Monday, October 30, 2006

Why, why, why why.

It has not been that long since we had the first implant turned on, but I am already having deja-vu. Chance always has questions about things, but now he has taken the why questions to a new level. After the first implant, Chance asked me ‘Why’ about all sorts of things and now his favorite word is ‘why’ again. Why am I talking to Jaden? When I point out a police car at an accident, Chance asks me why the policeman is there. Who am I talking to on the phone he wants to know...and why. What is his sister doing, he wants to know. Where is his brother?

It is not lost on us that Chance being able to ask so many questions is indeed a blessing and we are very grateful to have a talking deaf child. We have learned new levels of patience as we answer what seems like 5,000 questions a day. Chance's younger sister has started asking why a lot too. So now, there are 10,000 why questions a day. "What are you doing?” “Where are you going?” and “What is that?” Are all popular questions with Chance also. But Chance is a smart little cookie and is just taking everything all in. He is trying to merge information that he already has stored with all of the new vocabulary and language that he is acquiring. He continues to utter new phrases and use new words that wow us. And he picks up on his teachers and friends common phrases:) I really like that his first pre school teacher taught him to say "Oh man!" That has now become a family phrase and Chance still uses that phrase on a regular basis.

Last night, Chance's cousins were all telling "scary" Halloween stories to each other. After a while, they all decided to come out and tell their stories to the adults. As the other kids told their stories, Chance came up and told me that he wanted to tell a story too. I thought this was a good sign as he was brave enough to tell the story in front of a room full of people. I could see Chance concentrating as he waited for his turn. He was thinking hard about his story. When Chance's turn came, he proceeded to make up a story about Skeletons, ghosts, haunted houses, bats, cats, and pumpkins. He had good voice inflection, and used his inflection to set the mood of the story. He would get quiet and whisper when he was building up to a big "Boo!" And his voice would get louder as he told us about the BIG monster that lived in the haunted house. We were so thrilled that Chance was brave enough to tell his story in front of everyone. And he did a great job. Chance’s confidence is growing and he is putting himself out in the world more and more instead of holding back as much. He has things to say and he is ready to start saying them!

As for progress with the second implant: Last week, one week after activation, Chance’s Dad did some sentence tests (from behind him, so he couldn't read facial cues) with only the second implant. Chance was able to identify most of the common phrases: "Where is ___?" "Who loves you?" "Where did you go today?" For "Where is the table?" he heard "Where is the temple?" For an uncommon sentence ("The elephant has big feet.") Chance had no idea what his Dad said. We wouldn’t have expected him to at this point, but had to test none-the-less. However, it was quite encouraging that Chance was able to identify some of the common sentences (even though not perfect) - it shows that his ear and brain are already starting to “accept” the implant.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Chance's response to the implant...

I am seeing a pattern with Chance. About the time that Chance went deaf, I had written in my journal about how Chance had become more snuggley. Then, when Chance got the first implant, he did the same thing. He just wanted more hugs and would cling a little longer when he hugged. Now, he is doing that same thing again. He gives a lot more hugs and likes to nestle in by me a little more often. I can't say that I mind. This is actually a fabulous way for him to deal with the stress in my opinion!

Chance is doing remarkably well. I do notice that he is a little more sensitive... quicker to become frustrated at little things sometimes. I think that he is just working so hard to adapt to all of the changes that he just needs a little extra lov'in. Today he melted my heart when we were playing a game together on the computer after school. He told me that he wanted me to sit right by him because, "I like you a lot."

We continue to be amazed at Chance's vocabulary. He is picking up SO MUCH MORE than he was with the hearing aids. His vocabulary is growing each day. He is able to express himself better and "catch" the words more often to get his meaning across. When Chance is trying to tell you something and he is searching for the words, you can almost see the cranks in his brain working. He shifts his eyes to the side, tilts his head, and says "hmmmmm..." as he searches his brain for the words he wants. Sometimes he even puts his finger up to his temple and taps it a bit. Chance is better able to find the vocabulary he needs to express his thoughts now. And he continues to just take things in stride. He just adapts to all of the changes that are occurring right now in his life. I can not even imagine the effort and energy that he must expend and has been expending for the last 5 months. He is learning to hear again, then learning to hear with two ears again, learning to read, mainstreaming in school, adjusting to social changes with kids in the neighborhood, learning social skills in a hearing world, learing new vocabulary, focusing on hearing and making out what sounds sounds exhausting! Chance just amazes me. He is a little trooper.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The wonders of technology...

Chance had his second appointment to adjust his new implant today. All went well and again Chance hardly ever said that the implant was too loud during adjustments. I don't know if the Audiologist believes Chance that it is not too loud more often, but we are keeping an eye on Chance to see how he does. Since our last visit, Chance has never told us that his implant is too loud. He just goes on with life as usual. In fact, the other night, Chance who usually hands us his implant as he heads off to bed, told me that he wanted to keep both of them on. So I just went and took them off after Chance was asleep.

One thing that Chance still struggles with is hearing on our regular phone. When grandparents call, they can call on the cell phone, but I am realizing that we have an issue with Chance calling to tell me where he is.

Chance is branching out in the neighborhood, which is really good considering that the two boys he regularly plays with are still quite fickle sometimes. He has been playing with some of the other boys in the neighborhood. The problem comes in the fact that the other boys live around the corner, and since I can not just look out to see Chance ,I told him that he needs to call and tell me where he is. We practiced today what should happen when Chance calls me from a friend’s house. I had him tell me what our phone number is, and then he wanted me to review how to dial our number. So I showed him that he would dial, the phone would ring, I would say "hello", and then he would tell me "Mom, I am at ------‘s house." Chance knows all of this, but he has not called on the phone as he has not been able to hear what is said that well. Our new cell phones allow him to hear but even our old cell phones caused issues. After our little review session, Chance got a big smile on his face and he left.

Sure enough, about 5 minutes later the phone rang. We have caller I.D. so I figured it must be Chance calling from his friend’s house. Chance did a great job of remembering to call and tell me when he goes inside someone’s house. However, I don’t know how much Chance actually heard.. He went through the routine that we practiced though. I picked up the phone and said “hello”. There was a long pause and I could hear an adult in the background telling Chance that I was on the phone now. I said “hello” a few more times, then Chance said “I am Cory’s house.” I said “ok” knowing that saying any more was not going to be heard anyway probably. Chance sounded skeptical but he kept going.”My other friend was not home.” I said “ok, have fun at Cory’s.” Then Chance’s doubtful voice said goodbye. Chance remembered the routine, but I don’t think he heard me hardly at all.

Over dinner, we asked Chance if he had heard me on the phone. He said yes. Then we asked him if he heard a lot or a little bit. He said a lot. But when we asked him if we needed to get a phone that helped him hear better, or just keep our old one, Chance enthusiastically told us that we needed one that helped him hear more.

This could be a challenge. What do we do, give Chance a cell phone? I can just see Chance’s older brother’s face as we tell him that we are giving Chance a cell phone. Plus, what kind of shape could a cell phone be in that belonged to a 6 year old? Not to mention that the phone would most likely be dropped in the irrigation canal, fall off of trampolines, skid off of bikes and generally get lost? I don’t want Chance to get discouraged and quit calling though because I need to know if he goes into someone house and where he is. Hmmmmm.

Some phones cause interference with the implant while others are fine. Each neighbors phone is going to be different. And we can’t very well go demand that they all go buy new phones that Chance can hear out of. So, hmmmmmm. This branching out thing is creating some interesting challenges

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Chance is learning the words to songs.

Chance has caught onto the chorus of one of the songs that he has heard in church for several months now. Chance knows bits and pieces to several songs, but rare is the song that he knows every single word to. Last week though, Chance delighted us by singing the entire chorus of a song that is sung in church as we rode in the van. He triumphantly told us that he sang the song when he was sitting in church. We had been visiting friends that week, so maybe it was the change of venue. Chance was so proud of himself. It is exciting to see Chance catch onto things and see his confidence build. I have no doubt that many other songs will follow now, and that he will be more like children who were not born deaf. Those kids can catch onto songs quite quickly usually. At least when they are 6 and are regularly exposed to the song. Chance loves to sing. He will probably always have to pay more attention to the songs that he learns and really try to learn them, but he is well on his way. Sometimes Chance would make up his own songs when we all sang a song and he didn't get all the words. Now, he can blend his voice in with ours more often.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Houston, we have a launch!

It is official! WE NOW HAVE TWO IMPLANTS INSTEAD OF ONE! Chance was really excited about getting his second implant turned on. Everything went really well at his appointment, Chance was a pro at throwing the blocks in the bucket when he heard a sound. And he heard all of the Ling sounds with his new implant today which is really good. (aaa, eee, uuuu, shshshsh, sssss, mmmmm).

The audiologist was working on getting Chance to tell her when the sound was too loud with the new implant, but Chance either hardly ever thought it was too loud, or did not understand when it was too loud. Chance had a sheet on his lap with a picture of a monkey looking swell and the word "good" under his image. The next picture over had a picture of a monkey holding his ears with the words "too loud" under his image. Chance only pointed to the "too loud" monkey a few times though. The audiologist kept asking him if it was too loud, but Chance just shook his head "no". So we are supposed to ask Chance this week if his implant is too loud at random moments to see if he can tell us anything. Right before we left from out appointment, Chance told the audiologist that "it was just right!" So there you go.

The process is the same as last time. There are 4 settings on the implant and we start out on program 1. After a few days, we go to level 2, etc. The goal is to be to level 4 by the next visit which is next week. If Chance complains of discomfort, we will hold off on moving the program for an extra day etc. Last time, Chance hardly ever resisted when we moved the programming up though so we'll see.

This is so exciting!! We have two implants! Sure, I know that it is really Chance that has two implants, but I am living my life through him as I will never get implants myself.(at least not that we know of yet:)

When we got off the elevator after the appointment, Chance said "I can hear that!" I don't know exactly what he heard, but he his face lit up at whatever the sound was. As we were walking out of the building, I asked Chance if he could hear with his other implant. Chance did not hesitate for a moment. He just nodded his head enthusiastically and said "yeah". The setting on the implant is quite low, so Chance is most likely not hearing like he does with the first implant, but I think he really likes having both ears hearing. He has had no problem keeping the new implant on, and is showing everyone he knows that he has a new implant. And not only that, but he has a "Halloween implant". It has a touch of orange. This implant came with colored plackets that you can change to make the bottom outside part another color. So, I am sure that we will be having a Thanksgiving implant with brown, Christmas with red or green and then we'll just go from there.

Since I had the camera with me from the appointment, I took a picture of Chance at school when all of his friends from his deaf class saw him. They were all impressed with the second implant and surrounded him to get a better look. Then all of them ran into class to tell their teacher that Chance had a new Halloween implant. Chance missed his mainstreaming class because of the appointment. But who knows. Maybe tomorrow, all of the kids in his mainstreaming class will wish that they had Halloween implants too.

Another thing that has changed from the first implant is that there is now a "mini" unit that goes over the ear. This device takes two instead of three batteries but does not allow for any plug-ins (FM systems, personal mics, personal audio, phones). It also has a rechargeable battery pack. We have one mini and one regular size unit as we get to choose two. After seeing the "mini" on Chance's ear, I would really like to get him one for the other ear as well. It just seems to fit more comfortably on his ear. (it only costs $1500.00 !) His right ear has adjusted to the bigger implant but it also kind of bends in a different way in order to make accommodations. There will be times when Chance will need the plug-ins that come with the bigger implant, but the mini looks more comfortable for now.

We are on an amazing journey with Chance. One that no one is real familiar with since Chance is one of the first ones in Utah to get a bi-lateral implant. We are all learning as we go along. Chance, us, the Audiologist, the doctors, is an adventure to be sure! But we are excited to be able to on this path.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Chance can talk on the phone

Chance talked for about 5 minutes tonight on the cell phone. He was able to understand most of what was said and his Auntie Chris was able to understand him. We are quite excited that Chance was able to have this conversation. His Auntie Chris lives across the country so she does not see Chance very often. This means that what Chance said was quite clear because Chris would not just be used to being around Chance. You know how sometimes with a child the parents can understand things that others can not because the parents have learned to decipher what is being said? Sometimes it is hard for other people to know exactly what Chance is saying but that is changing. The fact that Chris could have a 5 minute conversation with Chance and tell him things like she was sending stuff in the mail, means Chance is really hearing and not guessing. It is difficult to anticipate what someone is going to say on the phone and you can not rely on lip reading to help you.

Being able to talk on the phone will really help Chance feel a part of things. He is always upset when his siblings can talk to grandma and grandpa on the phone and he can not. And it has been hard for him to watch as his siblings laughed or talked on the phone and then when Chance got on, he could not make heads or tails of what was going on.

Chance can hear on the cell phone and not the home phone though. I wonder what he will think when he suddenly can't hear the person on the other end because the phone cuts out? Will he clue in that the issue is the phone and not him?

Oh, and by the way, tomorrow morning (Wednesday) Chance gets his second ear turned on. We're excited to see how he reacts to having two ears again. Just like with the first ear, it will start low and slowly turn it up. We're hopeful that it will go quickly, as this second ear has been dormant for only four months. Also, since the audiologist, therapists, etc, have no experience with two implants, we're hopeful things go well. (For example, one of the tests is location - can the child locate what direction the sound is coming from. This is accomplished by having about 15 speakers about 12 degrees apart, and putting sound through one of the speakers. The problem is, we don't know if the audiologists even have the setup to do these tests.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Chance passes wtih flying colors!!

Chance was tested this past week on his speech abilities. He is progressing so well!!

He could repeat back 8 word sentences. He could tell the difference between words like bat and boot and point to the pictures of these items. (So you can tell he was not just guessing). He could repeat back 4 numbers given in random order (3,6,9,2). He could hear whispering and differentiate between words such as hotdog, baseball and bathtub. (These words have the same beats.) We have seen Chance make great strides in his vocabulary and speech and now we have a professional telling us the same things!! When Chance had his hearing aids, sometimes he would guess what words were simply because he could tell the difference in the beats or he could guess the context. That still happens of course, but Chance is now able to take sentences that are arbitrary, where there is no context to guess what they might mean. The results of this test made my whole month! Chance is doing so well. He still does not hear everything of course. Nothing can restore natural hearing. But I am continually amazed at what Chance can hear. I can call down the stairs now to the family room and Chance will hear me even when the television is on down there!!

One of the biggest differences that I have noticed with the implant, is Chance's ability to really hear unknown words and repeat them back. When Chance had his hearing aids, giving him new vocabulary was difficult many times. He would ask what something was and we would tell him, but it was such a new strange word to him and he would not be able to hear it right. We would tell him the word, he would try to say it back and get frustrated when we kept saying the word again because he wasn't repeating it back right. With his implant, giving Chance new vocabulary is much less painful for all of us. First of all, Chance hears the words when you tell them to him. Second, he can focus more on the meaning of the words instead of trying so hard to say them right. Chance is ready for more advanced vocabulary too. Part of it is his age. But much has to be attributed to the fact that he just hears better. AND Chance has a great desire to hear and applies his force of will to do so.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oh, the strange things we learn...

It is funny the things that go on around us that we just seem to know about. We don't remember anyone telling us about them, we just seem to have always known.

The other day as Chance and I were coming off the freeway ramp to come home, Chance asked me what the yucky smell was. I told him that it was cow manure. Chance said "What?" So I told him again. Chance still did not understand but was determined to know what was assaulting his nose in such a way. So I tried to use a word I knew he would understand. I told him it was cow poo. Again, Chance said "What?" "It is cow poo", I replied. Chance logically wanted to know where the cows were. I told him there were no cows, just cow poo. So Chance asked me where the cow cages were. I told him there were no cow cages, that the cows did not actually live in the fields, but that the cow poo was brought to the fields. By now, Chance was highly frustrated so when we turned onto a new road, I pulled off to the side so that I could face him. In a very animated way, Chance said "Where is the cow cage?!!!!!" He signed the words cow and cage which is Chance's desperate way of emphasizing what he is saying when he is frustrated and does not think we are understanding him. So I explained that there were no cows or cow cages because the cows lived somewhere else and then people just brought the poo to the field to help the plants grow. I had to say that twice. Then Chance, who has a very expressive face, just sat and stared at me expressionless. It was if he was saying, "Are you on drugs? What is wrong with you? Why would you make up a story like that?" Chance just sat there staring at me like I had lost it for a while and then he said "WHY?!"

So Chance has just learned one of those things in life that we all know, except Chance might remember the exact moment that he found out that cow poo is used to help things grow.

Chance is also learning idioms at school, which is excellent. These phrases are also things that we all know what they mean, but we don't know why we know what they mean. While driving home the other night, Chance says to me "What does ‘hold your horses’ mean?" At first I thought that he was asking me because he had heard that phrase somewhere and wanted to know what it meant. But then he answered it by himself. He said "’Hold your horses’ means ‘wait.’" Then he asked me, "What does ‘piece of cake’ mean?" Then he told me that ‘piece of cake’ means ‘easy’. I am very grateful to his teacher for teaching him these phrases as honestly, it had not occurred to me. Yet these are phrases that Chance is going to hear all of his life and people will just assume that he knows what they mean. Can you imagine being a teen-age and not knowing what ‘hold your horses’ means? You would be so confused. Deaf kids do not just pick up on the things that hearing children do. They have to work harder at it. Sometimes when we are asking Chance what something means, we have to tell his brother and sister to stay quiet and let Chance answer. His siblings just know what certain things mean, while Chance has to think about it and sometimes he just does not know. Chance is amazing in his ability and desire to figure things out.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

To Hear or Not To Hear... That Is the Question

Yesterday while at the zoo, we attended a bird show. We watched talking parrots, zooming eagles, heart faced owls and hawks flew right over our heads. We sat on the first row so we had a good view of the show. The zoo crew who worked with the birds all had a microphone as we were in an amphitheater. I realized right away that this is not the optimal environment for Chance to hear in.

As soon as the show started, the tapping began. Chance tapping my arm asking what the man said. Chance tapping my leg asking what the man was pointing to. Chance tapping my knee to ask what his brother had said "wow" about. Chance tapped me no fewer than 15 times during the 30 minute show. Apparently, the speakers which were attached onto the top of the stage, did not give Chance what he needed. The volume was a little uncomfortable for me as it was so loud. I don't know if the volume was too loud for Chance and distorted things, if Chance needs to learn to hear in this kind of environment, or if the implant just needs another setting in such situations.
Chance so wanted to be a part of what was going on. He told me that he wanted me to tell him when it was time to raise your hand so he could help. They always call for a volunteer.

I did my best to translate for Chance. Some things were not in his realm like when the parrot and trainer were having a dialogue. The trainer would ask the parrot what is favorite song was...("I Left My Heart in San Francisco") I would tell Chance what was being said, but as was the case with the song, some things would have just been words to Chance with no meaning.

Last night however Chance started telling us words he was picking out from watching the television. He would say "I heard him say ‘home!’" etc. Sometimes he would repeat a whole phrase. So, it is still a little bit of a mystery as to what exactly Chance is hearing in some situations.

Chance has such a desire and he does not sit on the sidelines. He asks questions and taps you or turns your head to ask you questions about what is being said. I am grateful for his persistence. It is a great trait to have when one is deaf :)