My Graduation From Memphis Oral School For the Deaf!

Okay, I did not really graduate from the Memphis Oral School For the Deaf, but I feel like I did! Let me share with you why.

Recently I had the privilege of touring MOSD.

Going to MOSD and seeing all of the beautiful children, brought me back in time. It has made me pause and reflect on all of my life in which I was living with a genetic hearing loss that was undetected most of my life.

Me at birth

Many ask how it was possible that it was not caught when I was little.

There are a variety of reasons for that, and I will begin with newborn hearing screening.

Here is a brief history of newborn hearing screening when I was born.

Click on this photo for more history on NIH New Born Hearing Screening

So as you can see,  I was not alone in not being screened at birth for a hearing loss. In fact roughly 50% of us were missed at birth.

Two of my siblings, who are also deaf, in one ear, and I all got a pass likely because we were not high risk. (I won the lotto, and I have the same defect as my two siblings,  only in two ears instead of one!)

But that did not mean that there were not signs all of my life. And seeing the adorable little students at MOSD has me reflecting on those signs.

My life started out simple enough just like everyone else. I did not know anything different than what I heard my whole life. I was a baby. A cute and happy baby.

Toddler life!
After my dad died, many were concerned about the effects of his death on me because I was so young.

My uncle and me after my dad died. I was 2 1/2.
About the age that most hearing losses
were detected at that time. 
In time, as I learned to speak, I was instructed to "articulate, enunciate, stop mumbling."

Learning was very difficult for me.

So it made sense that this was true for me:

Most of my schooling I failed miserably, school was just so very hard.

When I look at this photo I see a little school girl who wanted so badly to learn just like all of her peers. I see a little girl who had hope that one day she would.

Grade School 
I see a little girl who practiced her speech in bed at night, after observing her siblings' and her mom's speech all day, just so that I could say words the way everyone wanted me to say them.

I vividly recall saying to that little girl, "Diane, hold your "t" longer like mom does, and you will not get in trouble."

Late at night, while I was in bed, I would practice, "Tttttt.... Ttttt.... Ttttt...."

In time everyone raved at how articulate I was.

I seldom heard any "coaching" from anyone, peers or otherwise, about how loud or soft I spoke or about my articulation anymore.

If anything, I heard how very articulate I was. Which baffled me, as all of my words sounded the same to me, before and after "becoming articulate".

To control my voice, loud or soft, I would put my hand on my throat.

If someone said I was too loud, I knew exactly what that felt like.

If I was told I was too soft, I adjusted the other way, all by feeling in my throat what was loud and what was soft.

I did this all the way through high school, and into my adult years.

I could not figure out why I just could not understand too loud or too soft. It just always sounded the same to me. And not once had anyone suggested that it was because I could not hear normally. So I went on through life, with my little system for adjusting accordingly through high school, college, and through all of my adult years.

High school graduation. 
That is, until the day my husband asked me if I thought I heard differently from the rest of the world.

He shared with me that the whole time he has known me I did not always catch everything he would say, and I did not always understand everything when people would talk to me.

This life long issue had been something I battled with, and worked very hard to overcome.

But all these years later, it was the one thing I could not overcome.

That one question changed my life.

My best friend brought me into a brand new world that I had never even in my wildest dreams would have believed I was missing out on.

Me with my best friend!
One year after I found out that I have a very significant hearing loss in both ears, I decided to visit the Memphis Oral School For the Deaf.

I guess I wanted to see what it could have looked like had my hearing loss not been labeled a learning issue, and had I been part of the deaf/HOH community from birth on.

I think I wanted to see what is happening today for children who are like me.

I know I wanted to find a way to support the mission, and be a part of making it better today than it was in the past.

What happened since my first visit has been a lot of going down memory lane, reflecting on the many things that happened in my life due to my hearing loss.

I have made new friendships since I visited with them, and I have gotten a chance to support them and watch them as they work to make the world a better place for those who are deaf/HOH from birth on.

And I can tell you this, I can completely relate to the 5 and 6 year olds who are graduating from MOSD this year! No doubt about it!

My two years of learning to hear all of the sounds that I have never heard for one day in my life has been a lot of work.

Learning to use my voice, this voice that is so pretty, (who knew? and not at all deep and gravely which I heard my whole life) has been hard work.

Feeling confident in my articulation ALL over again has been hard work. Only this time by hearing the sounds I am making with my voice, and not just learning how to form them with my mouth to make them, so that everyone would be happy with me. (I studied others mouths like most study something they love. I had learned the art of speech inside out. Now it was my turn to do it, correctly. And that was a lot of work.)

Going to MOSD has been a wonderful and an emotional journey. No doubt about it.

So yes, I feel like I have graduated from the intensive classes of learning to hear.

Now, like all of those 5 and 6 year olds who are graduating, I am learning fun things that I have never thought I would learn.

I am learning how to sing.

I am listening to music, and hearing it in ways I have never heard it before.

I am finally enjoying movies, which I had written off years ago!

Indeed, I am celebrating with this year's 5-6 year old graduating class!

I have decided to put my support behind their mission this year.

If you are interested in helping them with their mission there are many ways you can do this.

They love for the students to learn from the community. If you have a talent or a gift you think their students can learn from, contact them and let them know.

If you would like to support them financially they can use any and all support.

If you like to have fun while you support them, there is an event on April 7, at 6:30, their 7th annual Speak Easy Gala.

It is a night of celebration.

Celebrating how far we have all come in the history of the deaf community, and how far every child born today will go!

The deaf/Deaf/HOH community has come a long way in history, thanks to technology and the wonderful programs that are in place that help children who are born deaf/Deaf/HOH.

This is worth celebrating!

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