Sunday, August 22, 2010

College Bound, Year Two

In a few short weeks, Hilary will return to Rochester Institute of Technology to start her second year of college.   We’ve been busy getting her ready for another year spent two thousand miles away from home. Hilary doesn’t drive (her choice) nor would she have a vehicle at college even if she did drive. So, she’s pretty much stuck on campus when she’s at school.  We’re encouraging her to learn to use public transportation so she can get out and about the City of Rochester, but she “listens” to us with one both ears closed. 

Hilary’s decision to attend RIT was a very last minute decision. Hilary doesn’t seem to worry too much about her future and how she’s going to support herself.  Apparently, we make her life way too comfortable at home!  We never really considered RIT because of the distance and the cost. However, after doing some research and talking with someone from admissions, we learned that students who are deaf or hard of hearing are admitted to RIT through NTID  - the National Technical Institute for the Deaf  (which is part of RIT). NTID students pay a reduced tuition because of federal funding they get.  With the reduced tuition, the cost of sending Hilary to RIT is about the same as if she attended one of our state Universities.  The bonus of RIT is that about ten percent of their students are deaf/hard of hearing, which we thought would be good for Hilary because she hasn’t had any deaf peers since we moved from St. Louis to Phoenix when Hilary was twelve years old.  The best part was that RIT offered a degree in film and animation.   It was a perfect fit – a school with a relatively large deaf population and a degree is something that Hilary really had an interest and a talent in.

Hilary‘s first year of college was overall a good one.  She did well in most of her classes.  Ironically, the only classes she didn’t do well in were classes where everyone else in the class was deaf and only used sign language (including the teacher).  Hilary is not proficient in sign language and we questioned the placement.  They assured us that the class was small enough that Hilary would do fine.  Well, not so much so.  While we still think RIT is a great school and a good fit for Hilary, we have some concerns with Hilary being placed primarily in classes with kids who sign, despite the fact that they know she doesn't sign.  Hilary told us that this year, she chose classes with hearing kids. She also made sure that she signed up for c-print services for all of her classes. (c-print is similar to live captioning.)

Hilary is “unique” in that she is not a typical cochlear implant user who has good hearing and speech skills, nor is she proficient in sign language.  Hilary could have good hearing and speech IF she would wear her cochlear implant.  As I’ve mentioned before, Hilary chooses not to wear her implant.  (Although she says she wears her implant in class.)  Hilary can read lips fairly well, but it’s very hard to carry on a conversation with her when she refuses to use the technology implanted in her head that allows her to hear.  It’s also very difficult to understand her speech when she doesn’t have her implant on.   We all get frustrated with Hilary.  (Mary pretty much refuses to talk to her.)  It would be one thing if Hilary’s lack of hearing and intelligible speech was something beyond her control, but it is not.  Unfortunately, at this point, there is nothing we can do to make Hilary use the technology she was given.  You can give your children opportunities, but you can’t make them take advantage of those opportunities.

Last Fall, Hilary applied for, but was not accepted into the college of film and animation for this coming year.  It’s a very competitive program with few slots.  Hilary’s Plan B is to get an Associate Degree in Graphic Design.  She took a few classes last quarter and she enjoyed them and did well.   She hasn't decided whether she's going to apply again to the college of film and animation.  Hilary is excited about going back to RIT and we’re optimistic that all the money we are spending to send her there will reap the rewards of an education she can use to support herself some day.  Of course, much will depend on Hilary’s choice to either use her cochlear implant or not.   If she’s not going to use her implant, she needs to become proficient in sign language.  But, I guess she’ll have to figure that out on her own. 

This parenting thing is not easy at any age.  Hilary is just another reminder that I’m not in control.  It’s hard to acknowledge that and it’s hard to let go.  While I wish Hilary would do things differently, there becomes a point in time where she has to make her own decisions and live with the consequences.  Now is that point in time.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it’s important to share that Hilary is a good kid, she is happy and she likes who she is in all her “uniqueness”.   She's bright and she's gifted with an artistic and creative genius.  Hilary doesn’t worry about what other people think and she has no desire to “fit in”.  She definitely marches to the beat of a different drum.  And that’s okay.  (at least I’m trying to convince myself of that.)

In a few weeks, we will let Hilary “go” for another year and we can only hope that she makes the best of the opportunities she’s been given to become the best that she can be. 


worthy said...

Good luck Hilary. She's obviously a young lady who knows her own mind, hope she succeeds in what she wants xx

ANewKindOfPerfect said...

It must be frustrating to you as a parent to watch Hilary refuse to take advantage of the things that you see as improvements. I am sure she will do just fine, although you will be frustrated along the way. Does she say why she doesn't want to wear the CI or learn sign language?

Ann said...

Hilary says she knows sign language. She probably understands basic signs, but she never signs herself. She talks and most people don't understand her. It's amazing how much more intelligible her speech becomes when she turns her implant on.

She doesn't wear her cochlear implant because she prefers her silent world. I'll admit, turing off all the sounds of the world would be nice on occasion :-)

It's most frustrating when people outside of the family try to talk with Hilary and she pretends to understand when it's clear she does not!

Susan said...

Hugs Ann. That's a difficult position to be in. Although there will come a time when every parent has to allow their child to make choices that we the parent don't agree with. Somehow this seems like it should be so easy to fix but it's not. The choice is hers. And honestly I wish sometimes I had a mute button for the world. The thing is it really sounds like Hillary is a young lady who knows her SELF and is true to that self. That is invaluable. I think she will find her way to independent living but like all college students it will take her some time. I hope you don't get too many gray hairs in the mean time. : )