Dominion Magazine - April 2017

Page 42


Emma Rudkin (left)

Imagine living in a world where silence prevails. The sounds of ocean waves crashing and birds singing are nonexistent. Imagine that the hums and dings of everyday life are just faint sounds in the very far distance. For some, this is a reality they know all too well. For one local young woman, it is something she encounters every day. After losing her hearing to a profound level at age three, Boerne native, Emma Faye Rudkin learned to navigate the world without being able to hear much of what was going on around her. “When doctors told my parents I was deaf and I would continue to lose whatever hearing I had left as I got older, it took an emotional toll on us all,” Emma said. “They told my family I wouldn’t be able to function at a normal level and they should enroll me into a deaf school and teach me sign language. It was a lot to take in. Whatever they decided to do would determine the course of my life.” 42

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Rudkin’s diagnoses came in a time before the Internet was easily accessible and before much research was available to the public about hearing loss. For young parents, Kathy and Kurt Rudkin, the news was devastating. What were their options? What would they do? “I spent hours looking up everything I could about hearing loss. Ninety percent of deaf/ hard-of-hearing (HOH) children are born to hearing parents. Emma was the first deaf person we’ve ever known. We didn’t know what to expect, but we knew we were going to do whatever it took to ensure Emma was just as successful as any of the other kids—that she had the same opportunity to do anything and everything they could do,” Kathy said. “So, she wore hearing aids, and we enrolled her into speech therapy, which she took yearlong for 10 years. She learned to read lips, which helps her fill in the gap of the missing sounds to help her communicate. Later, in her teens, she would learn sign language to further her communication skills as her hearing loss progressed.”

The Rudkins spent many hours with Emma learning the sound and shape of each letter and understanding new words. They worked intensely on reading every single day. They captioned all their TVs, made flash cards and journals of unknown words or hard to pronounce words and worked diligently with speech therapists; a practice they attribute to her success and love for books today. “We had decided as a family, if Emma couldn’t enjoy an activity due to not hearing, none of us would participate. It makes you acutely aware of how unaccommodating this world truly is for the deaf/hard-of-hearing,” said Kathy. Growing up in a small town where no one shared the same obstacles as little Emma was difficult. The solitude of being on the outskirts of social acceptance that came from her differences proved its challenges in ways the Rudkins were not prepared to face. “Emma would come home crying nearly every day and only our family knew everything she was facing and dealing with. She wanted to be like the other kids, to just fit in—to hear like they heard and to feel included,” Kathy said. “It broke my heart in unmeasurable ways. How do you comfort your child and tell her that may never be something she can have? As a parent, you only want the best for your kid. Were we doing all we could to help her? I stayed strong for my family during the day, but the nights were, many times, unbearable.” As Emma grew older, the silence took its toll. Despite her close relationship with her

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