Our annual Benefit has come and gone, but there are so many great memories that will stay with us. One of our favorite highlights occurred that morning, when our keynote speaker, Rebecca Alexander, visited the Sound Start Babies Nursery to meet our Babies!
Rebecca was born with a rare genetic disorder called Usher Syndrome Type III, causing her to simultaneously lose both her sight and hearing. She is an advocate for people with hearing and vision loss. A successful psychotherapist, author, and an extreme athlete, she’s living proof that anyone can live a limitless life.
An instant bond was clear from the moment she walked into the first classroom. She spent the morning singing songs, reading books, and really getting to know our Babies. When Rebecca’s visit was over, she offered some insight on her experience.
SSB: What expectations did you have coming into the Nursery today? What did you think it would be like meeting children this young with hearing loss?
RA: I was really excited! I know how difficult it is these days to find programs for children who have hearing loss, to really have the type of accessibility that they need to learn to the best of their ability.
SSB: How did the Sound Start Babies Program meet your expectations and how would you best describe meeting the children today?
RA: I mean, this is a place I would want to come and teach or even come and volunteer, if I would even been qualified for it! (Laughs) But it was so much fun, and I was so impressed by how well adjusted these kids are. I’ve worked in a lot of different programs and even in school systems for deaf children. I was so impressed with how socially capable these kids were.
SSB: Were there any “stand out” moments for you? What will you remember most?
RA: (Laughing) How can you forget Brian? He was so cute how he climbed up into my lap, like a little teddy bear. So that was probably the highlight of my morning.
SSB: What would you say to the parents of young children who are worried about the challenges their kids will face as they get older and go into adulthood?
RA: I totally understand parents being worried, because we can’t possibly know what our children will face. Whether they have a hearing loss, they are fully hearing or able bodied, kids learn that they’re incapable. They don’t inherently know that they’re incapable. It’s so important for parents to manage whatever it is that they are feeling separately and not project that onto their children. Children really want to and are able to learn and gather information in so many different ways than we might initially think is possible.
SSB: What would you like to say to a child who fears hearing loss may hold them back? What would you tell them about becoming an adult?
RA: First of all, I would tell them that they’re not alone. There are so many of us out here living the best that we can in a world that is not fully equipped for people with hearing loss or vision loss. Life is about having those challenges and figuring out how to work through them. It’s not about getting over challenges; it’s about working through them. One thing has been so helpful for me: when I go anywhere, if there is something that I need to help navigate or help interact with someone, I ask for it. I want these kids to feel like whatever their needs are, it is not only acceptable, but their right to ask for it. And don’t feel like you’re burdening anyone. When you ask for what you need, you’re not asking for something that is a privilege, you’re asking for something that it is your right.
SSB: What would you like the public to understand the most, especially people who have never known anything about the world of hearing or vision loss?
RA: When we hear that a kid has a hearing loss or a disability, our first instinct is to think, oh I’m so sorry, or that’s so sad, or that’s awful or terrible. It’s actually not terrible. It’s that pity and that idea that these kids are not going to thrive that works against them. I want people to know that these are some of brightest and most adaptable kids you will ever meet. And they are so capable. That is most important.