The further I research my dissertation paper “Impact of Hearing Loss in Higher Education,” the more I’m reminded about my hearing loss struggles in education. Currently, I’m reading an article about children receiving speech therapy at an early age when they’re diagnosed with hearing loss. Children receiving speech therapy are more likely to improve their communication and speak normal in their everyday lives. That’s not how it went for me.
I was enrolled at a public elementary school system, diagnosed with hearing loss at age 8, and wore hearing devices since age 9. I received speech treatment once or twice for less than 5 minutes. The rest, I was on my own. No mentor and no tutor. I re-read the textbooks more than twice. I memorized each word and each letter to make sure my spelling was correct.
Yes, I failed all my homework assignments earning Fs in my elementary school years. I visualized earning a perfect score. I never got the perfect score I always wanted. I copied the words and pronunciation people spoke in their everyday lives. Many adults judged me for mispronouncing words.
At middle school, I was enrolled at a private catholic school. My hearing loss was reported, but no offered help with my pronunciation. A few good friends of mine taught me how to improve my reading comprehension skills. Their help improved my grades.
In my public high school years, I decided to not report my hearing loss diagnosis. After so many years of bully, embarrassment, and judgement; I did my best to blend in. I was rarely bullied.
By the time I started college in my undergraduate years, the harassment stopped, or I believed it stopped. There was a guy and and his girlfriend who enjoyed making fun of every word I spoke. I ignored them whenever I saw them.
One day, while I lived in a co-ed dorm, I asked Edward, a friend, to let me borrow his calculator. He was quiet when I asked but everyone who lived in the same hall heard my pronunciation and laughed because I mispronounced “calculator.” They laughed so loud that I was about to cry. Unfortunately, the way I was pronouncing calculator was “cok-u-later.” Edward, knowing that I was crushed and embarrassed, corrected my pronunciation. He asked if I mispronounced calculator during my elementary, middle, and high school years. I said “yes.” He felt sad and anger that no one helped to correct my pronunciation. Edward is the first friend to help me improve my pronunciation without calling me “an idiot.”
My college roommate of four years, Sarah, offered speech therapy sessions everyday. I am forever indebted to her for always being there and helping me improve my pronunciation. If it weren’t for her, I would probably continue to struggle communicating and interacting with others. She used to joke that I should pay her for four years of private speech sessions.
I’m sure there are many people out there who have never received speech therapy and are afraid to ask for help. If you know you’re having difficulty pronouncing words, please come forward and ask a person to provide you speech lessons. As a friend, family, and strangers. No matter how many times you’ve been bullied, harassed, and shunned; wonderful people exist and they will help you if you come forward. It’s time for you to be bold and brave.