this is my little sister. we found out that she was profoundly deaf when she was a toddler. she tricked us for the first year and a half of her life.. she was a bright and bubbly baby and because of her lack of hearing she developed extremely good observation skills so it was easy for her to make us believe that all her senses were working perfectly fine because she was so good at mimicking our actions and reactions. henny was a very animated baby! we found out she was deaf when my aunty who is a nurse put her through a simple hearing test using bells. we were all shocked and upset at the unexpected news but little henny still had a big smile on her face as always.
henny got her first hearing aids a short time later. she came home from the hearing specialist a little confused at why she had to wear funny things in her ears and at why we all had excited and nervous expressions on our faces. she had never spoken a proper word in english so when she replied ‘hello’ in perfect pronunciation when i greeted her, we all cheered happily and gave her a big hug. you could tell she was very pleased with herself but the funny thing is she didnt speak another proper word untill many weeks afterwards!
as henny grew up it became clear that she was a born entertainer. even though she couldnt always express herself with words she always had us in stitches with her miming and comic performances. but when it came to communicating it was tough for henny. she couldnt always say the things she wanted to because she couldnt hear or pronounce some sounds such as ‘ess and thh’. this was obviously very frustrating for her. it was also hard for our family because having a conversation with her could be very exhausting because you had to try and explain things in different ways so that she could understand. sometimes she couldnt understand what we were saying at all which was upsetting for her. you had to be very aware of making sure that you over exaggerated your lip movements and that using hand actions was helpful to her.
henny went to a small school in a country town and although she had a couple of really lovely support teachers, i dont believe that she had enough help at school. it was expected that her grades would be below average but i think with more resources like a constant interpreter in all her classes and more one on one teaching she would have kept up with the rest of her year. instead she fell 4 years behind in english and maths which was very distressing for our family when it came to her choosing which high school to go because there wasnt any in the area that offered adequate support for deaf students. which is why my mother made the decision to move to melbourne at the beggining of this year so that henny could attend Victorias College for the Deaf. in the past 6 months henny’s academic levels have dramatically improved which has made the big move well worth it. i miss her a lot though!
i wouldnt change anything about henny. of course i wish that she was able to hear as clearly as you and i can but in many ways her deafness has made her into the beautiful, caring and extremely entertaining person that she is today. its both humbling and inspiring to have someone in my life who rarely lets anything get her down, especially when it comes her lack of hearing.. when henny hears someone ask ‘ARE YOU DEAF?!’ even if the question isnt directed at her she will always laugh and say ‘UM YES I AM!’ without an ounce of shame. thats why i love her so much.