For a current update on my cochlear implant experience, go to: http://withinearshotbc.blogspot.com
After seven years of ongoing success at the oral school, the director decided I would be the guinea pig in an experiment. Mainstreaming the deaf into the hearing schools was a new idea. I would make the transition by spending mornings in Grade 3 with my best friend who was hearing and enrolled in a catholic school. As I do not come from a catholic background, I was amused at wearing the uniform. I often think of my third grade class being identical to the original story by Ludwig Bemelman: "Madeline." Sister Margaret, in her headdress, was the teacher, had a very firm presence while the students sat dressed identical in rows and rows (a big class, of 30 hearing students, compared to mere 5 deaf classmates at Tucker Maxon). I enjoyed the challenge because it liberated me as ‘normal’ if it wasn't for the obtrusive body aid! My mother would pick me up at lunchtime, and on the short drive back to Tucker Maxon, I changed into my regular dress. I ate lunch in the car for a year during this transition. Approaching Grade 4, the educators decided I was successful and able to go full time at the public neighborhood school, where my older siblings attended. There was a plan for a special needs teacher to assist me one-on-one weekly, but she proved unreliable. Besides, I despised being singled out and pulled out of class as I felt it was drawing attention to me. The issue was ditched. As I was athletic, I quickly gained confidence from my classmates when it came to gym and recess. This was good for my self esteem, as I did struggle with self acceptance, like any kid wanting to 'belong' in the system. I had some hard times with several girls who mocked my deafness until I invited them to my birthday party in the spring. We became friends the rest of the year.
For the rest of elementary school, I got through it like any regular kid. The bonus was that I was fitted with behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids that were powerful enough for me. I loved them, as they were hidden in my hair, giving me the appearance and confidence of appearing normal AND I could wear them 24/7. To hear sound constantly throughout the day was a delight for me. I discovered a passion for music, as my older siblings were teens and played songs on the radio. My sister took on a role, often sitting with me as the vinyl record player belted out the tune. She would guide me through the lyrics over and over, until I recognized the voice in the music. My brother, a natural dancer, taught me how to dance. I felt the expression of life and song emerging. I was hooked!
I developed strategies to help me get through a school day. I sat in the second row from the front near where the teacher would present her lesson. I sat next to classmates who were good note takers and were loyal to collaborate with me and make sure I got information I needed. I had found my rhythm and independence. I spent many memorable weekends snow skiing on local Mt. Hood with my family. Summers were spent happily playing with neighboring friends, visiting relatives in Canada with our ski boat and camping by the lake with a mutual family of friends who also had a son attending the same oral deaf school. (A note of interest: he has been implanted for eight years now, and is happy with it. He has been successful in his leadership role with Boeing. He and his wife have two sons,with hearing loss and are implanted as well. Emerging as teens, the sons enjoy music on their IPODS and can now talk on the cell phone!)