On Friday afternoon, we were given the options to listen to listen to some of the speakers. They gave us a list of sessions that they though might be interesting to teens, and we signed up for the ones we wanted to go to. I went to three and they were all very good. Here is a brief summary of them:
Teen Tales of Hearing Loss
Presenters: Melanie Paticoff, James Barden, and Patrick deHahn
I have blogged about Mel Paticoff before, and was interested in hearing the session that she was leading. It was basically a panel led in a question and answer format, which were both pre-written questions and questions the audience came up with. It was nice to hear other teens perspectives, although I suspect this was more interesting and helpful to the parents of tweens and younger kids who were wanting to know what their children would be going through in the future. They touched on a variety of topics from school (both guys had attended an oral deaf school when they were younger, then transferred to a mainstream school); the decision to get cochlear implant(s) (One had been implanted when he was 5 or so, the other when he was 11/12. The former chose to go bilateral when he was a teenager, but the latter doesn't want to go through surgery again); and explaining hearing loss/devices to your peers. It was all very well done and planned, and I do think everyone got a lot out of it. One person mentioned it would have been nice to get the perspective of a girl teen with hearing loss, and I think that is a good point. From the looks of the program, it sounds like they had planned for another person to be on the panel who was a girl, I assume a conflict came up.
College Life 101
Presenters: Mark Leekoff, Ari Sagiv, Dorie Shapiro, Lindsey Rentmeester
This was another panel, and since I attended the same session at the last convention, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect (although it was all different people). It's fascinating how one person's experience can be vastly different from that of another. Most of the panel from the 2008 convention, if I recall correctly, said that while they didn't outright state their hearing loss when applying for college, they mentioned it in their application essays. One person on the 2010 panel said that they did not want to disclose their hearing loss, a couple of people said they did, and one even went as far as saying that it would be dishonest not to disclose it. I do think he had a point there, and he went on to say that if a college doesn't want you with your hearing loss, you really can't expect them want to give you accommodations. That being said, the panelists still had issues with accommodations even if they did disclose their hearing loss. One girl remarked on the irony of being in an Audiology program, and having the school come to her and question her need for CART and other assistive services for her hearing. I don't think she said the name of the Grad school, but she ultimately made the decision to leave for another school that she felt was a better fit. It also came to light that even with the ADA in place, people won't necessarily follow it. One guy was saying that in an interview (for medical school, I believe) the interviewer actually asked him "I know that many people with hearing loss have multiple other health problems. Do you have any other health issues I should know about?" This, I came to find out, is illegal and a huge red flag. The only thing that you are allowed to be asked in an interview regarding hearing loss or any other disabilities is "Do you have any disability that would interfere with your ability to do this job?" The interviewee does have the option of bringing up and talking about his/her hearing loss as much as desired, but it is not required. I learned a lot from these speakers.
Health Care Professionals: Learn from our Experiences
Presenters: Stacey Carroll, Ph.D., ANP-BC; Christopher Lehfeldt, DDS; and Lindsey Rentmeester, Au.D.;
I was really looking forward to this session, since I had not ever met someone with hearing loss in the medical field. The panel featured a deaf dentist, nurse, occupational therapist, and audiologist. They also planned on having a deaf physician there, but he ended up having a family emergency and was not able to make it. There was a wide age range, from (these are my estimates) mid 20's to 40's. They all had great stories to tell, and the vast majority of the people that spoke had experienced an overwhelming amount of adversity and doubt when going into the medical field by teachers, bosses, and employees, but were greeted with open arms by patients. I found this to be very interesting, as I would have thought gaining a patient's trust would be the biggest problem.
The occupational therapist told about her first rotation as a student, in which she was placed with a teacher/boss who pretty much from the first day told her he was going to fail her because of her hearing loss. She described her frustration with working with someone determined to fail you, and how discouraged she became, even taking some time off after to decide if it was still something she wanted to do. She ultimately persevered, but this really demonstrated to me how much harder we (people with hearing loss) have to work to prove ourselves.
The nurse spoke about only the students with the 30 best GPA's getting into nursing school. She had an extremely good GPA, and recalled her professor calling her into his office to tell her she wasn't going to go on to nursing school. She was a little bit confused, and asked if she had not been in the top 30. "No, that's not it." the professor had said, "It's just that you're... 'unique.'" She went to the dean of the school (who, by some stroke of luck, happened to have a deaf son) who assured her that he would handle it, and she obviously ended up getting in!
One thing I found really exciting is that they have developed transparent surgical masks (patent pending), and are just waiting on a manufacturer. This is great news, not just for health care professionals with hearing loss, but also for patients with hearing loss. I cannot tell you how many times I've had to remind my dentist or orthodontist to "take off the mask, please" when they are talking to me (this is typically when one or both of my CI's have been knocked off in the chair!) They passed around the mask, now I'm wishing I had taken a picture. The part that goes around the face/lip area is transparent, but the part that goes under the chin is made of the same material as typical surgical masks, as is the part that hooks around your ears. I really hope they are mass manufactured soon, as there is a huge need and consumer audience.
After a long day of speakers, one of my friends from the past convention, her mom, my mom, and myself rushed to catch the shuttle to go to Downtown Disney. It was really cool, with a bunch of shops and restaurants lining the path. There had been some confusion as to what time the Opening General Session started that evening, and we ended up missing it, so I can't comment on that. We got there right in time for the Exhibition Hall grand opening/reception. This year, they were clever and gave out "game cards" with 9 of the exhibitors names' on them. Each card was different, and the idea was to get stamps from all 9 of the exhibitors on your game card. You then placed the card in a drawing, and were entered to win one of many great prizes (an iPod; all expenses paid for 2 people for the next convention in Scottsdale, AZ; a ton of books from the AG Bell bookstore worth hundreds of dollars, and more). Of course, in the process, the exhibitors would try to get you interested in their products. We didn't win, but I still loved the idea.
I explored the exhibit hall with a couple of my friends from the teen program, and they really did have a lot of things in it. There was a lot of free stuff! As always, the 3 CI companies had gigantic areas as opposed to a tiny booth that most other companies had. We received a lot of goodies from Cochlear- from cookies to beach balls to tote bags. We also got our picture taken with Kayci the Cochlear Koala, but we had to leave before it was printed. (if any Cochlear employee still has the pictures and wants to email it to me, please do!)