When I was in fourth grade, I got my first hearing aid. My mom was deaf with the same sensorineural hearing loss. My hearing loss had progressed to the place where I needed this new, strange device.
My speech had deteriorated to a point where my voice would sound nasally, and the kids, especially the boys, would make fun of me. No one stood up for me. Not the teachers or anyone else.
I decided to take my hearing aid and hide it in my locker, somehow temporarily making my situation disappear. When I sat in my seat and class began, I slowly realized I couldn’t hear or understand what was going on, and I needed to figure out how to navigate this pickle I was finding myself in at the time.
Through that experience, I learned how to read lips by staring at the teacher, trying desperately to understand so I wouldn’t fail my class.
As I got older, things didn’t get much more manageable. I took one of my most significant hearing loss drops in my Senior year of High School. Honestly, this didn’t give me much hope for my future.
I looked at different options for things to do for school, but some didn’t seem feasible at all, and for others, I was just afraid I would fail, so I failed myself before I started.
I worked at places like grocery stores and Walmart. I attempted fast food for a while which was probably one of my worst choices because it was torture sitting there trying to understand what was said over that drive-through speaker with constant static.
When I found out I was pregnant with my oldest son, I worked at Walmart. After I gave birth and started thinking about his future, I decided to try to go to CNA classes. I was able to take them through the help of Vocational Rehabilitation. They were helpful for a little bit, but that was the only financial assistance of any kind I had gotten up to that point.
I did receive some help getting the baby crier, doorbell, and alarm lights so I could hear my son crying and for me to be able to wake up.
At this point in life, I was still wearing hearing aids. My hearing had gone down even further, and I was headed toward complete deafness.
A couple of years later, I married my husband, and he has done amazing with me with my hearing loss. We have had to find a rhythm when it comes to this. It is a life of give and take in marriage, but when you add one person having a hearing loss and slowly moving to deafness with a typical hearing person, it can get tricky at times.
When my two boys were younger, I worked as a Special Education Paraprofessional at an elementary school. I LOVED this job. The one thing I learned quickly, though, was people in the education field do not understand hearing loss and deafness very well. They know about other disabilities but not this one as much.
It was still the best place I ever worked. I met some amazing people who became friends, and a speech pathologist I worked with helped me with some of my early cochlear implant speech therapy.
I learned how to advocate for myself here. I learned how to communicate better about my deafness and my choices with getting the cochlear implant. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work there.
My story continues, and I will share more as we go here along here on this page.
At this job, I met many children with different types of disabilities. I met the mothers, fathers, and siblings of these children.
Every person with a disability needs a cheerleader and an advocate in their corner. They need encouragement to advocate for themselves.Tweet
I want this to be a place where we can share ways to advocate together. My heart is to see this as a place to hear each other’s stories. The hard ones and the joyful and victorious ones. I want this to be a safe place for people to say, “Me too.”
Each of us has the wisdom we have learned along the way about advocating and the resources out there that are available to people with disabilities. Not everyone knows how to find this information. Not everyone knows how to advocate for themselves.
I want to be a bridge—a bridge to helping people understand disabilities and the people who live with them. I want to be a bridge to helping people find the right tools they need to be successful in life.
I have spent many moments in my life crying because I have been misunderstood or spoken to like I was a person without value. I have spent many moments complaining about the fact that even the most intelligent and educated people somehow don’t understand what deafness means.
I am choosing to be part of the solution. I am choosing to do my part in advocating for those who need it and helping others understand what they don’t.
Will you choose to be a bridge and be part of the solution with me?
I would love to talk to you if you are someone with a disability or have a loved one with a disability. I would love to talk to you if you have experience advocating for those with a disability or if you have connections with those who help people with disabilities.
Let’s join together and make this world a little better place.