Neal Savage

Neal’s Story

I self-identify as….


What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy the outdoors and camping, as well as reading and watching YouTube videos in my free time. I am always on the hunt for more music and ways to entertain myself. Also, for several years in high school I volunteered and rode at an equestrian facility.

Please tell us about your earliest years of life related to your hearing, identification etc.

I was born completely deaf and my parents found that fact out when I was around 18 months old. At the time, in 1999, when I was born, newborn children did not receive hearing tests like they do nowadays, so it was a while before my parents found out about my deafness. My parents are not deaf so my deafness is not genetic, as was further proven by genetic testing. Also, I was born deaf. Between these facts, the cause of my deafness is not really known.

Please share about your relationship with your family and inclusion tips that you have found helpful.

When I was very young, before I got my cochlear implants but my parents knew I was deaf, my mom, dad, and sister, all of whom are hearing, all learned some basic sign language. With this they were capable of communicating with me before I was implanted and learned to hear and talk. My sister, even nowadays, due to her taking four years of sign language in high school, is very helpful as a translator between me and the world when conditions make it hard to hear and she is around. Her understanding has helped foster a positive relationship between the two of us. Once I was able to hear and talk, my mom often would read to me as a child. This was good for fostering a relationship between her and I. With my extended family, they were all super understanding. My great-grandparents understood that I was deaf, accepted it, and tried their best to sign, albeit often having to ask my parents how to ask me something or tell me something. This was the case also for my grandparents, uncle, and aunt. As for my favorite DHH friendly family activity, I enjoy watching TV with my family, which, between the captions and the audio, is inclusive of everyone.

Please share a little about your education placement & extracurricular activities as a youth.

Neal SavageWhen I was around age 3 years old, I went to a pre-school in San Diego that was called CCHAT. Here I learned how to use my cochlear implant, which I received around that time also, in order to both hear and talk. When the time of kindergarten rolled around, I went to the mainstream public elementary school that my dad taught at. During this time, I received services such as an aid, preferred seating, and an FM system. I began my middle school experience in the local mainstream middle school. Due to some unpleasantries, I ended up changing to a charter school about midway through the sixth grade. This continued through my graduation from high school. During this time, I received services such as closed captioning and preferred seating, where applicable. My area was mildly tolerable in regards to getting me the services I required, and it was possible, so I did not have to move to receive what I needed. As a shy and introverted person, my extracurricular activities often did not last long until I moved on to the next one, but they consisted of chess club, the Cub Scouts, and ASL.

Please tell us about your relationships with DHH peers as a youth and how they impacted your life.

As a child, I did not really have any DHH peers. At around age 8, I started annually attending a DHH camp that takes place yearly in Julian, California. It was mainly here that I got any exposure to the DHH community. It is also here that I made one of my close friends. While this DHH exposure as a child was quite minimal, it did yearly refresh my sense of identity as a deaf person.

Please share how you/your parents prepared for a new school year and any Tips for Teachers that worked for you.

In preparing for a new school year, I was never extremely formal about it. I did not make any flyers or anything of the like. At most I would help the teacher understand the FM/captioning equipment, work out with them where I should sit so I could hear the best possible, and, in elementary school, possibly give a short talk in front of the class to explain my deafness, cochlear implants, and things that they could do to help ensure I can communicate with them and hear in class – namely, not tapping/clicking pencils, looking at me when they talk, perhaps enunciating a bit, getting my attention, etc. In general, this worked about well enough. After elementary school, I stopped having the aid and FM system, a largely ineffective tool for me, and also I started receiving real time captioning through CART.

Did you attend your IEP meetings? What memories do you have of your IEP, goals and services?

When I was young, I did not really attend my IEP meetings. They were, to be quite frank, boring to my youthful temperament. In middle school, I began to attend my IEP meetings, though still as a very placid participator. I still mainly observed and began to learn how it worked. By the time of high school, I began to be more active in my IEP meetings. Violations of the agreed upon IEP guidelines inevitably did play out and at such times we would call them out on it, remind them of the ADA, and get them back on track on providing the necessary IEP accommodations.

What type of technology, apps or products for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals do you use?

Being a Deaf person, technology and materials can be very helpful in everyday life. Closed captions on videos are an absolute must, and I am, even on YouTube, very vocal in trying to make sure that content creators understand the necessity of closed captions. Being able to use a phone to have someone type out what they are saying if I continuously cannot understand them, or simply just if we’re in a loud and/or busy location, can be very helpful. I also have a Sonic Boom alarm clock that I use to ensure that I get up on time for whatever I need to do for a day. I have tried some apps that are meant to caption in live time, but these are, in my view, too inaccurate to be used. As with anything, I simply use these different technologies as needed, which can be always, as in the case of captions on videos, or rarely, such as if conditions are so bad that I’m willing to try real time captioning apps.

Can you tell us a little about your college experience and how did you prepare for college? Any tips?

In picking a college, I tried to consider three different criteria; these being that they had a history major, had a computer major, and that they had decent services for and mindfulness of deaf students. With these criteria, I eventually selected California State University Northridge (CSUN), which actually has National Center of Deafness (NCOD) on campus. I selected to live in the on campus deaf apartment-style dorms. These allow deaf and signing people to cohabitate in one building. It also had some deaf considerations, such as a light for the doorbell. NCOD has made the obtaining of necessary services be extremely easy and efficiently possible. I did apply for the DOR, which has been immensely helpful in funding my college degree, if a bit of a pain to make work at times.

Please share a little about your career and any tips for someone considering a similar career?

My current profession at the moment is, really, being a full-time student at CSUN. However, I did recently take up a part time job as a History Ambassador, a student-assistant position within the History Department at CSUN. I am still figuring out my own career path and thus do not really possess any career tips for DHH youth.

Please tell us about your relationships with DHH peers as an adult. When meeting a new person what script have you found helpful when telling them that you are DHH?

As in my childhood, the DHH camp in Julian, CA makes for a large part of my Deaf identity. Continuing friendships from the DHH Camp help continue that even through my life. Being in a deaf dorm at CSUN also has, were it not for COVID-19 forcing the world online, expanded my deaf peer opportunities and interactions. Meeting a new person, my script honestly still kind of follows my elementary school script, though adjusted to the new circumstances (for example, I am less likely to tell them not to tap their pencils). My script when meeting someone who does not know me but also does not need the whole spiel, such as when ordering at a restaurant, I simply point to my cochlear implant, lean in with my right side (my right implant works best), and say “Sorry, what was that? I’m Deaf (or, if I’m feeling even more lazy and vague, “hard of hearing” instead of “Deaf” because it invites less questions than “Deaf” does.) These scripts are helpful and have been cut down to be quite effective, short, efficient, and at the tip of my tongue, ready to be spoken at a moment’s notice.

What were some of strategies that your parents, teachers or DHH role models taught you that helped you to be a confident independent person?

Growing up, my mom helped me to begin developing my scripts for advocating for myself to people speaking to me. The relaxed, informal, through my words way of getting what I needed in school, like simply helping them to understand where my desk should be to optimize my hearing, was also helpful in being able to be comfortable telling others what I need. Growing up, my family never really put much reminding towards my Deaf condition, treating it as a natural part of who I am. This helped to spark my personality’s fierce lack of caring about my Deafness in terms of letting it define who I am, rather accepting it as something that just is, to the point of often even forgetting that I am Deaf. This lack of caring about my Deafness combined with my ease and comfortability in vocalizing what I need allows me to confidently, accurately, and effectively speak up for myself without any qualms.

Most DHH children are born to hearing parents. This question may help parents see the world through their child’s eyes. Please tell us about your day to day life experiences as a DHH adult.

My parents are, as I said already, hearing. And, like I said, I am Deaf but have cochlear implants and am mainly oral. I am the only Deaf person in my family. I sometimes struggle to fit in with either the Deaf world, due to limited sign language ability, or the hearing world, due to limited hearing ability. In this way my cochlear implants have the pro/con of enabling me to communicate with more people in the world, but struggling to connect as deeply with the more people. My day-to-day life is not really much affected by my Deafness. I wake up using a different alarm clock, I have to go through the process of putting my cochlear implants on in the morning, I have to change my implant batteries during the day, and I have to be vocal and self-advocating when needed, but nothing too major. The benefit is, of course, being able to take my implant off and not have to hear an annoying person, annoying sound, or just the world in general if I do not wish to hear said sound.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your life?

Accomplishments that I am proud of include my recent job as a History Ambassador, and my ability to do fairly well most things that I put my mind to. Also, I graduated high-school both as valedictorian and with over 20 college units already completed.

What tips and strategies do you have for communicating with a DHH person?

Communicating with someone that is not familiar with my preferred language/communication choice is mostly made not an issue through my scripts, my ability to speak/talk, my ability to somewhat sign, and through writing out what is being said onto either a phone or a piece of paper. As for when the environment is hard to communicate in, there is nothing much to do beyond trying my best to make do with my different technology and advocacy options.

Favorite quote? Final comments?

My favorite quote is “From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success,” from the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. My inspirational message to leave you with is my personal mantra, “There is no plan.” While it can be depressing, the fact of the matter is that there is no plan or guaranteed success in life. You and you alone have to push through life and get out of it what you need and want to, not rely on others or being handed stuff. In other words, there is no destiny or plan other than the plan you make for yourself.

Let’s go out with a bang! Complete this sentence to debunk a misconception about Deaf or Hard of Hearing people. “People may be surprised to know that I…..”

have a black-hole relationship with music (I inhale music at an immense rate and constantly need to find new music to shake things up with because I listen to my music so often that I get bored of it), as well as to learn that not only do I drive but I can, and do, order at drive-thrus!