Aug 2018  Independent Online Pretoria News

While Nadia Leitao did not have the ability to hear at birth, this did not quieten the inner voice which told her to reach for her full potential, especially against all odds and now, 22-years-old, she is a finalist in the Miss Deaf SA 2018. She was born totally deaf, but it took a while before her parents noticed that. She said her parents said they were surprised at the fact that she slept through the noisiest environments, like when they made noise in a room when she was there.

“They never for a moment considered that I was deaf. "It was only when my grandmother examined me that she confirmed to my parents that I was in fact deaf,” she said. Still her parents didn’t think it was serious, and they took her to a doctor who gave her hearing aids. She only wore them for three months before getting a cochlear implant operation at 22 months.

nadia“I was the youngest child to receive a cochlear implant in the Pretoria cochlear implant programme. At that time implants could only be performed after 24 months.” She spoke to the Pretoria News of the struggles through life and of conquering the disability she could not escape. It wasn’t all “hunky-dory” after the successful operation, which gave her a cochlear implant in one ear. Although it made her speech better and subsequently she learnt how to talk, other children still made fun of her disability. “In turn, this made me feel inadequate, and like an outcast.” She said although she was never really bullied, she felt like she didn’t belong. Her struggles were hardest in group settings. “In a group there is a lot of people talking and it makes you tired because you have to concentrate. In other instances you have to lip read so it all makes sense. And sometimes people laugh uncontrollably and I wouldn’t know what they were laughing at because I had missed something.” She said she couldn’t make friends because she was embarrassed to start conversations: “I felt people were irritated by me always asking them to repeat themselves because I couldn’t hear them.”

While she was in high school at Willow Ridge her two best friends changed her life, and made her feel accepted. After matriculating the person she referred to as her “knight in shining armour” reassured her that she was more than enough. He suggested she join the Miss Deaf SA. She is among the top three of eight girls to compete in the pageant, to take place on October 13 at the Atterbury Theatre in Pretoria. “The only thing you can change is your own behaviour, not your disability, so own it so they can’t use it against you,” she said. Leitao said she was in need of sponsors for her pageant wardrobe, and those who responded, she said, would get media coverage and advertisements on the night.

She is currently studying early childhood development at Unisa and teaches children between the ages of two and seven years at Whispers Speech and Hearing Centre in Lynnwood. She is also au-pairing for a family with a child who has two cochlear implants. “This job not only pays for my studies but it also allows me to give back to the community that supported me in these valuable early years of my life,” she said.

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