Thursday, April 28, 2011

6 Ways My Parents Helped Me with my Hearing Loss Growing Up

My post Believe in Yourself has me thinking about growing up with hearing loss and how best to support and nurture a child with challenges. I count myself very lucky to have grown up with amazing parents who supported me in everything I did. For today's blog post I wanted to recognize some of the things they did during my childhood (and continue to do now that I'm an adult) which were very beneficial to me.

Image of the blog author as a child, being handed from her father to her mother.

1. Read to me

I think being read to as a child and having regular exposure to books in the home is incredibly important. I work at a library, so I'm a little biased, but I can see the difference in children as they become stronger readers. Reading exposes children to new ideas and concepts, interesting colors and shapes, numbers, and the written word as a method of communicating.

Reading is actually one of the ways my mother realized I was having problems with my hearing. I always wanted to sit on her right side so that my left ear was angled towards her while she read to me. I would lose comprehension - and interest - seated on her other side. From an early age we were always reading together and books are now something I treasure, an escape for me.

2. Talked to me

If I have a baby or even a pet in my hands, I am always talking to it. My mom laughs and says I got that from her. It's true. I remember as a child both of my parents walking me through things, talking to me, engaging me in conversation. I had a lot of language to absorb at a point when my hearing was best and I think it helped.

3. Repeated themselves

I've seen parents get frustrated or angry when their children aren't getting it. They say their kids aren't listening or aren't paying attention. I'm sure my parents got frustrated too, but I don't have any memories of them refusing to repeat something for me. And my brother never lets me get away with acting as though I heard something. He can catch me out on my acting any day and always teases me for it.

4. Respected me as an individual
My parents never went with what experts said without thinking of me as my own person. Through their choices I was mainstreamed in a regular public school and did not take any special education or speech classes. They let me choose my own hearing aid mold colors and asked my opinion about things. When I was ready for middle school they explored options like a school for the deaf further in the city but ultimately decided that mainstreaming was best, especially since the school was not fully accredited at that time. I always got the sense that they were doing what seemed best for me and not a cardboard cutout or stereotype of a "deaf child." If ASL, therapy or another option was best for me, I have no doubt they would have pursued it.

5. Supported me fully
I never heard any of those stereotypes about deaf children while I was growing up. In fact, no one acted as though I had less to aspire to or expect. I'm sure they worried about me, but my parents have always been my biggest supporters. They knew what I could accomplish and they never expected anything less from me.

6. Advocated for me

At times in school or other activities I had trouble because of my hearing loss. I couldn't hear announcements between classes in high school, and I didn't feel comfortable advocating for myself with substitute teachers or when teachers would show movies in class. My parents helped greatly with that. They were always there to help, along with my grandmother, who taught at the high school I attended. They were able to have my tuition to learn ASL at the local community college in place of one of the standard foreign languages paid for by my high school and a lot of other assistance. They helped me become my own advocate.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday

  • Scientists in China have discovered a mammal with a transitional middle ear. The middle ear is found in the fossil Liaoconodon hui, and has been sought for over 150 years since scientists first noticed odd grooves in the jaw that seemed to pave the way for the development of the middle ear. According to an author of the paper, "Now we have cartilage with ear bones attached, the first clear paleontological evidence showing relationships between the lower jaw and middle ear."
  • I love it when college professors and teachers try to make things easier on their students. Professor Horacio Ferriz of California State is doing just that. To assist a deaf student in his class, he records his lectures and has a student caption them, and came up with a very interesting for a solution a blind student faced. Read the article to find out more.
  • And finally, here is some comic relief for your Wednesday: Pokke the adorable Japanese cat.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Believe In Yourself

This is a story about Jillian Szenderski, a pre-kindergarten student who has been implanted with cochlear implants. It's a success story about the child who now has intelligible speech and will go on to "regular" kindergarten next year.

However, buried in the article is a quote from speech pathologist Sarah Wilson.
“Unfortunately, people who have hearing aides only, really can only get to a fourth grade reading level. [...] "You can't get very far in school with that reading level. Research has shown people with implants can go in regular classes, graduate from high school, go to college. So, the impact on education is humongous."
And this quote makes me very sad.

I have worn hearing aids since I was four years old. I never took special courses and I was "mainstreamed" all throughout school. Not once, from any teacher, my parents or any school administrator, did anyone say I would only get to a fourth grade reading level. I never heard anyone say I would not do well in school, graduate high school, or go to college. I find it very sad and frustrating that a speech pathologist, someone who presumably has contact with children, might be saying things like this, to parents, teachers or children.

School desks by DQmountaingirl on Flickr

Deafness is absolutely no reason to stop anyone from graduating high school, attending college if they wish and landing a good job. Whether a deaf person signs, speaks, has a hearing aid or uses a cochlear implant (or any combination of those), there is no reason they should face a lack of education. Deafness does not correlate with mental difficulties and it doesn't stop anyone from learning, and a cochlear implant does not magically grant intelligence or an easy path to college.

Of course, needless to say, I wear hearing aids and have done everything Sarah Wilson says I can't. I read hundreds of books a year at well beyond a fourth-grade reading level. I graduated high school. I attend college and I have a fulltime job at a place where I'm expected to know things.

Thanks to everyone who made me able to fulfill my dreams by never breathing a word about ugly stereotypes and always supporting me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday

  • Alexia Sloane, 10 years old, has become the youngest translator to work at the European Parliament in Brussels. Alexia knows English, French, Spanish, Mandarin and Braille; she is also blind.
  • This just makes me sad: a Consumerist story recounts how a Chase representative thinks deaf/hard of hearing people can't have library credit cards (thanks for the correction, (e!): "The customer service agent suggested that the hearing impaired "probably can't" have a card. I informed him that this is probably very illegal, and that it'd be news to American Express, the Charles Schwab Visa people, PNC Bank, and the various other companies that my father has credit with currently. He still seemed to think that Chase probably wouldn't be able to offer him a card."
Have a relaxing Wednesday!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Signing Time Videos Reach their 10th Anniversary

Signing Time videos are incredibly popular at the library I work for, and I find it hard to believe they've only been around for 10 years. In fact, Signing Time is celebrating their 10th anniversary, and they have some giveaways on their site.

I'd never known the backstory behind the Signing Time videos before reading the story on their site:
In December of 1996, Rachel Coleman and her husband Aaron welcomed their first daughter Leah into the world. At the time, Rachel was writing music and performing with her folk rock band. They would take young Leah to band practices and concerts and were amazed that she was able to sleep in spite of the loud music. When she was fourteen months old, they discovered why: Leah was profoundly deaf.
 To say the least, their world turned upside down. Rachel's priorities instantly changed: she put down her guitar and picked up sign language. She and her husband immediately started teaching American Sign Language (ASL) to Leah as fast as they could learn it.
I'm curious - does anyone who has experience with the Signing Time videos know if they are teaching ASL or modified "baby signs"? Or is it a mix? Most people I know, mostly from work, seem interested in teaching their babies "baby sign," but don't really continue American Sign Language as a second language as their children grow up.

What do you think of Signing Time?

(via GeekMom)

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Theater Offering Open Captioning

Theatre Marquee from tncountryfan on Flickr
I very rarely go to see plays, and one of the reasons has always been a lack of captions. So I was excited to read about the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, working with other organizations in New Jersey, offering several performances of its shows this season with open captions; see the article here.

Granted, New Jersey is a bit far away from me, but I'm happy to see this happening. As the General Manager, Tom Muza, points out, "Over the four seasons that McCarter has been doing Open Captioning, we have learned that the program benefits a wide segment of our audience, not just the ones who know they are hard of hearing [...] I have heard from patrons many times: I did not understand that accent, so it helped to see the text, or I missed that line of dialogue, but got the meaning of the scene because I could see the text on the screen out the corner of my eye."

There will be six open captioned performances this season including "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "A Christmas Carol."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What is WRONG With These Pictures? A New Awareness Campaign

A new disability awareness campaign, "what is WRONG with these pictures?" has launched this week, designed to create more awareness of the 60 million people in the United States living with some form of disability. The site contains an image gallery of photos with something "wrong" in terms of accessibility, as well as a 10-question game where you can test your knowledge of accessibility requirements.

An example of a photo from the gallery (what about other service animals?)
 How well did you do on the quiz? I got 8 out of 10 correct. I missed the one with the sink and the photo of the woman opening the door.

(via Disability Scoop)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday

  • I used to dread having my haircut until I started going to my husband's aunt and could have my hair cut by someone who really understands. I always hated taking my hearing aids out and worrying I'd miss something or not be able to explain myself fully. Ian Noon explores the topic on Campaigning for deaf children.
  • Scientists at Washington University are exploring why some brains are vulnerable to tinnitus, and hopefully what they discover will be useful especially for soldiers returning from battle.
  • Is there a type of room you dread having to have conversations in? There are certain things in a room's design or decor that can lead to difficulty hearing there, as discussed on the blog Eh? What? Huh? last week.
  • An update on Joey McIntyre's son Rhys, who has a severe hearing loss: "Right now Rhys is doing great with regular hearing aids. The tests that they have for children his age tell us that he is on par (and in some cases ahead) with kids with normal hearing."
  • As a followup to Google's Gmail April Fool's joke (which I posted about here), it's gone legit: a (sadly uncaptioned) video from ICT MxR Labs demonstrates how it could work with Microsoft Kinect. As one person suggested in the comments, why not integrate already existing signs?
And finally, something just for geeky fun. Watch a samurai performance, swords against shadows:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Maybe One Day, We Can Sign Our Emails

Have you seen Gmail Motion? It's a new product from Google that allows you to use gestures to navigate your email inbox. The video below is captioned - check it out! Maybe they'll even incorporate some sign language into the product eventually!

Read more about it on Google's page.

However, before you get too excited, make sure you check what today's date is! :)