Preferences

amish-country-lancaster-pa-october-2006-003.jpgMy daughter, Kyersten was my “picky one” as a toddler. Her diet consisted of a very short list of acceptable foods. She would eat hot dogs, Banquet Chicken Nuggets, Spaghetti’os and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I mention brand names in this “short list”, because it really did matter. The kid couldn’t read yet, but really did know whether or not what was placed before her was her “acceptable” food or not! I remember keeping a Kraft Macaroni & Cheese box out and buying the “cheaper stuff” just to test her taste buds. Much to my chagrin, the little tyke ate only a bite! She wouldn’t touch McDonald’s chicken nuggets, but would eat Banquet’s nuggets in a heartbeat! Was I ever glad she would chew a Flintstone’s vitamin once a day! Forget fruits and vegetables!

Thankfully… she grew out of that. I remember celebrating when she would finally eat pizza. Now she eats a great variety of foods, many of which actually happen to be good for you. (Imagine THAT!) The only food that remains a CONSTANT in her life? The only edible thing that has followed her through the terrible two’s, grade school and high school? CHOCOLATE.

In fact, she is so opposite of “picky” now, she comes up with her own concoctions that frankly only she will eat. Some of them are “scary sick” in my humble opinion. But she eats enough healthy things, I count my blessings and ignore the “strange” meals that sometimes grace her plate. Her favorite this year, was discovered by accident. She’s one of those “strange critters” that actually prefers instant potatoes to the “real thing”. She makes potatoes by “eyeballin’ it” (in that she never follows directions and just dumps a little of “this” and a little of “that”), and then adds cubed ham and gigantic chunks of cheddar cheese. I know I blanched in distaste the first time I saw it. It looked… it Looked… well, it LOOKED MONSTROUS! potatoes-004.jpg

As she rarely gets enough calcium, I don’t argue about the amount of cheddar cheese we go through each week. Thankfully, Costco saves me a little on this, and she is skinny as rail so I’m not worried.

Everyone in the family looks at her “creation” and says “no thank you”! (Aren’t we a polite little family?) Her preference is to eat this and OFTEN.

What she considers “yummy”, nutritional, and “worth the effort” is OK for Kyersten. I wouldn’t eat instant mashed potatoes, ham and cheddar cheese all mixed together. But hey! If she likes it… “make it yourself dear and ENJOY”. She is happy to do so.

I thought about how this often parallels people with hearing loss. One person with hearing loss may have a preference for a “label”, while others refused to be labeled at all. One person may welcome assistive devices and tools that make their hearing loss very visible. Others, however, may choose to “appear as normal as possible” and keep things like cochlear implants and hearing aids hidden and private. Sadly, I have witnessed more than one disagreement between people with hearing loss and their choice of “labels”, or their choice of acceptable tools to improve their situation. It seems we aren’t very respectful of other’s preferences.

LABELS

I consider myself an adult with a disability because I am late-deafened. I know plenty of culturally Deaf people and folks who became deaf later in life, who are deeply offended by the word “disabled”. I guess I don’t have a problem with that label because I don’t consider it a negative word. I was born hearing, and I no longer hear “normally”. I hear in a wonderful new way thanks to a cochlear implant, (New Freedom from Cochlear Americas) but I do not hear like I once did. I don’t sit around feeling sorry for myself, and yet I fully recognize that I do have a disability. I am “not ABLE” to hear like I once did. In my thinking, something that was “able”, is now “disabled”. I embrace the accessibility rights I am guaranteed under the American’s with Disabilities Act. I only ask my peers to be accepting of the fact that I’m OK with the label “disabled”, as it certainly does NOT mean that I am not very ABLE in other areas! I don’t judge others who choose not to identify with that word. My preference? I am a disabled American with an acquired disability.

Hearing Dogs

I am often asked, “Why a hearing dog?” They require training, supervision, attention and care. I carry a backpack now that is for “Chloe”. It contains her access documentation, as well as treats, baggies, towel, water bowl, and first aid kit. It reminds in in a weird sort of way, of the diaper bags I use to have to lug around for the kids when they were little. But it’s a burden I gladly carry as it was a choice I made and decision I acknowledged that… YES… the advantages of having a hearing dog far outweighed the disadvantages.

I have had some of my late-deafened peers ask me: “Why would you want to have something with you all the time that makes something invisible… VISIBLE.” I’m sure the fact that I wear BLING on my implant is another reason why I don’t mind my disability being visible. It is my preference to allow others to know that I require a little patience in communicating. I may not hear you if you are a cashier and you say, “I’m open over here!” But Chloe… my bling… allow a cashier to see that there is something different about me. I may need “waved over” to their open line. I’m OK with that. It’s my preference.

If you are late-deafened and only use ASL to communicate with others, and use an interpreter in order to communicate with oral Americans… I’m OK with that! That is your preference, and I respect it.

If you have a cochlear implant and/or hearing aids, but prefer for no one to know that you have a hearing loss… I’m OK with that too. It is your preference.

I suppose everyone… hearing and deaf alike… would get along better if we respected each other’s preferences.

I don’t have to eat instant potatoes, ham and cheddar cheese though!

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary

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