My earliest memory of moving to the primary school with a hearing-impaired class in year 1, was walking through the door and seeing 2 girls sitting next to each other. Hearing impaired classes have students from k-2 or from year 3-6 in one class. There were other kids in the class but I was drawn to these 2 girls. They were probably a year older than me, but I remember feeling something when I saw these 2 hearing-impaired girls sitting together: they felt a sense of belonging and friendship.
I was the only hearing-impaired girl in my year group. There were 3 boys and myself, and we were nicknamed the “4 A” as our names were Adam, Alix, Abbas and Ayah. Even in high school I attended also has a hearing impaired unit and again I was the only hearing-impaired girl in my year group. There were other hearing-impaired / deaf girls but they were much older than me.
Anyway all us hearing impaired and deaf kids, we basically grew up together; from class to class. year to year . We were like a family. We were all united by something in common: our hearing loss.
In these schools I received a lot of support. I had specialized teachers and teacher aids who used sign language, FM systems and other methods to teach hearing impaired/ deaf students in a small class. In high school we even had sign language interpreters who would come with us to mainstream classes and interpret what the teacher was saying. During my HSC years, I asked my interpreters to write notes down for me rather than interpret the teacher.
It’s not that I didn’t like sign language. But growing up, apart from reading so many books, I learnt to communicate orally. Meaning, my family spoke to me and I spoke to them. In a way I’m grateful because people with my hearing loss can’t even speak. Further, I know sign language but there isn’t anyone around for me to sign with!
Anyways, I found note taking more beneficial for me. Even at university, I requested note taking and not sign language interpreter. I still sit at the front and hand the lecturers a microphone or FM system which connects to my hearing aids and makes the speakers voice louder and clearer.
Although sometimes I got embarrassed when my teachers would go a little overboard, like making sure the FM was passed around to the speaker, at the end they watched out for us and made sure we were included.
The point I’m trying to make here is that there is support and awareness. Alhumdillah I’m blessed to be living in a county like Australia where there is a range of different support available for hearing-impaired/ deaf people in their schooling and academic life.
There is a lot of stigma and concerns when it comes to “specialized” classes and schools, but I always say that if it was not for the support and assistance I received from my primary and high school hearing support unit, I would not be the person I am now.