Monday, October 26, 2009

Trusting your ears

I observe my daughter more as a speech language pathologist than a mom. I have no formal training in that capacity, but I've been the leading advisor to the educational team. I take the responsibility very seriously. She's achieved her speech goals and the time is coming when I'll have to let go of analyzing her listening/speaking skills. Just not yet.

I've stumbled on a a new problem that will probably self-correct, as many do. She is over-confident in her hearing. She hears something and that is what was said. She'll even argue with me now. "Mommy, I heard you, you said..." She lacks the experience to match up a half heard word to the list of possible choices.

This came to my top-of-mind awareness on Thursday when she met a little girl on the playground. I could hear my Julia say, "Harmen, that's an interesting name." The girl's name was Carmen. Julia is growing up in a new age where someone probably has named their child Harmen, but it occurs to me that maybe she doesn't question what she's heard because she still thinks any combination of consonants and vowels can be a word. She might not know what it means, but it could be a word.

Yesterday she was repeating the instructions on the GPS. "Turn right on Stupid, Bill, Bike," she said. "No sweetie, it's Steubenville Pike," I tell her. "Stupid Bill, PIKE," she says.

We're very fortunate that Julia's hearing problem is just a matter of volume. Her scores have always been perfect on the sound discrimination tests she takes at her audiologist visits. There is no distortion when her hearing aids amplify sound. The current issue seems to be more of a social conditioning problem.

So now I'll set out to gently draw her attention to situations when it's tough to hear all the sounds a person is saying. We'll continue to teach her to ask someone to repeat what she hasn't entirely heard. And I'll hope not to destroy her confidence in her hearing ability.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The constant talking phase

When Julia was diagnosed with hearing loss, those close to me tried to pull me out of my devastation by saying, "some day, you'll beg her to be quiet." I would smile, nod, try to suppress the lump in my throat and pray that they were right. They were and I wish they'd have offered some tactful advice on initiating some quiet time.

In a few days, Julia will have had her hearing aids for 18 months. A short while ago, I was calculating her "length of utterance" to see if she was using three word sentences. Now we have trouble having on an adult conversation during her waking hours.

She has something to say about everything. She has no internal monologue. She has been in bed for forty-five minutes and she still hasn't stopped talking.

During the day we chat about everything. I do nothing but pay attention to her for the majority of our time together, there's no need to have her stop talking. I've given up luxuries such as having a moment to think my own thoughts.

My husband gets home and I get the distinct impression he might like to say something. This is because he often tries to speak. Julia barrels right on, she needs fifteen different questions pertaining to the plot of Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame answered. "Daddy is trying to tell me something, you have to wait," I tell her. Her sad little face looks like someone just shot our dog.

It seems hopeless in the daily grind that she'll someday be able to modulate her talking. Then I remind myself of the tiny signs of growth in this area: that she doesn't interrupt when I'm reading stories to her, that she can wait while Daddy tells his story. Someday I'll be begging her to tell me what she's thinking. Moments of silence are coming soon!

One thing I've gained from parenting a hearing impaired kid is a supreme appreciation of her speech. We waited such a long time for her to sing us a song or tell us a story, every word she says (and there are so many) is that much more special.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The girl with the things in her ears

We've never had anyone notice Julia's hearing aids. She usually wears her hair down or "straight" as she calls it. The over-the-ear part is flesh colored and she has clear ear molds. From a distance you can't even see them.

Ballerina hair styles, a bun today, and close proximity of dancers has led to some commentary on her magic ears during ballet class. After class her teacher told me that one of the other little girls addressed my daughter, "hey girl with the things in her ears." The kids are so innocent was the teacher's take on it.

In the car Julia told me that a girl asked last week, "what are those things in your ears." Julia told her they were magic ears and the girl didn't understand so she told her that they help her hear better. My pride in her ability to explain her disability is tempered with an annoyed worry for the future.

Perhaps my experiences of having a pair of really ugly eyeglasses in the first grade are making me think we'll have tough times over this in the future. A boy in my class, Matt, who incidentally did remain our school's resident hottie even into High School, said that my glasses were upside down. They had that kooky stem that is most commonly seen on old lady glasses. When he got over harping on them being upside down he latched onto them probably being my grandmother's glasses. Needless to say, I was more comfortable wearing my conformist wire frame glasses from then on.

By Middle School I was wearing a Milwaukee brace to treat my scoliosis. Kids weren't as mean as adults I encountered during that time.

Julia has no choice. She'll have to wear her hair up sometimes and innocence will soon be a word no longer associated with the kids in her class. I can only hope that her current sunny, resilient personality will carry her through those times when someone tries to make her feel self-conscious. And that kid in her ballet class better learn her name is Julia.