Quiz? AMEN! Are you Cued?

Chloe automatically retrieves a dropped grocery list in the store. I don't have to prompt her first.
Chloe automatically retrieves a dropped grocery list in the store. I don’t have to prompt her first.

This past Sunday, Chloe got up about 1/3 into the service and stood from a down/stay. My husband looked at me strange and raised an eyebrow. I mouthed and also signed, “Amen“. His expression changed immediately. He had forgotten that Chloe cues off of “Amen” and gets up and prepares to stand/brace for me to leave. I’ve never taught her “Amen” means LET’S GO. She figured this out on her own after being with me so long and because we DO go to church on Sunday.

I’ve discovered she doesn’t even need a lot of time to learn to cue on a new word.  I’m teaching a PSY-111 class this summer (Intro. to Psych.) and it is an accelerated class. We go 4 days a week for 2 hours and finish in 6 weeks. I’m trying hard to keep it interesting, fair, and encouraging. These students are really excelling. But… I am having to teach a little differently. Usually I mix it up and have small group activities, lecture, large group activities, special speakers, etc. In this summer school class I have to keep it moving. We do almost a chapter a day! Anyway, Chloe continued to pop up and come to stand by my knee at about the same time each class period. I was like, “Whaaa…?” (I have a way with words, yes?). So finally I said, “Listen y’all… what is she cueing off of? What am I sayin’ that is makin’ her get up?

So my students started watching and paying attention. It only took a day or two for them to figure it out. When I say “QUIZ“, Chloe gets up. Why she has equated that with my needing her, I haven’t figure out yet. But it is always when I say this word.

We Cue as Well

Do you know we tend to cue too? It is usually a defensive reaction. In psychology we call it “contextual cueing”. We do it automatically either from visual cues or audio cues.

I have a hearing loss. I miss things. If I’m tired, I miss things a LOT! Sometimes I cue off the context and “fill in” what I miss. This is implicit memory, for my subconscious is at work filling in what I have experienced hearing in the past. Something that people who are differently-abled or have chronic illness have to battle is jumping to conclusions. Especially if you’ve been hurt or wounded before!

Example: One of the most hurtful things you can say to someone with hearing loss is “never mind“. I’ve been told this enough that I cue off of hearing the words or hearing what I THINK were the words. Someone said this to me recently and I’ll be honest. I went OFF. They turned to me and listened to my entire rant (God bless them) and then calmly said, “Denise, I said I’M OUT OF MY MIND. I couldn’t find where I put that paper”.


In this case, I was standing to her side. I heard what I thought was “never mind”. My experience with these words has never been positive. I went off. Unjustly. Sometimes we jump to the wrong conclusion and like Chloe, get up to help even though we haven’t been asked to do so. Or go OFF.

Example: Not to long ago I mashed the button to call the elevator and waited for it to come to my floor. I watch Chloe’s ears to see when it arrives, because looking up to watch the lighted floor numbers makes me dizzy. Chloe’s ears perked up and I stepped out of the way so that people could exit the now opening elevator. After everyone filed out, I held the door with my body and loaded Chloe and my stuff. As I turned, a man moved as if he was going to get on the elevator, but then stopped, rolled his eyes, and stepped back.

Now I could tell you some stories about people seeing a service dog on an elevator that would make your hair curl. Well if your hair is already curled, it would make your hair straight. I digress…

I’ve NOT had great experiences with strangers on elevators. The man must have caught my look (which made me wonder what the heck my expression must have looked like… I’m guessing PEEVED) and shoved his hand into the closing door causing it to open back up. He said, “It’s not YOU. I forgot something and have to go back and get it. Pretty dog!“, and he stepped back while the elevator door closed on my astonished self and tail wagging dog.

I cued poorly.

It’s easy to do. We have experiences that shape how we interpret the world around us. We on purpose or inadvertently “cue”.

You May Not Like It, but You are an Advocate

You may not like it, but you are an advocate whether you want to be or not. You can be a good advocate. You can be a suck advocate (if so please keep your mouth shut – grin). You can be someone who tries really hard but have not learned to advocate in a positive way yet. You can learn…

My husband is my “wet index finger” held to the wind. Poor colloquial expression choice? Not really. You see he pays attention and warns me if I’m getting “testy”. He knows that my heart’s desire is to practice what I preach. I want to be a positive advocate. I believe it is the only way to influence real change. I may have a week where I’ve had some access issues with Chloe, several people have said, “Never mind”, or I’ve had trouble communicating again and AGAIN. I can get testy. I asked him to keep me apprised of any bad attitude that starts to LEAK OUT. If he starts to sense really negative vibes from me, he lets me know (from a distance… behind a pillow blockade). He pays attention to which direction the wind is blowing. Is she getting negative? Is she justifiably angry? Sometimes I cue by jumping to conclusions. I want to know before I reach that point. He has (*graciously*) agreed to help me with this. (Ain’t he SWEET?)

Have you been conditioned to a word or phrase, a “look”, or a body stance? Do you cue off it and jump to conclusions? Now some of you readers out there are thinking, “I am rarely wrong. When I cue it is a correct cue!” (Don’t look so innocent out there… you know who you are). What we forget is that improper cueing is the result of being convinced we are right. We need to work hard at giving people the benefit of the doubt. In the end, our advocacy becomes more positive, more believable, and most importantly – powerful enough to truly produce change.

Denise Portis

© 2014 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

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