Remembering: And Your Name Is Jonah

This movie came out shortly after American Sign Language was recognized as an official language in the United States


And Your Name Is Jonah is a movie made in 1979 about a deaf boy who was mistakenly diagnosed as mentally challenged. He grew up in a hospital until his mother figured out that he was deaf. The movie shows his transition from a childhood in the special needs home to learning language for the first time and being introduced to the Deaf community.

This film came out shortly after ASL was recognized as a “real, genuine language with its own grammar and syntax” in 1974. Before that, it was widely believed by the hearing and professional community a gestural language with no real structure. And Your Name Is Jonah shows that ASL is a thriving language with a culture connected to it and that it goes way back before 1979.

As seen with this depiction of the average American family in the movie, the dangers of a misdiagnosis to a child’s future wellbeing are presented. The main problem at the time and how society failed to address it are presented in the film: no one thought of the possibility that Jonah was deaf, not even the medical professionals and instead locked him up in a mental hospital.

For the first formative years of Jonah’s life, he had no language. This situation rang true for many deaf babies born into uneducated environments with limited access to resources, the United States has come a long way from this with the passing of the ADA law.

However, it is still an ongoing process of educating and awareness. Even today, the film And Your Name Is Jonah still reminds us of the ongoing issues. What we do know is that the rewards, like Jonah finally being able to go to school with his peers at the end, are well worth the fight.

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