Monday, March 24, 2008

My Views

My older sister and brother were diagnosed with hearing loss at the ages of 3 and 2, respectively. When I was born, my hearing loss was detected early because of that and I was fitted with hearing aids (those ugly lame-o ones-see picture of me as a pre-schooler below) at the age of 18 months. I don't know how my parents managed to make sure I kept them on. LOL. My mom made vests with a front pocket for me to put my processor in.

Since my mother didn't drive or work, she went along with us (my older brother, sister, hearing sister, and me) on a school van to be transported to a nearby city for auditory lessons. My two oldest brothers (both hearing) were already attending the local school. My hearing sister (she was a year older than me) had to come with us; there was no one to watch her otherwise.

I could remember my mother placing me on top of the countertop in front of the bathroom mirror to watch myself talk. "Oooh" and "aaah" sounds were commonly practiced.

Soon my brother and sister were ready to be mainstreamed into the local school. They were in first and second grades. I continued to attend the school in the nearby city in the next county, which was about 20-30 minutes away.

My parents wanted me to be mainstreamed as soon as possible. The school did put me in the all-hearing classroom in second grade (at the school in the next county), though I did have a couple of classes with the other deaf kids. They were in another room. This was supposed to be the stepping stone to see how well I adjusted. I was supposed to be "ready" to be mainstreamed in third grade in the local school, but my mother says that the school didn't want to lose the extra income. Something about student transfers in another county...the county I lived in paid the other county for me to attend there. I am not sure how I can explain that.

I was then put back into the self-contained classroom with other deaf kids my age. I was in limbo-I didn't know where I fit in. It didn't really bother me. I was back in my "element".

I aced my classes. They were so easy. All I had to do was read the material once and do some homework/assignments. I didn't really have to study. A lot of the others struggled, though.

I continued to "follow" the others to the middle school. I was placed in a couple of classes-English and History-with other hearing kids. I did okay.

The principal thought that we were being "spoon-fed". The material we studied were too easy and we were given the answers. We weren't using concrete thinking skills. (I may get some heat for saying this, but the cirriculum used in the deaf/hard-of-hearing classes were "behind" if you compared it to the hearing kids in the same grade. At least it was true here.)

In the seventh grade, I remember I had a school psychologist come in to test me on various skill levels.

My parents were able to finally pull me out of the school system. In 8th grade, I attended the local school.

For the next five years, I struggled. I was no longer a good student. I was average; I got by. Things didn't come so easy for me. I had to STUDY. I was behind in some areas; I had to catch up. (This was in the 70s and 80s).

I had no interpreters. I was on my own. I was placed in the front row of the classes, but since my maiden name started with an "A', it didn't matter. Most of the time, the seating arrangement was alphabetical.

When I graduated, I took some classes at the local tech school, but my heart just wasn't in it. I dropped out and found some work. I continued to work in factory-type jobs for the next 18 years.

I was given an opportunity to go back to school when I was offered a severance package from my last employer, where I've worked for nearly 15 years.

I attended the same tech school. I had interpreters, notetakers, use of the school FM system, academic tutors (more for proofreading and reinforcement of my comprehension of the material than anything else-they can tell you that), and other accommodations, such as longer computer time for tests.

I did well in my studies. I still do well. Of course, I still had to "study". Sometimes I am lucky enough to retain what I read so I didn't have to study too hard. Other times, I used index cards to help me study.

I look back on those five years (between 8th grade and high school) and wonder how much better I would have done if I had the same resources? I was told I wasn't "trying" hard enough. Maybe I did rebel a little because I was so used to a different school environment.

My parents did what they thought was right. They never learned sign language. We were oral. If they had to repeat something, they sounded out the words for us.

The only thing was, we had some hearing. We were able to communicate.

I don't know how it would have been if I had no residual hearing to hear the spoken language. I've read somewhere that it is harder to speak well when one can't hear to model it from. It takes a lot of auditory training to speak well. I still have pronunciation problems. I'm not perfect.
When I see or hear about a deaf person who can speak well, I think about how much work they put into it.

I spoke to my old teacher, now retired, from high school in church a few months ago. He was the assistant principal at the time. I told him that I was attending school and how I was doing. I told him that maybe I would have been a better student if I had an interpreter and other resources available to me.

(My mother told me that this teacher thought I was "smart", even though I was an average student.)

When I visited the old high school recently to register my daughter for the fall semester, I wanted to find out who were the speakers so I could show them how to use my Zoomlink (FM system). I was told that they have hard-of-hearing students who use the FM system and have sign language interpreters for them when needed. (Why wasn't this available 20 years ago??)

Mainstreaming doesn't always work. I'm not saying it didn't work for me. I got by. Maybe if I were mainstreamed right away, I wouldn't have known sign language. I wouldn't have known any different. I guess I shouldn't complain. I had the best of both worlds, even though I didn't know where I fit in.

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At Tue Mar 25, 01:49:00 PM , Blogger Abbie said...

I was a mainstreamed kid too. I had to say I struggled and there was a lot of things that I missed. I look back at that fact that no services were offered to me until my junior year of high school. That is when they started going "oh, do you want a note taker?"

I'm like thanks a lot! I could have used that for the past 11 years! But like you said, its not that I am disappointed with how it turned out, it was just a struggle. I hope that kids today don't have this kind of problem that you or I had years ago.

At Tue Mar 25, 02:47:00 PM , Blogger Shari said...

I think a lot of mainstreamed kids struggled, depending on how well they read-lips and how much hearing loss was involved. I am a poor lip-reader.

I guess advocacy is key. The more the schools realize how much accommodations can improve the potential of a student, the better.

I am thinking that it is a LOT better now for today's school-aged kids. I'm hearing about one student in a certain elementary school here that is mainstreamed has her own interpreter. For one student. I am glad to hear that.
It does seem like we work harder to understand. It shouldn't be.

At Wed Mar 26, 09:20:00 AM , Blogger David said...

Shari did you ever get your CI approved thru your insurance?

At Wed Mar 26, 11:24:00 AM , Blogger Shari said...

Hi David,

No. Insurance denied it based on their conclusion: "Unproven to be safe and effective". I sent a copy to the CI center and the audie says that it is proven and they can prove it. I haven't heard anything since last Friday. As soon as I hear anything, I'll keep you all posted.


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