Raising a Child with a Different Ability
By Karen Putz, Illinois Hands & Voices
I was browsing through the Huffington Post website when I came across an article written by Lee Woodruff, a reporter on Good Morning America: Signs of Progress: Honesty about Children with Disabilities. (www.huffingtonpost.com/lee-woodruff/signs-of-progress-honesty_b_251413.html). Lee reflected back on seeing a Deaf Child sign as a youngster and how it has a different meaning for her today. “We need to stop sweeping people with disabilities under a rug,” says Lee. “We also need to remove the stigma of disability by talking more frankly about it, rather than hiding behind denial or keeping quiet.”
In her post, Lee shared a tidbit about her daughter: “I’ve raised my daughter to be very matter-of-fact about her hearing. ‘I wear hearing aids,’ she will explain, and she has chosen hot pink tie-dyed ear molds so that there can be no mistake. I know that when adolescence hits, it will be harder for her to crow about her differences. She will want in-the-ear hearing aids and perhaps take them off in certain situations when she is self-conscious. No child wants to be different, at least in that way.”
Lee has written a book called Perfectly Imperfect, in which she chronicles her life as a mom (she has four kids!) and a wife (she’s married to Bob Woodruff, an anchor for ABC News). Lee is an amazing writer --I found myself laughing and relating to her stories throughout the book.
Best of all is the chapter that Lee devotes to her nine-year-old daughter, “a beautiful, engaging person with a different ability,” as Lee describes Nora. The chapter is filled with tidbits of their daily life—from wrestling with hearing aids to pondering the future.
Lee took time out of her busy schedule to share a bit more:
Karen: When you reflect back to the time that you learned that Nora was deaf, what kind of support did you receive immediately after?
Lee: We lived in London and we got immediate great support from the National Health Service. We got services at the house and also found a wonderful little school called Christopher Place, where Nora received extra services.
Karen: What was positive about this support?
Lee: I was also put in a support group with other parents and what made that so helpful was that I could talk to other people going through the same thing. It made me feel so not alone.
Karen: What would you like to see changed in the way that parents receive support after a diagnosis?
Lee: I am amazed that hearing aids are not covered by insurance and incensed that so many congenital issues are for kids-- but not this. I think parents feel very alone and there needs to be more of a way to connect parents going through this.
Karen: In your post on the Huffington Post, you shared the story of Louise Tracy and how she was amazed at how little information was out there for parents of deaf and hard of hearing children. Do you think this process is still true today-- that parents are scrambling for information after a diagnosis? What would you like to see changed?
Lee: I have to say I had a very positive experience with our diagnosis once I processed the grief and the sadness and began to take action. I think there is much more available now regarding info on cochlear implants and speech therapy. But I do have to say that in my county they are pretty good at informing us.
Karen: What is the most challenging part of being a parent of a hard of hearing child? What is the most inspirational part?
Lee: I think the most challenging part is to constantly work on my daughter’s speech and to keep her immersed in language and just keep talking, working on her speech and language skills. The inspirational part is seeing how amazing children are, and how eager they are to learn and to excel, and to observe Nora growing up and become a beautiful human being who has her own beautiful different abilities. ~
See Lee Woodruff’s website & blog: http://leewoodruff.com