I Want You to Know Part 2

art 2 series in my personal story and in exploring advocacy.  This is a piece of a whole, a glimpse of stories that highlight the possibilities for others.  What do I advocate exactly?

Part 2 explores the experience of hearing and talking as a deaf child.  How speech therapists dealt with me and how life around me taught me better lessons than anything else.

If you haven’t yet, please read Part 1 first.

Life and Stuff

It was never predictable from day to day.  Back then, that used to bother me.  Today? It’s still unpredictable and I can handle it.  Sounds came to me faintly.  It was my eyes that took in the details and it was my hands that put across the needs and messages I gave.  I was the awkward child with long, tangled fingers.  The awkward child who never quite had the vocabulary to explain what I was hearing for those trying to understand and advocate for me.

It was frustrating.  I did hear, but was told that I missed out so much.  Sounds would either seem like so much white noise, or come to me faintly from a distance.  There would be spikes, an upward pitch of sound, then sudden dropping to a low-level roar.  Every single sound was interpreted by my brain as vibrations and feelings, so I learned to get by on the twinges and pops of my one singular ear that had any hearing left.

That also played into my speech patterns.

The Kid with Verbosity and Stubborn Streak

I had such vocabulary.  Words that felt like music to my heart.  I didn’t always know where they went in a sentence or what they meant entirely in the huge context of things.  My biggest frustration was that I couldn’t hear all the sounds or emphasis that made up complex words I enjoyed using in writing.  So, my pronunciation was often viewed as cutesy and funny.  I knew how to spell them quickly and with confidence, but I just couldn’t say them out loud.

Over the years, it cemented into a stubborn streak.  I stopped talking for speech therapists.  Or I would engage them into irrelevant conversations and throw fits if they corrected me.  I’d keep my voice low and soft, after being told by others how loud and high-pitched I was.  I refused to speak up louder for my therapists.  So, it became sessions of refuge from classrooms, with no real improvement on my speech.  They had to get really sneaky with me.

They’d bring me books to read out loud, which I often sidetracked into a conversation on a single sentence.  They’d get me to sign out the words on which sounds I sucked at (s, sh, ch, j, and z), and then say them.  They’d play around with vibrations, touch-the-throat, press face against table and touching while talking.

The biggest break-through for me was deepening my voice.  I could feel every sound in my throat, in my teeth, in my gums.  I also began to notice lip patterns and shapes in lip-reading that most people wouldn’t notice.  Or if they did, they had no words for how to describe what they could see.  I watched their throat constrict on certain words, watched their tongue expand behind their teeth, and the placement of their teeth.  I heard how certain sound carried and took into context for the sounds I couldn’t quite hear fully.  Imitation and passive observation became my best teacher, so my therapists worked with that a lot more.

Advocates Were Also Students

The environment we live in, the people who interact with us, the life that goes on around us — the full utilizing of all of these experiences is what teaches a child to communicate with others.  So, therapists were also students in observing the varied ways children with speech impediment and hearing loss took in their world.  Deaf children imitate their world, learn from their world, and were far more receptive of feelings.  The external feelings of their loved ones – texture and smells and vibrations – as well as the internal feelings that we process everyday.

I can tell you honestly that none of us are ever done learning.  What seems like nothing is improving, a lot is going on under the surface that you cannot see.  You can’t rate or grade these things.  You can only hope to learn from them as much as they are learning from you.

Onward To The End

That’s the end of Part Two.  Part Three will discuss the culmination of those experiences and what we should truly advocate for in our deaf/hh/implanted children.

Discussion: What were your experiences as a parent or as a deaf individual with speech therapists, audiologists, and communication with the world in general?  What do you think should be improved upon?

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Being Fixed vs Staying Deaf

ear deaf readers, does that title above anger you? Dear cochlear implant readers, does that title above confuse you?  And dear hearing, do you feel either neutral or un-sympathetic?

Let me be clear here.  I believe that using the words ‘Fixed’ and ‘Staying deaf’ are horrible words to use about both implanted and deaf communities.  That should never have been a question, let alone phrased in such a manner.  This post is a reaction to the article Not all deaf people want to be ‘fixed’.

First, the author did a good job bringing home the fact that implants are not easy “fixes”, as well as the fact that neither groups are better or wrong than the other.  What is riling me up is the report of audiologists’ ignorance (which I have personally bore the brunt of), as well as rude comments piling up on each other after the article.

Second, Heart to Ear addresses the need for all types of language, an understanding that cochlear implants are not quick fixes, and allowing all groups to make their own decisions in the matter.  You will see glimpses of that in this post, while I respond to each issues brought up in the aforementioned article.

Here we go.

1. If you do not get a cochlear implant, you will fall into the deaf society.

When I first heard this argument, my jaw dropped.  Really?  This negative denigration of the deaf community is very unnecessary.  The implication here is that deaf community will cause your IQ to drop, your ability to speak vanish, and your capabilities in the “real world” next to zero.  All untrue, it’s so false that it’s almost laughable.

Getting a cochlear implant or not should *not* hinge on whether or not you will become a particular part of the community.  It should hinge on whether it’s right or wrong for YOU and you, alone.  If people do not accept your choices, they are the ones you should not ‘fall in with’.  You can inform them, but if they choose to not try to understand or accept you, that is their loss alone.

2. Deaf people are broken and disillusioned.  Other variations: Deaf people are dumb, deaf people force their hearing children to not speak, deaf people are not functional members of society.

Deaf people are incredibly resilient — they have spent decades adapting to a lack of hearing.  A lack of hearing does not cause them to be unable to do anything.  They still have the drive and passion for life.  They still have a brain residing in their complex skulls.  They still have emotions that all of us are learning to deal with on a daily basis, even as adults.  Telling them any variation of #2 is telling them their life is useless.

Tell that to Keith Wann, who is a fantastic CODA comedian.  Tell that to the deaf actress, Emily Howlett, who is very successful at what she does.  Tell that to the hundreds of deaf people who are good at what they do.  Tell that to Helen Keller, if she were alive, that the way she changed the world was in vain.  Tell that to me, who has lived for 14 years deaf and struggled with identity.  Any of them, any of us, will tell you, “Screw you”.

3. Don’t continue to learn sign language because your lip reading skills will disappear, your ability to speak will fade away, you will alienate friends and family, etc. 

Sign language, for me, was and remains one of the many language tools I had at my disposal.  What people need to understand is that we all use whatever tools we have to communicate.  Communication is on the list of top priorities of any social beings.

Sign language came along with lip reading.  I continued to lip read and I still do, in addition to struggling to hear with my cochlear implant.  Some days, I do not hear as well with the cochlear implant.  Other days, I am blessed to catch word after word.

I continue to use my voice.  I enjoyed the feeling of vibration in my throat, long before I was able to hear my own voice as clearly as I do now.

My friends and family were eager to learn sign language, as well as enjoying conversation with me face to face verbally.  None of this alienated them.  However, there are trepidation on the side of hearing people to approach deaf people for fear that communication between the two would never work out comfortably.  But the first step into attempting to communicate usually result in new friendships being formed and understanding that both worlds always learn new ways to communicate, especially via technology.  That’s the fun part!

And guess what? As a cochlear implanted individual, I still struggle daily on communication as much as deaf people do!  So, please, realize that everyone has different degrees of struggle, no matter what the ‘disability’ or how ‘fixed’ someone is.

Part 2 here!

{You can also enjoy this article from hubpages.  Link Below.}

If You Don’t Want Cochlear Implant, That’s Okay.

Excerpt:

Spouting the myths above makes both the implanted and the hearing people look very bad. It’s oppressive to the deaf people and it is very ignorant. I know that as an implanted individual, I am literally ears-burning-red ashamed of what has been done to Emily Howlett, as well as the cruel people bashing the deaf culture as a whole. It’s time to stop, now.