Ni Gallant: My journey

Posted on March 30, 2012



I’ve always been the kid that nobody ever notices, the one who spent most of her high school life hiding behind her hair, who never spoke up in class, and hung around with the “uncool” group.

When the year book came out I was the girl people pointed at and said: “Was she even in our year?”

I slipped in and out of Scottish and English high schools with barely any attention from anyone.

In fact, I think half the people in my form still don’t know I’m deaf; it’s very easy to hide hearing aids if you want to.

This is my high school persona, the safest way for me to fit into mainstream life. If invisibility was a super-power, I would opt in.

But bring on the weekend, half term, some evenings after school and the cloak of invisibility is thrown off and I become a person my classmates would never even recognise.

I become confident. I have a voice, a personality, people listen to what I say and people know my name.

I often wonder how many other deaf teenagers live their lives like this. A life with split personalities – a mainstream “hearing” self and a deaf world self. For me these personalities are like polar opposites.

I wasn’t born deaf and my family are hearing.

I was first diagnosed as being deaf aged four, but I can’t say that deafness really affected my life until I hit fourteen; that was when my deafness began to worsen.

It’s a scary thing as a teenager to realise that your sense of identity is changing.

In five short years I’ve gone from a girl without a single deaf friend to a girl who would happily trade her mainstream sixth form for Mary Hare, who looks forward to deaf club rather than gymnastics, and who has only two hearing friends outside of school.

I’ve become a campaigner and my whole sense of what I want to do with my life has changed. I’ve learnt that to get what you want for yourself in life you have to fight for it.

This may seem like a very negative view of deafness but actually the reality is far from it.

I love being deaf.

I’m constantly amazed at the doors it has opened for me.

The people I have met inspire me. In fact, I barely remember what it’s like to be able to hear like a “normal” person.

If we were meeting in person I would probably wave my hand in your face as a greeting and shout HI! very loudly and excitedly… that’s just my way of doing things, although to some people it can come across as a bit weird.

My name is Nairi, Ni to my friends and I’m eighteen years old – nearly nineteen.

I’ve been asked to write for the Limping Chicken because I write a blog myself. The one thing I have to say about this experience is it’s incredibly difficult to write about yourself on demand! This post alone has taken me weeks to write (I kept deleting it) and I’ll be glad when it’s done! I’m hoping that later posts will be easier – and quicker – to write!

Charlie asked me to write a little about my life, besides the above! So here goes.

Like 90% of other deaf young people I was born into a hearing family, I’ve always been to a deaf mainstream school without a HI Unit and at the moment I’m currently studying my A Levels at a high school sixth form in Worcestershire.

My journey through high school has been patchy; I was badly bullied when we lived in Scotland and “becoming deaf” has meant that at times I’ve found it harder to fit in than perhaps I might have done.

I started off in sixth form studying English Lit, History, French and RE. The day I picked those subjects I was clearly not thinking straight – what kind of maniac picks those subjects to study?

With no additional support other a radio aid and sporadic visits from my Teacher for the Deaf I struggled my way through just under a year of study before having a complete melt-down.

At this point my parents, on the advice of some friends, took me to visit Mary Hare – a special type of Heaven in my eyes. We set about the long fight to persuade the council that Mary Hare was the right place for me and unsurprisingly lost.

Our fight wasn’t all in vain though, as when I restarted my A Levels studying Biology, Psychology and RE I had more support from my Teacher for the Deaf, a better radio aid and later a note-taker.

Since then things have become a lot easier – as you can imagine! In fact in September I will hopefully be off to Birmingham City University to study Social Work! Just have to get the grades first…

Outside of my mainstream school world I volunteer for the Worcester Deaf Children’s Society and sit on the committee as their link to young people within the group.

Two years ago I petitioned the committee to let me set up and run a youth group for deaf teens in Worcestershire; we now have a successful group called “Deafinity” with around twenty members.

When I was fifteen I started going on summer camps and events run by Deaf Direct, a deaf led organization; now that I’m eighteen I’ve become a young leader which is an amazingly enjoyable experience – the adults are crazier than the kids!!!

The advice and support I’ve had from Deaf Direct and WDCS has been invaluable and I spend a lot of my time trying to persuade the families of deaf children to let them join in these activities. I’ve seen the confidence they’ve given me and I’m determined to share that with other deaf children and young people.

Last year I applied to be on the NDCS Youth Advisory Board and was really lucky to be given a place.

During the last year the board has met four times in various places around the UK and I’ve met an amazing group of deaf teenagers from loads of different walks of life. We’ve made our own campaigns (mainly around cinema subtitles) and between us we’ve spoken to a number of important people with the power to change deaf people’s lives!

I’ve had the opportunity to speak to people at NDCS as well as going to the Liberal Democrat Conference and I realized that I loved campaigning for deaf young people and their rights.

That’s why I started my blog – a deaf young person’s views on government, education and various other things. I wanted the blog to make a difference and I hope that it will inspire other deaf young people to campaign for the things they feel strongly about!!!

I look forward to writing for you again soon!

Ni is a deaf teen in mainstream school. This year she was on the NDCS Youth Advisory Board and as well as this she runs a Youth Group for Worcestershire deaf teens called “Deafinity.” She started writing a blog (www.nigallant.blogspot.com) a couple of months ago about life from a deaf teenagers perspective and says that “somehow what I said resonates with other young people – so I carried on!”

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.

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