necessary for being an effective "line worker" in a haunted house.  I managed to do alright...but I realized something after teaching this class.
I explained what I do as a line actor: I listen to the sound of feet approaching behind me, cars, and the whispered "Thank God he isn't coming over here," which acts as an instant summoning and when people call each other's name (so I can yell "SARAH!" as I am chasing them. The monster knowing you is scary).  I also taught the importance of some of the other visual cues and safety in numbers lessons.
I realize now half of what I do when I am working a queue line is hearing. Half.  That means JUST BEING WHO THEY ARE these kids are going to miss half the cues and be HALF as SAFE as I am...
More importantly they won't be able to protect themselves from that surprise "asshat" (technical term for people who would go to Disneyland and attack an actor in costume because it is "funny."  Kind of like I think it is funny to duct tape an "asshat's" face to an exhaust pipe.)
This year I made some more connections in the category of "Man, Cory, you are dense and completely oblivious to other people's challenges category."
A deaf person can be deaf for many reasons.  It could be injury, accident, chemical issues (medication causing it as a side effect), from birth issues, genetic...and many others I am probably missing.  Again, I am not an expert, and having just realized it...obviously needing education.
So, in addition to being deaf there might be some issues with field of vision.  Now imagine not being able to hear like many of us who take it for granted.  Now put a paper tube about 12" wide and 3' long fastened to your face with the open end blocking all of your peripheral vision.  Two of your senses are would I get your attention across a room, warn you of impending danger, or even just let you know I was there?
Now, how do I teach to you?  Especially with a powerpoint, a demo, and an interpreter?  Or what if no interpreter is available  Or two instructors and the class talking amongst themselves, some of whom share really great ideas.  Ideas beget brain internally explodes from an overheard snippet that links to other things tucked in the dark recesses... and these awesome, brilliant, imaginative, hard working kids might be missing these.
Challenging, right?
These are issues that I need to consider when I present at WCHC.  And, in the future will do a better job.
I then had another revelation.  If you can't hear you don't listen.  Wait... I know, sounds intuitive.  But that means you pay a whole lot more attention to mannerism, facial expression, and micro expressions... which would be necessary extensions for social survival in a hearing world.  So, everything that is telegraphed to the deaf is scrutinized because they don't have the distraction of tone of voice.
Sign language reduces most synonyms to one basic gesture. That means that sarcasm, one of my favorite and beloved tools, may not translate. Nor would many puns. I would like a moment of silence as I grieve.
It also means that the deaf person had to choose to watch what you are demonstrating OR what the interpreter is signing if they aren't in the same field of view.  I also have to change my normal high energy pacing.  Sigh.
So, in summary, it isn't a problem of these wicked awesome kids not being how they hear.  It is a problem of how we present our world to them.  I would love to have comments, suggestions and products ideas on how to bring our world to them in a better way.
It isn't that they don't listen...I just haven't learned how to speak.


  1. Wow! Very deep and very insightful. It really puts all forms of disabilities into perspective. More people should think that way!

  2. The Oregon School for the Deaf haunt is the only haunt the ever truly scared me. This was before the make over of the haunt a few years back. You get jaded about going through haunts after a while especially if you don't have common scare fears like the dark, creepy crawlers, or clowns. It was at this haunt I had my one and only clown encounter that raised goose bumps. A loan clown was standing perfectly still in the middle of a hallway and I did not want to walk by this clown. There was something incredibly scary about this clown. My husband and I both did a double take and slowed down. He didn't lunge but held perfectly still as we passed. It was such a relief to be away from that clown.

    Trying to figure out what it was but I suspect that clown actor wasn't actively listening was part of it. You don't realize how much you move or give away with posture when you are listening. Its also incredibly brave to let people just walk by you with out hearing how they are moving or what they are saying. You did not want to look this clown in the eye it was like he was not looking at you he was seeing through you. It was brilliant and simple but my hat is off to that actor for making me really present in the moment.


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