Breaking barriers and reaching greatness

2016-03-30 06:00
Mary-Anne (left) and her daughter, Ashley Hodgkinson, who is profoundly deaf. Mary-Anne was her only access to auditory information and went through high school and four years of university with her daughter interpreting every lesson and lecture and asking questions on her behalf. PHOTO: supplied

Mary-Anne (left) and her daughter, Ashley Hodgkinson, who is profoundly deaf. Mary-Anne was her only access to auditory information and went through high school and four years of university with her daughter interpreting every lesson and lecture and asking questions on her behalf. PHOTO: supplied

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WITH the help of her mother, Pietermaritzburg resident Ashley Hodgkinson, who was born profoundly deaf, graduated from the Embury Teacher Training Institute in Durban with a Bachelor of Education Foundation Phase and started her new job as a Grade 1 teacher at St Vincent School for the Deaf in Johannesburg.

Hodgkinson’s form of communication is English sign language. Her mother, Mary-Anne was her only access to auditory information and went through high school and four years of university with her daughter, interpreting every lesson and lecture and asking questions on her behalf.

“I always had to have a chair ready in front of me so I could see and watch my mother interpret for me. After lectures, I would go home and make a summary of all the notes to make sure I understood everything so I would be prepared when it came to studying, or I would make a note of any questions I may want to ask the next day. It was not easy and very time consuming. Sometimes, I got home very late and felt exhausted, but all the hard work and tiring, long hours have actually paid off,” said Hodgkinson.

She explained that becoming a teacher was not something she initially wanted to do.

“In Grade 11, during my three-day work experience at an unprivileged school, there was a little deaf girl who had autism and we could only communicate via gestures.

“When she managed to do this by either a thumbs up or clapping her hands, I saw her face brighten and I fell in love with that feeling. It was rewarding to make a difference,” she said.

Hodgkinson said she was treated like every other student at the institute.

“They treated me like a normal student and I didn’t expect special treatment at all. They were all so kind, caring and helpful towards me. To be honest, my hearing disability has no impact on my social life. I find a way to fit in socially. I broke through the barriers on my own. Socialising with hearing people at mainstream school, then at Embury, had a big impact on my life and my lip-reading skills and mouth formations have improved incredibly,” she said.

Technology has made it much easier for Hodgkinson to communicate.

“Honestly, everyone is basically deaf on social­ media so I use my smartphone to text a message if I do not understand someone or if I need to ask a question, and I have no one else to help me. Technology has allowed me to be independent,” she said.

Hodgkinson’s message for disabled youth is accepting their disability, but not letting it define them. “You may not walk or hear or see or move but nothing can stop you from doing what you set your mind to.
“The sky is the limit. Of course, you will experience a few challenges, but never give up.

“Don’t stop until you reach your dream,” she said.

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