Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Accommodating Me Throughout the School Years

I recently saw this article and it struck home with me. It is on this site called Hearing and Kids, called "How do we know what a child with a hearing loss needs in school?" It has gave me the urge to share my own experience with accommodations as I was growing up in school.

I was around six years old when I was really aware I had a hearing loss because I was suited with hearing aids and entered elementary school at First Grade (skipping Kindergarten). Elementary school was a huge step out of my league from I recall from years in Preschool. I wasn't aware I had hearing issues before age 6, but when I think back, I was yelled at a lot in preschool for "not listening." I was too young to put 2-in-2 together. I thought I was just a bad kid.

I didn't use any special hearing devices until middle school, but I remember all the hearing issues I had in first grade. That I didn't know what the teacher was saying nearly 70% of the time, that I literally taught myself speech growing up from learning in first grade about how letter arrangements help distinguish the pronunciation of words. I guess I felt I didn't have a choice because I wasn't hearing anyone well enough to learn it all like a normal person. This was the reason I grew up with my speech coming across much different than the norm, and how I wasn't even "corrected" much on my speech until I was an adult! It's only now with my implant have I actually been learning the correct pronunciations and slowly fixing my speech  myself.

Fun fact: At some point, I began calling my teacher Misses Bitch. Her name is actually Misses Fitch. I don't know why I was calling her the B-word, maybe I couldn't hear the "F" in her name. In hindsight though, this was funny cause I was only 6. (Wasn't funny at the time though...)

In middle school, there were better resources around at the time and since its invention was relatively new, the FM Trainer came around. I was lent it to use on school property. It is basically a device that clips into my hearing aids, and uses radio waves to help me directly hear the person wearing another device that had a microphone (usually the teachers). It works almost exactly like a walkie talkie, though it didn't look the same. I wore the FM Trainer everyday until I graduated high school, although I was upgraded to newer versions twice by then. Here's an image of what the one I wore during my last two years of high school resembled:
I loved this one. Mainly because, THERE WERE NO MORE WIRES! Imagine wearing, for 8 hours a day, a box that clips on your pants (like the box in the left image), and has two wires that go up your torso and hook into each hearing aid. It is a pain in the butt. And I dealt with a lot of, "What is that?" and a few, "Take that off! You shouldn't be listening to music at school!" Said one teacher who seriously though it was a walkman. Rude. The new one simply had a little end piece I attached to the end of one hearing aid. It was very modern and very awesome. The teachers still had to wear a microphone system though; I don't think there's much room for improvement within that end.

In college, I only attended campus classes my first three years, and I didn't use an FM Trainer. Mainly because the college had a total old-school FM Trainer... one that was so friggin old, it was older than the ones I used in middle school. And it sucked. Its transmission was horrible. It wasn't worth dealing with. So I went to classes the old-school, tough way, of sitting in the front of class, lip reading, hoping I'm NEVER called on because I'd likely have no idea what is going on, and having a note taker (who sucked). Needless to say, I did OK, but I did fail one class from not having a note taker and from not hearing enough of anything to comprehend the entire course.

It was around this time, I realized campus classes were just going to fail my opportunity of actually learning anything well, and thankfully, that's also around the time the emergence of online courses came around. So I switched to full time online and was understanding material as well as my ABC's.

That article, states one very important piece of information I want to quote,
"The technology is so good, school staff members sometimes think that kids do not need any help. I have had school staff tell me that now that a child has a cochlear implant he is no longer disabled. Well, he is certainly much better than he was before he received an implant, but it is really important to understand that he is still not normal hearing."

This is absolutely correct. I may be hearing 80% better than I have in the past decade, but I am still legally Deaf, I still need accommodations in some ways, and I am in no way, "normal." I have been dealing with the constant need to confirm to others that I still have hearing issues despite the implant, because many think I am hearing normal now. Anyone that actually hangs around me for extended periods of time (like my co-workers) are typically aware of this as they still need to tell me when it's break time or showtime or whatever. Of course, they also didn't know me before the implant, but they should probably be thankful for that (it would've just been a bigger hassle dealing with me).

With that said, this is vital information to keep in mind when dealing with children with a hearing loss who do or do not, have a cochlear implant. It is rude to assume implanted individuals are hearing normal and no longer need help. It is important to know them all individually and realize what works best for each one.

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