When Kate Rehman was born three months early, weighing only 1 lb. and 14 oz., the doctors simply thought her deafness was due to her premature arrival and other health issues.
Throughout her childhood in Windsor, Ontario, Kate’s parents did not believe in ASL. Instead, she was required to take AVT (auditory-verbal therapy), a specialized type of therapy designed to teach a child to use the necessary aids for understanding speech and learning to talk.
However, many things have changed since then. Now, living in Kitchener, Ontario where she is a professional student, certified dog trainer, and an avid volunteer in the community, Kate is fluent in ASL, though said she still has a lot to learn. She also recently learned the true cause behind her hearing loss: a rare genetic disease that also affects her two daughters.
All three were diagnosed with Barakat syndrome, a disease which can be characterized by hypoparathyroidism – or decreased function of the parathyroid glands – as well as deafness and kidney problems.
As a result, Kate’s two daughters were also born deaf, and she made it her mission to provide them the opportunities she never had growing up. Both girls grew up with ASL, were enrolled in a Deaf school, and immersed in Deaf culture and the community. The family moved twice to make all of this possible.
“I believe children should be able to choose what happens with their bodies, how they learn and understand their identity,” Kate said. “Deaf culture is beautiful.”
As Kate and her daughters “ride the waves,” taking every day one at a time, it is not easy. Her youngest daughter has the most severe case of the disease. She completely lacks a parathyroid to regulate the calcium in her blood, a result that could potentially cause life-threatening symptoms. Meanwhile, her oldest daughter struggles with lupus, depression, and anxiety.
While the trio can’t change anything, they can manage it, learn to cope, and continue to be educated. Kate continues teaching her daughters, now 15 and 18 years old, to fight, not only for their rights for accommodations, but also for their sense of self.
Throughout their journey, Kate has greatly appreciated and relied on the support from her family and friends, but also from online resources. Along with DeafandHoh.com’s Facebook group, she also values the support provided by Hope Alliance, a parent peer support group for those whose children struggle with attempted suicide, self-harm, or mental health.
These resources not only teach Kate and her daughters more about the issues they may face in their lives, but also show how others are overcoming their struggles.
“Life is full of road blocks, mountains, and curves. Never give up,” Kate said. “You only become stronger and empathize with humanity around you. Accept you’re perfect with your flaws and positivity. It is what makes you unique.”