Simon Fraser University


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Monique Guterres

Deaf student defies the odds

May 28, 2009

Born profoundly deaf and told she may never speak, Monique Guterres has never been one to stay silent.

The honours criminology student grew up embracing challenges, learning to communicate orally instead of signing and attending the mainstream school system.

"My parents... wanted me to be able to communicate as fully as possible," says Guterres. "It wasn’t until Grade 5 that I first remember having the feeling that I was different."

Guterres adapted to hearing aids, but she was self-conscious of her speech and demeanour. She initially declined a surgical cochlear implant. But at 17, amid peer pressure and despite doubts, she went through with it.

"For six months I hated it—I couldn’t hear anything, just waves in my head," she recalls. "Sounds were so amplified and foreign. I had to re-learn how to hear—and I still am learning how to hear, seven years later.

"It was one of the most alienating experiences of my life."

Eventually her speech improved and she was able to process what she was hearing. "The most beautiful sounds I have ever heard are the waves of the ocean," she says.

At SFU, Guterres switched from science to criminology at the suggestion of Gail Anderson, a forensic entomologist in the School of Criminology. She was drawn to environmental criminology and plans to pursue graduate work in the field.

"Monique is a remarkable student and she is intent on doing great things," says Anderson.

Criminologists Paul and Patricia Brantingham agree. Guterres works with the pair as a research assistant in the school’s Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies and has been instrumental in drafting a soon-to-be released report on crime in one Vancouver community.

She’ll spend part of the summer at a cultural gathering in Macau where her parents were born. Her father, a former travel agent with SFU’s Travel CUTS, has enabled her to travel widely abroad.

At home, Guterres volunteers with several community groups and is the B.C. youth director of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. She is also creating a website to remedy a lack of Canadian information on accessing technology and peer support. By Marianne Meadahl