Speech Therapy Regression

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As a child, I spent many years in speech therapy. Because of my hearing loss, I had a very hard time with consonants (C, CH, SH, T, TH, etc.). I also spoke very fast and very softly. Understanding me was very frustrating, but it was also frustrating for me because it was such a struggle to be understood. Other kids made fun of me. Adults yelled at me.

It took many years of therapy and hard work to stop getting “Why do you talk funny?” or for people to more or less stop asking me where my accent is from. I also stopped getting “What?” over and over in conversations. While most of it was due to the speech therapy, I think a lot of it had to do with hanging out with people who knew me well enough to know about my hearing loss and had gotten used to how I speak.

Recently, I moved back to my home state of Colorado and started making new friends at the church my fiance and I go to. These people are very nice, but they don’t know me very well, so they aren’t that familiar with how I talk. Over time, I started noticing that I’ve been getting “What?” in response to things I said, and it was happening at an annoying regularity.

My mom is also hard of hearing, but she has mentioned that she has a hard time hearing me. At one point, she suggested that maybe I was regressing back to my pre-speech therapy days. I shrugged it off at first, but the more people said “What?” and the more I had to repeat myself in conversations, the more I began to wonder if maybe my mom was right.

In a discussion about it last night, my mom told me that perhaps I have gotten lazy. Not on purpose, really. I just have gotten so used to no one saying anything to correct me, I guess I assumed I was doing just fine and stopped trying as hard to make sure I was speaking correctly. This laziness (for the lack of a better term) means that I forget everything I was taught when I speak too fast, so my speech becomes garbled and (as my mother put it) mushy.

I was trying to ask my mom about moving the dresser in the garage the other day, and she looked at me funny, having no idea what I was talking about. “What’s a resser?” I had to repeat myself several times before she realized I was talking about a “Dresser”. Though I was saying, “Dresser”, I wasn’t putting enough emphasis on the D, thus the D was nearly lost entirely.

The realization that I am regressing is depressing and frustrating. I hate being misunderstood or having to repeat myself to others all the time, especially when I worked so hard to be understood as a child.

I tried looking up information about speech therapy regression in adults, but I couldn’t find anything that didn’t reference autism or adults who become hard of hearing as adults, not as children. I tried a few different search terms, but came up with nothing.

I don’t want to have to go back to speech therapy and deal with the annoyance and embarrassment of it all. I’m hoping that reminding myself to slow down and focus on what I am saying will help.

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Having Children Who Aren’t “Normal”

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Our society is obsessed with being normal. Everywhere we look we see examples of how we are “supposed” to look, behave, dress, talk, eat, sleep, etc. etc.  We are bombarded by ideals and expectations for every part of our lives.

Though we may be relatively unaware of it, society also tells us what our children should be like, too.

A normal child can hear, see, speak well, walk, and be well . . .perfect.  When we start thinking about children, we dream about what they will be like, fantasizing that they will be a great football player or an engineer or a ballerina or a lawyer.  We imagine how they will look and act, never once considering that they won’t fit the image we created for them before they were born.

So, what happens when we have a child who isn’t normal? What do we do when the child is far from the perfect image we had in our heads? No one will want to admit it, but I’m sure most parents feel a moment of dread and fear. Something is wrong with their child! Their child isn’t normal! What does this mean? A million questions must go through their heads, and I’m sure almost all of them want to know why. Why did the child end up with (insert issue here)? The questions of why may eventually turn into self doubting and shame. Is this my fault? Did I do something do cause this problem in my child?

Eventually, parents may want to find a way to fix whatever it is that is wrong with their child, if it is even medically possible to fix.  If the issue isn’t completely fixable, there may be devices that can help (hearing aids, canes, medication, etc).  Whatever it may be, society offers a dizzying amount of devices, medications, etc. to make differences appear more normal. And what parent doesn’t want their child to be normal? Sure, they may never come out and say this directly, but I think every parent on some level wants a normal child. A child who won’t be teased and bullied at school.  Given our paternal, protective natures, this is a natural thing to want for our children. We want to protect them. We want the best for them. Yet . . .we assume that fitting into society’s definition of normal will protect them.

Unfortunately, being different is not just a physical thing.  Being different defines who we are as people. It changes us.  We can fix our physical appearances as much as we want with surgery and helpful devices, but we cannot change the internal effects of being different. We cannot erase the ways it impacts our lives, leaving permanent imprints on our hearts and minds.  We know we are different. We know we don’t fit the “norm”, and that knowledge never, ever goes away.

So, if you have children or are thinking of having children, please remember that being normal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Don’t have your heart set on having a “normal” child because no one is truly “normal”. We all have kinks and quirks that make us unique. Yes, there are some pretty heartbreaking diseases and ailments that can make raising a child extremely hard.  I understand that. Just . . .don’t ever, EVER let your kid think you are disappointed in them for being different. Don’t ever let them think you wish they were different.  If your child feels you are somehow mad at them for being different, for having an issue that they have no control over, it will be a major blow to their self-esteem, and the feeling of shame and disappointment in themselves will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

No matter what difference your child has, be it hearing impairment, blindness, MS, paralysis, muteness, Downs Syndrome, or whatever it may be, remember that your child is unique and beautiful just they way they are.  They love you, and they need you to show them that being different in a world obsessed with normality is not a bad thing.  They need to know that being loved doesn’t come with conditions.

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I Like Who I Am

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Campbell: If somebody could give you back your hearing, wouldn’t you do it?
Daphne: No. It’s part of who I am. Hearing people don’t understand it, but I like being deaf.
Campbell: Do you remember what it was like to hear?
Daphne: No.
-Switched a Birth Season 3: Episode 2

 

Switched at Birth is one of my favorite TV shows.  If you haven’t heard of the show, it is about two girls who were switched at birth, but didn’t discover this until they were sixteen.  One girl (Daphne) ended up with a working class mom while the other (Bay) ended up with a VERY rich family.  The girl who ended up with the working class mom is deaf.  When the two girls and families meet, it creates a snowball effect of life changes.  What I really love about the show is how well they show how challenging it can be to be deaf/hard of hearing.  They have several deaf deaf characters in the show, and they even had an episode that was done entirely in sign language with subtitles.

The quote above really struck me because it speaks to something that we hard of hearing/deaf people struggle to get hearing people to understand.  Having a disability in many cases is seen as having a sort of flaw.  Something is wrong with us, something not “normal”.  With all of the technological advances in medicine, doctors can do a lot to “fix” people’s bodies.  In many cases, this is a great thing.  I’m not saying it’s not.

But there are a great many of us, like Daphne, who don’t want to get our hearing back, even if we were given that chance to do so.  It may seem bizarre to hearing people, but being deaf/hard of hearing isn’t always a bad thing.  It allows us to be part of a unique community of similar people who understand what life is like being deaf/hard of hearing, which is something hearing of people will never truly understand. Not fully.  In addition, many deaf/hard of hearing people have either never been able to hear, or don’t remember what it was like to hear.  Thus, being deaf/hard of hearing is part of who they are as an individual.  Why would they ever want to change that?

Life is certainly challenging, and there are times I really wish I could fix my hearing, but I wonder what it would be like.  As I’ve mentioned before, the world is REALLY noisy.  I don’t think I would be able to handle the amount of noise without having the ability to turn it down.  I worry that having perfect hearing would cause sensory overload, and I would stress myself out trying to deal with it all.  I also worry that it would change me too much.  I have been hard of hearing for so long, I don’t know how else to be.  I wonder if people would still treat me the same as they always have, which they probably would since they have all known me as being hard of hearing.

It may be hard for hearing people to understand, but I don’t want to change part of who I am.

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Accommodations

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There are many things I can do as a hard of hearing person, such as drive a car, listen to a lecture, watch a movie, etc.  All things hearing people can do.  Despite all of that, the reality is that there are a lot of things I cannot hear, so sometimes I need a little help. When I was in school, this help came in the form of accommodations.  What I was entitled to by law was outlined in my IEP (Read more about IEPs here).

For me, accommodations included the following:

  1. Sitting in the front of the classroom.
  2. Extra time on tests (if needed).
  3. Note takers (if needed).
  4. Microphone to pick up a teacher’s voice across a classroom.
  5. Closed captions (if needed).
  6. Speech therapy (1st-6th grade)

In addition to those, I also had an adviser who made sure my teachers were aware of my disability and that I was keeping up with the rest of my classmates.  This adviser would sometimes help with school work and, later, college applications.  When I was younger, I also had speech therapists who would pull me out of class to help me with my speech development.  They would usually talk to me while playing some kind of game that involved cards or a board.  Once a year, even in high school, I would be given some kind of assessment. I never knew exactly what it was for, but the test involved the tester saying a word and me picking a picture that best illustrated the meaning of the word.  I’m pretty sure they were testing my vocabulary, but no one ever verified this for me.  Then again, I never asked.  I don’t even know who was interested in the results of this particular assessment.

As I got older, I found I didn’t need as many accommodations.  I gradually stopped doing speech therapy, and note taking was something I used in moderation, if at all. I used note takers once or twice in high school, but I found it too time consuming tracking down the note taker and getting notes from them.  That, and I always felt bad having someone else take my notes for me.  The extra time on tests was something my advisers felt I needed on big state tests like the ACT and CSAPs (Colorado Student Assessment Program).  I ultimately discovered I didn’t need extra time on tests, so that was dropped.  Closed captions were only used in middle school for a short time as they proved to be unreliable. As for the microphone, I used it my junior year and maybe part of my senior year (I can’t remember), and it was pretty cool because it made it seem like the teacher was right behind me.  However, it was provided by the school, and it was expensive, so I only got to use it for a short time.  My classes were pretty small in college (no larger than 35 students), so I didn’t use the microphone much in college.

Speaking of college, my accommodations changed a little at that point.  Part of it had to do with going to a new place with new advisers and new situations.  At first, the disability services office tried to dump a bunch of accommodations on me, which included a special attachment for my dorm phone (never used, so I gave it back.  This was in 2005 when cell phones hadn’t quite taken off as much as they have now).  It also included the microphone (which I also gave back when I saw how small my classes were) and letters to give my professors (which I stopped using my sophomore year because it was too much of a hassle and it was embarrassing).

My favorite accommodation was being allowed to pick my classes first before the rest of my class.  To some, this may be seen as unfair, especially if they didn’t get into a class they really wanted because they had to pick last.  Yet, for people like me, getting first pick allows us to get classes with good professors, and it allows us to have a chance to be on par with the rest of the students.

About half way through college, I was told that due to the fact that I wasn’t using any of the accommodations I was entitled to, I was no longer eligible for disability services.  I was told this after I had already been kicked out, which annoyed me greatly. I really wish they had discussed it with me before making such a huge decision.  While it would appear that I didn’t need accommodations anymore, getting rid of everything without informing me was unfair.  I didn’t want to get into it with them though, and frankly, it was nice to be able to be on the same level with my classmates without obvious gadgets and assistance.  The main downside, and the biggest frustration, was not being able to pick my classes early anymore.  This resulted in not getting one or two classes that I really needed and wanted to take.  Despite that, I got through college with a 3.9 overall GPA and honors.

Sometimes accommodations are wonderful and truly helpful, but sometimes I think the advisers and experts overcompensate for us and end up making us feel embarrassed, smothered, and babied.  Yes, there are things we clearly cannot do, but there is a lot more that we can do.  Disability does not mean inability.

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Unsettled

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I am 27, and I don’t feel settled.

Some of you are probably thinking that I am still young and have my whole life ahead of me, so why should I be so concerned about not being settled? It seems like a lot of people my age are settled. They have great jobs and a decent place to live.  They seem happy and stable.  Me? I live with my mom, more than half of my stuff (including almost all of my books) is packed away in storage, and I still work as a contractor.

Yes, I am getting married soon, which is amazing and wonderful.  Still, I can’t help looking around me and having an overwhelming sense of jealousy.  I want what I don’t have.  I want that sense of stability. I want to be SETTLED! I have wanted so long to be settled. To stop moving my stuff from place to place.  To feel like I am home, not just waiting for the next thing.

I seem to always be waiting. Waiting to be married. Waiting to get that amazing job. Waiting for the opportunity to do something amazing with my life.  I am never satisfied with the here and now. I am always looking forward and wandering what else is out there. Thinking, this can’t be it.  I am not satisfied. I want MORE!

It doesn’t help that my extremely academic family seems to think I should go to graduate school and get an advanced degree. They have mostly backed off of this topic, but I can feel it sometimes.  It’s like they are disappointed that I haven’t done something worthwhile and amazing like my brother did with AmeriCorps. I am not my brother, okay! I am me, and I am still trying to figure myself out.  I know God has plans for me, but I don’t know what they are yet.

I am not really the most patient person, so waiting for the next thing is really hard.  Being content with waiting drives me insane.  I want to be able to be happy with the here and now. I want to stop worrying so much about an uncertain future.  Once this wedding business is over, I am really hoping I can work on getting my life back in high gear. I feel like I have stalled.

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Inspiration for the Disabled

This woman is amazing! So inspiring and so honest.

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I am Not a Threat

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Being hard of hearing has always been a difficult thing for me.  We live in a world where differences are seen as weird and scary, where people point and stare and laugh because you wear glasses or wear your hair a certain way or limp when you walk or struggle with pronouncing words properly.  The world wants us all to fit into this strange, specific ideal of perfection.  Woe be to you if you fall short of that in some way.

Where did this ideal come from?  Why do we feel that everyone should look, speak, dress, walk, and talk like everyone else?  And more to the point, why are people afraid of differences?  How is my hearing loss somehow a threat to others?  I don’t understand it, and I probably never will.

As much as we try to deny it, I think we are all, on some level, intimidated or afraid of people who are different from us.  Perhaps we don’t know how to relate to them and we start second guessing ourselves in the way we approach them.  We are so afraid of offending them or embarrassing ourselves, that it becomes somehow easier to poke fun or stare than to seek to understand.  I can tell you that people like me prefer some kind of effort than none at all.  We are largely ignored or excluded enough as it is, so being included, even if in a slightly awkward way, makes us feel pretty amazing.

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