Colette Brewer: What’s different about growing up with a deaf sibling

Posted on May 27, 2014

I’m a SODA (Sibling of a Deaf Adult)…

I have grown up with a deaf sister, who is two years older than me, and as a result, my experiences of growing up have been different to my friends.

We are like any other siblings; arguing, joking around with each other,  gossiping about celebrities!

However the main difference was communicating. I had to learn sign language from a young age to be able to communicate with my sister, so while there were millions of people that as soon as they learnt to talk, were able to communicate with their siblings, I had to learn two languages (English and BSL) to be able to communicate with my parents and my sister.

I also had to become used to things like putting my knife and fork down to sign whenever I spoke at the dinner table or always remembering to sign when she is in the room to involve her in every conversation.

Another difference was not being able to share the same taste in music. Yes my sister listened to loud music and watched videos on Top of the Pops but she could never enjoy music as much or in the same way as I do.

However saying this, my sister did have a few favourite pop bands when she was younger and I would be able to explain what song it was by demonstrating the dance moves that appeared in their videos, as it was visual.

Colette signing at her sister's wedding

Colette signing at her sister’s wedding

Going to the cinema is a problem as we can’t just go to the cinema when we want, we have to wait for subtitles, which rarely happens at the cinema and when it does the subtitles do not always work.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times our girlie day out has been ruined by having to complain due to the subtitles not working. Twilight is one of our favourite films however we never saw it at the cinema together. My sister would have to wait for ages for the DVD to come out while I would feel guilty and go to watch it.

My mum and dad had to be very careful they didn’t treat us differently as my sister always had to have extra help with getting into different schools, speech therapy, hospital appointments and my parents spent extra time helping her with her homework.

Growing up with a deaf sister also meant I had another life. Every Friday we would go to a local Deaf Club, none of my friends did this so I felt special!

It opened me up to this new world, where we met other deaf youngsters and adults and I was able to practise my BSL.

I have even become so used to subtitles on the television that I now automatically turn them on and hate it or feel  uncomfortable when I go to someone’s house and they don’t have the subtitles on.

One vivid memory I have growing up is that my sister kept asking if I wished she was hearing to which my reply was and will forever be ‘no!’

I don’t care that she is deaf – it doesn’t make a difference. I always said to her if she was hearing I would not have learnt this beautiful language and would not have the job I have today!

I even had the pleasure of signing the song she had as her first dance at her wedding.

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