Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chance enters himself into the story telling contest

Chance's school had a story telling contest last week. We thought it would be a great opportunity for Chance to learn a story and tell it to other kids. We figured that with Chance's expressive face and just the way that he is, he would be a natural.

Then our lives happened. We went out of town, we had a really busy week and soon it was time for the story contest. We had wondered if Chance was ready to go full fledged into telling a story in front of other people. Would he freeze up when there was an audience? We didn't know the setting either and wondered if he would be in front of a group of kids that he did not know. Would the kids laugh at him if they did not understand what he was saying? Plus, Chance sometimes talks quieter when he is in a group of people he does not know. We still thought that Chance could do it, but time just snuck up on us.

Friday came and as I was checking Chance's backpack after school, I pulled out a certificate made out in Chance's name for participation in the story telling contest. This was intriguing. I was afraid that Chance would not be able to reproduce his performance on demand. However, when I asked him, he gladly performed his story for me. He did "Hey Diddle Diddle," his favorite nursery rhyme. He ran in a circle as he recited the rhyme and then for the finale, Chance stopped running in a circle and thrust his face forward and loudly declared "and the dish ran away with the spoon!!"

We learned that each class had a time when they were given the opportunity to tell a story. It was completely voluntary. You just raised your hand if you wanted to get up and tell a story to the rest of the class. Most of the 27 kids in the class declined. Chance raised his hand though and got right up there and performed his story. We were delighted that Chance had the confidence to get up in front of the class and perform. He had had no advance notice and we had not told him about the contest. He just got up and did his thing. This also means that he was following what was happening when the kids were told that they could get up and tell a story. He caught what was being said and was able to respond. It was not a run of the mill routine that he was used to in class.

Chance didn't need us to help him enter the story telling contest. He took matters into his own hands. You go Chance! Here’s to more storytelling!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Making people aware of what deaf kids can do

We spend lots of time doing things that involve deafness. Taking care of Chance's needs, trying to make services that deaf children receive better, and making people aware of what deaf children are capable of. Awareness of deafness and what it means is sorely lacking. I did not know much until I had Chance, and I see now that most people out there are not very aware either.

It is not a bad thing to be the means to educate people about deafness, but that is harder than it seems sometimes. For instance, this past week end I had a man ask me about my deaf son.
"So, you have a deaf son?" He asked me.
"Yes." I replied.
"You have a deaf son that signs?" He asked.
"No, I have a deaf son that talks." I said.
"So, you have a deaf son that signs and talks?" He asked.
"No, I have a deaf son that talks." I responded.

The man was very nice and I appreciated his interest. But even after that conversation, the last thing he said to me, and I know he meant it as a nice thing, was, "I have seen deaf people sign to songs and it really touches me."

Sigh. This is pretty indicative of how many conversations go when you tell someone that you have a deaf child. Someone will ask me about my deaf son and no matter how I tell them that he talks, the person always assumes that he must sign and maybe talks on the side. Unless Chance is with me; then he proves himself when he talks to me and doesn't use any sign.

I am not against sign. It is just difficult to get through to people that deaf children can talk. That they do talk and they go to mainstream schools and they talk to peers on the playground.

These perceptions about what deaf means and what deaf kids do, has become very apparent during the legislative session in our state.

There is a bill moving its way through the legislature that will allow children who are non-verbal to attend the School for the Deaf. These would be kids that do not talk of course. Several parents have been trying to explain to the legislators that many deaf children talk and that introducing kids who have other issues besides deafness, will weaken the specialized attention that needs to be given to deaf children so that they can reach their potential. Spending time now in specialized education for deaf children with qualified teachers opens up the world to these kids. If they are in classrooms with kids with a wide variety of disabilities that have nothing to do with deafness, the School for the Deaf ceases to be the School for the Deaf. It becomes the School for the disabled. No longer will classrooms and teachers be able to focus on deafness because some of the kids are not deaf and have other needs entirely.

We the parents of deaf children are seen as the bad guys, being against this bill. We are seen as wanting to shut other kids out who have needs that their parents are trying to get met. I fully understand trying to get your child’s needs met. I spend a lot of time trying to meet the needs of my child. But since many people do not understand deafness and that many deaf children are fully capable of being on grade level with their peers and doing things that peers their age can do, you have bills that can move their way through the system that would put non-verbal children with all kinds of special needs with deaf children. Many see them as one and the same.

I think that any child should get the help that they need. School for the Deaf is not the answer to every disability. It is not fair to the deaf kids or the non deaf kids. School for the Deaf teachers are trained to work with deaf children. They will not be able to offer the services that children with other disabilities need, just as a teacher specializing in blind children would not be able to give Chance what he needs.

In my mind, it all comes back to education about deaf children. I think that if people really understood what deaf children do in school, and what literal miracles can be wrought with teachers who are specially trained to teach them, this issue would not have come up. So, much of our time will continue to be spent educating people about deaf children and what being deaf means. And when Chance is a little older, he will spend a great deal of energy showing people what he is capable of and shattering perceptions.

My sincere hope is that 10 years from now, when a child is diagnosed as being deaf, the road will be well traveled with sign posts to point the way to the services that are needed. And, instead of deaf children having to prove that they are capable, people will know that deafness is a part of who you are, but not the defining factor in what you are capable of.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The school aids are seeing a big impact with the second implant

I went into Chance's class to help out today and I talked to one of the aids in Chance's afternoon class. She told me how well Chance was doing and how much progress she has seen. She said that yesterday, she was teaching the kids about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln for Presidents’ day. The goal was to talk about something, then talk about something else and then come back to the original topic to see what the kids remembered. She said that Chance's hand was up first each time she asked questions about things like "What did George Washington like to eat?" (he liked to eat ice cream).

She also talked about how attentive Chance is and that he is getting what is being said. Chance's teacher has said the same thing.

In his reading class, Chance is making remarkable progress. He is gaining confidence in his reading and sounding out harder words. This is especially important as in the past, deaf children have notoriously been behind in reading after about the 4th grade. In fact, it used to be a 4th grade reading level was standard for deaf kids even as adults. Technology has helped improve that, but reading is still a skill that needs extra attention in deaf children.

One of the highlights of my conversation with the classroom aid was when she said that working with Chance was great and it made her want to be a teacher.

We are so grateful for all of the people who impact Chance's life and help him. We could not do it with out them. And Chance is winning hearts as more and more of his personality can come out and he can reach his potential and do the things that he wants to do.

Each week in Chance's class, they read a story and then send the kids down to the computer lab where the kids are asked questions about the story to see what they are understanding. Chance got all 5 questions right two weeks ago and again today! This is great progress considering that when Chance started taking these tests, he would get maybe 2 or 3 out of 5. Chance's face is so expressive and he beams when he knows the answer to the questions.

We may be slightly biased, but we think Chance is a great kid.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I got a call from Chance today!

I was sitting in my living room today when I got a phone call. This is not unusual in and of itself, but I was surprised by who the caller was. After I said "hello", I heard the following:

"Hi, this is Chance Paxton, I am in Cade's house. Is that ok?"
"That is ok" I said.
A joyful "yes!" can be heard as if Chance is talking to someone else where he is.
"I am playing with Josh and Cade."
"Ok", thank you for calling Chance."
A pause.
"I am in Cade's house."
"I can play?"
"Yes, you can play."
"I love you. Bye."

It was a lovely phone call. Chance did not get what I was saying all the time, but I don't think he moved his implant to the right setting either. He forgets to do that often. BUT HE HEARD MOST OF WHAT I SAID!

And like any 6 year old should do, he called to tell me when he went inside someone’s house to play. I have told Chance he should call me, but since we live in a cul-de-sac, and the kids are frequently running from one house to another, Chance has not been calling. Plus, depending on the phone, sometimes Chance can hear better than other times. I usually end up calling around the cul-de-sac if I look outside and I can not see Chance.

Chance did call me a few months ago when he went into someone’s house, but we had practiced before he left. The child lived outside of the cul-de-sac and I wanted Chance to get the idea that I needed to know when he got there. So he called and said exactly what I had told him to say, but I don't think he heard anything that I said. He ended up hanging the phone up after a long pause, where I talked but Chance sat silent. Finally after a long pause, he just said goodbye with hesitation in his voice and hung up.

I made a big deal of the fact that Chance called me today and he just beamed. Hopefully, this will now be part of our routine just like it is with his older brother. I was impressed that Chance thought to call and that he heard most of what I said. Most of his friends have to call from our house when they come inside, so this is just another way that Chance is blending in with his peers and doing the same things that they do.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Chance has been correcting his sister again.

Chance has been noticing that his sister says birthday wrong. He has told her so too. Luckily for him, she is still young enough that she does not really correct him. Chance's pronunciation is not perfect of course, but he is coming along.

Lately Chance has been noticing more mispronunciations in people's speech - usually in kids that are younger than he is. If this does not attest to Chance's new ability to hear better I don't know what does. He is now hearing subtle differences in speech.

Chance is gaining confidence to share things that happen to him with other people, and more and more people are telling us that Chance is more understandable. He is gaining confidence that he will be heard and understood. This opens up a part of childhood for Chance that other kids enjoy...the ability to anounce to his cousins that his tooth has fallen out. The ability to tell the bus driver that it is his sister's birthday. The ability to inform his brothers and sisters of the name of the movie that he picked out at the video store. He can share more of himself with other people and enjoy their reactions to him. For a long time, chance was leery of telling grandparents or family friends that he got new shoes or that he was going to a birthday party. He did not have the confidence that he would be heard or understood. And it was hard to understand what Chance was saying sometimes. I could see that he so badly wanted to share the exciting things that were happening in his life too, just like the other kids.

Now, Chance is hearing more and his speech and language abilities show as much. Chance is engaging in more conversations with his cousins and even strangers. His world is opening up more since he can hear more of what goes on around him. And he is happy. He feels more control I think since he hears more. It is a work in progress. Chance is learning, as are all of us who are around him. Chance has been a great teacher in many ways. He has led us on a journey that has affected all of us for the better. I am grateful for Chance and for all that he has brought into our lives.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chance makes more friends at school

I help out in Chance's class each week and so I get to see how Chance interacts with the other kids. The past few weeks, Chance has introduced me to a few new friends. One of the boys was sitting with Chance at lunch. I did not recognize this boy from his class so Chance has met him just around school. I could not stay for lunch, but I wondered how Chance conversed with this friend in the lunch room where it is so loud all of the time. I have to focus to hear what is going on. Maybe they communicate more on the playground.

In another instance, when we were in the computer lab, a boy from Chance's class sat down next to Chance and said "Hi Chance." Another girl in the class told me as we walked down the hall that "Chance is really nice."

And on yet another day, when Chance was supposed to bring a bag of something to share (Chance has two separate classes and I sent a bag to the other class not realizing that I was supposed to send a bag to both), the teacher asked if anyone would be willing to share their bag with Chance and let him help pour the goodies into the bowl. One of the boys immediately raised his hand and came forward to share. Chance also tells us about his friends that he has met at school.

I have been watching to see how well Chance seems to be assimilating in a mainstream classroom with hearing kids. The last thing that we wanted was for Chance to be in the class but not part of the class. After observing Chance in class and at recess and in the computer lab, I have seen that Chance feels a part of things and is included in the class and by the other kids.
Chance does not always catch onto everything that is said, but he is getting more and more all of the time. Chance sits right up front on the rug for circle time and his teacher wears a microphone. Plus, Chance is a quick study and observes those around him to see what he is missing. If I felt that most of his life was spent just trying to catch up to the other kids, it would not be worth it. But Chance has friends and tells me that he likes school and both of his classes. I talk with him often to see how he feels about school and his classes. One of his classes is with deaf kids where he gets more specialized language focus (along with first grade skills), and the other class is a regular kindergarten class. Chance is excited about both classes and regularly comes home and tells us about the happenings at school.

However, like most kids, he tells us that his favorite time of year is summer because then he can play all day with his friends. :)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A lost tooth and a lot to say about it!

Ahh, childhood. The one period in your life where if your teeth fall out, not only is it an exciting thing, but you also get paid for it. Chance has reached this tooth losing right of passage, and boy is he excited about it! This is actually the second tooth that he has lost, but there has been a long interval between the losing. Chance had to work harder to compel this second tooth to dislodge. I passed by the bathroom as he was getting ready for school and noticed that he was intently looking at the mirror with his face right up to the glass. I didn't realize the momentous event unfolding though until Chance appeared in my bathroom a few minutes later triumphantly holding his tooth out for me to see.

It is so fun to hear Chance express his excitement about losing his tooth. He has told everyone from neighborhood kids, to teachers at school to anyone else we encountered yesterday. Chance can really tell people the story too. He can tell them how he pulled the tooth out in the bathroom by holding onto it and tugging (the visual expressions on his face are great as he describes this part).

Chance was anxiously awaiting a visit from the tooth fairy, of course, but the whole encounter almost never took place. At almost 9:45, Chance appeared downstairs obviously not sleeping. I was shocked and told him that the tooth fairy could not come if he was not asleep. Chance's eyes welled up with tears, and he said, "What?" I told him that just like Santa, the tooth fairy could not come unless little kids were sleeping. Chance's lip trembled. His dad and I were then quick to tell Chance that there was still time for him to go upstairs and go to sleep before the tooth fairy arrived.

Then I asked Chance if he knew what a fairy was. He said no. Then he asked if the tooth fairy lived in Utah. Chance's dad was leery of googling fairy while Chance stood by to see what would come up. So, we did our best to describe to Chance what a fairy was. His brother (obviously not asleep either) came down at this point...just to check on Chance you see. Now that they were both highly motivated by the fact that the tooth fairy could pass them by, they ran up the stairs together. We could hear Chance's older brother telling him what a fairy was as they went up.

This morning I woke up to Chance opening the little box he left under his pillow with the tooth in it. He was explaining how he got quarters. We've been working on that word so I was glad that he remembered. Chance then told me what was on the back of each quarter(the design on the back is very important to Chance and his brother as is the year).

The beautiful thing about this whole process was Chance's ability to tell the story and his use of vocabulary. His language is coming along by leaps and bounds. He is able to express himself more and relay what he wants to others. I am continually impressed by Chance's language and how well he is doing. It seems that everyday brings new words and phrases that Chance has assimilated into his language base.