Paula Fry

Paula Fry, raised in a military family, was born in Nurnberg, Germany. Her childhood years would also pass by in Arizona, Louisiana, and Colorado. Her parents suspected something was wrong early on, but it would take several inaccurate diagnoses, a set of tubes, and an observant teacher at a pre-school for children with disabilities to lead them to the reason why her speech and motor skills were delayed. Although she had been diagnosed as deaf in only her right ear at the University of Arizona, a visit to the Arizona School for the Deaf when she was 3 ½ years old would reveal that Fry is profoundly deaf in both ears. The audiologist who determined the extent of her deafness explained that the loss is unusual because she only had hearing in a high frequency range, far off the audiogram. This was typically the range the equipment at that time tested. Although the doctors could not pinpoint the cause of the loss, there is suspicion it was because of an illness during her mother’s pregnancy.

Fry’s parents decided to use sign language as the mode of communication for their family, using Signing Exact English for most of her childhood years as it was what the schools she attended used at that time. Eventually she transitioned to American Sign Language and learned to lip read. While her immediate family learned sign, it was frustrating for her at family gatherings when they failed to include her in the conversations with non-signing relatives.

During her elementary years and a small portion of middle school, she lived at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind. The majority of her education was spent in public school though. Of the two, she preferred her mainstreamed education because she felt the teaching was better. She has excellent writing and English skills, which she claims she would not have had if she hadn’t been mainstreamed.

In 2004, Fry became the mother to a hearing son, who is her mirror image. She loves him dearly and is confident in her ability to raise him. She admits to feeling upset when he resists learning sign language though. She remains patient and “gives him time to learn” though. She hopes to enroll him in an ASL class in the fall. Like her, he shows great strength and determination when he wants something.

Fry is naturally skilled at figuring out technology and enjoys keeping up with the Deaf community and the latest products to make her life easier. She stays involved with online groups on Facebook and also spends time with other deaf and hard-of-hearing people in her local area.

Throughout her life, Fry has faced a great deal of adversity, but approaches it with courage. Although she is sometimes sad that she is deaf, she has accepted who she is and is proud to be Deaf. A benefit of her deafness is that she is more observant to details than hearing people. Something she has come to realize is that, even though some hearing people do not agree, “Deaf people can do everything.”