Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Letter From My Father - Part 2

Dad went on and talked about my early "school" years. . . my notes/comments are in red. . . just reading my father's letter brought back many memories for me.

(Dad's letter continues. . . )
At age 3, Laurie was enrolled in Pre-school for 3-5 days a week at our church, North Broadway Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio.

At age 5, she started kindergarten at a "special school" where she had a earphone headset with a specially trained teacher for 1/2 day in the morning. A taxi picked her up from our house and took her to the school and returned her home after 12:00 noon each day. (I remember the taxi picking me up every day and thought everyone went to school that way! There was a black boy named Donald who rode in the taxi with me. I thought he was black because he was burned in a fire. I found out later that he really was in a fire but that wasn't the reason he was black! And he was my friend, until he hit me on the head with his metal lunchbox!)

Laurie thrived in kindergarten (there were only nine in the class, all with hearing problems) with a wonderful teacher. (The name of the school was Kingswood. I don't know if it was an elementary school or special school. My teacher's name was Mrs. Card. I can remember sitting on her lap every day in front of a mirror with headphones, using my hands on her throat & lips to mimic the words and sounds she was teaching me. Kindergarten was a fun time for me and I still recall many details. I've tried to find Mrs. Card to thank her but don't even know where to start or if she is still around today. I'm guessing she would be in her 70's or 80's now. . .)

By January, her teacher told us that Laurie was ready for 1st grade and she was sure she could "mainstream" through elementary school. (I was reading at 3rd or 4th grade level by the time I entered first grade because I had to learn to read in order to learn to talk.)

Her prognosis was correct and Laurie became as "normal" as a 6, 7, 8, & 9 year old could be as she went through 4th grade and part of 5th grade at Oakland Park Elementary School in North Columbus, Ohio. (My 2nd & 3rd grade teacher's name was Mrs. Gump. I called her Mrs. Grump because she was so strict and firm with me. She even paddled me in 3rd grade in the hallway because I talked too much! No one walked home from school with me that day and that hurt worse than the paddling.)

We lived on a street with other young families with children and only 1/2 block from a city park. she and her friends played together all the time. The park had summer programs for crafts, games, and other activities for kids. (I loved going to the park. I loved playing on the playground, swimming in the pool, and learned to play softball. There was also a craft time and I tried everything. That is where I developed my love for knitting and needlework. One time I came home late after dark because I lost track of time. Mom turned me over her knee and spanked my bare bottom. I didn't do that again because I knew I disappointed her.)

In 1967, we moved to Dayton, Ohio in the middle of Laurie's 5th grade year. She attended an "open classroom" school environment for middle school. She did well in school wherever she went. After middle school she attended Centerville High School and graduated in 1975 near the top of her class with over 550 students. (I have mixed feelings about my high school years. . . there were over 2000 students in the high school and I felt "lost" because the school was so large. It was a "college-like" atmosphere where classes were held in four different buildings and we had to change rooms between each class. My high school years were difficult for me because I "didn't fit in" and never felt like I "belonged." I always sat in front of the class so that I wouldn't miss a thing. When I wasn't in school, I was either working or studying. I did have some very good friends and still keep in touch with them to this day. The same people who made fun of me and/or ignored me in high school "grew up" and later became my friends in college and adult life. To this day I still cringe when I hear the words "peer pressure" because it deeply affects many persons in negative ways.)

She worked as a babysitter, a coat-check girl at a restaurant and was able to do all the normal things a teenager could do. Some people wondered when she worked as a coat checker if she was from the "South" because her way of saying words wasn't as distinctive as most local Ohioans. (I got so tired of telling people that I was "hearing impaired" when they asked me where I was from when they heard my "accent." One time I decided to tell a customer that I was Spanish and was from Spain. He immediately started talking to me in Spanish and I couldn't understand a thing he said! I never did that again!)

The reason Laurie was so successful in school was due to her ability to "lip-read" people who would look directly at her and speak slowly so she could see the "word form." (To this day, I still like to lip read and prefer to look at people when they talk to me, even though I can hear and comprehend pretty good with with my cochlear implants. I think it is polite and courteous to look at someone when you are conversing with them.)

She got her Driver's permit at age 16 and learned to drive soon afterwards through Driver's Education training, etc. (Daddy was very nervous in the car while I was learning to drive! I think it was hard for him to teach me because I couldn't drive and look at him at the same time when he tried to tell me something. Mom just let me drive.)

The reason Laurie was able to do so well in getting along with people was due to her ability to observe her surroundings. When at age 2, she would point up into the sky at an airplane so high that neither my wife or I could hear or see. But, Laurie was highly observant, which helped her recognize if someone was nearby and were trying to get her attention. (This comment by my father was interesting because to this day I depend on my "eyes" to be my "ears" for me. I can "see" things before normal hearing people can hear them. But I didn't realize that was something I did when I was two years old.)

To be continued (and completed) in Part 3. . .


Anonymous said...

I love reading this! It's very interesting to read "dad's" notes and then your comments! I didn't lose my hearing until I was 25... so things were a lot different for me. I have a southern accent and haven't lost it even after our move up north! Hubby thinks it's because I hear differently (with a CI) and as a result, have not started talking "Yankee" like the rest of the family. I don't think he knows what he's talkin' about though, grin... cuz others tell me HE sounds southern.

Anonymous said...

Hey Laurie,

I just wanted to say I love reading about all of this. It truly was such a good idea to ask your Dad all these question. I love it! I am sure you have enjoyed it as well.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Hi Laurie,

Just found your blog. I have a HoH son, 9.5 years old. So much of what your Dad writes is like our story - your commments as well.

My son is VERY observant. Once he noticed a spider web as we were driving in the car!

My son is deaf in his left ear, and moderate-severely impaired in his right. He is successfully using a HA right now, but we may be in the zone for a CI in the future.

How did that differ for you, from the HA?


Anonymous said...

Laurie, I think it was a fabulous idea to have your dad write all this for you. Like you, I grew up with a hearing loss and don't know many of the details of my early years, when my hearing loss was first detected. You have inspired me and I may interview my mom to get more information.

I cracked up at the part where you told the customer you were from Spain and he started talking to you in Spanish--that is hilarious! :)

Very interesting -- thanks so much for sharing this with everyone.

~ Wendi

Laurie said...

Glad you all like my father's letter. . .I was glad I asked him and am glad to share it.

Julie, hearing with a CI gave me more frequencies that I didn't hear or get with the hearing aids. Also, with the hearing aids, I probably "heard" at a moderate hearing loss level, missing many sounds. I was pretty successful with my HA's and learned to compensate for what I didn't hear.

Going from a CI is probably like going from 8-track tapes to digital. Also, with both CI's, I have normal hearing in the 20db levels.

Your son certainly would qualify for a CI if he fails his hearing and word comprehension tests.

Nice to meet you all! Laurie

Abbie said...

I just loved reading this! I'm going on to part 3 now :)