Local doesn’t allow deafness to dictate life

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of features about the deaf community. An interpreter was used to speak with Jerradan Jones.

Jerradan Jones hasn't let being deaf get in the way of living a normal life. Jones works a full-time job at his father's auto shop, raises his son, and spends time with his friends riding dirt bikes and playing video games.

Darynda Jones was first clued into her son's deafness when she dropped some pans when he was sleeping in his crib close by and he didn't wake up. He was a month old. It wasn't until Jones was 18 months old that doctors confirmed he was deaf.

Jillian Holbert: Portales News-Tribune

Jerradan Jones sands a police car at his father's auto shop.

When he was 4, Jones got a cochlear implant, a surgically implanted electronic device that gives a person who is deaf access to sound but does not precisely replicate human hearing. He stopped using it by the time he was 7.

"It was always too loud and there were too many sounds," Jerradan Jones said.

His mother moved Jones and his younger brother to Albuquerque when he was 5 so that he could have access to more education opportunities. For about a year, he attended an oral school, where he discouraged from using sign language but later switched to a program where deaf students were educated in American Sign Language and taught to read in English.

"Learning to read was fine," Jerradan Jones said. "The long words were harder to learn, but I just raised my hand and asked what they meant. It was fine."

At this time, his mother studied at the University of New Mexico to learn ASL so she could be closer to her son. She eventually became an ASL interpreter and served as his interpreter throughout high school.

Jillian Holbert: Portales News-Tribune

Jerradan Jones, bottom, and Justin Seifert, top, polish a car as part of their jobs at First Service Collision.

"Only 10 percent of hearing parents with deaf kids can have an intimate conversation with their child," Darynda Jones said. "That just floored me and I decided that I wasn't going to be that parent. I was gonna be the one that can talk about anything with him."

Not only is his mother able to communicate with him in ASL but his father, younger brother and best friend Justin Seifert are able to as well.

Seifert works alongside Jones at First Service Collision in Portales and serves as his interpreter in the workplace and when they are hanging out with friends. They even developed a set of signs that are unique between them.

"About half of our conversation is in ASL and half of it is in signs we made up over the years," Seifert said.

Although he needs an interpreter to have an intimate conversation, Jones said that he does not feel dependent on other people to go about his daily life. Back when he was using his cochlear implant, Jones learned how to voice some words and read lips, which helps him adapt to the hearing world.

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