Avery Counts is one of three recipients we are honored to award with our Fall 2022 Disabled Scholar Award. Hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas, Avery is a recent high school graduate set to attend the University of Arkansas. She seeks a Bachelor’s in nursing and then to enroll at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences nursing school in order to become a nurse practitioner. Her ultimate goal is to work at Arkansas Children’s Hospital as a Pediatric NP.
A passionate Razorbacks fan, Avery is also an accomplished athlete, scholar, and engaged young citizen. She is active in her school’s Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program, helping them organize activities and drives while also representing them in meetings with local and state political leaders.
Avery’s drive and commitment demonstrate a person fully engaged with as much of her community as possible. We have no doubt that she will not only provide excellent care to her future young patients, but that she will also lend her talents and enthusiasm to other causes that benefit her community. Good luck, Ms. Counts, and from all of us here at Auger & Auger, here’s a hearty “Woo Pig!“
Born Hard of Hearing, Avery’s Biggest Challenge Is Getting Others to Listen
Avery Counts was born with otosclerosis, a condition that affects the bones of the inner ear and causes hearing loss. Otosclerosis is one of the most common conditions leading to deafness and difficulty hearing in young children. More than three million Americans have it, many since birth.
To treat her condition, Avery has undergone multiple reconstructive surgeries from a young age. Her time in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals has shown her the value of patience, and it has certainly taught her to be empathetic toward other individuals with challenging medical cases.
“I feel that as a hard of hearing nurse, I will be able to relate to the health struggles my patients are experiencing.”
An Honor Student, JAG VP, Community Volunteer, and Lady Senator Soccer Star
Avery is able to improve her hearing through the use of hearing aids and other assistive technologies. Through these accommodations, she is able to attend classes with the general student population without the use of more involved assistive means, like speech-to-text (STT) devices or a sign language interpreter.
An excellent student, Avery graduated with a 3.9 GPA and was honored with Joe T. Robinson High School Top English Student Award. At the same time, the effort required to actively use a hearing aid and listen in class takes its toll.
“Listening fatigue is real for people with hearing loss,” says Avery. “I have to focus more than the average student, and I’m always exhausted after school.”
Despite the rigor of her academic routine, Avery still seems tireless. She is actively engaged in her school’s chapter of JAG: a program designed to get youth engaged early in professional and trade career paths. As Vice President of Civic Awareness for JAG Career Association, she has represented her chapter in consortiums with career organizations as well as local and state political representatives. Her volunteer work with the organization saw her prepping the chapter’s homecoming float, and she also assisted with a drive to collect hygiene and feminine products for the local women and children’s shelter.
Not content with merely being an accomplished student and JAG chapter member, Avery also served on the Maumelle Youth Council and as a member of her high school’s Principal’s Cabinet.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Avery is also a dedicated athlete! She was the starting goalkeeper for her women’s varsity soccer team, and she also enjoys running and playing recreational sports in her spare time. We would also be remiss if we didn’t mention that Ms. Counts has excellent taste in sneakers, as she loves to cop both new and vintage Nike Jordans.
The Emotional Labor of Dealing With Impatience
While Avery’s difficulty hearing affects her life in many different ways, the most frustrating thing for her personally is how people react when they fail to realize she can’t hear them.
“Socially, people often view me as rude since I fail to respond when they speak to me. In school, teachers forget about my disability and say things like, ‘I already told you that,’ or ‘You need to listen the first time.'”
Instead of trying to confirm that she has heard them or attempting to communicate in a more readily understood way, people often jump to impatience. The assumption in everyday society is that the words we say are so important that we deserve to be heard and understood the first time we say them. In reality, everyone may need slightly different ways of communicating to them in order to reach a point of understanding. One of the easiest adaptations to make is to get a confirmation that someone can hear you before jumping to the conclusion that they are being dismissive.
“It is frustrating when people think I’m not paying attention or I’m being difficult,” Avery laments. “I am not a rude person. I often just don’t hear people when they say ‘hi’ or ask me a question.”
One way Avery seeks to circumvent the issue is to tell people she has just met that she has hearing loss. Being honest gets it out of the way, she says, which serves as a huge relief.
“Being up front and honest makes relationships easier,” she notes. “If I need help, I ask for it.”
Avery’s condition has also led to some bullying, social discrimination, and misunderstandings between her and her peers. Nevertheless, she knows the importance of getting people to understand you in order to be a little more empathetic and more patient with those who have a disability. She states that “nearly everyone I’ve encountered in my lifetime has been very understanding and accepting of my hearing loss.”
Avery Counts, Razorbacks Fan and Low-Key Sneakerhead, Is Destined to Be a Great Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Reading through Avery’s essay and interview responses, we see the outline of a very accomplished and impressive individual. She’s always on her feet and staying active, whether its in the goalie box or stomping in the stands cheering for her favorite college team — and her future alma mater.
We hope our contribution helps make your path through college and into pediatrics relatively smooth sailing. And we know from your responses that you are fully prepared to ask for whatever help or accommodations are needed along the way, even if it’s just the patience and understanding of a stranger.