Sunday, January 24, 2016

El Deafo

I mentioned to one of my friends and coworkers how long it had been since I had the time to sit down and dive into a great book.  In response, she gave me the gift of El Deafo, by CeCe Bell.  Since there was a blizzard this weekend, in between shoveling I sat down thinking I would knock off a few chapters.  I ended up reading the entire book.  Granted, the story is written in a style similar to a comic book...

but even if it wasn't, it was such a well-written book that I think I would have flown through it regardless.  The book is based on the real-life of CeCe Bell, who lost her hearing as a result of meningitis at the age of four.  The story follows her through pre-school up until elementary school.  She discusses how she went to a school for the deaf for just one year, before her family moved and she was then mainstreamed.  She did not learn sign language, and instead depended on lip-reading as well as the use of her hearing aids.  She discusses the implications of being the only child with a hearing loss in her class, the reactions of classmates, the emotional conflict of wanting to have friends while also not wanting others to know that she was deaf, while hiding a large and heavy body-worn hearing aid under her shirt each day.  Eventually CeCe did make true and life-long friends, but it was a journey to get to that point as well as to learn to self-advocate for herself. 
Although it is such a small portion of the book, being a Speech-Language Pathologist at a school for the Deaf, the pages of her story depicting her time at a school for the deaf was the most impactful for me. She felt included. She felt understood. She felt like she belonged. She appreciated her teacher who treated her so kindly.  When CeCe was first mainstreamed, she describes how she imagines herself along with her newly dispersed friends who have hearing loss, who were all sent to different schools.  She says:

"Most of the time we are lost, drifting along on our own planets. But we are together in the same universe, at least. "

These lines stand out to me.  At my school, the children bond with other children who also have hearing loss. We hope that these bonds are life lasting, even when some of the students do go off and are mainstreamed into their local schools. For students who stay at our school, who use sign language, they also feel included here. They look forward to coming to school where everyone speaks their language and they are not so different from other children.

Realizing that our students with hearing loss want to feel understood and not different, it is important that SLPs are familiar with basic types of hearing amplification and trouble-shooting.  It is comforting for a child to walk into a room where the adult is already familiar with their equipment.  Many SLPs may go years in between working with a student who is deaf.  For any of you who need a quick refresher or introduction, please take a look at my:

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