As a Speech-Language Pathology major, I am constantly exposed to the science behind everything related to speech and hearing. We are taught what researchers and other professionals in our field think and feel about anything and everything related to speech, language, and hearing in all populations. When I signed up to take a class on language development in children who are deaf and hard of hearing, I thought I was feeding a budding interest in studying how language develops. Instead, it led me to a three-semester independent study on outcomes in deaf education and a soon to be published article on the same topic.
Getting involved in the Deaf Education program at TU changed my life. That may sound cliché, but it’s the truth. My freshman year, I met a Deaf Education major who constantly told me that the Speech-Language Pathology majors in her class did not truly understand how to respect Deaf Education as a field. She kept telling me that they took the scientific side of any and every debate in class and how much that frustrated her. At the time, I did not understand what she meant. After joining what she clearly saw as the dark side, I, too, became that stereotype. I took ASL and had the nerve to give a speech advocating for cochlear implants to a professor who had been Deaf since birth. When she was angry instead of impressed, I was confused. Once I took Dr. Baker’s class on language development, I began to understand why my professor had become so heated by that topic. The course opened my eyes to the fact that the Deaf community is constantly fighting to gain respect in so many areas, including a topic more specific to my interests, education. I learned how there is a divide between oral deaf education and using ASL. My eyes were opened to a community who strives to be included while maintaining their identity but who are constantly facing a society that does not agree that their culture is legitimate. But the biggest thing I took away was that we were doing a disservice to children who are deaf and hard of hearing by not having the systems in place to support them and their individual needs throughout their education.
The Deaf Education department at TU showed me I had passion for something I’d never even thought about before. I went from wanting to be an audiologist who would help kids get cochlear implants and hearing aids to wanting to be a Speech-Language Pathologist who helps to bridge the gap between Speech-Language Pathology, Audiology, and the Deaf Community. I was fortunate enough to discover this passion and to be able to pursue research in this field. I am currently working to make my research useful to the NAD (National Association of the Deaf), and I hope that helps to open the door to a future relationship with that organization. An article based on my research titled “The Downfalls of Accountability and the Importance of Outcome Data” is scheduled to be published in the winter issue of The Endeavor, the American Society for Deaf Children’s quarterly magazine.
This may sound big-headed, but TU’s Deaf Education Department showed me that an individual can make a positive impact in the world, and that I could be one of those individuals who makes a difference. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to nurture my budding interests and to learn so much about a community to which I previously had no connection.