Written By: Rin-rin Yu
Coronavirus lockdown has been difficult for many of our AG Bell families. For some, it’s been harder than others—they’ve had pay cuts, lost jobs, or had to stop working to help their children through virtual schooling. Some don’t have the same level of resources available to get their kids through virtual therapy. That’s why AG Bell has been working to establish a fund to help support families through these difficult times. If you would like to make a gift to help them along, please visit www.agbell.org/Donate. This time of year is perfect for making a special gift that will have a lasting impact, and we’d be happy to help you set up a monthly gift if that is better for your family. We’ll be sure to tell you how our families are doing with your support.
We’ll be featuring some of their stories in Volta Voices in the weeks to come.
Natalie* and Annie*
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Through the years, I have been so thankful for AG Bell’s generosity to my daughter, Annie. We’ve received two grants: one for her hearing aids, which were all out of pocket at the time; the other for a preschool scholarship.
Annie was born overseas; as a result, she didn’t have a hearing test until just before her third birthday. She’s now 6. I had been homeschooling her and focusing on her speech, since those resources weren’t available to us. I am now a single mom, and I have to do a lot on my own.
Last year, we moved back to the U.S. and in with my parents, and she began attending school and speech therapy. During this time, we found out her hearing dropped 40 more decibels, and I began looking into cochlear implants.
I teach English as a second language, online, to Chinese students in China, so I have to wake up really early in the morning to begin work. Before COVID, I would wake Annie up and take her to school, then resume teaching again. My plan was that as we settled into our new routine here in the U.S., I would pick up some secondary work to supplement my primary income. I wanted to move us into our own place and get Annie some additional private support. I had applied to be a substitute teacher and was looking into doula and breast-feeding support work, which I had done before, when COVID hit. Everything I had planned was put on hold.
It’s a double-edged sword living with your parents. On the one hand, it’s nice to have your family for that support. On the flip side, my parents are older, so we really adhere to social distancing. Any job opportunities that have come up, like Instacart shopping, would risk exposing my parents to coronavirus. It also comes back to childcare. My parents can handle about an hour of that, but anything longer leaves me in a bind.
Not only that, some of my students in China have had to pull back – their parents are also feeling the economic downturn and I worry if I will get enough hours of work. Due to our low-income status, Annie qualifies for Medicaid, so we have been able to pay for some of her care.
Luckily, with all this time on my hands, I was able to get things moving for Annie’s cochlear implants. She was implanted and activated in August, and it’s already met our expectations. We even just decided to go for the other ear as well, in December.
This fall, I made the hard decision to pull her out of school. Virtual learning was not working for her. I am hoping that when it’s safe, I will enroll her in a mainstream school in her district. In the meantime, I now have to homeschool her, full-time, meaning I cannot take on any additional work to earn more. She receives therapy from the hospital twice a week, one for listening and one for articulation. My insurance will run into a cap, and then I have to figure out how to pay for that. The hospital is 15 miles crosstown. With all the back and forth, and speech therapy, and other day-to-day things, how do you have a full-time job and do all this? It would be impossible. I also have to figure out what other support she needs, like for skills that I don’t even know about.
Despite all this, I’m glad for all the time we spend together. Her language has grown significantly. I sometimes wish I could feel more present and not worry so much. There’s always something going on in the back of my head. A lot of uncertainty and stress. Everything I have, I give to her. As a parent, you always wish you could do a little more.
*Names have been changed.