A Little Voice
March 8, 2016
by Kate Morell
Once upon a time there was a young girl, who had words with her parents.
It was a passionate exchange. Words spoken that she would never forget, and them, well her parents claim those words were never spoken.
Between you and me, this is a classic case of selective memory.
“No, Your Honor, I have no recollection wh-whatsoever of ever saying those w-words.” Stammers the elderly couple, standing on the witness stand, hands fidgeting, avoiding all eye contact.
“Your Honor,” I could counterclaim, shouting. “I HAVE A WITNESS!“
At the school water bubblers, the very next day, I repeated those words to my best friend.
“Why?!” she exclaimed.
I remember those words so clearly, for they were to be impressed upon my memory forever. Those words said by my sixteen year old self, were to be the most passionately spoken words in my life.
Dare I add, life changing.
What if, I think.
What if I had not been able to stand up for myself, to raise my little voice.
What if I had not been able to prove myself.
That time. And the time after that, and time after time again.
It is tiring having to stand up for myself, to prove myself, all the time.
“No. I can do it. No. Really, I can. Please, just let me do it.”
Now I must confess, I have never met another person with Usher syndrome. Online, yes, but in real life? None.
I wonder if it is a common character trait of those with Usher syndrome?
To be fiercely independent. Determined. Persevering. Tenacious.
Dare I add, stubborn?
I laugh. I was all those not so long ago. I was somewhere, doing something which was said would be too hard. For me.
You know. With my eyes and all.
Tell me something is too hard because of my eyes or my ears, and you can be sure, through blood, sweat and tears if need be, I will prove you wrong.
“No. I can do it. No. Really. I can. Just let me do it.”
Stubbornly, I refuse an outstretched hand offering help.
“You are so stubborn!”
“I know!” I smile to myself, proudly. “I can do it. I know I can.”
And I did it.
I admit, I don’t know how it must feel, but imagine it is incredibly difficult for the parents of a child with Usher syndrome. All they want is the best for their child.
The experts say this is best, the researchers say that is best. The doctors this, the teachers that. Don’t forget the audiologists, and the ophthalmologists too.
But sometimes, the one who really knows what is best, is never heard. The one with the little voice.
What if I had not been able to stand up for myself?
Once, my mother tells the story, when a little girl, I tried to tell an audiologist my hearing aid setting was not right. They assured my mother that I was wrong, that I didn’t know what I was talking about, I mean, look, I was just a little girl. We were sent on our way.
Little girl or not, I knew my hearing aid setting was not right, and eventually, I was heard. My mother returned me to the audiologist, and, “why, I do apologise,” they said, “the setting is wrong!”
That little girl had been right.
Thank goodness I had been able to stand up for myself.
I had only won the battle not the war, though. Over and over it would continue, many voices heard, but never my own.
Later, my mother tells another story, when a little older, hearing aides had improved so much that it was thought, you know, by the experts, that children lost their lip-reading skills. Tests were conducted by audiologists to support their belief. The results were in, and importantly, the findings supported their claim. They were right, so far. Most children had lost some lip-reading skill and others, quite a lot.
It was my turn. The last to sit the test. The audiologists were rather annoyed with me. I did my best, and blew their whole theory by achieving a 98% success rate in lip-reading.
And my mother proudly tells that story to this day. So proudly as, you see, a little background information, she has had a grudge against my first audiologist since I was two. They had simply dismissed me as a child who was deaf, and would never amount to anything. “Don’t expect her to ever talk properly, or finish school …” she had said, and sent my mother on her way.
Well, I could speak, but still, my voice could never compete with those of experts, researchers, doctors, teachers, audiologists, and ophthalmologists. Not my little voice.
“No,” I would say. “I don’t need this. No, I don’t want that.”
But my word was never enough. This and that I had to use, trial, endure, to prove my point, to prove them wrong.
And in every case, I did.
And that is the story of a young girl, who had words with her parents.
Oh, sorry. What were the said words that my parents have since denied ever uttering?
Well. A little more background information first.
For my first three years, I went to a mainstream Government school as there would be more assistance available to me, while my siblings went to a Catholic school. From grade three though, I joined them at their school and continued through to grade ten with no additional assistance. I had no problems at all.
When I was sixteen, I was blindsided as it was suggested to me by my parents, because, well you know, experts, that I should finish my last two years of school back at a Government school, where I could attend special classes, with special teachers and special students, and get special help.
It shattered me that proving myself time and time again had obviously not achieved anything at all, because, experts.
I passionately pleaded my case.
There was no way in hell I was going to leave my normal school, my normal classes, and to go to a special school, to sit in a special class, with a special teacher, to have special help, and only have special friends as I would now be known as a special student.
No way in hell.
I pleaded my case. And got myself a reprieve.
So, there at the water bubblers the next day, I repeated those words to my best friend. My witness, if need be.
“If I am not doing well at school next year, I have to go to the special school where I can get special help.”
“Wh-what?! … Why?!”
(For dramatic effect, I’ll just say water sprayed from her mouth like a fountain as she failed to swallow it because of the shock of hearing those words spoken. That didn’t happen, but let’s just say.)
I nodded in agreement. Yes indeed. Why.
I have had to constantly prove myself. My whole life. I am forty-four now. But as I said, through blood, sweat and tears if need be, I will prove myself.
I finished my final two years at the same school.
(Yes, to the audiologist with whom my mother has held a lifelong grudge. I, the little deaf girl, finished school.)
I had won my reprieve, fair and square.
A couple of months after that passionate exchange, I sidled up to my mother, slipping my English examination results in front of her.
No way in hell.
I came first.
Performed better than over one hundred non-hearing impaired, non-vision impaired students.
Not bad for a little voice longing to be heard.
I am not for a moment dismissing the words of experts, researchers, doctors, teachers, audiologists, and ophthalmologists. Parents too. Every word counts.
I am just saying, listen out for the little voice longing to be heard. It may be quiet and unassuming but it just may be the one voice that matters the most.