Thursday, January 10, 2008

Handicapped or Ability

This is from an imperfect memory, from a very imperfect daughter.

"I can raise you either handicap or with a disability using your ability!"

"Your not handicapped, you just can't hear well, if you want, you can do anything you want."

After I had surgery for bilateral Cochlear Implants, I asked mom questions.

*Why did you raise me oral deaf?

*Why didn't I learn ASL(American Sign Language)?

*Would you implant me if I qualified, when I was younger?

*Why were you so hard on me?

Mom's answer soon.

I am so blessed with a fantastic mother(dad did not forget you - you are great too!). My parents tried for 7 years to get hearing aids for me. The doctors and audiologist did not believe that I could benefit from them. In the 70's, technology was not where it is today. She raised me Oral Hard of Hearing. That was her choice for me. She would sit and teach me how to pronounce words. She found I learned it better by writing it down. So I wrote my spelling words 10 times each every night and in the morning before a spelling test. She told me, you do what you have to do to be successful. She would read with me. She well was just a mom, doing what a mom does - love and accept her child. Mom tried to find anyone who would at least try to fit me with hearing aids. Finally when I was in 4Th grade, I got my first Bel tones. That did not stop her!

With each event in my life, mom was there, pushing and pulling at me. With each success and failure, she pushed me harder. I remember the day I was found out I was graduating 5th in my high school class. I ran to the office by my English class to call. We both cried. I told her it was because she pushed me and would not allow me to be handicap. She would not allow me to use my hearing loss to get away with a lack of education.

As my hearing has decreased over the years to the point in which I am deaf and making a choice to get cochlear implants, I asked my mom what I should do. She said, Valerie, you do what makes you happy and what will allow you to live the life you want. She would accept me either decision, but not failure or giving up. That allowed me to reflect on why I want Cochlear Implants.

Now back to the questions:

*She raised me Oral Deaf because she felt she was making the best choice for me. Not the doctors, audiologist or teachers. She felt it was the best choice for the type of child I was.

*We lived in a small town, there were not the resources around. It was not as if she choose not to learn sign language, it was that it was not around. There were not classes in our town. If there were then we would have taken it if I wanted too. As I got older, I was too busy doing my high school stuff, and felt I did not need ASL. She wants me to learn ASL now, that way I have the resources I need.

*She said she would have implanted me earlier. She would have made the decision for cochlear implant, if I qualified for them. She sees the positive results and wished I had the chance earlier in life.

*Mom said she was hard on me because that is what parents do. She would not allow me to use my hearing as an excuse. She expected a lot from me. She saw my ability where others saw my inability.

So thanks mom (dad and family) from your imperfect daughter for giving me a life rich in love, education, family and of course sound.

I see evidence of different type of childhoods, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Each of us is a reflection of our own childhood and experiences. Sometimes they blind us from seeing that others are making different choices. Instead of accepting our differences, we try to make others understand and change their choices. I can see both sides, just the one thing I don't see is this - how can others judge families for cochlear implants? We don't need to be four separate communities - hearing, Deaf, Cochlear Implant, and Hard of hearing. We need to be one community that does not exclude anyone. We should provide love to all,understand and acceptable, education that does not discriminate, knowledge on all types of communications, and strengths to make a choice for your child or self without fear of being excluded.

I am proud to say I am part of a community that accepts me for who I am, a deaf individual who has bilateral cochlear implant, this community is one I surround myself with. They include all types of people - hearing, deaf, CIs, and hard of hearing.

That is my community - what is yours?


pdurr said...

thank u for sharing ur experience

i do think that ACCEPTANCE by family and self is KEY

i really love how u wrote " She wants me to hear ASL now, that way I have the resources I need."

HEAR ASL - it was a cool way to word it

It is wonderful that ur mom has that wish for u

thanks for reminding us that D/deaf folks come in all shapes and sizes

Gandhi said "No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive"


patti durr

Tales from the CI Gal said...

Pdurr - that was a spelling error should have been learned. I am still new at this blogging. Thank you for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Valerie, what an AWESOME post! I love how you write, straight from the heart and so understanding of why parents do what they do.

I'm also bilaterally implanted in recent years and grew up oral. We have much in common. :)

I agree that we all should be one community. The divisiveness of some is making it harder for people with all types of hearing loss and communication modes to achieve what is important. Imagine if we were all a collective group, lobbying efforts to increase access to technology and more would be that much more powerful.

Keep on blogging. I'm going to link you to the HearingExchange blog right now. Hope you'll like mine and do the same.

IamMine said...

Patti - I've been reading some of your comments and can I say I love you? ;)

Helllllllllllo there, new blogger!!!!

I grew up with diversity of d/Deaf people from different communication backgrounds and I loved all of them.

I still do... :)

You inspired me to do something... I'm going to ask my mom to write her own testimony of raising a deaf child as a birthday present for me!

We'll see if she'd go for that... :D

I'd love for you to write the differences of hearing with just one as opposed to two.

Here's a shocker for everyone - I'm working on getting a second CI.

Why? Because I want to hear surround sounds with music! I recall having two hearing aids as a young child (even though I benefited only little!) and it was better than just one.

But I am not going to post or announce on whether I'm getting a 2nd CI, the surgery itself and so forth... 'cause it's such an sensitive issue and I do not like to have my Deaf friends feeling oppressed or thinking I'm putting them down because it's not like that at all. I love them the way they are, too!

So I will just keep it to myself.

Anyway, welcome!! :)

Anonymous said...


I understand that you are getting a 2nd CI. A new gadget....better sounds!

I love you for who you are, Iammine is Iamminet. That is the matter!

I do not care what the people think of you....


White Ghost

Ness said...

Loved your post. As a hearing friend in your community, I am enjoying learning more and more about you, your family, your struggles and your accomplishments. Keep sharing and caring.
Love, Ness

Paotie said...


Your article demonstrates a major flaw in Deaf culture - the claim that MANY deaf people "reject" ASL/Deaf culture. Too many Deaf "experts" (people who brag endlessly about taking Deaf Studies classes, read 4 pages of "Deafhood," and make philosophical premises based on innuendo, i.e., "oralism is child abuse") proclaim to know everything there is about the world.

But - please be careful. There are many (Deaf Nazi's, Deaf KKK - you can search those terms) on Deafread who equate cochlear implants with Satanism, among other stupid things. (Conversely, the "editors" of Deafread promote Deaf-on-deaf attacks simply because they protect everyone else from such attacks, so you might find yourself the victim of witch-hunts, smear campaigns, and mostly, angry idiots frothing at the mouth.)

Anyway, thank you for a great article.



anna s said...

Hi there!

Thank you for sharing your story with us, strangers in a familiar land.

I forwarded your blog to my parents and some of my d/Deaf friends and said that you are an example of why I am giving my bilaterally implanted kid everything and I hope one day he will thank me for accepting him as a modern deaf child (I am a Deaf parent of old Deaf school, meaning that I come from a lineage of forefathers of Deaf residential schools). The point here is parents being totally acepting of you and giving you all the resources in order to be successful, comfortable, welcoming, accessible in a much less oppressive world.

Good luck on your journey on the magic ASL carpet. The Deafworld has a lot of jewels. Never too early, never too late to learn ASL or signed English in order to enjoy the signing Deaf community.
More friends from all walks of life is better. (:

Iammine, I have always admired you ever since you entered the blog.vlog world. I can sense why you are not swimming in deeper waters but just wading in the last few months. I don't blame you.

But HEY Ive noticed more and more parents of CI kids, CI adults, and oral deaf joining DeafRead adding the balance to the readership. We the Deaf need to hear your stories and to dispel some myths that has been circulating in our Deaf world for so long. Of course I am not ignoring the deaf children who struggled without access to a vosual language. No one deaf child is alike.

Again, welcome YOU!!!Look forward to hearing more about your experience. Youy are one brave soul. I am not brave yet. (;

I better shut up or else I'll cause my kids to be late for school.

anna s

pdurr said...

ci gal

re: ur spelling error - for me it was a nice mistake because when i see REALLY REALLY clear ASL - it is like "hearing"

it is equal to how hearing folks get info via auditory

sadly due to Tower of Babel and all the different communication methods unleashed on the Deaf community, i dont have enough good ASL models for me to feel like the input is coming in "loud and clear" via visual signal

vlogs r certainly helping me get more ASL examples to learn from

iammine - smile. back at ya
best wishes with all u pursue



Karen said...

Looking forward to reading more! I love listening to parents and how the journey of raising deaf and hard of hearing kids unfolded for them.

kw said...

Hi Val! I loved reading how your mother encouraged you. Though she had high expectations, it seems like she was positive and loving with her support the way she focused on your abilities. I believe that made all the difference in your relationship with your mother and how you feel about oralism. :-)

Tales from the CI Gal said...

First, I have enjoyed each comment. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my posting.

Pdurr - I agree ASL is beautiful to watch.

iammine - Yes a new blogger and loving it. I will write about being bilateral. It is awesome. The sound is so different.

Ness - thank you

Paotie - There are evil people everywhere.

Karen and Kw - I enjoy your blogs so much.

Hearing Exchange - I love the information you have on your site and honored to be a part of it. thank you

The one comment I am waiting for is mom to read this. I wonder what she will say? Knowing mom, it will make me cry.

Abbie said...

Val, I love this post! The idea of banding as a community is important for those of us are teeter totter between the two.

Keep writing because I can tell its right from the heart :)