"Hello, Readers of Superdownsy!
This is Marianne. I am a hearing impaired adult. I was born with the hearing loss that I have. I grew up in a fairly normal home with a mom and a dad and do not have any siblings.
I am thankful to have my hearing loss because I know God made me special this way. However, growing up in a time era of no technology to help me communicate such as email, texting, even blog posting or Facebook, was difficult.
I was bullied in elementary school and middle school and ended up in a lot of fist fights. The reason is because children at that age do not quite understand what it is like to be in a hearing impaired person's shoes, a Down Syndrome person's shoes, a mito person's shoes, a cerebral palsy person's shoes. In my case, I believe it was easier for them to pick on me because they knew I could not hear them. Kids would ask me what country I was from because of my "accent". They would ask me the same question repeatedly. The bus was equally as awful. I stopped riding the bus late in my 6th grade year. My sweet late grandmother Baba picked me up every single day of my school career until I got my license. I'm forever thankful to her for that. She told me she believed I could hear and always knew I would be successful in whatever God chose for me to do - in this case, be a mom and a wife.
Let me explain how my hearing works: I have one hearing aid, that I wear in my left ear, that helps me to hear about normal. My other ear will not benefit from a hearing aid. I have to look directly at someone's mouth to read their lips. I am dependent on lip reading. I can hear roughly normal sound levels, however, I cannot decipher sounds without looking directly at the person. I cannot decipher the differences between the sirens - fire truck, police cars, ambulances. They are all the same to me. I also cannot hear high pitches, but I know it is there because it cuts off all other sounds and hurts my ears. When I talk on the phone, I primarily use speakerphone and my best friend from middle school and high school days helped me come up with a "code" to speak on the phone with my family and closest friends. I have to rely on yes and no questions to have a decent conversation with my husband, father, mother, and some certain friends that are aware of the "code". When I ask a question, if the answer is yes, they will say "ok" in two clear syllables. If the answer is no, they will drag out the "no" in one long syllable. If they don't know, they will say "I don't know" in three clear syllables. This is the norm of my everyday phone conversations and I am eternally grateful to be able to have those conversations!
I am forever grateful to my God for living in today's technology generation, allowing me to fully converse, interact and socialize with my family and friends without being felt left out at all. He is awesome!
Now, backing up to my grade school experiences: I was in three different elementary schools. It was my parents' attempt to get me the best education possible for my hearing impairment situation. The first one was Atlanta Speech School, where I started when I was 2 or 3 and that is where I learned to speak using my fingers on other people's throats and reading their lips. Sadly, they did not advance to the teaching me to listen without looking. I'm not quite sure why, but I am not going to question it now. I've gotten by without that and there is a reason for that. So I don't hear all the ugliness around me, I suppose. The second elementary school was out of my district about 30 minutes away at the bottom of Cobb county, where I am from. It was a school with a well renown special education department with teachers specializing in hearing impaired and deaf students. I learned sign language at this school, but do not use it primarily at all. I only use it when conversing with other deaf students that are dependent on it. The third elementary school was in my district. I landed there in 4th grade and that is where the trouble began with the social aspects and bullying. I was mainstreamed into the classroom at that point and had a difficult time adjusting. The students also had difficulties adjusting to a hearing impaired student and didn't know how to interact with me. So I started fighting them. I was sent to the principal's office and was spanked with a wood paddle back then. I was not the easiest child to raise and I definitely learned my lessons.
My experience in middle school was one to remember. In my 6th grade year, I was suspended from school for getting into fights with boys and girls -fist fights- because they would come up and aggravate me, provoke me, and ask me questions regarding my hearing loss in disrespectful ways, pointing fingers at me, and it was all very upsetting. As I got older, the fights lessened. My last fight was in 7th grade right before my birthday. My mother took all my gifts away and returned them to the store when I was suspended. That suspension is the one that woke me up and forced me to change.
Since then, I have been on a mission to be happy about my hearing loss, to thrive in it, to show others that it can be possible to live normally, albeit the hearing loss challenges. So through the remainder of 7th grade and 8th grade, my closest friends could see the change in me and were very encouraging. I also had a fabulous special education teacher named Marie Sanders (Kendall, now) all through middle and high school. She is a Christian lady who stuck by me and encouraged me even through my fights.
My high school years were some of the best. It is where I found God and changed my life even more for the good!! I had a good friend who chose to write a paper in an English class about me. The title was "Of Unheard Courage". It was a paper that made me cry. I still have the original copy printed on the old fashioned visible dotted ink on perforated paper. She is a dear friend, special to me because she saw me for who I am, not for what I am not. She is Catholic and saw my love for God and understood it, even though there are differences. She realized there is one God and we both serve him.
Today, my advice for all those parents and children dealing with special needs: Have your children approach them the same way they would any child. Ask them gently, do you want to play with me? And offer to help if it seems that they are having difficulty, maybe move obstacles out of their way, maybe help communicate between them and other children. The most important thing I would offer as advice: do not ignore them, talk about them behind their back, instead, ask their parents how to communicate with their child. They will be grateful that your child is taking a step towards understanding their child and may make a lifelong friend at that.
I am grateful to know Elise and love seeing her smile at school when I am in the building. I am grateful to take photo graphical memories of her and her fabulous teachers. I am also grateful to know Megan, another child at the same school, who is my neighbor. I am grateful to know her mom and to be able to donate my time to help with her annual fundraiser, Music for Megan, which has now concluded. Elise has Down Syndrome, but she is one of the sweetest girls I have ever met. Elise has a heart of gold! She always gives me a hug when I see her at school. Megan has Mitochondrial Disease and she is a super sweet, active little girl to always yearns to be on the go. I saw her at the Fun Run recently and when taking a picture with her teacher and by herself, she always gave me the the "peace" sign - the "V" with her hand. She is a peaceful little girl with a huge heart and a loving family who has worked to so hard to raise money to cure this disease and give Megan the best life possible.
I thank God for allowing me to know these children and I hope to get to know more and help capture memories for those children in the future. I am also thankful for my hearing impairment. I feel it is God's way of sharing me with everyone in a different way, and in an encouraging way. It will not stop me from trying everything I want to try, to attain my ultimate goal in life, to be successful in anything I choose to that God allows me as part of his eternal will.
God bless you and thank you for reading this!! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions regarding my hearing impairment, I will be glad to try to answer them to the best of my abilities.
Much Love and Blessings,