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Consumer Spotlight: Christy Coughlin

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

By: Christy Coughlin

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Christina M. Coughlin, but I go by Christy. I was born in Minot on May 10, 1979 at just 28 weeks (12 weeks early) and weighed only 2 lbs., 14 ounces. Nearly five days later, I had lost almost a pound and the doctors told my parents I was not going to make it through the night. I was then transferred to Minneapolis for care and spent the next 2 ½ months of my life hospitalized.

Following High School graduation, I went to trade school to take culinary classes and I eventually began working as a cook/baker for the Dietary Department at Trinity Health.

Today, I am very active in Special Olympics. I have competed in 5 Special Olympics World Games participating in sports such as volleyball, track and field, downhill skiing, and snowshoeing. In October 2016, I was inducted into the North Dakota Special Olympics Hall of Fame and recognized for my athletic achievements. Special Olympics is my passion and is where I feel most comfortable. Special Olympics has changed my life.

In your own words, what is your disability and how does it affect your life?

I am deaf and have learning disabilities.

What is the story of your disability (when did you acquire your disability, how did it affect your life, your relationships, your living situation).

I was a very quiet baby and eventually my mother noticed something wasn’t quite right. So, she took me to the doctor for a hearing test and I failed the examination. When I was 4 years old, I was fitted for hearing aids in both ears. I received some assistance through speech therapy from preschool through junior high school. Speech therapy helped me learn how to talk, read lips and communicate through American Sign Language. In addition to my hearing issues, I was born with learning disabilities. I worked with a teacher to assist me with school assignments, exams and reading comprehension. Reading was very difficult for me. However, I did well in school, and I always made the honor roll. In 2006, I got a cochlear implant. The implant is truly amazing and well worth it! However, I was criticized/judged by some members of the deaf community, some felt it was an insult to Deaf pride.

What are some of the barriers you have overcome and are most proud of?

One day I had a conversation with my mom in which I said “Mom, I can’t do this” and she told me I had to try. I sometimes find myself wishing I could learn easier or that I could hear out of both of my ears. However, I have learned how to be happy and how to communicate and get by in life. I know I need to look people in the eyes so that I can read their lips. I know I need to take some extra time when I am reading, that is just me being who I am and getting by.

My disability cannot stop my life. I appreciate the fact that I don’t need to hear sounds to be part of the world. My disability is part of who I am and I am very proud to be who I am.

What message would you like to send to other people with disabilities in our community?

I would highly recommend you go to Independence, Inc. as they provide you with so many opportunities to reach your goals and to improve your lives. It is the best place to go.

How has Independence, Inc. benefited your life? They have helped me get involved in volunteering with area youth, access housing and conduct emergency planning exercises. Now, I am a Peer Mentor and a member of the first-ever Community Leadership Academy. I have always been very comfortable with Independence, Inc. because I am a person with a disability and that is who they serve. They have helped me to become more comfortable and more social.

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