Shifting into Self-Advocacy: Caitlyn Campbell
Caitlyn Campbell was so used to wearing her hearing aids. She heard the late morning birds with them as the sun splintered through the blinds; she heard the steady, back-and-forth scrubbing of her toothbrush in the dorm bathrooms; she heard a string of words fly from her roommate’s mouth at rapid speed; she heard a phone call from home, encouraging her through her sophomore year at Rabun Gap. When Caitlyn Campbell had to send her malfunctioning hearing aid into a shop to be fixed, she panicked. It would just be a week, she told herself. It would be a struggle, as she was born with moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears and has been wearing hearing aids since she was three. She began to sit in the very front row of the classroom to produce notes on lectures about the Holocaust; she stood right next to her basketball coach to read his lips as to not miss a single word of advice; her roommate, who was so used to gushing about boys or venting about a rude teacher only once, had to repeat herself many times, even shout at Caitlyn from across the room because Caitlyn could just simply not hear. But Caitlyn made it through. Receiving her repaired hearing aid meant she would go back to wearing them every second of the day so she wouldn’t miss any important information. Since the last time she was interviewed on DeafandHoH.com, Caitlyn has recently finished her sophomore year at Rabun Gap, a private college preparatory day and boarding school located in Rabun County, Georgia. She has had one busy and challenging school year but nonetheless earned a strong B average. She is still very much interested in reading her way into a potential career as a book critic and has also discovered a new interest in animals. Whether she will become a book critic in Paris or a successful veterinarian or forest ranger, Caitlyn is just happy to be a junior next year and have the opportunity to continue exploring her interests. Although she is advancing her education, it will not be at Rabun Gap. Although the people she met and the teachers she conversed with were simply amazing, Caitlyn found herself struggling with homesickness. She is excited to transfer to a private school closer to home and experience a fresh start, settling into a whole new school, and meeting new friends. The generous donations she has received for her schooling continue to be an encouragement to keep moving forward. “With all of the donations that people have given me [for Rabun Gap], it has opened my eyes to show me that the world maybe isn't such a bad place,” Caitlyn reflects. “Maybe a little hope can go a long way.” Caitlyn wants her donators to know that transferring out of Rabun Gap should not be seen as giving up, but only taking a new direction with her education. She has conquered two years of boarding school and she is ready to experience something new. One thing Caitlyn learned from all of her supporters—her mom, her friends and teachers at Rabun Gap, her former speech therapist Ms. Walsh, and more—is to be a self-advocate. She now understands the importance of doing what is in her best interest and determining what that is for herself. She no longer needs all of the constant special attention she had received from people like her mother and Ms. Walsh growing up, for their support was the factor that taught her self-advocacy the most. Because of the skills and knowledge she has gained from these supporters, she now feels like she can confidently advocate for herself. After being seen as “less than” throughout public school because of her hearing loss, Caitlyn found it in her best interest to attend Rabun Gap, just like she found it the best decision to wear her hearing aids every day; now, she is only making another decision to attend a school closer to home to feel more comfortable. She still has the support she needs from her mom and others, but she is learning how to make these decisions for herself that will guide her toward a bright future. Caitlyn is increasingly becoming her own independent person as she continues with her education, and her hearing loss is not going to stop her.