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My name is Tony Abou Ezzi and I am a seventeen year old senior at Neuqua Valley High school. I was born with a moderate to severe hearing loss which has left me struggling in school to receive the same education (information) as everyone else. When I first started to realize what my hearing loss meant, I rejected it, just as I expect anyone would. I wore my bulky behind-the-ear hearing aids until I was eleven through the urge of my parents, until about the time when I started to feel different from everyone else. “But I want to be the same as everyone else. I want to be NORMAL,” is what I would tell my parents, who would respond with supporting statements along the lines of, “Each and every person has something that is difficult to face, whether it is visible or not, it is what makes you unique”. It is what makes you human, is what I tell myself.

I had a rough time through eighth and ninth grade, dealing with the transition from Junior High, to High School. By the end of my freshman year my grades were dropping far below normal. That was when I realized just how much my hearing loss was affecting my education. I would respond to questions such as, “What time is it?” with, “Oh, sure I know what you mean. Yes I think so.” Creating numerous safety answers got annoying and couldn’t fool anyone. I was blessed with luck when my Dad announced that we were moving, because it gave me the chance I needed to restart my life and make better decisions about wearing hearing aids, and accepting my disability. I could not erase the past, but I could change the future, so I decided to put a stop to my fear of my own disability and my choice forever changed what my life could and will be.

By the age of fourteen, I started accepting my disability, but at times I still struggle and must face hard situations. These difficult situations do anything but stop me; they give me more self determination, and boost my self-esteem and goal to succeed in life. With the help of my parents and so many others, I have developed some important strategies to deal with my hearing loss. One of these strategies is for me to become an advocate for myself, which means that it is my responsibility to seek whatever help I need from my teachers. I also discovered that I must take charge of school meetings where there are items concerning my disability that only I know, and in order to express myself I have to educate others about what services I need to be provided with, so that I will be on a more equal playing field with other students. Since becoming a student at Neuqua Valley I have learned that I must be seated at the head of the classroom where I can read the teachers lips. Recently I have received a service called CART which is a form of live captioning, in which someone types out everything that is said in a class onto a laptop. When I received CART I was shocked to see how much information I was actually missing and also the respect I received from students, because of all people they know what it is like to stand out. Instead of making me feel isolated and embarrassed as I thought CART would, although I won’t deny having some of those feelings, for the most part I felt and continue to feel above everyone else because for the first time I am getting about 80%+ in my classes. CART has helped me so much in such a short time that I wish I had known about it during my earlier years. It was through the research that my parents did that I learned about it. I have also worked with a professional note taker, who could not have done a better job in making sure that I knew what was going to be on a test or quiz, and what time I would need to come into the classroom for help.

Another important service is the provision of CC (Closed Captioning) for any movies or videos shown in the classroom, except for student filmed videos. While some peers find CC annoying, others find it fascinating, and start to use it at their homes. These services worked for me, and may not work for others, but at least they are now available to those coming to high school. Through a lot of struggles and hardships, I have plowed a path and brought numerous services for students with any disability, but mostly for those with a hearing loss and I hope to see others use at least some of the services which will help them in school.

Much of my success in school I owe to my parents who have always fought by my side no matter what the challenge. I believe that it is the parents of a disabled child’s responsibility to research and find out what their specific child’s disability means, and how it will affect their child’s performance/education and what services he/she will need. The most important thing is to provide love, support and encouragement.

In many ways, my disability has become my strength, and it has taught me things that I would have never learned otherwise. Now that I am going to College I must become an expert on everything that I have had to face throughout my education. I will have to teach my professors about my hearing loss and there will always be misunderstandings and learning curves. It is hard to say, but my advice to anyone with a hearing loss is to embrace, accept, find out how your disability effects your education and what services should be provided and then find out how to get them. The road to success and knowledge is not an easy one, no one ever said it would be, but through the burdens that you carry in life you will learn everything that there is to know about yourself and more.


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