My name is Courtney Claxton and I am a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) in my Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY), working in the school setting in Kansas. I am a proud graduate of Kansas State University (B.S.) and more recently University of Central Missouri (M.S.). It was quite a journey to get to this point, starting almost 23 years ago. My parents were told by audiologists that their child had a moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears, when I was 2 and a half years old. At this level of hearing loss a great number of speech sounds can be missed, kind of tricky for someone to work with individuals for articulation/ phonology disorders, right? Thankfully, I was fitted with hearing aids allowing me access to a world where communication is a critical part of life. My family, teachers, audiologists, future spouse, and many others have encouraged me along this journey, which has made me feel anything is possible despite obstacles. I view my “disability” as an ability to better serve those with communication disorders!
It hasn’t always been easy, but I hope to use this forum, to inspire others with hearing loss that they should not be limited by a difference, to educate the general public about speech and language disorders, and to do my best to represent the amazing profession of Speech Language Pathology. I also plan to use the blog to document my adventures as a speech therapist, as we often come in contact with some unique situations! I encourage you to reach out, comment, and ask questions. I look forward to sharing this journey with you all !
In 8th grade I was in the play “If I Could Do It Again.” This play was written by students at my drama teacher, Mr. Curt Robertson’s, previous school. The premise of the play was essentially a series of social situations accompanied with acted out scenes and monologues, including topics such as bullying and eating disorders.
When I tried out for the play, Mr. Rob told me that I could write my own monologue about my story if I wanted to. So this would be the first time I told my story of my hearing loss in front of an audience. I remember feeling nervous to share what I had to say, but felt encouraged by Mr. Rob and my friends “The PT Players,” around me.
Here is my monologue from that time.
” Some of you know me, but many of you don’t. Those of you who don’t know me just listen to what I have to say, I am not asking you to be my best friend or whatever, all I am asking of you is to hear me out listen to my story.
I am different from many of you, you may not notice what makes me different, but I am. When I was barely three years old I was diagnosed with a moderate hearing loss, I had been born with, which meant I would have hearing aids for the rest of my life, most people get them when they are older, but not me.
When I was in Preschool I was with kids who had hearing aids just like me and I fit in. But once I got to Elementary school many things changed. Kids in my grade always asked question and were curious, and I think some people may have judged me and it felt like I didn’t exactly belong.
Sometimes even to this day I wish I wouldn’t be hard of hearing and have to wear hearing aids, but then good things come out of even bad situations. I have learned to get over my hearing loss and to be just me, my friends, my parents, and teachers have taught me that. I am involved in many things that I love to do and I don’t let one little thing get in my way. Everything happens for a reason and maybe I am meant to do something special for kids who are like me, whenever I see a kid with hearing aids I smile and remember of a little girl who had a hearing loss, me.
I may miss something someone says or I forget to say my s’s but it is all a part of who I am , my hearing loss makes me, me So the next time you see some one a little different whatever their case is don’t judge them, look past the differences and look for who they really are.”
If I could do it again I would take my hearing loss in stride and accept it as a part of myself.
I am so grateful for Mr. Rob for encouraging me to share my story. Sadly, Mr. Rob passed a few years ago, but he had such an impact on me and so many students life. He not only helped me to accept myself and my differences, but he helped to provide a place where I belonged and had friends who helped me through the difficult time of junior high and beyond.
I hope to have such an impact on students and client’s lives as a speech therapist. The line of “Maybe I am meant to do something special for kids who are like me,” makes me remember that becoming an SLP has allowed me the outlet to provide individuals with communication disorders with tools to reach success, just like the countless individuals, like Mr. Rob, who have helped me get to where I wanted to be.
Every year on New Year’s Day, American Girl releases their “Girl of the Year,” doll. This doll is supposed to relate to the girls of today. As a former employee of the company I would often look forward to this day with anticipation as it was always a busy day, but it was also fun to see how the girls would react to the new doll.
This year American Girl released Joss as their “Girl of the Year.” Joss is a surfer and cheerleader who has hearing loss and needs a hearing aid to help increase her ability to hear the world around her.
Wait what? A doll with hearing loss?? But dolls can’t hear! That’s besides the point, the point is American Girl has a released a doll to show a example to young girls that regardless of ability or dis-ability they can do whatever they set their mind to.
My first American Girl doll was gifted to me by my sister and one of the first things I wanted to do was to get hearing aids for my doll, so it would look like me! So my doll became the first doll at American Girl Kansas City to get bilateral hearing aids 🙂
Just like Joss, I have reminded myself over the years that I can whatever I put my mind to despite my hearing loss. Between my 4-H activities growing up, playing piano, running, volunteering for organizations that I love, and now being a speech- language pathologist, I am not limited at what I can do. I may not be able to do things like swim in the pool with my hearing aids in , or join the military, but I have the power to do so many other things. This year I have had the pleasure to work with a student with cochlear implants, who is active in her school, and they remind me that despite a dis-ability, it is possible to achieve great things with a little bit of hard work and determination!
** Just a note, the reason why I label it dis-ability, is that dis-abilities, give individuals the ability to see the world from a different and unique perspective.**
Until next time!
Pictured above is my “Look Like Me,” doll with hearing aids.
Growing up I did not know many Veterans or active duty service members, but this all changed the fall of 2013 when I began studying Speech- Language Pathology at Kansas State. I met an active duty service member this year, and then more servicemembers following and wondered what I could do to give back to this population. I considered the possibility of joining myself only to realize this would most likely never be possible due to my degree of hearing loss. Then I found the United Service Organization (USO) in fall of 2014. I began volunteering on Wednesdays, and quickly found myself engrossed in being a volunteer and creating more connections with servicemen and women. I loved being a USO volunteer at Fort Riley, even if that meant my schoolwork suffered at time. I felt I had truly found a calling to be amongst those of the military population.
In the fall of 2017 I began a new journey in graduate school, where I began volunteering for the USO Missouri Mobile Unit. Unfortunately, due to scheduling I am not able to volunteer as much for the USO as I would like to, but that tug to do more for those who do so much for us was and is still there. In Spring of 2019 I got the privilege to do my externship at Whiteman Air Force Base, where I got to work with military kids with communication disorders. This was such a great semester!
I moved back to Kansas City wondering how I could stay connected to the military community, when I found Team Red, White, Blue (RWB) and active and social group that aims to connect civilians and veterans. This has been an amazing organization to be apart of so far.
This week I had the opportunity to speak to students at one of my schools about Veterans Day, which I didn’t feel entirely qualified to do since I am not a Veteran, and was able to engage them in a card making activity for deployed troops. This activity was near and dear to me as my future spouse has spent the last 9 months serving his country overseas. I was so humbled by what these students had to say to our American heroes. Their messages included things like “you are brave” and ” They miss their family and say it is ok.” I had a bonding moment with a student, who was telling me about their dad’s service in the Army who had been stationed at Fort Riley at one point and it reminded me of the sacrifices our brave men and women in uniform make. I am so thankful that not only have I been blessed with Veterans and servicemembers in my life, but that I have had the opportunity to serve this population both as a volunteer and budding professional.