My husband and I were privileged to be in attendance when author Josh Swiller came and spoke to our parent class at John Tracy last Tuesday.
(taken from www.jtc.org) :
"When my parents found out I was deaf," author Josh Swiller told JTC parents at their Tuesday night class, "my mother said she knew it all along, even though the doctors said things like, 'He's just a little slow,' and 'He's at that age when he doesn't want to listen to you.' My father, on the other hand, felt like it was his fault and it took him a long time to get over it."
Josh, who visited JTC last fall on a whirlwind tour to promote his book, The Unheard, was invited back as guest speaker for parent class. The parents were riveted by his intensely personal and frequently hilarious account of growing up in both the deaf and hearing cultures.
"It's important to laugh about your situation sometimes," said Josh. "We're here to work with what we have. Deafness is going to create frustration, but it can also create wonderful things. In fact, it's a kind of blessing because it focuses your life and enables you to experience true silence, if you choose. And when it comes to college, it's a goldmine for scholarships."
Born to hearing parents, Josh had progressive deafness and was not diagnosed until he was four years old. He now wears a cochlear implant, which, he says, has greatly improved his speech. "I learned spoken language with my eyes," he recalled, "mostly through reading and regular speech therapy." He is also an expert lip reader and is fluent in American Sign Language.
Asked what further advice he had for the parents, he said: "Deaf children aren't made of glass, so don't tip toe around them, don't baby them. Having a house full of brothers, I didn't get treated like a poor little thing. They slugged me in the arm just like anyone else, harder in fact. I didn't get a pass on anything."
The Unheard is both the story of Josh's childhood and of his two, extraordinary years as the first deaf Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia.
What a wonderful example he is. I jotted down a few of my favorite things from that night, in the back of our copy of the book, for Logan to reflect on when he is older.
-Don't ever "fake it". You don't have to hide your deafness
-Humor makes your deafness less fearful
-It's OK to have struggles, it makes us strong
-Educate others about your deafness
-In school, the education part will not be the difficult part, it will be the social part.
Tips for parents:
-Be sure to "check-in" with your child often, don't let them pretend to be getting it all.
-Teaching them to be good readers is very important
-Educate others about your child's deafness, especially in the early ears
-Make sure your child feels open enough to feel comfortable to talk to you about his deafness
-Josh Filler said, "With hearing aids I would struggle to get all the sounds--with a CI I get all the sounds, I'm just trying to make sense of it all."