Wednesday, January 16, 2013
That's a matter of perspective and wholly subjective based on experience and ability as a deaf/hh person who grew up speaking and listening. I grew up with a lot of hearing friends and some deaf friends. I grew up playing sports such as soccer, baseball and wrestling and I excelled in them. My soccer team was a state championship team in 1975. One of my baseball team in early 1970s that I was in was a championship team as well. I placed 2nd in my weight class in a wrestling tournament. I competed in high school marching band competitions as a drummer and competed in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. And so on.
But was I an oral/aural success?
My first words were “bye bye” at 14 months old.
At 18 months - “Jamie,” “Baby,’ “DaDa,” “Bye Bye,” “Car” and “Hot”
By 30 months or 2 ½ years old I had a vocabulary of 20 to 24 words
At 2 ¾ years old I was forming sentences “Dada bye bye,” and “Dada eat.”
At this point after a year and half of oral training with John Tracy Clinic and Birney school I was progressing fast and saying many words.
At 2 ½ years old all of my words were hard for me to pronounce them because of my deafness. I received my new body hearing aid at that point and with the help of my mother and John Tracy Clinic my vocabulary grew. By 3 ½ years old I was forming questions. “Where is Jamie?” “Where is Dad?” I even said to my brother, “No no. Momma pretty” in reference to her hair. By 4 ½ years old I could recognize my own name and names of my classmates in Birney school in Tacoma. By 5 ½ years old I was able to read basic words, identify colors, count number from 1 to 10.
I was in a class of hearing first graders for ¾ of the day. At first I was emotionally upset for awhile with the big change from an oral setting in Birney School to a regular classroom with hearing students. But I finally adjusted and did well. According to my mother’s notes I was above average in most subjects. In March 1973 I received my first behind the ear hearing aid to replace my worn out body aid. I wore my behind the ear much better and was able to get more sound out of it. The miracle of advancing hearing aid technology.
I went regular school from 4th grade to 12th as a hard of hearing student. Did theatrical plays, played in the middle school symphony band, took piano lessons starting at age 7, and I was on the high school marching band that competed in the southeast marching band competitions. I was your typical middle and high school student.
Am I an oral/aural success? Certainly.
I still can order my food and listen at the drive through speaker and make sure they got my orders right. I can speak to my family, friends, and strangers in person or over the phone without problems. In a physical setting with people around me the acoustic environment must be conducive enough for me to carry on a conversation.
I've come to think of myself as a person with a hearing loss. A person who is deaf. Also a person who is hard of hearing. Or even person who is hearing impaired with the focus that my hearing is impaired, not just myself.
I'm an oral/aural success? Certainly.
Despite that, I still cannot hear completely and my hearing aid helps me tremendously. I can keep up with conversations in small group conversation but the settings have to be right.
I did well in regular school in a non-mainstreaming setting. I relied on my hearing aid to listen. Sometimes they needed to repeat what was said. I got good grades. I went from high school to a hearing college and then to Gallaudet University as a lark and curiosity to see what a deaf/hh setting was like. I learned how to sign and communicate in ASL. While going to Gallaudet University I also attended nearby George Washington University without the need for note-takers, interpreters or any other support services and did well in those courses.
After Gallaudet University, and George Washington University I attended a graduate school at University of Idaho and successfully got my masters degree in Geology. I did well in classes without the need for note-takers, interpreters or any other support services. I was successful in defending my thesis during an oral thesis defense that lasted almost 2 hours.
An oral/aural success? Certainly.
Throughout my life while attending regular school from elementary, middle and high school I had more friends than I could count on my fingers. I had hearing friends in my neighborhood that we skated together and did a bunch of fun stuff. These friends of mine weren't the "misfit" or "outcast" types. I still have them in my Facebook.
I was never really bullied though a few tried to do that to me but I pushed back and made myself clear. I wasn't worried about being shunned or quietly ignored by the “cool kids” because I learned quickly early on that such "coolness" was highly over-rated. I never had a mental breakdown because I've always spoken my mind. I was a good friend to many, and I considered them good friends to this day.
Am I an oral/aural success? Certainly.
But also, because of Gallaudet University, I am successful in sign language. I learned to sign while an undergrad at Gallaudet. I made many new deaf and hh friends. And also learned a great deal the insidious problem of identity politics. I was in the Honor Program. I worked as a math tutor. I spent time focusing on my education but had time to play with my friends, attended a few Rock Festival events, football games, and so on. I graduated from Gallaudet within 3 years. After that I attended graduate school at University of Idaho for 5 years with enough credits for two degrees but only got one degree in Geology and yet made some more hearing friends while there, too.
Now, I have many deaf, hh and hearing friends.
Today, my working environment involves working with mostly hearing people. I still use the phone to speak and listen with no assistance needed. I still use the field radio when I go out into the field alone in the woods. I still deal with wildfires. I strive to meet other employees who are deaf or hard of hearing. I strive to help educate hearing people and co-workers about people with hearing loss whether it's mild or profound hearing loss or those who communicate primarily with sign language. It's a win-win situation for me and others when people understand better on the issue of clear communication.
I have never dread sitting at a table surrounded by people who are hearing as long as I feel the acoustic environment is suitable, I'll join. I don't dread meeting different deaf people at bars during deaf nights, either, as we sign away through the night with my wife. I enjoy meeting different people whether deaf or hearing but I do enjoy my solitudes. At work I like calling the shots on when I need CART, a microphone or online captioning for those video conference calls that have a lot of people participating.
Am I an oral/aural success? Certainly.
Am I deaf? Sure.
Am I hard of hearing? Sure.
Am I hearing impaired? Sure. I won't let a little identity politics get in the way. That term doesn't bother me.
But that's not important.
What I like to see today is to help other deaf and hard of hearing people (signers and non-signers) achieve their own brand of success in life with the help of technology whether it's at school, work, play or at home. I serve as a source of inspiration to many deaf and hard of hearing people. Other deaf and hard of hearing people serve as an inspiration for me. I like seeing hard work rather than listen to people complain about how unfair life is. Or hear people make stupid excuses when they are really lazy or ignorant. I like seeing people take the imitative and be pro-active about something positive in their life. Grab the bull by the horns and get busy. Complaining about your past life won't do anything for you or get anywhere. Best you can do is to move forward and make the best of what you got. Me? I take the best of both worlds, hearing and deaf. And I'm making the best of it the best way I know how one day at a time.
I am me.
You are not me.
Don't try and be me but be yourself on the things that you do best at.
Focus on your own successes and what works for you. Success is relative. Success is subjective. I see myself as an oral/aural success. I have never regretted my life and the things that I have done. I continue to go down that path. If you complain about what I do and/or say in this blog then you need to stop focusing on the negative and do something constructive in your life for a change.