Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Heather Whitestone

I attended a conference yesterday where Heather Whitestone - the first deaf Miss America - spoke. It is always nice as the parent of a deaf child to see deaf adults who are out in the world living normal lives.

Heather had a hearing aid all growing up and did not receive a cochlear implant until she was an adult. I say hearing aid because only one of her ears had a hearing aid. She went through school being profoundly deaf using one hearing aid!! Heather got a second implant as well and said that it makes a HUGE difference. She also said that if she had a deaf child (she is pregnant), she would get bilateral implants for the baby at 6 months! She talked about how good it was to hear from both sides.

We watched video clips of children who got cochlear implants at various ages. One at 13 months, one at 2, one at 2 1/2 and one at nearly 4. It did not sound like that big of a difference but the video clips showed a different story. The videos showed the kids a few months after getting an implant and then 5 years later. While all of the kids were doing well, there was a big difference in how close to their peers in language the kids all were. The kids implanted at 2, 2-1/2 and nearly 4 were not up to the level of their peers with language. The little girl who was implanted at 13 months though, sounded just like any other kindergartner. She even did british accents. Each child is different in how they will respond to the implant, but the message was clear...the earlier kids get an implant, the more likely they are to acquire language like their peers.

This all got me thinking about Chance. Chance got his implants later than the kids in the video and he was older than his peers at school when they got theirs too. Part of the reasoning behind getting the second implant for Chance was that he had gone two years with out any language at all, and he got the first implant "late" compared to many deaf children now.Chance also had some catching up to do. I have great hope for Chance however. He is thriving and he has received a great blessing in receiving his implants and adapting to them so well. I know that Chance will catch up to his peers in language and he will grow to lead a life out in the hearing world doing what ever it is that he wants to do. His deafness will not hold him back in anything.

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