Friday, March 31, 2017

College Journey - Video


Here's a presentation I did last summer on the college process for Hands & Voices New Mexico.  The lighting is not ideal for signing or lip-reading, but I made sure the YouTube captioning works.

College Journey - Text

     This was the basis for the College Journey - Video.  It is not word for word, but it contains my journey to college advice for aspiring college students.

     Hello everybody,  Thank you all for coming here.
     My name is Chloe Keilers, and I’ll be your speaker today.  I’m going to share with you my journey to Stanford and the college application process for someone who is D/HH.  Let me start by saying that I feel somewhat under-qualified for this task.  I have only just barely survived my first year of college and some of the points I will make are more of a “do as I say and not as I do” - for example start on a research paper early and not the week before!

Audiogram
     A bit about me.  This is my credential.  You can see my hearing ranges from some normal hearing in low frequencies to profound deafness in the high frequencies.  This explains why my first word was “uh oh” and why I still struggle with the “s” sounds.
     I wear hearing aids and practically grew up here in Los Alamos.  I used to go to the high school that right across the canyon over there, and managed to fit in with my hearing peers somewhat well.  Academics were easy to accomplish with my FM microphone and classroom accommodations, but social challenges were not so easy to conquer.  More on that later.
     Now I am a Stanford student.  My major is undecided, but I believe it will be something in the science area, astrophysics or chemistry?  I also love Italian and Literature.  Maybe I’ll do a double major?  Triple?  Maybe I shouldn’t spread myself too thin.
     So, how did I get here?
     First, I am very determined and always worked hard at whatever I attempted.  Sometimes with success, sometimes not so much.  Soccer was not my gift.  Violin was challenging, particularly because I didn’t like to practice and my new hearing aids squealed with the violin so close to my ears.  I eventually found what worked for me, cross country running and the cello.
     Second, I had excellent support at school from my IEP accommodations and great teachers and speech therapists, whom I like to call “Team Chloe.”  I also use a microphone with all my classes and am considering using it in social events and groups going forward.  There were occasional glitches along the way, but I always had a teacher, my mom or dad, and even me, to advocate for myself.
     Third, I started my transition to the college process very early.  Some people think it’s all about college apps Senior Year.  Or testing during Junior Year.  I suggest starting to think about it much earlier, even in Middle School!

College Process
     Much of my college transition process was the same for me as for my hearing peers.
     Middle School is a great time to start exploring passions.  Passions may change over time - don’t commit yourself to something you don’t love, but explore various academic, athletic, musical, and community service pursuits to see what makes you happy.  Between seventh and eighth grade I transitioned from violin to viola to cello.  I also started cross country running, which I had never tried before.  And I discovered my love for science by participating in science fairs.
     Freshman Year — I started visiting some colleges while on vacation and by way of attending some academic camps.  For the college camps and visits, I found it helpful to email the schools ahead of time, to let them know about my deafness and that I need them to use my FM microphone in classes or on tours.  You could let them know that you need an interpreter.  These trips are also a good time to find out what kind of accommodations they provide.  Visit the school’s OAE (office of accessible education).  Any school with federal funding has to provide accommodations, but their definition of accommodations may vary widely from what you need.  A fellow deaf student told me she was accepted to another good school, but they were not going to give her any accommodations other than using the FM microphone.  A better question to ask is how many deaf or hard of hearing individuals the school has admitted.
     Sophomore Year — First year of taking the PSAT tests and I needed to make sure I received the same testing accommodations from my IEP on these national tests.  Interesting situation arose when the Princeton Testing (PSAT, SAT, AP) group provided extended time accommodations, but the ACT Test did not.  Their argument was that unless I tested “below average” due to my hearing loss, they would not provide anything other than written copies of the instructions.  Just because you can get by without accommodations, doesn’t mean you should accept that answer.  Just because someone tells you that you can survive without extended time, interpreters, microphones, preferential seating, etc. does not mean you should—does not mean it’s okay.  You need to reach your own potential.  This is when you should be assertive.  I actually took the PSAT without accommodations as a sophomore, then with accommodations as a junior.  This resulted in about a 15% increase in writing and overall scores.
     Junior Year — Started taking AP classes, one of which, AP Language Arts, had the best final ever.  Our teacher had us write the general Common App essay questions as the test.  Brilliant move, because it got all of us thinking about what to write about ourselves to help us stand out.  One of the questions involved “greatest challenge faced.”  Hmmm, what could I write about?  Oh yeah, being deaf in a hearing world!  Pretty much writes itself.  But the important thing is not to whine about it.  Maybe deafness isn’t your greatest challenge, pick something that matters, and share your story from the heart.
     Senior Year — Time to get really serious.  It was also the time to meet with Division of Vocational Rehabilitation or DVR.  This office can help with transition needs such as equipment and career or vocational counseling.  Then there were application deadlines on top of deadlines, and new terms to decipher.  Restricted Decision?  Early Action?  Regular Admission?  And then scholarship applications.  There are a myriad of scholarships out there, many select based on unique interests.  There is a list of scholarships available specifically for D/HH students on hvnm.org.  Then there is the waiting.  Waiting….  And then the news—I’m in!

College
     Stanford was my first choice college, and I was thrilled to be accepted.  You’d think with all the high school work done, I could now rest easy?  That was not the case by any stretch of the  imagination.  There was more work to be done!
     As always, there were classroom accommodations to consider.  Much of what I received at Stanford mirrored my high school needs.  I was excited to try CART, Communication Access Real Time Translation.  Like the close captioning that appears on TV, but sent to my iPad. Excited to try, but in the end, decided it wasn’t a good fit for my needs.
     The biggest transition challenge was living away from home for the first time.  In some ways, my parents often acted the role of interpreter for me.  Going to college and living on my own, meant I needed to pick up the slack and not rely on parents for communication help or that gentle nudge (a.k.a. “kick in the butt”) to try new things.  I met with the OAE, got the classroom accommodations I needed, but more importantly, dorm room accommodations.  Horns/strobe/vibrating bed were in order.  Not gonna sleep through that fire alarm!  Like all freshmen everywhere, I had to do my own laundry and manage my own time.

Final Advice
     What I know now that I wish I knew then…
     First piece of advice - be assertive.  This is a philosophy that goes far beyond college and should be practiced from the womb to college and beyond.  My mom would always tell me be like a New Yorker— a little bit loud, a lot assertive. 
     Second piece of advice - try new things.  College is a time of explorations - when you are away from home and not fully an adult.  So you can watch that superhero movie which your parents deemed too goofy in high school.  It is a time to test your limits and aptitudes.  There will be things you have never heard before- perhaps taiko drums or quidditch teams.  So go out, try things, let nothing hold you back.
     Third piece of advice - do not spread yourself too thin.  Most likely you will have four years to enjoy college and you should not burn yourself out in the first year or even first week.  Again do as I say not as I do - I nearly did burn myself out in the second quarter.
     Anticipate! - There is so much information about college courses, activities, and more, all available on websites and Facebook pages.  I encourage you to check all these resources out BEFORE you arrive on campus.  It will help you transition if you prepare in advance.
     Final piece of advice - Ask for help.  Life at college seemingly operates at 100 mph.  You need to rely on people.  You can be strong but do not be afraid to ask for help.  Roommates, dorm mates, RA’s, Tutors, Professors.  These people can all be part of your team.  Find your “Team Chloe.”  One of my more stressful moments was an impending research paper deadline, but I found great camaraderie in finishing up my paper with seven other dorm mates all feverishly typing away during breakfast for a 10 AM deadline.  Great bonding moment with lots of crying!  And sometimes you might be the person helping someone else.  You might be part of someone else’s team.

Thank you
     I hope this information has been helpful to you.  While I did face some communication challenges, particularly in dorm social settings, I learned a lot about myself my freshman year — I can do it!


Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Whole New World

     Freshman year a whole new world for me.  It was my first year living, studying, and simply being with other deaf and hard of hearing (D/HH) individuals.  Meeting anyone is exciting, unpredictable, scary, and fun.  At my college, there were people from all different backgrounds: cultural, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, academic interest, and more.  Sometimes when I met someone we would have a lot of things in common - sometimes meeting someone would be more like an intergalactic exchange!  And there’s a whole spectrum in between.  Always, I try to be respectful of other people and our differences and have found most will do the same for me.
     For the first time in my life, I was able to share my deaf experience learning in a mainstream environment with other people.  However, I soon learned that everyone’s deaf experience was different.  I was pleasantly surprised that I met some D/HH people even more enthused to network with other D/HH students, and I was unpleasantly surprised, disappointed, that I met people who shied away from me even though we both were D/HH.  I met and interacted with five people who were D/HH in one year.  
  • Two were like two ships passing in the night.
  • One became a very close friend who is actively involved in deaf advocacy groups.  It’s hard to keep up with him, but he is super awesome.  He is very open about his hearing loss and gives me tips on classes and professors - it helps that he is a year ahead and knows pretty much everything.
  • One was like me in nearly every way.  We both were mainstream, we both wore hearing aids, we both like learning.  She writes for the school newspaper and plays the ukulele.  I am very jealous of her uke skills, because I’m still learning!  But we are very good friends and might get together to do an uke jam.
  • The last was the disappointing one.  We spent a lot a time together in classes, shared equipment and swapped some stories about the D/HH life, but never got closer than that.  In fact, I might go so far to say as I felt the third avoided me.  Of course, there are tons of reasons why that might be, maybe we spent too much time in the same room, maybe we have repelling personality, maybe I’m paranoid, but I suspect part of the reason might have too do with our differing attitudes on hearing loss.  Although we were both mainstreamed, he wears a cochlear implant, which can vary the deaf experience a lot.  My impression was that he does not want to associate with a “deaf” label, whereas I do associate with a “deaf” label and am familiar with the Deaf world, at least the Deaf world in New Mexico.  I was probably one of the few D/HH people at this school to have any familiarity with the Deaf world.
     He’s not alone in trying to distance himself from being “deaf.”  Recently, I met another boy who also wore a cochlear implant, I was talking/signing to him and he immediately went into a defensive posture, “Oh no, I don’t know sign.”  I was confused, “That’s fine.  I’m mostly signing for me.”  He relaxed, but still seemed a little bit on edge around me.  Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to communicate with him after that, but I learned an important lesson.  
     Not everyone view deafness the same way (for many reasons, which I will not discuss right now).  Some people view it as an obstacle.  Some people view it as an integral part of them.  I view it as a part of me that makes me stronger.  It’s an important part of me, but it does not define who I am.  I am deaf.  I am also a future scientist, a baker, an Italian learner, avid reader, and procrastinator!  Who are you?


P.S. See you next year!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Wild Free Tune

     This blog started as an AP Literature assignment and evolved into an Optimist International Oration for the deaf and hard of hearing contest entry. This was based on sharing my deafness with my classmates, and one of the poets we were studying. I loved Langston Hughes's poems. One of his poems is "Beggar Boy," and it fit perfectly for the Optimist's prompt which asked how optimism helps me push forward:

Beggar Boy

     My optimism will help me press on to greater future achievements by helping me be persistent and explorative. Optimism has helped me get to where I am today, from my isolated early years in a quiet corner, to my next great achievements in life, where there are so many opportunities. Optimism will help me, even though pessimism is so much easier. I could very easily complain about my lot in life and ask for everyone’s sympathy, but I don’t.
     Many other people have become something beyond anything they could have previously imagined, despite many obstacles in their paths. They achieved their greatness through hard work and an optimistic attitude. Steven Hawking, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, and Langston Hughes are but a few. I aspire to be one of these people.
     I would like to share with you a poem named “Beggar Boy” by Langston Hughes. Hughes was a black poet, born in 1902 and died in 1967. He was one of the leading voices of the Harlem Renaissance, celebrating black culture through his poetry and writings. Both Hughes and I share a mutual feeling that the beggar boy in this poem could be something greater than a stereotypical beggar. The poem goes like this:
What is there within this beggar lad
That I can neither hear nor feel nor see,
That I can neither know nor understand,
And still it calls to me?

Is not he but a shadow in the sun
A bit of clay, brown, ugly, given life
And yet he plays upon his flute a wild free tune
As if Fate had not bled him with her knife.
     The beggar lad in this poem is by some unfortunate circumstances at the bottom of the social ladder. He wears raggedy clothes and sits in the sun. I could very easily be at the bottom of the social ladder, so easily that I liken myself to the beggar lad in the poem. My raggedy clothes would be the hearing aids that I wear everyday, and I would sit in a quiet corner of the world, afraid of exploring. But there is something in this beggar boy that “calls to me” – he does not just sit in the sun, he plays a “wild free tune” on his flute, just as I cannot just sit quietly in my little corner but need to engage the world with an active sense of curiosity.
     Both of us also have a sense of optimism that will move us forward in life. His is in his music; mine is in my curiosity. This is crucial for both the beggar lad and me, because the poem is not finished for us. Fate may have bled both of us, but wounds can heal. The cure for wounds of these kinds and magnitudes is optimism. His music will make him a renowned Broad-Way musician, because he practices with passion. My curiosity compels me to move from the corner, because I cannot achieve my full potential such as becoming an expert scientist, a brilliant inventor, an involved community member, if I sit in a quiet corner with a limited view. My optimism will help me press on to all these future achievements and more.
     Does optimism cure my hearing loss? No, it does not; but it does allow me to press on in mutual harmony with it, to accept my hearing loss as part of me and move forward without it hindering me. I am not at the bottom of the ladder because I am optimistic; I have moved away from the corner to present to you today; and I will continue to press on, to become whoever I want to be, because I have optimism at my side.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

No!

     One time I was eating dinner with a few people I had just met in the dorm.  Everything was going as well as it possibly could - the food was good, the hall was not too noisy, and the people were exciting.  The boy next to me introduced himself and ask where I was from.  Unfortunately, I had just taken a big bite of roasted eggplant and was thus occupied with chewing.  Not to be deterred, he started guessing where I was from by state while I chewed the aubergine.  I shook my head for each wrong answer while also signing "no."  Finally, I gulped down the remnants of the eggplant and said, "No, I am from New Mexico."
     “Oh, that’s nice.  Am I talking too much?”
     “No, why?”
     “You’re making that sign …” and he showed the yapping gesture that looks similar to ASL ‘no.

     He had mistaken my signed "no" with the "talking too much" gesture.  An easy mistake, my "no" had gotten a little bit sloppy, but I explained to him that while I cannot talk while eating, I can still sign!  I then showed him the sign for “no.”  He said “Cool!” - he happened to know the ASL alphabet and we continued the rest of dinner talking about sign language.
     An interesting start to a good friendship!

How to sign "no"
     http://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-signs/n/no.htm

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cleaning Mishap!

      When I was about two years old and wearing my old analog hearing aids, I thought my hearing aids were dirty.  I thought as logically as any two-year old can, "Hmm, how do people clean dirty things?  Why they soak them in water first!"  Luckily for my two-year old self, there was a glass of water nearby.  Perfect!  Off went the hearing aids and into the water they went!
     Toddler-me had no clue about the rocky relationship between electronics and water; she did not understand that hearing aids were electronics, or even what "electronics" meant.  Fortunately, Moms know everything - they know what "electronics" mean; they know about the rocky relationship between electronics and water; and they know that hearing aids should definitely not go into the glass of water!
     My mom rescued the hearing aids as soon as they fell into the water and dried them quickly.   Toddler Chloe was happy because the hearing aids were now clean, and Mom was happy because the hearing aids still squealed, a sign that they were still functioning properly.

P.S.  Since my mom is not only omniscient, but also somewhat of an anxious, over-protective helicopter, she did take the hearing aids to the audiologist to be sure all was well ... despite the audiologist telling her on the phone that the hearing aids were working as long as they were squealin'!

P.S.S.  Now I know how to properly clean my hearing aids.  Luckily! 

Two-year old me ready to clean some hearing aids!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Deaf or Hearing: It Doesn't Matter

      Ever have one of those days where you think, "If I was hearing, [insert dramatic situation here] wouldn't happen," or "If I was deaf, [insert different dramatic situation here] wouldn't be so problematic." I have thought, "If I was..." countless times, and each time, I tell myself to snap out of it. Immediately. It's not that these thoughts are bad or terrible, but they sometimes have the ability to make me feel depressed or disappointed in myself, all for something that I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER.
      Other people may wonder "If..." about me, like why am I not more hearing? Or more deaf? This is a pointless question. I could act like I hear, but there will always be some things that I miss. I could act like I am deaf, but I will not deny that I like to hear--especially music and my own voice. I was born in between two worlds, and I must make my in-between world habitable. I still do not know how to that yet...
      But the question, what if I was born differently, is absolutely absurd. Here's why--there is no possible way to know the answer. I cannot clone myself, restore or take away my clone's hearing, mimic exact identical environmental conditions, and accurately measure results. Even if that experiment could somehow happen, what would I do with the results? If both clones do 'worse' than me, than I should be happy where I am? Or if one or the other clone does 'better' than me, how do I use that result for my own benefit? I am not going to make multiple 'mini-mee's" just so that I can truly know whether I'll be better or worse off! It is however, entertaining to ponder this questions. So let's see what could happen if the above hypothetical scenario played out:
  • 100% hearing me: I would imagine her to be a fast-talking debater with a huge social outreach. She probably would be easily distracted in class, she can hear every word the teacher is saying wihtout using a microphone and she would be engaged in whispered side-conversations. She would excel in some classes, do so-so in other classes, and fail study hall (the reason is that she's too busy talking with friends). On the whole she would be a good student, a good conversationalist, but she has no connection to the Deaf world. She might never hear about the Deaf world, and think deafness is for aging people who just need powerful hearing aids to get by. As a result, she's not as empathetic with people. And she would not have a dog, no matter how many times she pleaded with her mom.
  • 100% Deaf me: Let's say that cochlear implants were not an option. Her parents start learning sign language, but also try to do some speech therapy. She is happier signing, so her parents sned her to a school for the Deaf. She has a huge support community and friends who also sign. Like hearing me, she can understand the teacher and engage in side conversations with friends, but with ASL. She is a good student, probably a math champion. Unfortunately, the deaf school is a boarding school. She still sees her parents on weekends and holidays, but she is gone for so long. She probably still would not have a dog, because she is away at school most of the time.
      Both "mini-me's" are good students with skills and strengths, but hearing me loses empathy, while Deaf me loses a tight-knit family, and both certainly do not have a dog (I think this last point especially is a deal-breaker for me). I have the best of both worlds--I am a good student; I am empathetic towards others; and I have a great family, which includes Oreo, the dog (Thanksgiving).
      My conclusion from my thought experiment: I like who I am!