DEAF BLIND ROOMMATES
Jess was 16-years-old when she made the decision to live at a school for the blind. One of the things she was most excited about was making friends and having a roommate. On move in day, we met ‘Sally’ who was very nice, talkative, and seemed happy to have Jessica as a roommate. She asked a lot of questions, and wanted to take pictures of us with her camera. From time to time, we would visit with Sally when we were there dropping Jess off or picking her up for the weekend. When we would call to talk to Jess, Sally occasionally wanted to speak to us too.
Imagine our surprise when we went back to the cottage after Spring Break and Sally was no longer Jessica’s roommate. We found out that the change had been requested by Sally, who was bothered by Jessica’s constant talking, singing and music playing. Jessica did not understand what had happened and was sad about it. For the time being, Jessica did not have a roommate. We continued to occasionally see Sally during visits and there were no hard feelings.
A NEW ROOMMATE
A short time later, we got the news that Jess was going to get a new roommate. ‘Cathy’ was a little bit older than Jess (19 or 20) and her primary disability was a hearing impairment. She was deaf and did not speak.
At first we were skeptical of the new change. Jessica had wanted to make friends and have a roommate, and now they had paired her up with someone with whom Jessica would not be able to communicate. Nor would Cathy be able to talk to Jessica. The only time they could communicate was when a house parent was in the room with them to facilitate.
It did not take us long to change our opinion of the new situation. We had to admit that it was an ideal solution since Jess never-never ever stopped talking to herself. Jessica grew fond of Cathy, who was able to keep an eye on Jess and get assistance for her if needed. Cathy liked rooming with Jess too. Jess still has a t-shirt that she sleeps in sometimes that was given to her by Cathy.
A year later (spring 2005) we learned from Jessica that Cathy had been absent from school that week. Then, absent again the next week, and the next. Jessica started getting emotional about the situation. Her security and stability had been shaken. Soon, we learned that Cathy had been critically ill and at times they were not sure if she was going to survive.
Without a roommate, Jessica began to get homesick. She had an increasingly difficult time going back to school after each weekend home visit. Eventually, Jessica learned that Cathy might not come back to school for the rest of the year. Jess decided she wanted to be finished too so we started discussions about moving her back to our local school system.
Even though it was later determined that Cathy would probably be back at school for the following school year. Jess was severely homesick and ready to move back home. She finished the school year at the school for the blind then moved back home.
A DREAM HAD BEEN FULFILLED
Jessica’s desire to move far-far away and be independent had been, at least temporarily, fulfilled. She had made some minor progress with self-help skills, made a few friends, spent a full year with a teacher that she loved, and learned to read and type beginner Braille.
On the last day of school, we happily packed Jess up to move her home for good. It was a great feeling. We were thrilled to have her back in the nest!
The time was coming to start the next adventure. But, would there be another adventure out there? The family felt as though we had finally explored all options, had tried everything, and had experienced the whole gamut of educators. We had not found a secret key to unlock the brilliance. Jessica would turn 18 during that summer. Academic days would be behind us. Our fight was gone, and we were resigned to letting Jess finish out her school years doing whatever was offered.