Deaf Binghamton woman thankful for friends
July 26, 2012
Born deaf, Nissaura Soto-Diaz couldn’t communicate with the children
For the first 13 years of her life, she felt isolated and very much
When asked about her childhood, Nissaura, now 18, makes the motion for
“She was sad,” said her mom, Rosaura Soto-Lally. “She had no friends.”
Denise Osterhout, who teaches the deaf in Binghamton city schools,
watched kids try to reach out to Nissaura, practicing their signing
skills in an attempt to talk to her. But instead, they inadvertently
upset her when she couldn’t figure out what they were trying to say.
As Nissaura got older, she got more and more frustrated, sometimes
acting out in rage.
“We tried counseling, we tried everything,” Osterhout said. “But she
needed to meet those social needs.”
At the time, Nissaura knew of only two other deaf children, and they
both moved away. So with the blessing and support of the Binghamton
school district, Nissaura looked elsewhere for her education — and for
“Nissaura was in 10th grade when she began commuting more than 150
miles every week to receive her education at the Rochester School for
the Deaf,” said Frank A. Kruppenbacher, a staff member at RSD.
She’d rise at 3:30 every Monday morning to catch a bus that would take
her on a three-hour drive to the school. She’d attend classes by day
and sleep in a dorm room by night. Every Friday she’d board a bus and
come back home, eager to share tales of her adventures with her family.
“Everybody, even the ones doing the cleaning and working in the
kitchen, talked sign,” Rosaura said. So did all the kids Nissaura’s
age. For the first time in her life, she had peers with whom she could
She went to the school prom. Twice.
The girl who had been miserable in Binghamton became a manager for the
RSD girls’ varsity basketball team and thrived in her new world. Her
personality bloomed, and she graduated in June. Like any other
18-year-old girl, she now chats for hours, her hands flying as she
gossips with friends who live all over the state.
“Texting, her video phone and her computer are her life,” said her
RSD taught Nissaura the educational basics, as well as food-service
skills, honoring her with its Career Development and Occupational
Studies Most Outstanding Student Award. But now that she understands
life’s many potentials, she’s got her eye on another career path. This
fall, she’ll attend the Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf
(SWCID) at Howard County Junior College in Texas.
“I want to be a paraprofessional, teaching,” she wrote. Not only deaf
kids, but those with hearing, too.
But she won’t be coming back to Binghamton.
“Florida,” she said. She knows many deaf people in Florida, she signs.
She now understands that in order to be happy, she needs a social
network of others who are deaf — and she promised herself she’ll never
be without one again.
Valerie Zehl can be contacted at [email protected]