Before you read on, I want you to go and take a look at Stephen Hopson’s blog post over at Adversity University:
From his blog:
Around 11:30 am, the first batch of kids began to arrive. My heart picked up a beat. While my signing skills had improved over the years, I was a late bloomer in that department (among other things) because I wasn’t exposed to it until I was well into my third year of college. Over the years though, I slowly but steadily improved to the point where I was easily able to converse with just about anyone who used sign language as a primary means of communication. It made me feel bilingual.
I also had a flashback to when I was a young boy. While growing up, I never had deaf role models to look up to because there weren’t any. So casting myself in that role was going to be one very interesting experience.
Little did I know a pint-sized of a kid was going to make a huge impact on my life a few hours later.
There’s an important message in there: Stephen didn’t have any role models while growing up deaf.
Neither did I.
I like to think that deaf and hard of hearing kids today are exposed to many more deaf and hard of hearing role models today than in the past, thanks to the access to many inspirational articles found on the internet and so many deaf and hard of hearing individuals in all kinds of jobs.
Programs like the Chicago Hearing Society’s Adult Role Model Program are valuable in connecting kids with deaf and hard of hearing adults. The Chicago area kids have met chefs, vets, doctors and more. You can read more about June Prusak, the Youth Manager behind the program here: June Prusak, Youth Manager.
While there have always been deaf and hard of hearing adults who have succeeded in areas where no one has gone before, I find that they have often had someone behind them–whether parents and/or teachers–someone– and the attitude of “I can do it!” and “I will do it!”
That’s why it’s so important for deaf and hard of hearing adults to become role models for today’s deaf and hard of hearing youth. Whenever a kid wonders, “Can I do that, even though I’m deaf/hard of hearing?” having a role model to look up to or be mentored by can make the path so much easier for that kid. Even when a deaf/hard of hearing child is blazing a new path, the support of deaf and hard of hearing role models encouraging them along and saying “Go for it!” can make the difference in the life of a child.
So parents, if you’re reading this and realizing that your child hasn’t had much exposure to deaf and hard of hearing adults, take a moment to show your deaf/hard of hearing child that the world is indeed, wide open for them and find them a role model today.