This I Believe

Stephanie - Dunmore, Pennsylvania
Entered on December 11, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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“This I Believe”

In 1988, my parents noticed something out of the ordinary about my actions. Every time they would try to speak to me, I was unresponsive and they noticed that I was always sitting on top of the television speakers. Doctors have said to my family and I, “You’re the best little actress we’ve ever seen. You belong on Broadway.” After numerous hospital visits and tests, I was diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss. Lucky for me, I was able to wear a hearing aid in each ear.

Because my disability wasn’t caught until I was about 3 ½ years old, I had the chance to learn how to speak. My family and I were told that my childhood would be spent attending a school for the deaf because my hearing was at such a disadvantage. My mother and father would work with me daily to help me get used to what was going to be my new and not so normal life. Fortunately, my disability had no effect on my ability to listen and understand what was going on around me. Instead of sign language, I taught myself to read lips. At this stage of my life, I was able to overcome my greatest challenge. Because of my courage and the faith my family had in me, I was able to achieve what doctors believed impossible. I was going to attend a normal public school.

For me, at such a young age, my hearing aids were defined by one word, embarrassment. I would always beg my mom to let me wear my hair down to cover them. Her response was always the same, “Be thankful you have hair.” I was also embarrassed to read lips. I never wanted people to think that I had a staring problem. But the older I got, the more I realized that my disability could have been much worse. To this day, whenever I struggle with my hearing, I read lips. With the help of my family, friends, and teachers, I overcame my embarrassment.

My disability is a part of who I am. It is not something that bothers me, and I never let it get in the way of achieving my dreams. If I had listened to the doctors back then, I wouldn’t be graduating from Penn State next semester. I wouldn’t have met my best friends in the whole world. I wouldn’t have had the chance at a normal life. It is my belief that no matter how bad it may seem, let your family stand by you. Have the courage to overcome what you think is your greatest challenge. Take the help and advice. Have confidence in yourself and give yourself a chance. And above all, never let anything stop you from achieving your biggest dreams.