Interview with Marie-​Josée Taillefer: Making deafness visible!

April 30, 2012
Entrevue avec Marie-Josée Taillefer : rendre la surdité visible !

Marie-Josée Taillefer is the spokesperson for the inaugural fundraising campaign for the Fondation Sourdine pour l’École oraliste de Québec pour enfants malentendants ou sourds, and she met our interview request with enthusiasm.

As the inspirational parents of two deaf children, Marie-Josée Taillefer and her husband René Simard understand better than anyone the importance of our awareness campaign, which seeks to inform people about the impact hearing has on our daily lives.

When Olivier was born, Marie-Josée and René thought he was simply a very calm baby. An extremely calm baby. Far from silent, Olivier’s babble served to mask his deafness. But over time, his small sounds became more and more infrequent. Since he couldn’t hear them, he did not develop the habit of repeating after them. However, like all babies, he could sense vibrations. If an object fell on the floor, it would startle him—not because of the noise, but because he could feel it. After a while, Marie-Josée and René real­ized that they were not able to calm their son’s crying with their voices alone. Olivier would only quiet down at the sight of his parents. That was when they decided to have him tested. At 11 months, Olivier’s deafness was diagnosed.

Early childhood intervention is critical!

When Rosalie was born two years later, it was a completely different story. At that time, the hospital was testing a new device for detecting deafness in newborns, and they soon diagnosed Rosalie as being deaf as well. For the couple, the news came as a shock. Their experience with Olivier had shown them how important it is to act quickly, equipping the child with hearing aids and adopting appropriate behaviours right away to avoid developmental delays. Early intervention is crucial because language develops in a child before the age of three. “For example, if a child begins to talk at one year old, it’s because he’s been hearing words for a whole year,” says Marie-Josée. “Imagine the delays a child would experience if he only started to hear at the age of five!”

Marie-Josée points to the hidden nature of deafness, which is not an easily detected disability. “People don’t usually think their child’s ­hearing could be deficient; parents take it for granted that their child can hear well from birth. Imagine—we were with our son 24 hours a day, and even though Olivier is deaf, we had to piece together all these little signs before we became suspicious and decided to have his hearing tested. Think of what it would be like with a child who has mild or moderate deafness. Often, parents will become aware of their child’s hearing loss only once he or she starts school and displays difficulty with reading and writ­ing. If you have even the slightest suspicion, you should consult an audiologist to make sure,” advises Marie-Josée.

Olivier and Rosalie: Where are they at now?

Marie-Josée is very proud of how far her children have come. In spite of the obstacles they encountered at school because of being different, and as a result of all their hard work, they have carved out a place in society. Rosalie is a dance scholarship recipient and in her second year of university in visual arts. She also works part time at Omer DeSerres where she advises customers.

As for Olivier, he works in electronics at Bombardier. Olivier spent three months on his own in western Canada to learn English. He is a young man determined to make a place for himself! He also works as a waiter at Guy Lafleur’s restaurant.

“In watching our kids develop, we’ve learned that children with difficulties are not to be underestimated; they’re capable of achieving just as good results as anyone else. You just have to support them and not limit them!”

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René and Marie-Josée have agreed to be the spokespeople for the first fundraising campaign for the Fondation Sourdine pour l’École oraliste de Québec pour enfants malentendants ou sourds.

Over a period of five years, this major campaign will raise 2.5 million dollars to go towards acquiring a building that will house the École oraliste de Québec. The money will also be used to create an endowment fund to ensure the school can continue to provide services and to build an intensive education program for students.

“We decided to support this campaign because we know that for deaf or hearing-impaired children, proper education is crucial to their development. This is why we are very happy to lend our support to this extraordina-ry school,” says Marie-Josée.

When we asked Marie-Josée to tell us what her ultimate goal was, she replied without hesitation: “To make deafness visible!” Indeed, the disability receives scant attention.

Throughout our interview, Marie-Josée displayed an incredible gener-osity of spirit, and we would like to thank her from the bottom of our hearts for this enriching and enlight-ening encounter.

Click here to visit the École oraliste Web site.