Special treatment? No thanks. 

I was sat in the school minibus, gleefully chatting and excited to be going on a trip when my friend beside me turned round to the girl sitting behind me and shouted at her.  

“That’s an awful thing to say!” My friend exclaimed.

It was then relayed to me in childlike terms that this class’mate’ of mine had uttered a complaint along the lines of 

“The only reason everyone likes her is because she’s deaf…”

I was eight years old and acutely aware that perhaps I had been – and likely always will be – treated differently to others because of my deafness. 

But I didn’t get angry and I didn’t feel hurt. I sat quietly as we drove off to a nearby museum and wondered how the girl may be right…

I did get more attention in school for one thing. The teachers always had to face me and chat to me throughout the day to ensure I was okay. And I got given extra books and resources to take home and I’d share these with my friends.

Each week a peripatetic teacher would visit my school and take me out of a boring class (like Maths!) to do fun art, music or history topics. I got to choose two lucky friends each time to join me. 

There were plenty of perks outside of school too. I got to do extra activities with the local deaf childrens society. I learnt to sign and taught my best friends the BSL alphabet so during assemblies we could “whisper” in our finger spelling code, often just spelling out b-o-r-i-n-g and giggling to each other.

So whilst I don’t think my friends only liked me because I was deaf, I do think that I enjoyed the perks and had fun sharing those with my buddies too. That girl in the minibus was probably just jealous… 

And as I’ve grown older I’ve become better at filtering out the people that treat me differently because of my deafness and I’m quicker to identify those who see me just as I am.

Because in actual truth, I don’t want to be treated differently. I’m not talking about meeting access requirements or adapting communication methods. I’m talking about plain old how you behave towards omeone… 

Even if they’re trying extra hard to be nice or friendly, I’m not comfortable with the notion that it’s only because I’m deaf. 

It’s a double edged sword, you see. Do you treat someone differently because you admire them? Or because you feel sorry for them? Or.. Even worse, because you’re afraid of them? 

I’ve experienced all of the above. My old neighbours, who I’ve written about previously, would avoid my husband and I like the plague because they “felt sorry” for us (their words!) and didn’t think we were worth talking to… I’ve also had university colleagues say they were afraid to sit beside me for fear they would have to talk to me… And I have mums in the school playground now that unknowingly patronise me with exaggerated speech and make a big fuss whenever I’m around. 

I know that some people mean well. And they don’t mean to treat me differently. But they do. 

And it’s because it’s all still a bit of a taboo. How do I talk to a deaf person? Do I act normally when she’s around? Should I invite her to the party? Should I say hello? What if she doesn’t hear me?  

And it’s probably due to a great lack of representation in mainstream media that most of the time people don’t have a clue how they should act around us. 

Each one of us – however deaf we are – are walking billboards for deaf awareness and just by being ourselves we are showing the world that we are all different in various ways. Its not something to run from or be afraid of. 

Yes, we will encounter idiots and prejudiced so and so’s all because they see an invisible “DEAF!!!!” sign whenever we are near. But it’s our duty to use our filters wisely, praise the good, and either ignore or speak out against the bad. 

Those who truly see us won’t just see our deafness. They’ll see us. And perhaps being quick to discover those people is the biggest perk of all. 

Mindfulness tips for deaf / hard of hearing people starting meditation… 

Spring is literally just round the corner and it’s probably the best time of the year to start or review a  new resolution. It’s the season to spring clean, start afresh, turn over a new leaf. You get the idea. 

One of my New Years resolutions was to maintain a Mindful practice in my life. Amidst the school runs, work deadlines and family duties, I wanted to find time to just be. 

I’m at an advantage because I’ve been on formal Mindfulness training but I’m aware that for a deaf person, starting a mindfulness journey isn’t as straightforward as if you were hearing… 

A friend of mine (hearing) was recently diagnosed with stress related anxiety and her doctor gave her access to free apps she could listen to for guided meditations that soothe, calm and re-centre the mind from its usual frantic thoughts. 

That’s great for her and the hearing population but if you’re deaf and you want to improve you mental wellbeing from the comfort of your home, what can you do that doesn’t rely on audio? 

In actual truth, not an awful lot. But there are some worthy resources out there. The following are my personal recommendations…

  1. Join an online community such as Trudi’s Mindfulness for the Deaf Community. Trudi is a trained counsellor, also deaf, and a worthy contact to have on your Facebook. It’s also a great place to ask questions and meet like minded folk on the same wellbeing pathway. https://m.facebook.com/trudimindfulness/?locale2=en_GB
  2. Check out the closed caption videos by the leaders of mindfulness teaching such as Jon Kabat-Zinn. Jon is highly valued in the field of mindfulness and a very wise and inspirational speaker.https://youtu.be/7kblkFJmriM
  3. For BSL users I highly recommend watching and following the videos uploaded by Ben Fletcher.  Clear and concise, these will give you a head start to a regular meditation practice. https://youtu.be/mrvTqSCidnw   
  4. Check out the national be mindful website for details of practitioners and courses. They do have online courses and some practitioners offer email / Skype consultation. This does vary according to location – find out what’s near you. https://bemindful.co.uk/
  5. YouTube does have quite a few guided meditation videos with text. You may have to try a few to find one that resonates with you but https://youtu.be/6p_yaNFSYao is a good starting point. 
  6. Read about it. I highly recommend The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle for its in depth writing on the benefits of becoming more present. I can also vouch for Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn which is written in a relaxed style which allows you to dip in and out as it please. If you’re a bookworm you’re in luck as there’s Mindful books abound! 
  7. Join everyday mindfulness, a free website for people of all backgrounds and meditative levels where you can share information, ask tips and get advice from other like minded individuals. It is a mainstream site and heavily text based but a useful resource nonetheless. https://www.everyday-mindfulness.org/
  8. For movement based Mindfulness, Yoga is an excellent tool. There is BSL Yoga based in York which does travel for retreats and weekend workshops. There is also Sarah Scott who teaches yoga in London and Surrey using sign language too. https://m.facebook.com/bslyogayork/  https://www.deafyoga-co-uk.com/
  9. Check out Sign Health’a guide to Mindfulness. It has BSL videos that I filmed covering the concepts of being mindful and a short exercise to try at home. https://www.signhealth.org.uk/how-to-be-mindful-a-guide-in-sign-language/
  10. Breathe. Mindfulness isn’t complicated and can be practised anywhere. This isn’t really a resource but by simply sitting for 3 minutes every day and just watching the breath (feeling the sensation of breathing in & out but not trying to change it) we can begin a personal mindful practice that doesn’t rely on anyone else to guide us. 

If you know of any other resources please do share. Wishing you a mindful March!