Very thankful for…

Making copies in the office
Making copies in the office

… copiers who “spit out” the copies high up instead of down low. See the look of disappointment on Chloe’s face? One of her favorite things to do is to “collect” the copies if they come out low.

School is starting! “Back to School Night” is tomorrow night and classes officially start 9/10! I only filled two classes this year so will only be teaching in the afternoon. As I’m in school myself, this will actually be a welcome break.

(pssst… hey Chloe? Ready to be my school bell again?)

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Little Boy’s Voice – LOST

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Chris Portis – 18 years old (Junior year for CCA yearbook)

This morning I emailed Chris’s yearbook picture to the mother who is in charge of the CCA yearbook.  I think it is due the 20th.  For ME, I’m cutting it kind of close being that I am normally the first one to submit things due to those in leadership for our homeschool co-op!

Perhaps I was just tired (it WAS early, and I had a lot to do today so didn’t sleep well for “worryin’ over it”), but I was a little tearful lookin’ at the “mug” of the baby of our family. I felt as though my little boy’s voice was LOST.

Chris had speech problems, and started school late as a 6-year-old.  This is ironic as his is the best voice I “hear” in my family now. He enunciates really well (at least for ME), and he has great volume and projects well. (Likely in part due to a couple of years of Debate)

I was emotional about it, for I don’t have a “little boy voice” memory of Chris. We have some videos of the kids when they were little. Now that I “hear again”, I can make out what Chris use to sound like.  But his voice is “lost” for me… I have no memory of it even after listening to tapes. Many times when I “hear” someone that I’ve known for a long time, I have a twinge in my memory. It’s like a growing pain – as my brain stretches and searches – to see if there is a memory of that person’s voice.  I don’t burn any calories hearing the voice of someone “new”.  I don’t have a memory of their voice.

When I was activated on May 13, 2005, it was the FIRST time I had ever heard Chris.  My husband and daughter chuckle at some of their memories of Chris’s voice changing. That adolescent “crack” of a maturing young man’s voice left no imprint on me – for I did not hear it.  I am unable to reminisce with them.

Adapting

I learned to really WATCH my kids when they were growing up. We’ve all been told that mom’s seems to have an extra pair of eyes in the back of their heads.  I made sure I made use of mine.  Desperate to understand and connect with my children, I made sure I WATCHED. I looked carefully at body language and facial expression.  I wanted to know how they were feeling, and wanted to understand what they were trying to convey.

I had to know that when both rushed inside talking at the same time, that I had to see AROUND the story of the squished worm. I had to see on Chris’s face how gleeful he was to have squished the worm, and how it felt.  I wanted to identify with his pleasure of this, and deciphered the look on his face to know he was eager for that “Mama high 5“!

My daughter, however, had tears in her eyes and her lip was all a-quiver.  She recited the same story.  Yet, her chest heaved with indignation, and her finger shook as she pointed it at the human I had just given a “high 5” too.  It seems the worm was squished all right, but done so on her arm!  So I had to smother a laugh, and commiserate with the little darling all the while wiping “squished worm” from her skinny little arm.

Still Adapting

I am truly blessed to be “hearing again”. However, hearing with a cochlear implant is not “perfect hearing”. I have learned to make some changes now that I am hearing through the miracle of a cochlear implant.

I hear voices great. Other sounds?  Not so great… I also don’t hear well in busy, noisy environments.  These are just two of the reasons I ended up training for a hearing assistance dog.

I have learned to watch Chloe. I pay attention to where her focus is, and try to always be aware of what she is hearing. She has these great “hound dog” ears that perk up, and her eyebrows are especially expressive as she concentrates, and alerts to the sounds around her.

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(See how tired she is after a shopping trip?)

I have changed the way I shop. Chloe does great if I run my errands in the morning, and she is more alert and “ready to work” when I remember to take care of things early in the day.  If I end up having to go do something later in the day, she still does her job… but there’s a bit of a “drag” to her step. No dog can look tired like a hound dog can! I realized it was more fair to her to do “work” early in the day. We still do things at night like movies, eating out… but she is normally able to curl up on her blanket until needed during those times.

hlaa-feb-034 Here Chloe is resting at a late morning meeting while I am giving a workshop on “HoH Valentines”.  She has learned to rest when she can, and work when it’s “time to do so”.

This morning she and I went grocery shopping. I never use to attempt going to the grocery store alone.  Talk about feeling housebound!

Today while shopping, I unsuccessfully pulled to the side to get out of the way of someone in a hurry. In order to keep Chloe from getting trampled on, I dropped my shopping list and 4 coupons.  Chloe does an “automatic retrieve” of things dropped. Within 45 seconds I had my shopping list back in hand with 4 slightly damp coupons. (Bending to the floor to pick up something flat, can cause me to GO FLAT due to Meniere’s)

We were almost finished shopping, and I noticed that Chloe’s ears were up and could even tell from watching her muzzle a low growl was erupting from her chest. I quickly shushed her but looked at where she was so intently staring. A man sat on the floor near the magazines – all sprawled out – and apparently making himself at home.  Chloe knew this was unusual, and wanted to make sure I knew he was there.  After we rounded the corner, I reached down to pat her head and said, “Good girl, Chloe”. She wagged her tail and knew I had acknowledged what she had seen and HEARD.

Adapting – My List

I believe every WISE person learns to adapt.  If you look back on your life and see some real growth, chances are you learned to adapt at some point.  Adapting is not “caving in” to other’s ideas, peer pressure, or external stimuli.  In actuality, for one to adapt one must consciously choose to make necessary changes in order to succeed.  We don’t ever adapt in order to “fail on purpose”.

I made a list of adaptations I have made in order to “succeed”. By no means an exhaustive list, this hopefully will help you come up with a list of your own.  It’s very helpful to “track changes” and record progress.

♥ Shop/run errands early so Chloe performs “best”

♥ Taught Chloe to walk in a modified heel… slightly forward as I have poor peripheral vision to the lower left

♥ Go to Costco on Monday or Tuesday mornings to avoid crowds

♥ Move my chair in church to allow Chloe room right in front of me so she doesn’t encroach on other folk’s space

♥ Follow-up with every face-to-face meeting with an email to make sure I understood

♥ Use Facebook to know how to better pray for others as I don’t talk to many people in person and NEVER by phone

♥ Watch the show “24” with enthusiasm as I’ll have to watch it anyway to be with my hubby on Monday night’s…

Give you any ideas?  Now go make your own list! (smile)

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Update on Deaf for a Day

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Things that make me go “hmmmm”? It’s curious as to why some years “Deaf for a Day” goes by without any ripple, with every goal I have for my students is met! Other years D4D seems to really flop! (grin)

I’ve not been able to pinpoint or “guess” how it will go, and so have not yet been able to accurately guess how my students may respond. This year I was contacted by a record number of teachers of sign (5 to be exact… usually it’s only 2-3 per year). It’s great to share ideas when teaching ASL to high school students, and “Deaf for a Day”, can be a very effective learning tool. One teacher that I have “met” online, actually has her students “Deaf for a week”! She teaches in a traditional school, however, so it’s easier to get updates from the students Monday through Friday.

I was in contact with a teacher from Texas this year who also teaches ASL to a large homeschool high school co-op like I do. He also teaches in another type of educational setting, and so sees “both sides” and can hypothesize about things that I cannot do. He believes that homeschool families are worse about “embracing” anything that will “mess with their schedule”, than others. I like to think that isn’t true.

This year was a “tough” year for me regarding my “Deaf for a Day” assignment. Again, I wish I knew what to look for ahead of time so that I can “brace myself” for the emotional negatives that come from students who “don’t get” the assignment. It was even suggested to me through a parent survey, that I give the students more time to prepare for the assignment. My personal opinion is that if a student has to much preparation, they aren’t really experiencing D4D. I’ve not ever met one person who planned when they’d go deaf. Not anyone who lost their hearing slowly, or overnight. So “preparing” themselves and their families is a little confusing to me. Families do not get to plan ahead for things that “hurt” when they are real.

I think that is why my daughter had such a strong reaction to what she was overhearing in the classroom. (Something I’m not able to do for obvious reasons). She was angry because some weren’t learning “anything… not even at the very beginning of the assignment”. ‘Course I also think it’s because my feelings were hurt so deeply, as well.

I believe I have more paperwork and written explanations, etc., about this assignment than most teachers of sign. And yet… it seems to be that this does not insure my students come away from D4D with new insights and having learned something valuable about their own hearing.

Certainly, the MAJORITY of my students do learn something, and the assignment is successful in giving them a glimpse of what it would be like should they become “late-deafened”… or adventitiously deaf. It allows their families to “realize” with a very sudden type of clarity, how they would react should their family member acquire a disability. The reality of the how successful this assignment may be, actually hinges on the hope that the students experience what to THEM is a NORMAL day… but doing so “deaf”. If you choose a day that is out of the ordinary, it’s not a day you can really experience D4D. I actually have had parents upset that their child wasn’t able to do anything all day long! Since when does being “deaf” keep you from school, your chores, your work, your church, your friends? Grin/grimace! The only thing I cannot do is HEAR. I worship, work, study, drive, “do chores”, love, laugh and learn. Sigh.

I currently teach 3 levels of ASL, and have taught students up to 5 levels. However, I offer the D4D assignment in ASL 1 class. I’ve always been very up front about what I teach… I do NOT only teach sign. It is important to me that my students realize that most people with hearing loss are not culturally Deaf. Deaf history, technology, advocacy and disability rights are also things we discuss and learn about in class. The D4D assignment seems to “naturally fit” into my ASL 1 class as I’m really trying to provide a good foundation about hearing loss. We don’t just learn a “few signs”. I am careful to explain my goals for the class in my “class description” and syllabus.

Each year I learn something new about D4D, and student reactions. Some years… I’m tempted to ditch the project. Some years… I yearn to change things to make it easier on the students to keep “some” (albeit a minority) from reacting so negatively.

However, each summer I come to the same realization. D4D does what it was designed to do! Not every individual who suddenly faces a disability or loss of a sense handles it well. Some react with shock, negative thinking, depression, etc. My students are people too… as are their families. I don’t have the statistics, but I imagine the percentage of those who handle it poorly, matches the percentage of folks who truly do handle real crisis poorly. It’s human nature.

Those who have negative reactions, often … eventually… recover. (The alternative is not good). Given more time… I’m sure even my students who handle the onset of “deafness” badly, will eventually turn it around. Maybe I should ask they be “Deaf for a Week”! (Naaaah! Just kidding!)

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary

Living Loud in a Quiet World

10-30-2002

Denise Portis
Homeschooling 5 years +
Taught ASL 3 years +
Bachelor of Science

Due to an accident at six-years-old, Denise has been hard-of-hearing most of her life. In recent years her hearing has worsened to the point of needing hearing aids, amplified phones, etc. In spite of this, her passion has become that of teaching ASL to homeschool students and adults in her area.

Living Loud in a Quiet World

Homeschooling grants certain privileges; one being that of accessibility to “elective” classes for our children. My own experience has shown that more and more homeschooled students are taking advantage of a “new” second language …that of American Sign Language. Many parents and students are not aware that ASL is the 4th most common language in the United States! Recent statistics show us that in the U.S. alone, 1 out of 10 are deaf and 1 out of 3 are hard-of-hearing! Although many hard-of-hearing individuals may only have a small percentage of loss, these people may have trouble hearing in certain situations.

I have always taught more than simply “sign”. I have seen that “deaf and hard-of-hearing etiquette”, leaves a far greater impact on a student than learning some simple yet “fun” signs. Don’t get me wrong! Obviously you MUST learn “sign” to learn ASL, but I have learned that learning about the deaf and their culture, greatly eliminates the “myth” that they are aloof and withdrawn. By learning some “do’s” and “don’ts” a student can learn how those without hearing may “perceive” certain situations. As ASL is comprised of facial expression and body language, HOW you say something is very important. There is no other culture so talented in expressing themselves.

Learning ASL can greatly benefit the “marketability” of your student’s resume. A very small percentage of hearing people know ASL, but more are learning each year as the language’s popularity grows. Employees who know ASL are needed in every area of our workforce. Those in retail, government, teaching, medical, etc., all can use ASL. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people are in the same need for services as the hearing. They need doctors, lawyers, counselors, teachers…friends – and that brings me to my biggest passion…

As we homeschool our children, we hope that they will be doing more than pouring over schoolbooks! I know that my husband and I want our children to work just as hard at developing relationships with people. Because I am hearing impaired myself, I ask my children to “Live LOUD”. I am teaching them to “speak” with their faces, their bodies and their hands. I read lips, and my children know ASL, but I “get” much more of a conversation when they “Live LOUD”. Isn’t that what every homeschool parent wants? It’s almost like saying, “actions speak louder than words”. Learning ASL is wonderful, but I challenge students to pray for and LOOK FOR an opportunity to develop a relationship with the deaf. We desperately yearn for our children to have more than “book knowledge”. We want them to “live”…and we want them to be role models, leaders. We want them to “Live LOUD”.

The only way the hearing can develop and nurture relationships with those who are hearing impaired is to learn their language! The deaf are bi-lingual themselves! In school the deaf learn to read and write, just as our own hearing children do. But they learn the English written language! If a person REALLY desires to form a relationship with someone who is deaf, shouldn’t they try to learn their language as well? I believe that friends can enrich our lives, and make us better people. Deaf people have a very unique perspective on life! What you SEE, is real. They “speak”, but in a different way than the hearing do. However, they have the same emotions that we do. They, too, need friends to enrich their life. The one thing I hope for ALL of my students is that they will develop a relationship with someone who is deaf. They will be “richer” for it. They will learn to “Live LOUD”. And learning to live this way, will only make them better friends, spouses, employees, etc. Look for ASL classes in your area! Learn to “Live LOUD”!

Denise Portis
©2006 Hearing Loss Diary