Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reflecting on the months before magic ears

Julia's hearing aids had their second birthday on Friday.  This time of year makes me think about the time right before she got the aids.  We knew our lives were about to change.  We didn't know how.

I'd taught Julia a few signs in an attempt to ease our communication.  She knew "more", "all done", "eat" and "loud".

In the beginning of April 2008, we had carpet installed in our townhouse.  Julia and I spent two days trapped in the top part of the house with a lot of extra furniture and the dog.  Below a couple of carpet installers chatted in Spanish and banged around.

We signed "loud" a lot during those two days.  She could hear the boom of the installer's big stapling contraption.  She was fascinated to the point that when the carpet was done and the men left she signed "more loud" and told me in her very best approximation, "want more loud".

That day has always weighed heavily on me.  She wanted to hear and couldn't.  I didn't know.

I try to focus on the past two years.  We've had loud and quiet.  Even whispers.  It's better than I could have imagined.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hearing age: 2 years

Children with hearing loss have a "hearing age" which is the time that has passed since receiving amplification.  Julia's hearing birthday is today.  Her hearing aids are two years old.

The months leading up to our big day when the audiologist finally dispensed hearing aids were the toughest I've experienced as a parent.  We still had a lot of denial.  We had to push back Julia's ABR test which was the one thing holding up the hearing aids.  I worried that every passing day was going to adversely impact her ability to catch up to typically hearing kids.

When we got to the audiologists office on April 23, 2008, I was anxious to see what Julia's reaction would be.  I had decided that the first words she'd clearly hear me say would be "I love you."

By the time the hearing aids were in and turned on, I had forgotten about memorable first conversations.  My little girl sat stock still with her little knuckles turning white as she grasped the arms of her chair.  She was afraid.

It was the first time in my life I listened to everything.  I heard a fan.  A chair squeaking. 

The audiologist pointed out that these things had never been audible to Julia before.  The refrigerator running would be disproportionately amplified by the aids.  It would be really loud for her.  Background noise that I never noticed would be loud and scary.

Before we left the office she'd already tried to repeat "father".  I forgot to tell her "I love you" until we were on our way home.  Tim and I could tell right away that the world was going to be a lot different for our child.

We've accomplished everything I'd hoped we would in the time since she got her magic ears.  You'd never know by talking to her that she's only been hearing well for two years.  She's an amazing little girl.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Watching TV at a reasonable level

Julia's insurance approved the purchase of a personal FM system for us to use in our very own home.  We pursued getting one of our own because DART will be repossessing theirs in a few months.  The school district will keep all equipment in the classroom when kindergarten starts.  We'd be left with nothing for dance class and extra curricular activities.

After having the FM for a week, we're already using it way more than before.  Tim got a cable to hook it up to our TV.  We can watch a movie with our daughter while the sound is at a reasonable level.  It plays right into her hearing aids and she's getting a lot more out of TV time.  I'm happy that the sounds of Star Wars don't take over the entire house!

We'll be able to plug the FM right in to my computer or a portable DVD player so she can hear a movie on the airplane this summer. 

And we're guaranteed to have the additional support she needs for dance, soccer or whatever she decides to take on in the future.  We love our FM!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Self advocacy amusements

It was really hot last week and the two sisters next door were in their bathing suits to jump on the trampoline while it was being sprayed with a hose.  Julia adores this trampoline and barges in on it at every opportunity.  This day, she couldn't because her hearing aids can't get wet.

We're new to the neighborhood and these "will you play with me?" conversations are a bit awkward.  Julia goes up to the youngest of the neighbors and says hello.

"I can't go on there with the water.  I can't get my hair wet," Julia tells her.
The other little girl is swaying shyly.
"I wear magic ears," Julia continues.

At this point I prompt Julia to show the girls her hearing aids since they probably have no idea what she's talking about.

Julia lifts her hair and says, "These are my magic ears.  They help me hear.  Without them I can't hear very well.  You have to talk really loud.  Look, these are my earrings and these are my magic ears.  Can you tell the difference?  It's very confusing."

She also pointed out that she was wearing aqua socks and it is okay if they get wet.

Self advocacy will be a goal of ours for quite some time.  Julia has to be able to position herself to hear in the classroom and social settings.  She needs to be able to explain her hearing aids to her peers.  My husband and I felt reassured listening to this conversation.  She advocates for herself pretty well already!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Art of Reading Aloud

This week I attended a program at the DePaul Institute called The Art of Reading Aloud, Reading Skill Development through Literature.  As always, the people at DePaul put on a great event open to all parents/grandparents of kids with hearing loss, not just DePaul families.

A hearty amount of the discussion dealt with building reading comprehension skills.  As parents, we should be asking questions to make sure our little ones are understanding what is read.  I've been surprised since working through 90 of Julia's reading lessons (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) how well she can answer questions based on her own reading of simple stories.

When I read to her, it's a challenge for me to think of questions to ask that will help her get to a higher level of thinking about more complex stories.  This workshop has made me aware of the times I read without really knowing if she's paying attention.

Now I've been armed with a list of questions to help her uncover deeper meaning and help her draw on her own experiences to understand the story.  I'm interested to ask her how she'd have ended some of her favorite stories if she was the author.  We're sure to uncover some big ideas and hopefully she's well on the way to becoming a strong reader.  I'm really anxious about conquering spelling, but that's a battle for another day!

A list of the free programs available for parents at the DePaul Institute is available on my resource page.  I highly recommend finding workshops like these in your area.  They really help you to think about the time you spend interacting with your child in a productive way.  Every story and even every household sound is an opportunity for auditory growth.