|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.