Laura Girardo

I was born with a congenital heart condition, which consisted of two open-heart surgeries under the age of one. These traumatic surgeries left me on a heart-lung machine. This risk developed into a hearing loss. I have a severe to profound hearing loss in both ears and I have been wearing a Cochlear Implant since I was six years old. In elementary school I was part of a hearing centre that became incredibly small as the years went by. So small that I became the only member when I was in Grade 8. I really hated elementary school because I was bullied a lot and there was no one there who could understand what I was going through. However, my life changed for the better when I went to high school. I was able to get away from my classmates and start fresh. I also needed a high school that would accommodate me. The only challenge about my high school was that it was a 45 minute commute every day which was hard, but the most amazing decision I ever made. I was surrounded by 10 other students who also had a hearing loss like myself and we grew very close like family. I had support from my hearing teachers who also taught me to become my own self-advocate to prepare me for the real world when they would no longer be by my side.

At the age of six, I was implanted with a cochlear implant. My language exploded. My cochlear implant allowed me to integrate into a mainstream school and to communicate. Nonetheless, I was bullied daily. With my life experiences, I have been an advocate my whole life. Educating the community is one way that I embrace my disability. I am a coordinator for VOICE for deaf and hard of hearing children. I am also a motivational speaker for Sick Kids` Cardiology Department and YCDSB`s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Department, where I share tips and advice as a student of the deaf, and share my life experiences as a deaf person, as well as a person with a heart condition. My whole life I was being advocated for, and transitioning into a self-advocacy has made me want to be a role model for students everywhere, with and without a disability.

I am currently at Queen`s University completing the Teacher`s Education- Consecutive Program. My end goal is to become a Teacher of the Deaf. As a deaf person myself, having a hearing center as part of my educational journey was extremely important for my self-esteem and advocacy, and I would hope that I can provide the same experiences for other young, deaf students. Growing up in a mainstream school was not always the easiest, as I was ostracized and bullied because I had a hearing loss. Despite my challenges, the one thing that made school worthwhile to attend was having a hearing centre. The teachers of the deaf helped me become more strong, confident and a self-advocate. I take what I have learned and share my experience with others, so that they know to never let their deafness stop them from pursuing their dreams.

Before coming to Queen`s I did my undergrad in Media Production at Ryerson University and my Master`s in Critical Disability Studies at York University. Through my experiences, I found that it was important to educate others about hearing loss, especially cochlear implants, and I cannot wait to continue to do so as a teacher of the deaf. My latest work is a Masters research paper, entitled “The Profound Impact of Cochlear Implants on a Young Deaf Adult`s Life and Deaf Identity”, and I am currently trying to find a publisher to publish it, as I would like to share my story to parents and potential candidates of cochlear implants who can use this story as future look into how cochlear implants can change their lives, for the better.