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Today is National Deaf Awareness Day. Here, Ashley Pappineau, an eighth-grader at St. Mary's School for the Deaf and Cheektowaga Central Middle School, talks about what it's like to be deaf.

I've always grown up in the deaf world.

I have two wonderful parents, Dawn and Joe Pappineau, who are also deaf, and a deaf sister, Amanda, who is 8 years old. My mom graduated from Rochester School for the Deaf and my dad from St. Mary's School of the Deaf. My dad is an 18-wheel truck driver at Novacor. He also is a "handyman" because he can fix almost anything! He helps fix stuff for other people. My mom takes care of my sister and me. We both attend St. Mary's School for the Deaf. I also have a deaf aunt and uncle; the rest of my family is hearing

I was born deaf, but my parents didn't know I was deaf until I was 7 months old. My parents sent me to St. Mary's School for the Deaf when I was 10 months old. I started learning sign language from school and my parents. I started learning to read at age 3!

Last year, I decided to mainstream at Cheektowaga Central Middle School. I am an eighth-grader at both schools. This year I take social studies and technology at Cheektowaga. I play volleyball and track at St. Mary's.

Some deaf people use hearing aids or cochlear implants. I do not wear either. I am profoundly deaf. My family mostly communicates with sign language.

One positive thing about being deaf is that if someone in your family snores, you can sleep well because you can't hear it. And if the kids in your class are noisy, it won't bother you. Some hearing people think the wrong things about deaf people. They think we are stupid; we are not stupid and we do not have a "disability." Deaf people can do anything if they set their minds to it!

Some problems that deaf people face are: When you go to the store you have to write on paper to communicate with hearing people. Sometimes you don't notice that hearing people are talking to you behind you because you can't hear what they're saying.

When I'm at my mainstream school, kids often stare at me because I have an interpreter with me. And it is so hard to take notes because often the teacher talks fast and I have to look at my interpreter and write notes at the same time. It is so frustrating. Last year, one girl named Brianna was brave and came to talk to me in art class. I taught her some sign language. We have been best friends ever since. She introduced me to her best friend Hannah. I invented name signs for them. Brianna offered to take notes for me. When I had study hall last year, two girls named Sarah and Melanie came and talked to me. I also taught them sign language. I don't see them much this year but I am still friends with them.

I feel more comfortable at St. Mary's because it is a small school and everyone knows each other. At Cheektowaga Middle there are lots of students and it always gets crowded in the hall when the bell rings. This never happens at St. Mary's. But I love mainstream because the work is so challenging and I get the chance to socialize with hearing kids and teach them about deaf people and sign language. I like to socialize with the deaf world and the hearing world. If you are a very smart deaf person, you should go to mainstream and get the chance to experience it.

Even though deaf people face lots of challenges, modern technology really helps us a lot. The TV has closed captioning so we can read the words the actors are saying. Deaf people also have doorbells that flash lights when someone presses it. Deaf people have flashing fire alarms, if there is a fire, to wake us up. And instead of alarms to wake us up for school, we have vibrating alarms that shake the bed.

Deaf people also have something called a TTY instead of a telephone. A TTY is almost like a keyboard where deaf people type words instead of talking. When deaf people want to call hearing people who do not have TTY, they use relay service. It seems like that there is more technology every year for deaf people! Deaf people can even use a videophone sign to other deaf people instead of typing all the time.

Even though deaf people face challenges, modern technology is always there to help us. Every year, there is more technology. Deaf people can do anything, except hear.

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