Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Chance is hearing things that we don't know he hears....

Chance has started responding to things we say when we haven't even been talking to him. This is just not something that we are used to. We are used to having to make an effort to have Chance hear us. It used to be that if it was time for dinner, we made a personal invitation to Chance as he was still sitting and playing cars after his siblings had run to the table. Now, Chance is hearing more and more things on his own and just responding appropriately.

The other night we had my mom over for dinner. We mentioned that the baby was still hungry and that we should get him a banana. Then we went on talking for a minute. The next thing we knew, Chance was standing next to us with a banana for the baby. Chance was not even at the table when we had the banana discussion. He just overheard us. Wow. Chance is over hearing us! I guess the days are gone when we can talk about his birthday present when we are across the room from him. He might hear us!

Chance also is quite aware of the value of two implants. He never wants to have just one on anymore. And he never wants to take them off unless he is doing cartwheels or something when the risk of them flying off are high. Chance used to bring me his implant when he was at gymnastics. He would tell me that his implant was falling off. Of course with all of the flipping, jumping and rolling it makes sense. Now he has two implants to account for and he takes them off even less than before. I don't know if Chance just adapted better, or if he just can't stand not hearing what is going on, but I have noticed that he hardly ever brings me his implants anymore during gymnastics. He just keeps them on. I saw him hand them to his teacher once when he was doing somersaults down the mat. (I wonder if she realizes that she holds the equivalent of $10,000.00 in her hands when he hands them to her:) But he immediately put them back on when he was through. He used to not wear his implants during gymnastics hardly at all. I think that Chance has really taken to this hearing business and does not want to interrupt the flow of sound unless it is absolutely necessary.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Chance can hear on the regular phone quite well..

Chance had a conversation on the phone with his dad today that made us quite excited. Chance has an option on his implant that has been working quite well for Chance when he uses the phone. Chance's dad has been in Germany and so when he called to talk to Chance, we were not sure how much of the conversation Chance would catch. But today as Chance's dad was talking to Chance about his trip(using vocabulary that is not standard for Chance like castle etc.) Chance caught most of the conversation! He even had responses like, "That is so cool!" when he was told that daddy had been inside a real castle. Then Chance told me that,"Daddy went inside a real castle!" When Chance handed the phone back to me, his dad said "Did you hear him on the phone?! He caught almost everything that I said and even responded!" This is exciting news since talking on the phone is a one of those things that really comes in handy.

Chance may have to practice whipping his implant off, changing the setting, and then finding the phone all before the phone stops ringing. It is exciting to realize that Chance can indeed talk on our regular phone since we did not think that was working for a while. Now we realize the implant setting makes all of the difference. Chance still does not catch everything over the phone. That may change with time as he adjusts even more to the implants and "learns" to listen over the phone. Or maybe he won't ever catch everything over the phone. Chance caught most of the conversation with his dad though and we are hopeful that talking over the phone is in Chance's future.

Chance has actually taken more of an interest when the phone rings now that he can both hear the phone on a regular basis and feels that he can talk on it. Imagine that:)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

learning about emotions..

We have seen a need to help Chance express his emotions. Chance has always been very expressive, but we have noticed that he does not seem to know how to get certain emotions out.
We have heard from some professionals who work with deaf children, that it is common to have to work on emotions with them. The thing is, since Chance has been deaf since about 13 months, so it is hard to know what effects are caused by the deafness, and what may just be Chance's personality.

Chance is very expressive and loving. And he is not shy about letting us know when he does not like something. There have been times however, when as I look into Chance's eyes, I can tell that a situation has upset him, but if I ask him about it, he tells me he is fine. He has literally had tears in his eyes and when I have asked what is wrong, he will tell me, " I am not sad!" Uh huh.
I think that for a while, Chance could not express some of his most basic feelings and wants. Now he can do that, but he has to learn how to express his thoughts and feelings so that we know how he is feeling. It is interesting, because, Chance is so expressive and sometimes he is an open book. But other times, he seems unsure of how to let his emotions out. For instance, when he has had his feelings hurt... I don't think he knows what to do with that. My experience with children has been that most kids go through some kind of a stage where a favorite phrase is "you hurt my feelings!" Chance of course, did not have that opportunity, he was not hearing enough to focus on hurt feelings. He was focused on figuring out what was going on in a world that had gone silent for him.

I don't want to give Chance feelings that he does not have. I have witnessed situations where I think "I bet Chance didn't like that," but Chance is reluctant to talk about it. I have seen Chance get frustrated and cry when he feels that his friends aren't getting his message. I encourage him to talk to them and tell them that he does not like that or that he wants them to listen to him. Sometimes, he will run down the hall and slam the door to his bedroom after something has upset him. We are trying to teach him to talk and tell us what the problem is.

One thing that Chance does when he is going through something is to become more snuggly. He has been more snuggly the past few weeks and I know that something is going on, but I don't know what it is. It is amazing what effects language, or lack of, and communication have on us.
So, for now, we are trying to help Chance realize that he can express his emotions and that he does not have to hide them. He has the language to get them out now.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Chance has the ultimate ability to annoy his siblings...

Today Chance's sister got upset at Chance so she decided to tell him about how we had gone to a musuem and then got ice cream afterwards while he was at school. Of course, this perked up Chance's interest right away. He was already upset so this was just rubbing salt into the wound.
His sister, realizing that she had hit on something, kept going about our fun day. Chance told her that he did not want to hear any more but she kept going. So Chance just took his implants off and held them out in his hand towards her. Suddenly, his sister realized that Chance was no longer hearing her, so she got frustrated and tried to hit him. Ahhhh, Chance might find a great way to torment siblings with this technique. What do you do if someone can't hear you anymore? If they can actually turn their hearing off when you are annoying them?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Our team

In order for me to be all of the places that I need to be, requires a lot of babysitting. Most of the appointments I have with Chance are not little kid friendly. And they aren't really big kid friendly either as death by boredom is plausible. A big kid would only be excited for so long watching Chance raise his hands for the beeps, or listening to test results or sitting in on therapy sessions. Plus, most of the time, you have to be really quiet. The fact that I have four kids and am not now mentally unstable from trying to keep them all in line and quiet for all of the appointments, can be directly attributed to my generous neighbors.

I believe that God provides a way when you need help and many times He uses other people to fulfill the need. Such is the case with our family. I have several set appointments each week and I am able to do what needs to be done because women in my neighborhood watch my other kids. They also step up and watch my kids when I have other appointments added in like an implant mapping or doctors appointments. I joke that certain neighbors are all going to start checking their caller I.D. so that they can avoid my calls. Amazingly enough though, I have never felt like they feel put out. I try to be very sensitive of my neighbors time and if I can take the kids I will. I also try to call if I am running late at an appointment to verify with them that I am not messing up their schedule for the day if I am later than expected. I do try to help my neighbors out when I can by watching their kids so that they can volunteer in their kids classrooms, go to doctors appointments by themselves and I take their little ones when they take their older kids to sports events. But the truth is, they watch my kids far more often than I watch their kids. I am quite excited to report, that one of our neighbors is pregnant and I am now able to give back a bit by watching her kids during doctors appointments. These are the same neighbors who I joke with that by the time our kids are teenagers, we will owe them enough babysitting that they can go on a cruise for 2 or 3 months while leaving their kids with us.

These women have shown me what it means to serve your neighbor. They are so generous with their time. I have been touched time and again by their willingness to take my kids even at the last minute sometimes. I love these women. I don't know that they will ever know how their generous spirits have helped me and my family. And my kids feel comfortable in their homes. They have friends in these homes and are just added to the lunch table or taken along for the car pool when needed. These woman are friends as well as neighbors. We will forever be grateful for them.

We moved here only a few months before finding out that Chance was deaf. We truly feel that we were sent here to this neighborhood because we needed to be here. When we found out that Chance was deaf, I made it a point to inform our neighbors so that they would realize that if they talked to Chance and he did not respond, they would know why. And for safety reasons. Chance could not hear cars and neighbors needed to be aware of him. One neighbor warmed my heart when her reaction right after I told her was,"Well, we'll just make sure that he knows that we love him." These people will be with us forever. They jumped in and helped in a time when we needed them. I honestly don't know how I would be able to do what I do with out them.

I will forever try to be more aware now of people around me who may need my help. You just never know the burden that you can help lift off of someone when you are willing to help.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"She hurt my ear!"

"She hurt my ear." That was the reason that Chance gave me when I asked him why he did not want to go to his reading class today. Chance attends a one on one reading class each day to help him catch up with reading. He leaves his kindergarten class about 30 minutes early and heads to his reading class.

I volunteer in Chance's class each Wednesday morning and when I said goodbye to Chance today, he did not want to let me go. Chance has never clung to me like that when I was leaving before, so I tried to figure out what was going on. I asked Chance if he liked his class and he said "yes". I asked him if he wanted to go to his afternoon class and he said "yes". I checked him for a fever, and found nothing amiss. I asked him if he felt sick, and Chance said "no". Then he asked me if he was going to his reading class today. I told him that he was. Chance got tears in his eyes and said , "No, I don't want to!" I asked Chance why he did not want to go to his reading class. He just buried his head in my shoulder. So I started asking Chance questions about reading class. "Is your reading teacher nice?" I asked. "Yes." Chance said. Then I said "Don't you want to learn to read like your brother?" "I just don't want to go to reading today!" Then he got tears in his eyes and said, "She hurt my ear." A rather odd comment, so I thought I should investigate this with Chance further. I asked Chance what happened when his teacher hurt his ear. Then Chance told me "She is so loud! It hurts my ear!" And then he put his hand over his implant.

Well, this was an unexpected dilemma. Who would have thought that my little deaf son would be telling me that his teacher was too loud? I explained to Chance that this situation could be fixed. All we had to do, was tell his teacher that she was talking too loud and could she please be more quiet. I could see that Chance was not real willing to have this conversation with his teacher on his own. We do need to work on helping Chance have confidence to advocate for himself and speak up and tell people what his needs are. For today, I walked Chance to his reading class and told his teacher what Chance had told me. Chance glanced at his teacher and then looked shyly at the floor as I spoke. His teacher was very understanding and said that she was used to talking to kids with hearing aids that needed her to talk a little louder. Apparently, Chance does not need louder any more:)

It was a problem that I enjoyed solving. Chance's teacher was talking too loud. Who would have guessed we'd get to this point?

Thanks to my wonderful, generous, giving neighbors(I can not express throughly enough how these caring women make it possible for me to do what I need to with Chance), I was able to stay through Chance's reading class too. I must say that I was quiet impressed. I had attended Chance's reading class once before and today, I was quite impressed with Chance's progress. He is really coming along with his reading and the expression on his face when he could read some of those words was priceless. I am so grateful for Chance's teachers who truly care for my son and help him learn. Years from now, these women(they have all been women), will still hold a soft spot in my heart as I recall the care they gave my son at a time when he needed their expertise and caring.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Chance is one loud child....

It is interesting to hear how loud Chance talks when he does not have his implants on. When he comes into our bedroom in the morning, he talks much louder than he normally does. This is understandable since Chance does not hear himself at a regular level of speaking with out implants on. The only reason it is noticed is that Chance's baby brother sleeps in our room so when Chance comes in in the morning and begins to tell us something, keeping the environment quiet if the baby is still sleeping, is a somewhat lost cause. And since Chance can not hear us with out the implants on, we can not tell him to be quiet. We can sign it, but that means that Chance has to be looking right at us. However, we are not complaining, just observing:) Chance does hear some with out his implants on, he has always been able to hear some things if you talk right to him and he is really close and it is really quiet. It is hard to know though what is hearing and what is lip reading. Chance is really good at reading lips.

Chance went to a Utah Jazz basketball game with his dad and brother last night. When they all got home, I asked his dad how Chance responded to the noise level at the game. Apparently, Chance was not bothered at all. He made no mention of it and did not seem to be phased. He must be adjusting well to this noise filled world if he was not traumatized by the nosie level at a basketball game what with the booming announcers, loud music, buzzers, cheers and over all noise that accompanies a game.

This morning, when I woke up, Chance was in bed with us. As soon as I opened my eyes, Chance was ready and whipped out his wallet that he got at the game. He had apparently been waiting for me to wake up. As we have mentioned, Chance was talking quite loud as his implants were not on so his baby brother who was stirring was soon up and perky. Chance told me," I got a wallet at the game and daddy already gave me a dollar because I did not have any money to put in it." That is quite a sentence. I was impressed. Chance is using more and more admirable sentences to express himself and I must say that we all just love it. His brother even runs to us and excitedly tells us about an amazing thing that Chance has said. We are having a lot of fun watching Chance's abilities unfold.

A speech therapist loaned me a book that lists the words that kids should know in kindergarten through 4th grade. Hello. There is a book out there that tells you that??!!!! Why did I not know about this before? This should help quite a bit in helping us know what words to work on. I am so grateful for this resource and the thoughtfulness of the speech therapist to loan it to me. I truly feel that a higher power helps guide us to the resources that we need as we journey with Chance into the realm of hearing. We are aware that we are watched over and blessed on a continual basis.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Two implants are better than one...everyone knows that!

The other morning as Chance was getting ready for school, his dad noticed that one of Chance's implants was dead.(our term for when the battery dies). "I guess you'll just have to wear one implant to school today." Chance's dad said.
Chance gave us one of his exasperated looks and said "No! I need two implants!"
When Chance' s dad asked why, Chance responded "So that I can hear!"

We have done absolutely nothing to make Chance wear that second implant. We have not had to. Chance bonded with it right away. In the begining, he turned it off a few times and we would realize that the little red blinking light was not on. But that has only happened a few times. It never occurs to Chance to just wear one implant now. He wants to have both. What ever we as parents think about the positive results of the second implant, Chance validates with his recognition that he can indeed hear so much better now and he wants to have both implants on at all times. It was a hum dinger of a decision for me make concerning getting that second implant, but I don't regret it at all!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

So many words to learn....

I have realized that there are so many words that Chance missed before he got the implants because he simply was not hearing what he needed to. The challenge then, is to figure out how to now get some of those missed words into his little brain.

While reading stories the other night, I realized that there were about 3 words that Chance did not know the meaning of in the story. I explained what the words were of course, but a one time explanation of a word, especially while Chance is learning so many new things will not be enough. From what we have been told and read about acquiring language, in order for a word to become a permanent part of our vocabulary, we have to hear it about 500 times. More so if you are deaf. For babies that start hearing right from the beginning and continue to hear until learning to talk, hearing common words 500 times just kind of happens.

For Chance, we have some work to do. This can be a bit overwhelming to consider that we now need to give Chance vocabulary on words that we don't know that he didn’t get in the process of growing up. But I realize that instead of focusing on the big picture of all the unknown words he needs, I need to just focus on helping him each day. There are plenty of opportunities each day to give Chance vocabulary. Of course, once a word is introduced we have to use it numerous times to help it stick. So I've decided to keep a list of the words we introduce, and then find opportunities to use those words. When I was reading Chance stories the other night, one of the words he did not know the meaning of was sniff. So I told him what it meant, and he really seemed to understand. However, when we encouraged Chance to sniff something at dinner, he looked at us and said "What?!" So we explained again what it meant to sniff something.

I have read of accounts of deaf adults who talk about their childhood and how their parents spent several hours each day helping them acquire language. I used to feel guilt about the fact that I do not spend hours each day working with Chance. I have always felt though, that Chance must be allowed to be a little boy and not just deaf. Finally, this week, it occurred to me that people who are deaf adults now did not have access to the technology that deaf kids do today. Kids who are deaf today can hear so much more with the technology available. I will just focus on doing a little bit with Chance each day, while I continue to study, consult and feel out what he needs. I have some ideas for games that we can play etc. that will help Chance with language, and yet be fun for all of us to play together. I want Chance to get what he needs while still getting the most out of being a care free child.

I had a tender moment with Chance tonight. With all of my children I have sung songs to them as they drifted off to sleep and snuggled. That never went over as well with Chance as it did with the other kids and I didn't know why. Just like I never understood why Chance's brother liked to read stories with me so much, but Chance was antsy and had a really short attention span. Finding out Chance was deaf explained a lot of that. One of my first thougts after I found out that Chance was deaf was that he had not heard the songs that I sang to the kids. And I wondered if he would ever be able to share in hearing the songs.

Tonight, as I sat snuggling Chance, I started to sing some of those songs that I have sung to all of my kids. Chance sat up and his whole face brightened. He would listen and then try to sing along. It was obvious that he really enjoyed the moment. His smile said it all. I think that Chance and I will be spending more time singing and snuggling together.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Chance tells me about "other" people's mispronunctiations

Out of the blue today, Chance told me about the countdown we had on New Year's Eve. He started at 10, and then when he got to the number 5, he told me that it was funny that his sister and cousin say "fibe", instead of "five". It is true that his sister says fibe, instead of five, but it never occurred to me that Chance noticed! I wonder what other things he is picking up on now?
Chance does not pronunciate all of his words correctly, but he is apparently hearing more subtle differences in speech sounds. This is a great sign!

Chance also told me tonight that he wants to be a doctor. He is really intrigued with what doctors do. In fact, tonight we thought that Chance's sister may need stitches and ended up taking her to an UrgentCare center. Chance not only wanted to view the wound in detail, he was crying and saying," I want to see the doctor do the stitches!" as I took him away in the van and his sister went in the car with her dad.

Chance's sister ended up not needing stitches, her finger is just bandaged up really good. Chance had questions for his sister though when she got home about what the doctor did.

Chance has also said that he wants to play the guitar and sing: a rock-star doctor who runs marathons... It could happen...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Going towards the light....

Chance went to a movie tonight with his aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. I walked the mall with the baby until his dad could get there after work to take the baby home, and then I went into the theater too. By the time I got in though, the movie was already playing so I stood inside the theater watching the movie for a minute so my eyes could adjust and I could figure out where everyone was sitting. Then, I realized I could just go towards the light. There in the darkness, Chance was my beacon as the little red lights that signify that his implants are on, led me right to his location and thus the location of everyone else. Who knew that these implants could have so many uses?

Chance is really progressing with these bilateral implants. We are continually seeing improvements in what Chance can hear and understand.

For instance, our extended family plays a game called “the water game.” I don't know if it is a real game that other people play, or a family invention. Whatever the case may be, seeing as we were all together for the holidays, we ended up playing the water game. The game is simple: one person is "it" and they choose one thing from a random category and write it down. Then, the person who is it, tells the rest of the players what the category is. It could be sports people play, movies, colors..the skies the limit. The person who is it stands in the middle and goes from person to person asking them to name a sport, movie, color etc. whatever the category is. You are trying NOT to say the thing that the person who is it wrote down, because if you guess what was written down (or if you give a duplicate answer - one that somebody else gave before you), you get a cup of water thrown on you. Thus, the name of the game is the water game.

Chance splashed Uncle Shaun who said 'Blitzen'
Chance wanted to play this game and so he sat in the circle. We did not know how well he would be able to follow the constant random changing of categories to guess, and if he would have the vocabulary to keep up. HE DID AWESOME! His dad or I would just ask who ever was “it” for a heads up on what category they chose, so that we could tell Chance and he could think for a minute, and perhaps we would give him examples. Most of the time he even came up with his own answers too. We only had to help him a few times (on some harder categories). And when he was it, he would usually come up with his own categories. And he just beamed through the whole game. He could be a part of things, hearing what was being said, and coming up with his own answers.

This is a big deal for Chance to be able to take random thoughts, themes etc., and go with them. To utilize so much vocabulary and think of it on the fly, is quite a remarkable accomplishment. Chance is rebounding from literally years of not hearing like he needed to. Having the implants have really opened up a whole new world to him. It is very exciting to watch him as his hearing, talking and comprehension skills improve at such a rapid rate. His understanding of the game was so good, that Chance told us that when he got splashed with water and was it, he would choose reindeer and that he would splash who ever said Blitzen. And a giant step for Chance was walking back into the room after choosing his topic and announcing to everyone what the category was. He had the confidence that people would understand him, and most of the time they did. Chance is taking flight and it is delightful to observe.