Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The Original Hard of Hearing Advocate

In the early years, who did we have to advocate for us? To feed, clothe and make sure that we had access to all the necessities in life? In most cases this answer would be 'our parents'.

Today, I was thinking about a conversation that I had a few months ago with a former high school classmate. We reconnected over Facebook Instant Messaging where I asked her about another classmate. In that conversation, I learned about her journey as a parent, and how it's been a challenge for her as her child has a form of autism.

I thought of my mom immediately. Dealing with a child with a hearing loss definitely brought the tiger (and the lamb) in her. If you've ever seen my Big Fat Greek Wedding, where Toula's mother says: "the woman is like a lamb in the kitchen. But in the bedroom? Oooh no! She is a tiger!" The sentiment can be said the same for my mom. Let me paint a vivid picture for you:

Imagine being the only person in your classroom - no wait - school, with a hearing loss. In the early 1990s, when technology was still making headway in the public. There are no cell phones (only pay phones!), wifi does not exist, and the computer is just gaining traction in the classroom. I'll never forget the boys in my class who started off playing SimCity in Grade 3. My mom really didn't want me to miss out on having a normal childhood, even though it meant having an itinerant teacher visit me each week for an hour; wearing a big, bulky FM system; and setting up a Closed Captioning TV box on the portable TVs (back then captioning wasn't even programmable on TVs!). Most of all, she wanted my teachers to have a positive experience with me.

What does this mean anyway? 

For starters, she'd start off the year by getting all the teacher(s) together with my itinerant teacher to get them on the same page as us. That meant teaching them year after year what kind of hearing loss I had, what my needs were, and what strategies they could apply to accommodate me. Once school was underway, I recall her bringing Purdy's chocolates to all my classmates (that immediately made me the most liked student) - all 30 of them! Then, just before springtime hit, she would ask to spend one day in the classroom (to be honest I dreaded this each year...having your mom in class all day!) to observe how things were going so she could prepare for the next academic year. Lastly, when school was out (or just before report cards were due) she would invite my teachers over to our home for dinner to thank them for helping me through the year.

Talk about advocacy! She was sweet when she had to be, and fierce when situations called for it.

As a mom to a toddler and soon to be another little one, that sounds pretty exhausting. But my mom did it, with the support of my dad. Holy smokes. It is commendable, and I hope this acts as an inspiration for other parents who have children who are not able to advocate for themselves yet. (I started doing my own advocacy when I was in Grade 9...)
Memories with my parents in 2004!


  1. Thank you for this. We have come a long way and the schools are so much better set up to help Emma than they would have been with you - but I know that it's important I stay involved and advocate on her behalf where she cannot.

    1. Great to hear that this was helpful! As parents, it is sometimes easy to forget that our children still need help from us! :)

  2. A lovely tribute to your parents Monique! Through nature and nurture, you are who you are, and we're so grateful for you.

    1. Aw! Thank you very much - though I wish I could write more about them, probably best saved for a future book...