I've never felt anyone despised me for being almost deaf.

Dec. 13, 2016
It's more a matter of folks staying busy. 

It's more a matter of folks staying busy. A whole list of things need to be finished before the favorite TV program starts, or before delighting a child by reading a book to him or her. Life is hectic, and slowing down to communicate with the hearing-impaired or deaf can be inconvenient, messing up the daily schedule a bit.

One unpleasant memory that I have from my childhood was with a classmate who had cerebral palsy. When a teacher implemented assigned seating, he always seemed to be the next row over, one desk back. The opposite kind of difficulty occurred for me. I couldn't understand him. I need people to somewhat stand still, face me, and let me use a combination of hearing and lip reading.

I later became friends with his twin brother in college. His brother shared some impressive anecdotes of how smart Carl actually was. More than 40 years later, I still regret that I wasn't able to figure out a way to be a part of Carl's life.

Candace Hsu's "call for action" with the developmentally disabled obviously struck a chord with me. Her article specifically calls for a "positive shift in dental clinician attitudes toward people with developmental disabilities." Granted, unlike taking several minutes to verbally explain something to me instead of the 30 seconds to say the same thing to a person with normal hearing, the solutions for the dental care for the developmentally disabled involve serious training, for example. To illustrate her point, she cites techniques such as mechanical devices (mouth props, papoose boards, etc.) and how dental professionals have "insufficient training" for using them.

My guess is that this training sounds inconvenient.

Despite the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, dental offices avoid this inconvenience due to "safety concerns." The Special Care Dentistry Association, which provides numerous resources for dental professionals to consider, believes that "oral health disparities ... leads to serious systemic diseases ... which result in billions of dollars in preventable health care expenditures annually." All dental professionals, of course, know that "poor oral health outcomes" are perhaps the most inconvenient part of care.

I'd like to conclude by echoing Hsu's conclusion. She says it better than I could.

She wrote, "Consider this a call to action to improve the mental outlook toward individuals with developmental disabilities, to push leaders and educators to improve special-needs dentistry training programs, and-above all-to improve the quality of life for this population."

This is not a matter of whether it's convenient or not.

Mark Hartley

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