Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hearing Loss

My paternal grandmother was deaf. 

For as long as I knew her, she was profoundly deaf. I heard stories from my father that she had not always been that way, but that she lost her hearing perhaps from the dosages of quinine that her mother gave to her when she was a child. Dad also said that my grandmother could still play the piano even when she could no longer hear. And, of course, she could "read lips."

In my 37 years of teaching, I had the opportunity and pleasure of teaching one profoundly deaf student Ashley and one blind student Dallas. Both girls were (and still are) amazingly brilliant. 

Ashley was a bubbly and giggly 7th grader in my English class at the American School of the Hague. Her classmates and I loved her and marveled at her keen awareness and superior lip reading skill. My spelling tests every Friday were "sentence dictations," and Ashley always had a perfect score. Amazing! She was never afraid to ask questions or give oral recitations, and was the ideal student. We saw Ashley recently at the airport while making a flight back to The Netherlands. She has finished her university studies, has a steady boyfriend, and has a great life.

Dallas is a young country girl who is as "smart as a whip" and has a mind of her own. When Dallas was in 2nd grade, I served as her reading "tutor" each Wednesday for about 30 minutes. Dallas had already learned to read Braille by the age of 7! She told me that she could see some colors, and she demonstrated that to me. But basically we focused on reading. While some of her classmates were struggling with normal reading, she could zip right through a Braille story with no problems. I had been warned that Dallas had an attitude and was a bit of a behavior problem, but that was never the case for me. 

"Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content."

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