If your daughter was diagnosed with profound hearing loss at 10 months, and you spent the next 30-plus years advocating to help her succeed as a social worker and wife, would you call it a day and retire?
Wendy Kupfer didn’t. In fact, she may be just getting started.
Author of children’s book Let’s Hear It for Almigal, Wendy Kupfer modeled her main character, Almigal, after her own daughter, Ali, who also has traded bubblegum pink hearing aids for cochlear implants (just like Almigal).
What prompted a children’s book now that her own children are grown? “I am always buying [books] for my three granddaughters,” Kupfer says. “I was really surprised, after having raised a daughter with hearing loss, in this day and age, I wasn’t seeing any books where the child had a hearing device.”
With a great idea, a great team and a great illustrator, Tammie Lyon, Kupfer went to work.
- The Center for Hearing and Communication finds that about 3 million children in the U.S. have a hearing loss, with 1.3 million of them being under the age of 3.
- According to the CDC, the earlier children with hearing loss start getting services, the more likely they are to reach their full potential.
- According to the March of Dimes, hearing loss is one of the most common birth defects, and more than 12,000 babies (3 in 1,000) are born in the U.S. each year with a hearing impairment.
- Approximately 30,000 children have cochlear implants.
“Almigal has a big message of inclusion and diversity,” Kupfer explains. “It really speaks to character development and trying to raise our children to be respectful of each other.“
While Almigal’s disability is hearing loss, Kupfer was determined to deliver her message about the value of any child with a different ability. “Whether it’s a wheelchair or anything, we have to start teaching our children at a young age,” she emphasizes. “I want to educate our children that we’re all special in different ways. It’s about appreciating our differences.”
When Ali was diagnosed with hearing loss, Kupfer felt defeated until she took control and decided no obstacle would stand between Ali and happiness. “It was challenging back then, because you didn’t have access to the internet or the programs families have access to today,” she remembers. “It was a different world.”
Author has one regret
Kupfer looks back with only one regret. “I was so intent on [Ali] always being in a hearing world,” she says wistfully. “At some point, I realized that for her own self-esteem, that I was wrong…
“I didn’t seek out other friends for her with hearing loss. I think that was wrong. It took my own maturing to realize we all like having friends who share something in common with us.”
Today, Ali is a successful social worker who helps individuals with hearing and those with hearing loss.
Now that Let’s Hear It for Almigal is taking off, will the “Nanny” to three granddaughters finally relax and consider retirement?
“The truth of the matter is that I don’t consider myself a writer,” Kupfer admits. “[But] I am a grandmom-preneur!”
Almigal’s name is a combination of Kupfer’s favorite saying for her daughter: “Ali, my gal.”