In American Sign Language, Immanuel Neubauer introduces himself as “Immanuel 12.”
In his first year as a student at New Mexico School for the Deaf in 2006, it seemed that everywhere he went at the school, he was asked two questions:
“What’s your name?”
“How old are you?”
After a while, he just automatically added the 12 to his name. With his hand in a fist, and his palm facing outward — rather than inward, which is standard — he would flick out the index and middle finger to indicate the number 12.
And, “it stuck,” said Amanda Lujan, a teacher at NMSD who interpreted for Neubauer in an interview.
Now an 18-year-old junior, Neubauer still introduces himself as “Immanuel 12.”
That he is able to introduce himself at all is seen by some as an incredible feat, given his history. Neubauer spent the first 10 years of his life with his family on a farm in Ethiopia. He received no education and had difficulty communicating with anybody. After running away from home, he was eventually adopted by Lori Neubauer, a 58-year-old woman with two older sons who worked for an Albuquerque program that provides services to the deaf community.