Archive for June 20, 2015
For me, deafness is a way of life. I was born hearing, and began losing my hearing as an infant. My parents couldn’t get a proper diagnosis until I was almost 2 and then I was fitted with hearing aids. My parents chose to raise me with an emphasis on spoken language, using speech therapy, hearing aids, and FM systems while being educated in the mainstream setting.
My hearing loss got progressively worse and I became profoundly deaf by the time I was nine years old. At that point, relying only on auditory information started becoming more and more difficult. By fifth grade, I began learning sign language and using an interpreter, which continued through high school and college. I went to college and earned my BA in Deaf Education, Elementary Education, and Special Education.
I moved to the Chicago suburbs and began began my teaching career working with deaf students who also had emotional & behavioral disorders and I learned a LOT about behavior management. At the same time, I began working in Early Intervention and became credentialed as a Developmental Therapist-Hearing (DTH). Over the years, I went back to school to get my Masters in Early Childhood Special Education and have taught in a variety of schools including residential, self contained, resource room, and itinerant services. I had the opportunity to start moving into more administrative roles in the schools as a Curriculum Coordinator, Assistant to the Principal, and am now Director of Student Support Services in a Montessori School that has an embedded Cued Speech program.
I married a hearing man and together we have 4 beautiful children, all hearing. However, 2 of them have been involved in the early intervention system and have had IEPs in the mainstream setting. I feel like I’ve come full circle in my life in that I’ve experienced all educational settings and communication modalities, whether professionally or personally. I also feel like I’ve been on all sides of the table at the IEP, as a student, parent, teacher, advocate, and administrator.
My personal and professional experiences lead me to the point that I most often emphasize when I work with families of deaf children….when your needs change, your choices can change too! Too often, people get stuck on one way to do things. If something isn’t working, why not explore something new? If something is working, why not add something new? Because I can talk, sign, and cue, I have met so many people and have had my life enriched in so many ways. I am able to be a part of the hearing world, deaf community and the Cued Speech community. There is no one size fits all. There never has been! What works for the family is what works for you. Keep an open mind and be willing to explore sign language, ASL, oral, and Cued Speech options!
As Board President of Hands & Voices Headquarters, I was honored to represent H & V through a Hear the World Foundation Grant, by joining U.S. educators and audiologists who have the common goal of sharing strategies on how to foster language development in children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Dr. Christine Yoshinaga-Itano, Audiologist, Teacher, and Researcher, periodically leads a group in conjunction with Soaring Hope Mission. This year, our team of US, Chinese and Taiwanese professionals traveled to Nanjing for a conference with China’s Newborn Screening Committee and then on to Yinchuan to directly work with 150 children, parents and staff in a regional Rehab Center. Phonak graciously donated hearing aids and local representatives to join us as well.
As the Director of MN Hands & Voices at Lifetrack for over 14 years, I have had the pleasure of working with the most inspiring parents. I’ve been bolstered by the wisdom and life experiences of adult role models. I have also been humbled by the passion and dedication of professionals in the field.
As a parent of a young adult who is deaf, my role on this trip was intended to be that of mentor and counsel, based on my personal and work experience. At Hands & Voices, we use the term “Guide By Your Side” to refer to our trained Parent Guides who help families navigate next steps. In China, however, I learned far more than I can ever could impart. In the end, it was I who was “Guided By China.”
A blog of the trip can be found here: Guided By China