Archive for the ‘Deaf & HH Adults’ Category

Charles Wildbank: Deaf Mural Artist

October 8, 2018

Karen Putz: I stumbled across Charles Wildbank a few years ago while doing a search for artists who are deaf/hard of hearing. I was completely blown away at Charles’ talent–his paintings look like photographs. What follows is a chat we had via Facebook.

Karen:  First off, I LOVE your talent. Your paintings are amazing. Tell me how you went from a school teacher to doing art full time.

Charles:  I taught for seven years both in Montreal and at Lexington School for the Deaf. I kind of burned out teaching, then made the move to do full-time painting in 1979. In fact, I am teaching a bunch of hearing artists today in Key Largo…this is a rare occurrence.

Karen: So, how did you make that leap?

Charles: I started with displaying art in store windows on Fifth Avenue, followed by doing art festivals, and occasional art galleries locally.

Karen: What was the process in which you were burned out with teaching and realized that art was what you wanted to do?

Charles: I believe and realize now that reality will reflect your current beliefs or become attracted (to those beliefs.) In wishing I was painting full time, perhaps many situations in teaching deteriorated and that convinced me to resign.

Karen: So, you’ve been doing this (art) since 1979–has it become everything you’ve dreamed it would be?

Charles:  Yes…but the dreaming/fulfillment does not finish…more to go.

Karen: What’s next for you?

Charles: I will continue to live in both studios in New York and Florida by season. What’s next is usually kept sealed until ready for release into public.

Karen:  Tell me about being deaf.

Charles: My parents swore I was deaf when I was a year old, but doctors dismissed it. My parents asked around and found out a new school was opening, Mill Neck Manor. My mom volunteered with other parents to carpool us. School was an old manor house, starting with about twelve deaf students from ages two to eight.  I made my first visit to the school to meet my new teacher when I was going on two. Right away, I had my headphones put on and was given voice instruction. All through age five, I relied up gestures since sign language was not in the curriculum.

I enrolled there from ages two to six. I am still in touch with three of those original students to this day.  I began to form words and sentences when I was six. Right then, my parents wanted to switch to a regular school close to home. Mill Neck was about a half hour bus ride then. The carpool eventually got replaced by a fleet of small, yellow school buses.

Going to a hearing school was a big challenge for me. Adjustments were made, such as moving me up to front row in the classroom and pairing me with a hearing student for note taking.

That was when I started to speak in sentences, learning from classmates in the school yard.

Karen:  Did you discover art at a young age?

Charles: Yes, I was in love with pencils and crayons, seeing their transforming power through my little fingers, I could communicate better with any drawing surface! In challenging communication situations, I would resort to drawing to get my point across. As if that was not enough, I taught myself to write.

I craved guests at our home as an outlet to the world. I would beg them to write their name, the entire alphabet, etc. So, I was ready for hearing school by first grade, I guess.

You could say I was the nerd. I finished coloring books in one afternoon, exhausting every piece of paper! So it became obvious to all that I was the young artist.

My parents got me into piano lessons after school. I was impossible, so the teacher begged my parents to reconsider and perhaps get me art lessons–at age nine.

I learned pastels, charcoal, etc.

Sometimes I would miss my deaf classmates. I was lucky to find my way–two miles by bike–to the nearest deaf classmate from Mill Neck. We both did not learn sign until we were teens. We used pantomime, facial expressions, pointing, and lipread awkwardly formed words and names. By the time I was in college, he paid me a visit and taught me some fingerspelling,

Karen: Tell me about high school–what was that like?

Charles: High school was tough. Lots of note taking, and I was getting despondent over grades. Then my parents recruited a full-time tutor on weekends. That helped my (self) esteem tremendously, almost overnight.

Karen: Did you have deaf friends in high school?

Charles: Deaf people are just as bright as others, we just need to interface! Schools with inadequate resources have resulted in many unhappy and alienated students.

I only had those two original classmates from Mill Neck until grad school! Those two classmates paired, eventually got married, and had kids. I connect through Facebook these days.

When I turned 21, I became a teacher of deaf and this resulted in meeting so many new deaf friends.

Karen: Who mentored you in art?

Charles: During my teens, I carpooled with a friend for Saturday classes, drawing in charcoal or pastels with a Japanese woman in Long Island. It involved sketching from still life or photographs. As for portraits, I guess I had to learn on my own.

My first encounter with real art was when my dad drove me to Manhattan to see Raphael’s exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum. I was spellbound… This was when I was fourteen…and my grandmother had the same copy in her home, so I connected immediately.

My grandmother encouraged me as she lived only around the block from me. She drove me to get art supplies and I got my first oils when I was eleven–actually age ten.

Karen:  At what point in your life did you realize that art was your true passion?

Charles: By my fifth year of teaching, I was beginning to regret my career choice and I was missing painting. Two years later, the straw broke on camel’s back and I commenced full-time in 1978.

When I met David Hockney in New York, I was getting envious that I went right ahead and painted his large portrait. That’s when I really felt the passion of art.

I felt as if rocked back and forth on a rough sea…with decisions to make. I was undecided and in anguish. I guess that is what it took to make a solid decision. It was as if it was a great leap between graduation from art school and the art world.

Unusual opportunities presented themselves as reminders–pointing me in my direction when I felt so blind and uncertain.

I did not have mentors. I lived 45 minutes from the art capital of the world then. I really feel it helped to get my feet wet in the real art scene while I was a teacher. I was visiting close friends from art college in Brooklyn, and I was surrounded by the art muse all over again. So 1978 was a big year for my art career–for keeps.

Karen:  What were some of the unusual opportunities that presented? I always say that sometimes going down the “wrong” path leads you to the right one with certainty.

Charles: Yes, indeed. We have to remember that these were pre-internet times–even no fax machines then. I relied on family members to help me get phone messages.  It was a formidable communication obstacle. Otherwise, I headed to the train station to commute to the big city. I observed other art graduates doing shows in Manhattan, so that is what I did–hit the sidewalks and found spaces to hang my art. I asked 5th Avenue shops–meeting with window designers–and it was GO! They immediately took my art on and sales were coming in as I placed my famiy’s phone number int he store window of Bonwit Tellers and Cartier.

Karen: That’s amazing. You simply went big.

Charles: Then I got married that year to a lovely deaf lady. At a most severe illness on my ex-wife’s part, we had to part ways after 25 years of marriage. Right now, I’m in a new relationship with Mary, who is not deaf. We both share an ardent art scene interest.

Karen: Were you always confident in your talent?

Charles: Not always.

Karen: Tell me about that.

Charles: It took years to not take it personally, what the reactions to my art were–always mixed reviews in hyperboles in either direction. This, I realized, is the province of the art world that all artists share.

Karen: That’s true of writers, too.

Charles: Yeah. It reminds me of duality. I find writers a wonderful companion in the arts, both sharing a resonating passion, we cannot do without the other.

Karen: Art speaks differently to each person and not reflective of talent.

Charles: Yes, indeed.

Karen: But it’s hard not to take it personally.

Charles: You tell me… In my advanced years, it is there, but the effects are very slight with the power level of echoes.

Karen: So, it gets better as you become older and wiser, eh?

Charles: It is there, but I learn to ignore and stay focused on passion itself.

Karen: What’s it like to begin a painting…and the middle…and the final stroke?

Charles: The artists seem to go through stages in their sequence, that of emulating the masters, then transcending them, to find the muse is ever elusive. Then the “noise” of the masses is crossed over and the artist best listens to that little voice within more.

Dedication is the real master, it transforms through manhandling the materials with increased skill and confidence. The artist gets past that struggle with the brush and attention is diverted more toward the vision and final creation. The doings become like a blur of near automatic activity…in contrast to what it will become.

Karen: Do you find when you ignore the “voice,” you become off path?

Charles: As of now, I can see any vision and put it into a future space and time, with as best-estimated matching reality…this is the hard part…just seeing the vision in its coherent whole, yet in a vacuum, all inside the head. I must have discarded many ideas and inspirations in the process. Many are daunting…so those real masters out there are really beating the odds against non-existence of a dream, yet manifest it into physical form. I am all dreams and ideas, awake or asleep.

Often what we dream has NO BASIS in reality! This is why some of our creations are met with violent reactions, good or bad. Then over time, it becomes the mundane and taken for granted, with the help of the bombardment of the mention by press and media.

Karen: What separates a good artist from great, or a mere artist from a master?

Charles: It is when wonder is replaced by capital letters in the sky….WONDER. We come from wonder and therefore aspire to offer wonder. It is just amazing when some cease to be awake and let the marvels pass them by! That “wonder of a child” is a wondrous ideal to keep maintained by everyone.

Karen: So true. Many lose the wonder, and go into routine.

Charles: A great artist is a magician, really. Every aspect of the illusion is addressed sufficient to the overwhelming of the audience’s sense. So, good artists have this uncanny ability to “get out of the box” on any given idea. Perspective has to do with this, and with that, the ability to see from outside points of view. This is probably how great art makes it through the centuries, culled through years and years of selection process.

And for myself, history will tell. Ultimately, the artist should be the first to derive satisfaction from the new creation at the point of its manifestation or its hatching–and forget the consequences be what they may–and allow the creations to continue to deliver on their own…as if they are offspring…letting them have their own life.

Karen: I am floored by your art, it as a depth and a richness that truly stands out. Who does your marketing?

Charles: I enjoy relinquishing control the moment I release the art. This perhaps enables me to stay creating. I do all my marketing. I want the art to attract the marketing. This is just me being hard on myself and to this day, I am still of the emotion that the best is yet to come. This is what perhaps gets me going and going.

I tend not to look back at my creations. I enjoy so much of the art at large out there, and this is what I dance to the tune of… I love the company of artists as we seem to have a common understanding of the responsibility we harbor.

Karen: What’s your big dream?

Charles: My dream is like that big carrot dreamt by a small carrot…I naturally expand on this dreaming in ways I could muster, perhaps an ever increasing, expanding scale…it would, of course, involve great form, colors, sensation, sufficient to staisfy me and even those I love.

Like a pencil, our lives are an instrument. Like it or not, we work with what we got and transcend our perceived boundaries just to remind ourselves perhaps we are not what we seem.

Like an hourglass, where in that glass is time, really? At the top, at the pinched middle, or any of those spent grains of sand? It is a recurring dream, that hourglass, so I may make something of it. I think of sand a lot these days…speaking of sand, going to the beach daily just confirms that.

I work in several tiers–small art pieces, some larger pieces, and for later, some big projects that the world has yet to view. But a lot still inside my head!

Karen: If you were to give a piece of advice to someone who has a deep passion, what would you say?

Charles: I would say that passion is largely a self-construction, it is something that requires good self search, especially while making ends meet. This creation at best is allowed to consume the artist and integrate with discipline into all life activities possible, in order to best sustain passion. One has to be willing to face the blows, the mistakes, the trials, the efforts–and they have no price or liability considerations. In other words, best not to weep over lost battles, but to forge on… The great lengths may not count in other’s view, but ultimately, those efforts to unwasted and hopefully get rewarded. It is a road that demand suppression of any notion of regret.

Karen: Have there been times when you struggled and almost gave up to get a “job?”

Charles: Teaching was one of those jobs, Cleaning pools, even! Restaurants, just like all those actors who made it. My greatest mastery in my regard, is the newfound ability to accept the outcome–good or bad–and move on. That is our real sovereignty–integrally whole all the way, not just in thought, but in emotion, and living it. Not caring what others think, or taking it to heart. I would hope this makes my expression of art go uninhibited.

Karen: And it applies to all aspects of life. When we step into our authenticity, there are no boundaries to what we can do.

Charles: I like what you just said!

 

For more information on Charles and to view his gallery: Charles Wildbank

An interview with Charles by Seek the World

 

 

 

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Resources for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Mentors, Guides, and Role Models

September 11, 2018

Resources for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults Who Serve Families:

Family Leadership in Language and Learning (FL3)

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Guidelines:

These guidelines are intended to offer suggestions for EHDI systems as to recommended practices in provision of D/HH mentor/guide/role model services to families/children.

http://handsandvoices.org/fl3/fl3-docs/DHH-Guidelines.pdf

Interviews with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults and Other Resources:
Families can explore these links with a wealth of diverse perspectives through stories, articles, websites and research on this page.

http://handsandvoices.org/fl3/topics/dhh-involvement/resources.html

The Importance of Families Connecting With Deaf/Hard of Hearing Adults
An interview with Janet Des Georges, Executive Director of Hands & Voices and Karen Putz, Co-Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infusion exploring the idea of meeting a D/HH adult who is different from your child.

http://handsandvoices.org/fl3/topics/dhh-involvement.html

 

Language, Literacy, and Social Development:

When a child is identified as deaf or hard of hearing, surrounding the family with multiple levels of support throughout a child’s journey to language, literacy, and social-emotional development adds to positive outcomes. This section covers websites, research, and resources.
http://handsandvoices.org/fl3/topics/lang-lit-soc.html

Communication Considerations: What Role Can Adults Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing Play

Family-to-Family Support
Parents who are just beginning the journey can be supported and learn from parents with lived experiences of the joys and challenges of raising a child who is deaf or hard of hearing. There is something incredibly unique and important in receiving support from other parents and families who have children that are deaf or hard of hearing and have “been there.”
This section covers support opportunities and resources, including links to other parent organizations:
http://handsandvoices.org/fl3/topics/fam-fam-support.html

Hands & Voices Facebook Groups:
D/HH Guides: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DHHGuides/
D/HH Guides, Role Models, and Mentors: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DHHMentorsGuidesRoleModels
Military Families: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HandsVoicesMilitarySupport
D/HH Plus: https://www.facebook.com/groups/deafhardofhearingplus
O.U.R. Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HVOurChildren/
Unilateral Hearing Loss: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HVUnilateral

The National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM)
NCHAM has conducted a nationwide survey to gather information about programs that involve D/HH adults as role models, guides and/or Deaf Mentors in the EHDI system and beyond.
For a state-by-state list of D/HH Adult programs:

http://infanthearing.org/dhhadultinvolvement/states/index.html

NCHAM Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adult Involvement Learning Community:
http://infanthearing.org/dhhadultinvolvement/d-hh-learning-community-home.html

Publications Related to Deaf Mentor Programs: https://www.infanthearing.org/webinars/docs/deaf-mentor-summary.pdf

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Amanda McDonough: They Think I CAN’T, I Know I CAN

August 6, 2018

They Think I CANT. I Know I CAN.
By: Amanda McDonough (Deaf Advocate, Motivational Speaker, and Author of “Ready to be Heard”)

Like most children, when I was born my parents told me I could become anything I wanted to be. After I was diagnosed with hearing loss, at four years old, I started hearing the word “can’t” a lot. It came from doctors, teacher, adults, kids, family members, and family friends. All of a sudden, the world’s expectations of what I could achieve with my life had decreased seemingly overnight. People seemed to believe that having “hearing loss” had somehow lowered my drive, intelligence, and ability to learn. At first, I believed them. I thought of myself as lesser than my peers. My self-esteem dropped. The social kid I once was started retracting into her self a little bit more with each missed sentence, each confused smile, and each uttering of the word “what?” as I failed again and again to keep up in conversations with my peers.

Every six months, my mother would take me back to the audiologist, who would lead me into that tiny grey metal box of a room and shut me in for my hearing tests. A room that felt more like a prison than anything. Over and over again I would take the same tests, repeat the same words “airplane, baseball, hot dog…” as they faded into oblivion, and chase the impossible beeps with my finger on a buzzer. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how hard I “studied,” each time I failed. I hated the feeling of “failing” more than anything. So, even though I had no control over how well I did in that little grey room, I realized I had 100% control over how I reacted to it, and how I behaved and viewed the world outside of that room. In that moment, I decided to stop being the “victim” of my story and become the “hero.”

I knew in my heart that being hard of hearing didn’t completely define who I was, what I was interested in, or what I was passionate about. Being hard of hearing was something about me, just like having brown hair is something about me. It was a contributing factor to my personality but didn’t need to define every decision and moment of my life.

I started dedicating myself more to my studies. I realized that if I kept the teacher on my “good hearing side,” studied, payed attention in class, asked questions, and read the material I could get A’s. Sure, it looked easier for everyone else, but each “A” on my report card made me feel more powerful and more in control of my own life and destiny. It wasn’t easy, this was back in the early 1990’s when parents of children with hearing loss didn’t have the resources, support, and information they do now. My parents were on their own. Therefore, I didn’t have full access to the language and information being taught to me in my mainstream school, but I had an unstoppable work ethic and had banished any memory or thoughts of the word “can’t” from my mind. I knew “I CAN.”

I ended up becoming a straight A student. Even as my hearing continued to decrease as I grew older, the work ethic I developed as a kid kept my grades and my resolve strong. I had less than 50% of the hearing left in each of my ears in high school and I still managed to graduate 8th in my class.

In college, I finally lost the last of my usable hearing and became undeniably physically deaf. Even though I wasn’t emotionally ready to accept my deafness, I still kept working towards my goal of graduating from college. I obtained real-time captioners in my classes, attended tutoring, and put in hours of work into even my easiest classes.

By 2012, I was 100% deaf in both ears as I walked down the aisle with my head held high during my college graduation to receive the two college degrees I had finished in four short years with a 3.15 GPA.

All because I knew I CAN.

The moral of my story: Never let others tell you what you are capable of. You get to decide your own path. You get to be the hero of your own story. No matter what your obstacles are in life, you CAN.

 

For more information on  Amanda: Ready to Be Heard 

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Jessica Flores: Being Deaf is a Laughing Matter

July 5, 2018


 

 

Jessica Flores is on a mission: to make others laugh while she’s in the middle of her own journey of discovering her deaf self.  In a video that went viral on Now This, Breaking Deaf Taboos, Jessica shared some insight that started her on the path to becoming more comfortable being deaf:

So for a long time, I always felt really alone and isolated. I’m not gonna get into my whole life journey, but it was hard. And it was not an easy road to go down. It took me years to realize that I was not the only deaf person facing all these communication barriers and challenges every day. I seriously figured all this out like three years ago. Once I realized this, I wanted to do something about it.

Karen Putz and Jessica share a few laughs as Jessica tells more of the story of her journey:

 

 

Jessica’s popular videos:

Most Googled About Deaf People:
Can Deaf People Drive?:
What You Should Know About Hearing Aids:
What You Should Know About Captions:
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Ashlei Powell: Creating Deaf Wearables

May 29, 2018

My name is Ashlei Powell and I have bilateral cochlear implants. I became deaf at eleven months from meningitis and received my first implant, on my second birthday, in 1990. I was the youngest recipient in the USA (just after FDA approved the cochlear implant for children) and the first youngest, in the world at the time, to receive a cochlear implant.


After receiving my first implant, I attended speech therapy for several years to learn how to listen and speak. Growing up, I had the opportunity to speak about my hearing experiences at auctions, in news interviews, and even with the first deaf Miss America, Heather Whitestone. After fifteen years of wearing just one cochlear implant on my right side, I felt like I was missing a puzzle piece. In 2005, I received my second implant and it was indeed, the missing puzzle piece for me.


I attended Pensacola Christian College in Florida for three years, before coming back home to marry my college sweetheart, Joe. We are proud parents of two dogs and a spunky and sweet two-year-old boy, Jackson.

My life has had a few challenges, but has been incredible and full of blessings. As being a Cochlear Implant recipient, I had to find ways to help me listen in life and in school that would work best for me. I made it work and accomplished a lot. I love being a bilateral recipient and I enjoy sharing my story to help others who are considering cochlear implants.

I have always wanted to be a nurse, but it wasn’t what the Lord wanted for me, so I tried a few classes in the medical field to see where the Lord wanted me to go. I’m now currently working as a phlebotomist at a hospital, running my own Deaf Wearables business, and also being a mommy and a wife.

In summer of 2017, I participated in a physically challenging obstacle course at Copper Mountain.  I looked everywhere online for outer wear that showed I couldn’t hear…..something I could attach or could wear on my clothes, arm or headband that said the word, “deaf”. There was not one single thing out there and I thought it was so frustrating and not fair to the deaf community.
I recently started producing of all kinds of Deaf Wearables for all ages, that can be used in all kinds of activities such as skiing, marathons, hikes, walks, etc., even daily life.  The reason why I have a line going through the ear is because it’s very simple and produces a quick understanding, like the universal symbol, to let people know the person can’t hear.  I wanted to present this collection of wearables in a fun and inviting way. I know how hard it is to do everyday activities without people being aware of someone’s deafness. My products contain: reflective vests, shirts, neon headbands, key chains, bags, stickers, etc. that have the word, “deaf” on it. My goal is to produce deaf wearables that people would be excited and proud to let others know that they’re deaf–all while being fashionably current.

 

For more information on Deaf Wearables:

www.deafwearables.com 

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Kris Martin: A Passion for Racing

April 5, 2018
kris martin 5

Not Afraid (Excerpt from Kris Martin’s website)

Ask Kris Martin to do something for you and his standard response is “Not a problem.”
Stepping in a race car that reaches speeds of over 200 miles per hour. Not a problem. Speaking to over 300 hundred students who look at him as a role model. Not a problem.

Being born profoundly deaf. Not a problem.

In fact, being born deaf may have helped Kris. He learned to race by primarily using his tactile senses, and has given him a great ability to feel the track and use his instincts. Today Kris is actually able to receive partial hearing through the use of a implant he had surgically implanted when he was eight. A company Phonak Hearing Systems created an audio device that uses radio frequency which allows Kris to communicate with his spotters.

Kris certainly has the talent to race and he comes with racing in his blood. Warren Coniam(Uncle) and Doug Syer(Grandfather) are both in the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame. Kris also is strong proponent of giving back to those who are deaf and hard of hearing. A role model for many, Kris speaks to children and charities across North America. His speeches give hope to not only children, but to parents, too–that their children can defy any odds that may be placed against them.

Ask Kris if he is ready. He will tell you…not a problem.

From Kris:

Racing Family

I come from a racing family.
kris martin 1
My grandfather is my hero in my world. He is that one started our racing family history since he was 18 yr old. He had seven kids!

When I was little watching my family race, I knew that I all I wanted to do was race. It was my dream!
There were a lot of expectations because of my family’s success in racing, but I took it as a challenge to follow in their footsteps and make them proud. NOT A PROBLEM…..

kris martin go kart

Go- Karting

I loved Go Karting and I was lucky to have success and travel across North America.

I had a lot of fun racing and meeting friends at the track. It gave me a lot of confidence in life and in school to know I can be successful.

I had to learn how to drive the kart by feel. I got the feel of the car in my hands, my legs and my butt. I can feel if there is anything wrong with the car immediately. I do not need to hear anything go wrong.

One Thing I’m Proud of: 6X Time Karting Championship!

kris martin 7

Race Car

My dream has always been to race Stock Car!

I had other drivers tell track officials they were concerned to race against me because they were worried I could not hear and could not drive–and would wreck them. After seeing me on the track they quickly realized I am a driver and could handle the track.

I am able to race because of special hearing system from Phonak that allows me to communicate with my spotter and crew chief.

I raced in the Nascar Arca at Daytona International Super Speedway, LeMan 24HR Series road racing.

kris martin 6

Public Speaking

I decided to get involved with public speaking at the age of thirteen. I became involved with VOICE and CHHA organizations, and I was able to talk to children and adults that had to face challenges just like I did. I like to show them that they can overcome anything as long as they are passionate, work hard and believe in themselves. I have spoken all over the world to thousands of people. I take it very seriously to show everyone my passion that you can achieve your dreams with whatever challenge you face. NOT A PROBLEM…..

kris martin 8

Believe Yourself

I followed my dreams and I was able to achieve my dream of being a race car driver.

Everyone has their own set of challenges in their lives. I am proof that if you are passionate about what you do, then there is nothing that you can stop you. Have confidence and believe in yourself. Don’t let being deaf/hard of hearing stop you from living your dreams. NOT A PROBLEM…..

 
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Jordan Livingston: Becoming a Pilot

March 22, 2018

jordan livingston pilot

Jordan Livingston has a dream: he wants to become a commercial pilot, aviation safety officer, and a flight instructor. And he’s well on his way!

Jordan was born deaf and from a very young age, he dreamed of flying. Both of his parents worked in the aviation industry so Jordan grew up around planes. He obtained his pilot’s license in high school and interned at Southwest Airlines. He’s currently on a quest to complete his education and obtain the aviation hours necessary to certify him to fly commercially.

jordan livingston southwest

Take a moment to watch this Hands & Voices interview with Jordan and learn how he’s blazing through the barriers to become a commercial pilot:

 

An article on Jordan: Deafness Doesn’t Ground Aspiring Pilot 

Jordan’s experience at Southwest Airlines:  Southwest Intern is Defying the Odds to Become a Pilot 

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Clare Patterson: There is Beauty in Everything

March 6, 2018

clare patterson HV story

It is strange how the human brain doesn’t notice slow disappearances over time. Sure, our brains are well attuned to rapidly changing conditions but woefully inept at noticing small changes.

My life so far has been a string of “un/lucky coincidences”.

This is why I wasn’t diagnosed with hearing loss until I was 18 and a first year student at a selective liberal arts college.

Rewinding a bit, when I was born in 1986 there was no newborn hearing screening. My parents thought I was “advanced” because by 6-8 months I would mimic adult conversations except I didn’t make any sounds.

School came around and I was lucky that my neighborhood school had Deaf and HOH integrated mainstream program. I began learning ASL when I started kindergarten.

I needed years of speech therapy, yet my hearing wasn’t tested. I remember emerging from the city mandated eye testing in tears because I failed so horribly that the lady administering the test tapped me on the shoulder and told me I was “supposed to be looking for the numbers”. What numbers? And how telling was it that she had to tap me on my shoulder to get my attention?

The first hearing test I remember having was in 5th grade. Until then I had excelled in all my classes and had been in special education for both speech therapy and gifted classes. All my classes except the very small gifted class had interpreters. I really don’t remember how much I relied on them but it was enough that when I transferred to a private school for 6th grade, I noticed a distinct change in my social life.

The middle school social milieux absolutely revolves abound inside jokes and I was lost. The disparity between my public school and private school was so pronounced that I and the other two “scholarship girls” in my grade had tutors for between a year and 4 years each. I had a formal tutor for one year.

Eventually, and with the help of amazing teachers, I became a great student at one of the best college prep schools in the South. I started winning awards for Latin (I refused to take a spoken language because I’ve always had trouble pronouncing words), art, writing BUT I was alone in my own world. I ate lunch alone daily, often venturing outside even in the cold so that I wouldn’t be so conspicuously out of place.

Class size was so small that I could keep up in class but where the real action of an all girl’s high school happens in whispered jokes and quips.

I missed all of those and looking back, despite our school being located in an Episcopalian church, when I was on those awful training runs for soccer or lacrosse, or walking to my friend’s house a few blocks away, the ringing of the bells on the half hour and hour just disappeared. One time when walking with my friend Connor to her house barely a mile away, she mentioned that it was “3:30”. “How the heck do you know that? You refuse to wear a watch!” I implored, incredulous that she thought she could tell time without a watch. She slowed down her walk and said “the church bells just rang!”. “Oh, yeah. They did”, I replied sheepishly but my stomach was in knots realizing that just a block or two from school, I couldn’t hear the bells, the ringing of the bells.

clare patterson HV story 2

Like all things good and bad, high school ended. I had received a full scholarship to my number one college choice far, far away from my home.

I moved, with many unexpected tears, to a small liberal arts college quite literally in the middle of a cornfield in rural Iowa. Within my first month I had gone to the nearest “city” (more like a town with a K-mart AND a Walmart) and was diagnosed with mostly flat sensorineural hearing loss that was moderate. Hearing aids were ordered, during fall break I came back home and saw a big city ENT doc who repeated the hearing test and did a CT scan looking for any other explanation for my aberrant test results but, the results were accurate, the new ones were even a bit worse. I had moderate SNHL (sensorineural hearing loss). My parents started piecing together anecdotes from my past. My mishearing of song lyrics, the utter lack of skill needed to sneak up on me, my seeming inability to be social at large family events.

When I returned to school my three best friends borrowed a car to drive me to the audiologist nearly an hour away for my brand new BTE (behind the ear) hearing aids to be fit. They took advantage of the shopping in a town twice the size of our college town while I discovered that paper rustling is an annoying sound and why people were always annoyed when I clicked pens. I was absolutely aghast that paper made noise and pens clicking was actually annoying.

That was all in the first semester of college so for most people I knew, me having hearing loss was normal. My college purchased an FM system for me, back when the advanced FM systems consisted of two boxes, and I did the awkward “drop off the prof’s box and mic before class and hope they notice it”.

By my second year in college my friends began noticing that I wasn’t hearing as well as usual and that my speech had become “blurry”.

I got a ride with a friend to the big town and found that my hearing loss had dropped to “severe”. My hearing aids were turned up and I could hear most things again. Life, as it always does, went on.

The next year I just borrowed a friend’s car and drove through the aftermath of a midwestern blizzard with snow piled higher than my lanky (at the time) 5’8.5″ on either side of the back roads I had to take. I didn’t take a friend this time, I knew that I had woken up one day almost completely deaf. Some of it seemed to come back but it was tenuous. I came back with my hearing aids maxed out, I turned on my borrowed car not realizing how loud I had the music for the ride up and that there was music playing in the borrowed car. Driving back I was disoriented, not by new sounds as I had been a few years earlier, but by how distorted things sounded. I spent the rest of my spring break at work fixing computers, or in bed. I watched as the snow blocked off the walkways from my dorm to where I worked across campus. The snow lasted longer than usual and piled up to two feet on my small prairie campus.

I could only scoff when people spoke about “hearing the snow fall”. What other BS did hearing people make up?”

I finished college and went on to work in infectious disease research while my hearing slowly dwindled. I still loved music but I only listened to bass heavy music. It was my ritual to remove my hearing aids at the end of the day, turn on Jimmy Cliff and turned up the volume until the bass thumped in my chest like a second heart beat.

clare patterson hv story 3

I then went to graduate school and in the January before my April thesis defense date I received a cochlear implant in my right ear. I was activated on Valentines Day 2014 and was overwhelmed by sounds I had never heard before. My audiologist was pretty certain that I had never had normal hearing. I went back to my apartment and put on a DVD of my favorite TV show just to have some sound other than roaring tinnitus. I went to work on the final draft of my thesis (“The Utility of Autologous Stem Cell Transplant in Newly Diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes: Reversing Autoimmunity and preserving Beta Cell Function”). While doing statistics I suddenly laughed. I looked up and saw the TV with captions, as always, on. I then paused the DVD and went back and replayed the previous scene. I couldn’t tell the difference between voices or really what words they were saying but somehow I heard the joke while reading the captions and laughed again. I understood speech after nearly 10 years of profound deafness. It was awkward, helium sounding speech but I heard it! I decided to have speech I was familiar with in the background for all the hours I was awake. Soon, I could tell the difference between male and female voices and then between different female and male voices. I defended my thesis, after much practice with my advisor on how to say “statistically significant” and was able to hear the questions from my professors well enough to, with a bit of guess work, correctly answer their questions. I also presented my research at the annual “Research Day” and even in a large open space with abysmal acoustics, I was able to answer questions about my poster. It was by no means easy but I did it.

Now I’m in the midst of applying to medical school. I’ve worked in a busy urban ER for the past few years and I’ve fallen in love with Medicine. I wrote the piece below two years ago. I think it illustrates the joy of new sounds:

You know that thing people do when a lightbulb goes out? The unceremonious unscrewing of the bulb and the shaking of it next to an ear?

I honestly never knew why people did that, I remember doing it as a kid, hearing nothing and replacing the bulb with a new one.

But just now, a light bulb went out in that spectacular millisecond of a brilliant bursting flash.

I reacted as always, unscrewed the bulb and held it to my ear and shook it. Nothing, normal, you shake the bulb, I don’t know why, maybe to make sure it is dead? Who knows? People do weird things.

Then I tried my right ear, the one with a cochlear implant.

I must have looked like a maniacal child just standing there shaking a bulb and laughing.

It makes a sound. You guys, it makes a SOUND! A beautiful sound. A sound of distant church bells ringing out (The ringing of the bells. The bells, the bells.)

It’s a tinny sound, an echoey sound. You can hear the little tungsten coils bouncing around, you can hear when they settle at the neck of the bulb and that sound is different from the sound they make leaping off the sides of the rotund side.

Did you know that makes a beautiful sound? It does.

I’m still smiling. I heard something that I don’t think I’ve ever heard in my life and it was beautiful. It was mundane and everyday and boring to most, but it sounded so beautiful to me.

There is beauty in everything. Sometimes you just see it for the first time and sometimes you need to be surrounded by darkness to see light of a burned out bulb.”

I’m still D/deaf. A cochlear implant is a tool and an imperfectly perfect tool. I still sign when I want and occasionally use an interpreter but I can hear things I’ve never heard before.

 

Clare Patterson

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Joshua Ledbetter: Deaf Entrepreneur Encourages Everyone to Live Every Day Better

February 15, 2018

My name’s Joshua and I was born deaf with 100% hearing loss in both ears. I did not expect to have the life I am living today and I am grateful for the lessons I learned throughout my journey for the past 30 years. You may know that I started @ledbetter_inc, or a successful online entrepreneur that brings more than six figures annually through different businesses, getting featured through newspapers and online magazines, or husband of Julie.

Being deaf at first, I felt that I was robbed. I was unable to keep up with friends. I was unable to pick up a phone to hold a conversation with people. I couldn’t work with a group on project unless I had a sign language interpreter. I couldn’t hear or listen to music like many people did. I was at an unfair advantage. I didn’t really share how I got to where I am today without sharing a lot of dark secrets about my past. All you see on my social media platform, are just the tip of my iceberg aka highlight reels. It is time for you to look under the water, and see how I decided not to give up that it led to who I am today.

When my mom, Kelly moved to Germany it was to support my biological father, Joel with his career in the military. Although she had been married seven years, she had never become pregnant. Then in the fall of 1985, she became pregnant with me. As the pregnancy progressed, my mom had this feeling that she needed to learn sign language. At that time there was nothing to show that her pregnancy was anything but normal. So, she self-taught herself some basic signs and to sign happy birthday with the help of books.

In July of 1986, my father was transferred back to Colorado Springs to Fort Carson. I was born in October. As soon as I was delivered by the doctor, he told my mother she had a very healthy baby boy and that he had all his fingers and toes. My mother then said that they needed to check my ears because she knew I could not hear. Everyone laughed it off to her being exhausted. In 1986 they did not do newborn hearing screenings on babies to see if there was any hearing loss.

As time passed, it became more evident to my mother that I could not hear. I did not startle or wake up when she vacuumed, nor did I talk. Yes, I babbled, but not like a hearing child. When I turned one and went for my yearly checkup, my mother told the doctor that I could not hear. He said he did not believe that and to bring me back in six months. My mother immediately went home and called an ear, nose and throat physician to get my hearing tested.

I took the hearing test with the light up bears and I promptly passed that. I seemed to be aware of which bear would light up. She did not believe the test so the doctor ordered an ABR. She sat in a darkened booth while they hooked me up to electrodes to measure my hearing. Even though she knew I could not hear, it was still devastating to her when the technologist came in and said, “yes, you are right, he cannot hear.” And she left my mom there to deal with the news.

My grandmother was there and they both just stood there and said, “What do we do now?” My mom had no idea what was next. She called the doctor and he provided her with some names and she went to work to find out about hearing aids, classes, etc. She got me and her into an infant stimulation class at the deaf and blind school. It was great for her to be with other mothers who had deaf/hard of hearing children and I was only 13 months old. We really had a great support system with my grandma and my aunt. Mom and Aunt Tracy took sign language classes and mom went to class with me every week. She cried the first time I signed my first word which was “more.”

I didn’t like my hearing aids at all and it took me a long time to get used to them. As I moved along in the class, it was evident to others that I was pretty intelligent. My dad and mom met with a Deaf Education teacher at Jefferson Elementary who wanted me out of the deaf and blind school to be mainstreamed. Denise Davis Pedrie was a lifeline to my mother and such a lifelong teacher to me. My mom worked with me every day with auditory training, signing, and speech. She never gave up and knew that I was going to succeed at it all.

In terms of getting a cochlear implant, my mother never made that decision for me. She felt it was not her place to tell me to be hearing and as I grew, we talked often about it but I felt that I am who I am. My mother never wanted me to be someone that she thought I might want to be so she left the decision to me as I became older. Although I was close one time at the age of 17, close enough to make the surgical appointment, I decided that I could not be what the hearing world wanted me to be.

I did not recognize my deafness until I was about six years old when I began to experience my struggles with communication. I remember it very well because we used to communicate through gestures. Unfortunately, the use of gestures has continued to decline as hearing students grew older because they didn’t see the need to use gestures and/or sign language. The survival mechanism began to kick inside me, and I asked my speech therapist to teach me lip-reading more because I wanted to hang out and play sports with other students. Keep in mind, I had an amazing circle of friends who were deaf and hard of hearing, too so I didn’t feel completely left out.

When I was in elementary, middle, and high school… I was bullied and discriminated many times. To be specific with one of my first events, I remembered the first time I was called dumb and mute. I didn’t understand why I was being called that name. I came home to ask my parents about it. My mom taught me the first lesson that each child needed to hear: do not listen to others but yourself, you must believe in yourself to get where you want to be in life.
With my family behind me 100%, I was encouraged to work hard and learned not to give up. The life I experienced through school, motocross racing and life, in general, was like a roller coaster ride.

In May of 2011, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Sports and Exercise Science. When I was let go by my boss after completing my internship, I moved back home with my parents and began to look for my job. That summer, I applied to over 70 jobs. Every job opportunity I applied to, I never heard back from them. Every interview I attended, I didn’t get an equal opportunity to share my experience and/or expertise because the employers either didn’t provide an interpreter for me or that they didn’t know how to treat me.

That gave me a huge disadvantage against other job prospects which was extremely frustrating. After my 70th job interview, I remember driving home to my parents’ house with anger and asking myself questions (such as “Why am I wasting my time?”; “Why me?”, and “Why am I allowing others dictate what I can and cannot do?”). In that moment, a light bulb turned on inside my head, and began to wonder what it would take for me to create a company on my own? To create a movement to show the world that my disability has nothing to do with my ability to succeed?

That fall of 2012, in my parents’ basement, I began to research and learned how to start a company. I was scared but my drive to succeed was stronger than the fear I had. Shortly after, I derived Ledbetter from my last name and created the acronym: Live Every Day Better. For the last year, I have helped over 10,000 individuals reach goals through their body, mind, and soul in the most sustainable way possible!

Fast forward today, I own several online businesses doing what I love by teaching others to live every day better through body, mind, and soul with my hearing wife, Julie Ledbetter.

joshua and julie

Believing in myself is the best gift that I had given to myself because it pulls me through the hard times: a decision that cost me my professional motocross racing career at age of 15, unable to find a dream job related to my field for more than two years, unable to secure a job interview because I couldn’t pick up a phone call, getting email rejections from multiple bosses because I was not qualified, went through multiple depressions and suicide attempts. I felt like I was torn apart in multiple directions and that I wasn’t meant to be here today. I felt that I couldn’t make it but each time I went through that, I remembered that I needed to stay still and believe in myself.

Now, looking back five years today… I have a beautiful wife, a furry kid (dog), amazing friendships, incredible families, great customers that I love, a house that we just purchased, a car to drive, money in our savings, and being able to help individuals grow and change their lives for the better. All of things that has happened to me today is because I believed in myself (including my faith in God). It doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not, I didn’t need my ears to thrive through the business world. I used technology to help get where I am today.

If you are in a hard spot right now, remember to believe in yourself and that you’ll get through it. Your journey is what brings you the lessons you need to learn before you’ll succeed at whatever you set for in your life. It goes the same for everyone else.

#thedeafmentor #ledbetter #believeinyourself


Lewis Howes features the Ledbetters: https://www.facebook.com/lewishowes/videos/1545040185551829/

Joshua D. Ledbetter

 
Visionary Leader – Ledbetter, Inc.
joshua ledbetter karen putz
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