Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dive in!!!

     The phrase "dive in" applies to everybody.  I do not mean dive into the pool (although you can do that; if you do, I dare you to try the high dive); what I do mean is to try new things.  Trying new things is perfect for summer or at the beginning of a new school year.
     However, if you are hard-of-hearing, like me, you might be a little more afraid than most people are about trying new things.  The best advice I can give to someone who is afraid to dive in is to just do it and try to anticipate problems ahead of time.
     The first thing to do when you are diving is to figure out where to dive!  I am not going to tell you where to dive in though, just give you some ideas: camps, summer programs, clubs, church groups, sports, etc.  You can pick any one of those categories and find something you like or you can go off on your own tangent.  It is completely up to you, although your parents might have some say in it.  Once you have found what you would like to dive into, it is time to anticipate problems.
     What do I mean by problems?  Problems might be situations such as the instructor not knowing how to use the microphone, people not knowing to face you, or the possibility of your hearing aids getting wet.  In order to find potential problems with hearing aids, you need to ask yourself questions: Is there going to be water involve?  Is this a camp where the counselors are trained with hearing aids or deaf students?  Is it a deaf and hard-of-hearing camp or not?  Is it a camp with lots of activities or a one-hour session per day?  There are lots of question to ask yourself, and lots of problems to consider. Now comes the fun part: solutions!
     For every problem, there is usually a solution.  Here is a step-by-step guide of how I solve the majority of problems that I run into.  First, I collect the following information into a file:
  • A one-page summary, "Instructional Accommodations or Modifications," from my IEP (no one is going to read a twenty page IEP or 504 plan),
  • A speech bananagram with the limits of my hearing, both with and without your hearing aids, on it (I call it a bananagram for short, the full name is "speech banana audiogram").  When I'm meeting with someone, I EMPHASIZE that the chart is based on the results in a sound booth with no sounds or distractions which is usually the complete opposite of a classroom or a camp,
  • A short paragraph interpreting the bananagram, as some people cannot think in terms of decibels and frequencies,
  • A list of suggestions to accommodate me for activities such as "don't get the hearing aids wet," "rephrase instructions," and "face the individual with hearing aids."  My audiologist gave me advice on this list.

     Second, I send an e-mail to my instructor or counselor, with everything above attached, explaining that I need help to accommodate me with my hearing loss.  Third, I meet with my instructor, counselor, and/or nurse and talk with them.  At this meeting, I show them how to use my equipment, answer any questions they might have after looking over the e-mailed files, and bond!  Lastly, but not least, have fun when you get there.
     Yes, you're still going to run into problems, hopefully nothing more serious than a paper-cut from all these documents, but anticipating problems, and solving some of them ahead of time, will make communication easier for everybody.  My parting words are...

     Have fun!  Summer's going by fast!!!  Try something new!  Dive in!!!