Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chance and Monopoly

Chance has learned how to play the game of Monopoly over Christmas. It has been fun to see him learn to be a tycoon of sorts. The first time he played, he was far ahead of everyone else as far as assets go that the other kids got a little depressed. Chance caught on real quick and soon had shrewdly amassed a fortune. Chance's dad and I took turns playing the game with Chance, his brother and neighborhood kids so that they could get the hang of it.

It was nice to watch Chance's compassionate side too. Because he was so far ahead of everyone else, he started loaning money to friends and trying to help others acquire more money too.

Today while playing, Chance is learning that as in life, sometimes you are doing well, and sometimes the cash flow is significantly lower than you would like. It has been touching to see Chance and his friends interact while they play though. Like yesterday, when Chance was doing well, and wanted to help his friends do better, today his friends are helping Chance. I overhead Chance say, "I do not have enough money to buy houses. I am poor."

Then both of Chance's friends told him that they were sorry and told him that if he landed on any of their properties, it was free.

I just love watching Chance playing games with other kids in the neighborhood, being able to hear and understand what is going on and participate like any of the kids do. I noticed that the banker seemed to be extra generous at times during the game with Chance and his friends. At the time, I thought the kids were just making up their own rules. Later I learned that the kids had misplaced the rule book for a time and so they were making up amounts of money to be payed out as they went along.

We got several new games for Christmas and after learning how to play the games himself, Chance calls in friends to show them how to play too. They have been having a great time.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Karaoke Machine

Chance got just what he asked Santa for this year. A karaoke machine! He has been singing his little heart out. There are Christmas songs, Disney songs and movie songs that Chance entertains us with now.

Chance has always loved music and this little machine is giving him just the outlet to let his heart sing that he needed.

Music through an implant is different for different people. It is not heard the way a normal ear hears music. Neither is sound. But how well music is processed and heard seems to vary from implant user to implant user.

Chance has a harder time getting a tune down, but that is expected. Due to this fact, it is interesting to hear him singing a song he is not familiar with. He needs more time to hear the melody and catch the tune so to speak. Though Chance's dad commented that we have had several hearing kids from the neighborhood in singing and they don't sound any better than Chance does. They just catch the tune and lyrics faster:)

Chance had a friend over to play who is also deaf and they were both singing at the same time to one of the songs.

Chance's brother had a friend over also and as he went up the stairs, I heard him say,"What are they singing?!"

Chance's brother immediately responded with,"Dude! They both have implants! It takes longer for them to learn the song!"

I thought, "Way to stick up for your brother!"

Chance is actually doing really well with the music. The lyrics scroll down the T.V. screen and so Chance can read what the words are. I have heard him getting closer to the tune of some songs in the last few days.

We are curious to see how well Chance seems to hear the tunes and melodies.
Chance loves to learn songs and sing. It takes him longer to learn songs and as far as singing right on tune, he struggles. Heck, I don't sing right on tune either. Our state AGBell Conference had a session on music and cochlear implants. The presenter made the point that people with no hearing loss range across the board with regards to being able to carry a tune. There are factors such as natural ability even if the hearing loss was not considered.

So we'll see how Chance does with all of these new songs at his disposal.

Monday, December 22, 2008

To hear, or not to hear........

One thing about having a deaf child that we realized from the very begining of our adventure, is deciphering what your child heard and what they did not hear can be a challenge.

Chance hears most of what goes on around him but we harbor no illusions that he hears everything. There are times when he does not hear us, that is to be expected. The interesting part comes when we try to find fact from fiction.

Chance's siblings will claim not to hear us sometimes when they are playing outside and don't want to come in yet. "I didn't hear you!" They will lament when we give them repercussions for coming in late for dinner. Sure, they don't hear us all of the time even with their perfectly functioning ears, but sometimes as a parent you just know that you are being had.

When it comes to Chance, it gets harder. "I didn't hear you." could very well be the truth. Or, it could be that he was having so much fun building the snow fort that he didn't want to come right when we called.

How is a parent to know for sure?

Maybe years down the road at some family function, our kids will have "confessionals" about things they did that we did not know about when they were young. Little inside stories they will have about the times they duped us or got away with things.

I personally had confessionals of deeds done in childhood with my siblings while my parents interjected with things like, "You WHAT?" or "Where did you do this?"
Like the times we jumped off of grandma's old shed into the snow drifts. Dangerous, spangerous......it was well worth the risk.

Perhaps someday Chance will clarify for us times when he pretended not to hear us. Most of the time, Chance seems very sincere in his claims that he does not know because he did not hear us. Chance's face is so expressive, that you can tell a lot from just looking at him, For now, we just have to take his word for it sometimes. In this regard, Chance does have it easier than his siblings. We are much more doubtful of his siblings claims of hearing loss.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chance's dad was walking with some co-workers to a meeting when one of them started talking about his daughter and her introductory sign language class in a charter elementary school. This was not a co-worker who Chance's dad knew real well and so he mentioned that he had a deaf son. (What are the odds that as you're telling people about your daughter's sign language class, you happen to be talking to someone with a deaf child?)

The co-worker then asked Chance's dad if used sign language with Chance.

Chance's dad replied "No" and before he could explain any more about it, the co-worker said," Well you should!"

His daughter has an introduction to sign language, along with a couple of other languages, and told her dad about it and now he feels he should tell us what our son needs. This disturbed me when I first heard the story.

Chance's dad did not let this comment go. He proceeded to explain Chance's capabilities and abilities, and to educate that there are various communication methodologies and approaches for deaf children, and that deaf children can in fact learn to hear and speak and do very well.

We feel that there is no need to be mean or rude to anyone, but there is also no need to let people go uneducated about deaf kids being able to hear like our son. Maybe this man is one of those people who would have given his opinion on what you should do if you were talking about your child staying out too late or anything else for that matter.
I think our family will continually be educating people about deaf children speaking simply because so few people know anything about it. We didn't know anything about deafness or the option of deaf children learning to hear.
I think the moral of the story here is that one should not proceed to tell a parent how to speak to their deaf child after hearing second hand reports about a first year sign language class;)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chance acts out in a moment of passion

The other night Chance, who was tired and worn down, got mad at me. Not an atypical thing for an 8 year old to do, but Chance decided to really show me that he meant business.

As he stood in the middle of our living room, he told me he was never going to listen to me again. Kind of rude I thought.

Then to punctuate that statement, he threw his implants onto the floor.

At this gesture, I had some feelings of my own that I wanted to punctuate. I calmly walked over, picked up the implants and making sure that Chance was looking at me so that he would understand, I told him the implants were now mine.

Chance gasped and let out a very alarmed "NOOOOO!" It was quite obvious that he was already rethinking the wisdom of his actions. And the look on his face pleaded with me not to take his implants.

I felt we had to have some punishment so that we did not have a repeat of this behavior in the future. I took the implants and put them in a secure spot and we had dinner. Chance could not hear anything of course. He did not like that state of being.

Chance did not end up without implants for long. We had a babysitter coming to watch the kids that night. We did not feel that we could tell our first time babysitter, "By the way, Chance won't hear anything you say so good luck with that. See ya."

After the implants went back on, a very meek and humble Chance informed me he would never throw his implants again.

It ended up being about 20 minutes and Chance was shaken. I could tell that he was sorry the moment he hucked his implants, but he needed to know that we were serious about no one throwing the implants - not even him.

Chance's dad pointed out that if anyone else had thrown his implants, Chance would have been very upset and made a point to stop them. He has done that before when his baby brother took them off and threw them on the carpet. Chance was alarmed and desperately picked them back up so he could return them to their rightful spot. We have very strict rules in our house about everyone respecting the implants and not taking them off of Chance's head.

Now Chance has been reminded that ANYONE who disrepects the implants will face consequences. Anyone:)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chance and the ringing of the bells

Not only did Chance get to attend a play of "A Christmas Carol" this past week, but he also got to attend a musical Christmas program put on by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and guest Brian Stokes Mitchell this past week.

The choir was in fine form and Brian Stokes Mitchell was humorous and charismatic. The various musical numbers included the use of dancers and bell-ringers.

When the bells were first used in the program, Chance's mouth fell partly open and he scanned the stage with a smile on his face as he enjoyed the sound. That is one thing about Chance, he is very expressive and you can see his emotion written all over his face sometimes.

He liked the dancing and told us that it was one of his favorite parts after the program.

It is so satisfying to watch Chance catch a bit of humor and laugh out loud at live events. He is hearing what is said and can enjoy along with everyone else. It touches my heart and I am filled with gratitude.

There was a section of the program when actor Edward Herrmann narrated the story of "Longfellow's Christmas" which is the story of the writing of "I Heard the Bells." Chance had a hard time following the whole story but luckily we had realized that a big video screen was scrolling the words to the story as well as the songs over to the side of us. (It was actually playing the part of teleprompter for the choir and guest artists for where the various parts started/stopped/overlapped) We pointed this out to Chance and he could then utilize the screen as a resource if he needed extra help to follow along.

Chance did very well sitting and listening. At one point, he realized that the seats we were sitting on had a screw tucked right under where your legs go and he had to hop off his seat to see how it was held together, but once he knew, he was fine. That is just Chance though. He is curious about things and wants to know how they work.

It would be good for Chance to be exposed to more musical programs. He can learn to appreciate music in general, and music through an implant.

No one knows for sure how well music comes through an implant. It depends on exposure, familiarity with music, the kind of music and the implant wearer themselves. Chance has always enjoyed music. Both before he went deaf and now. Chance only heard to about 13 months of age, but even then he loved music. My personal journal that I kept at the time, talked about how Chance would come dashing into the living room when I turned on the music, no matter where he was in the house.(Chance walked at 10 months and by 13 months was quite self sufficient in his ability to navigate the house) He loved to dance with me and would come into the room when the music was turned on and want to dance.

Chance loves music now. He proudly comes to me and wants me to hear the song he now knows all of the words to when he learns a new one. Music is important to Chance and we would like to give him every opportunity to appreciate music and hone his musical skills.

Chance gets up close and personal with Scrooge

We took Chance and his brother to see "A Christmas Carol" this past week. It was a play put on in a local theater, in a theater-in-the-round. I went last year and ended up sitting right on the floor of the theater and thought Chance would enjoy sitting there too. I thought it would help him pay attention and put him in the middle of the action.

Chance's brother and I read the book a few weeks ago, but I thought the book's language might be a bit much at this stage for Chance. Of course the play used the same style old language that was in the book, but we were prepared for that. We told Chance the general story before attending the play, and then took a notebook and pen to the play. We knew that there would be many words that Chance might not know, and we didn't want him to feel lost in the story. We also didn't want to disturb the people around us if Chance had lots of questions.

It worked out quite well. Chance could write down any of his questions and we could write down brief descriptions of what was happening in the story if we thought Chance was struggling or if the vocabulary or accents of the actors got complicated.

Chance really enjoyed the play and laughed out loud when he got the humor of some scenes. Scrooge turned to the crowd and made comments a few times, and the 2nd ghost was quite the jokester.

Since we were on the front row, the graveyard scene where a "fog" was spread across the floor fascinated Chance. Suddenly, we found our feet engulfed in a cloudy fog. Chance reached down and touched it, trying to feel it and sitting in awe trying to figure out where it was coming from.

I know that Chance did not catch all of the dialogue in the play and the vocabulary challenged him, but he really enjoyed it. We would like to expose Chance to more plays etc. The story of " A Christmas Carol" is one of those general knowledge topics that society at large is going to know about. Chance needs to be familiar with these things too.

He wanted to know as we walked out of the play when we would be attending another play. So I think it was a hit.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The rat saga continues...

The rat saga continues.
We took the snake back to its owner on Friday, and the plan was that the rat would go back to the pet store who have a policy of taking rats back if your snake won't eat them.
Saturday morning we awoke to the excitement of a visit from Sinter klaus(from the Netherlands) who had left little treats in the wooden shoes we had left out the night before.
We also awoke to the news that the rat had gotten out of his cage during the night. It is mornings like this that I can see the advantage of not being able to hear first thing in the morning.
Later that night, just as the kids were all asleep and Chance's dad and I were literally starting a movie, I saw a shadow in the lights of the Christmas tree run behind the tree and go behind the piano.
This is how it came to be that we found ouirselves in Chance's bedroom after chasing the little critter from behind the curio, and in and out of Chance's sister's room.
Rats can jump. Quite high.
They also squeal and try to bite when they get agitated.

Chance slept blissfully on (sans implants), while his dad and I had discussions like,"Where did he go?" and "Look how high he is jumping!"
I half lay half sat on the floor smacking the rats toosh with a yardstick to get him to go in the direction of Chance's dad who had a box ready to trap him.
I imagined how a conversation with my OBGYN would go if I had to call him and tell him that I had been bitten by a rat. In college I had a class which required us to train a rat to press a lever to get water. The outcome of this training was a major part of our grade. After training our rat for several days, I noticed that his nose seemed to be bleeding. The lab assistant said that indicated a problem and we would need to get a new rat. To thank me for my trobules, the rat let out a shrill cry that I will never forget and then he bit me. I ended up having to get a tetnus shot in the student center. After chasing this rat around Chance's bedroom, I am glad to report that I did not feel the disdain that I once did for rats. I seem to have gotten over the trauma of my college days. Though, I resoved that I would not be picking this rat up. Especially as he had attempted to bite Chance's dad already.
I asked Chance's dad at one point if he thought any of our neighbors ever found themselves doing this sort of activity at night after their kids had gone to sleep. He assured me he was certain they did not,

Chance slept totally undisturbed as his dad and I wrestled with the "pet" rat in his bedroom mere feet from his bed. He would have been quite amused to see the event had he been awake.
It all ended well. At least for us. The rat ended up in the shoebox and back into his cage though he gave a good fight to the very end.

This rat will not be a new pet in our house. We don't need this much excitement, our lives are rich enough already.
Hopefully the rat will end up with some snake who will eat him quickly and painlessly and then he can join his past rat buddies in heaven. That way it will have ended well for all involved.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Tackle football

Some boys in the neighborhood came over this afternoon and wanted Chance's brother to join them for a game of tackle football after his chores were done. They told him that he needed to bring along a buddy to even out the teams. He immediately thought of Chance. While I think that is great that he wanted to include his brother, I wasn't sure how excited I was about Chance playing tackle football.
What could I say though, "Sorry, you play but not your brother. He can't do things like that?"
We always said that we would let Chance be like any other boy his age.
Tackle football is a new activity for the boys in the neighborhood, so I wasn't even sure how rough they play.
One of Chance's implants had a chunk missing out of the tiny little barbs that connect the two parts together and the implant parts box was not in its proper place, so we were going to wait for Chance's dad to get home to see if he knew where the other implant was. So Chance was running on one implant. It sounds silly I am sure to most implant wearers since they always only have one implant, but when Chance only has one implant there is such a difference in what he hears.
I told Chance's brother to remember that Chance only had one implant on and so would not be hearing as well as usual.
I contemplated Chance playing football and then decided that he should be able to give it a try. I made him put on his mold so that his implant would be more secure. I also realized that the boys who were playing were not that much bigger than Chance in size so they shouldn't be able to mutilate him. Last but not least, Chance is fast, really fast. I figured that maybe he would always just get away and not be tackled:)
It all must have gone well because Chance came home in one piece and had no complaints. I don't know how often Chance will want to play tackle football from here on out. I guess we'll just have to see.

Monday, December 01, 2008

It all started with a ball python.....

It all started with a ball python. The python is the reason we have a rat.

We were asked to watch a pet ball python over the Thanksgiving holiday. We have watched this snake before and the kids love him. He is small as far as pythons go...3 feet at best.

When we got him, he was shedding. His eyes were all cloudy and he was not interested in being held or eating. We figured we had the snake for 6 days, so at some point, the shedding would be complete and we could feed him a rat. The kids really wanted to see the snake eat a rat.

During a rash judgement call on my part Saturday night, I thought the snake was done shedding. His eyes were clear and it had been 6 days for heavens sake. Just goes to prove that I don't know everything. The snake was NOT done shedding so he had no interest in the rat we bought at the pet store for him to eat.

We figured by Sunday night though, the snake banquet could begin.

Apparently, the rat did some sight seeing before Sunday night.

Chance and his brother asked if they could walk to church on Sunday morning. It was a nice day so we told them we would meet them at the church. Our church is 3 hours long, and after the first hour, I came home since I was not feeling well. The kids went to their individual classes and Chance's dad went to the adult class.

Apparently, Chance's brother was joined in class by the rat who was in an empty oatmeal container. Chance and his brother wanted to show their friends at church their "pet" rat.

The woman over the children's classes took the rat after all the kids in class could identify him and gave him to another woman who graciously cared for the rat during church.

I found out about the rat visit to the church this morning when Chance's sister started telling me bits and pieces of a story involving a rat being in the oatmeal container at church. It didn't occur to me that the story could possibly be true. Our children would not dare take a rat to church and besides, we are more diligent parents than that.

As the morning wore on though, and the story kept coming up, I called out to Chance's brother.
"You didn't take the rat to church yesterday did you?" I asked in a doubting voice.
My question was met by a long silence. Then a small voice answered back, "yes."

I immediately called Chance's dad. He was in a sort of shock. I think he may have fallen off his chair at work.

"You didn't see the container when the kids came to meet you after church?" I asked trying to envision how the boys could be carrying a rat around church while we as parents remained so pure and innocent in our knowledge of their activities.

"I didn't see a thing." He answered.

Chance's sister talked about meeting daddy after church and asking if they could walk home while the boys held the rat in the oatmeal container.

I feel like I am taking part in a Huckleberry Finn novel. All I can say is, I left early. I was not even in the vacinity.

Since we all sat together for the first hour of church, I wanted to know where the rat was during that time. Certainly, he had not been under our seats while we sang hymns and listened to talks. We may have had to turn in our parental license had that been the case.

It turns out, the rat was up on the lost and found shelf during the combined hour of church. This shelf is located in a main hallway above the coat hangers. I wonder if anyone heard scracthing as they hung up their jackets.

The boys grabbed the rat after we all separated to attend our individual classes. And after all of this show and tell, no one at church said a word to us as parents. Maybe everyone involved felt sorry for us. They figured we must be having problems at home that prohibites us from truly watching our own children. Now I am left to wonder, how many people know about the rat?

One of my best friends has assured me that I am still a good mother.

Chance and his brother take a rat to chruch. I am sure this is one of the stories we will all laugh out loud about in the years to come. I can see the appeal of wanting to share your pet rat. Only, this rat will be snake food and the boys attachment will soon end in heartache and tears. What will they tell all of their church friends next week when they ask about the rat?

Apparently, we need to start frisking Chance and his brother before they leave for church each Sunday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chance wants to be rich

One of the main things that started to bother Chance when he had his hearing aids, was that he missed so much when the T.V. was on. I would be watching the news, and Chance would ask me,"What did he say?" or "What is happening?" It really started to bother him that he was missing what was being said. We would try to explain what was being said to him, but Chance wanted to hear for himself. Besides, he became convinced that we were not telling him all that was said. And honestly, it was difficult to explain it all sometimes.
One example I remember vividly was when I was watching a news report about a accident in a nearby canyon.
'What happened?" Chance asked me.
"There was an accident." I told him
"Why?" Chance asked.
"A car slid off the road." I answered.
"Where?" Chance wanted to know.
"Cottonwood Canyon." I answered.
"What?!" Chance asked.
I then explained that it was a canyon in the mountains.

The reporter kept talking about the dangers of the roads, the snowstorm, the need for chains when traveling up the canyon etc.. Then they interviewed a police officer who talked about precautions that people should take when traveling up the canyon.

"What else are they saying?" Chance asked me almost accusatorily.
I couldn't go in to all that was said., Chance didn't know what chains were, he didn't know where the canyon was, and he would not have understood the precautions that the policeman was giving. But Chance knew that he was missing things that were being said. Things that he wanted to hear.

Flash forward to this evening when the news was on. A segment on teaching your kids about money came on. The catch line was, 'How to teach your kids to be rich," complete with flashing pictures of money. This got Chance's attention. After the reporter interviewed someone who said, 'You can teach your kids to be rich." Chance turned to me and said, 'I want you to teach me that. And then I will go out and my friends will say, 'Bring all your money! And I will count it all and they will say "Wow."
Chance hears the news now. I announced to his dad that Chance wanted us to tell him how to get rich. So, that's what we'll be working on the next little while.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chance delivers his line beautifully

Our church just had their annual program where the children sing. A few of the kids had speaking parts and Chance was one of them. I was absolutely delighted to realize that Chance had been given a part because it was a testimony that Chance was seen as being capable of doing it right. Not only did we as his parents know that he could get up and deliver a speaking part that could be understood by all, but other people around Chance knew it too.

When Chance was newly diagnosed, the people in our church were just as new to hearing loss as we were. No one knew what could be expected of Chance.
In the past little while, more and more people at church have approached me with a kind of awe and said,"Chance is doing so good. He talks so well!"

It is so nice to hear from other people who don't interact with Chance each day. They are seeing the same results that we are.....Chance is doing phenomenally well.

Not only did Chance deliver his lines like a pro, he memorized them by himself. It was important to him to know the lines, not just read them.

Chance is showing so many people who are around him just what a deaf child is capable of. There are no restraints.

Chance takes the family out to eat

Chance does excellent on his spelling tests. He is continually bringing home tests with 100% written across the top. Tonight, Chance's skill really payed off. Each time he has gotten a perfect score, his teacher has given him a gift certificate to Applebee's Restaurant. He has accumulated 4 in the past 4 weeks, so he wanted us to all go out to eat. He was willing to give one certificate to each sibling so that all might have a free meal.

It was with great excitement that we headed out to eat. The kids were excited and Chance was beaming at the opportunity to take us out to eat.

I find it amazing that Chance does so well at spelling. Hearing the subtle differences in words does not come as easily to him as it does when you have perfect hearing. He really focuses though and works hard to get the spellings right.

We are very proud of Chance and his willingness to strive for excellence. There are no limits to what Chance can do or be. And he comes with added perks. Chance plans to next save coupons from Burger King so he can take us out to eat again.

A Christmas tree and a cougar

We set off this year to the vast wilderness to chop down our own Christmas tree. We did this last year and the kids absolutely loved it. The only draw back is the fact that while most people seeking a tree in the snowy mountain tops seem to have some sort of all terrain vehicle, we have a powerful, yet limited in all terrain capacity, mini van.

Which is why we found ourselves pointing upwards on an ice covered road trying to figure out where to turn around so that we might be moving back downwards. Our van had reached its capacity. Yet, by some twist of fate, as we carefully manuvered the van to turn around, a seemingly acceptable Christmas tree appeared off to the side of the road. Thus once the van was turned around, we were able to investigate our potential future tree.

Another vehicle traveling the road needed more space to pass on the narrow road so we had to move the van over to the shoulder more. These friendly people informed us that the road did not get any better up where they had been and that we were wise to turn around when we did. infact, they had come with two cars and ended up ditching the minivan due to its lack of capacity in the conditions.

The friendly people had also given us another tidbit of information. They had spotted a cougar about 2 miles up the road. This was rare indeed, and we all took it to mean that perhaps it was a sign about a rilvary football game that was under way at the moment with one team having a cougar as their mascot. (turns out spotting a cougar did not help the team win).

We were not overly concerned about the cougar, they usually do not like to be around people, but we thought keeping the kids close would still be a good idea. We got an insight into our kids personalities when we told them to stay by us since a cougar had been spotted up the road. One of our kids grabbed his sling shot so that he would be armed. One of our kids got back into the van and had to be coaxed out to help chop the tree. The other two kids kept "spotting" the cougar. One was facinated at that thought and the other one did not want to let go of my hand.

Chance was the one who needed to be coaxed out of the van. He had been on a school field trip the day before to a museum where he had seen a stuffed couagar up close. He apparently was not sure he wanted to get personal with such an animal. He eventually came out and just scoped the area every once in a while for signs of a cougar.

What impressed me though as Chance talked to me as we rode home, was just how much Chance had been able to hear in the museum. He had gone with all of the 2nd graders in the school, and he had apparently heard all kinds of details as they toured the museum. He told us about how he had been able to hold an owl, using a glove to protect his hand from the claws. He told us how the big toad they had showed the kids could be hurt from the oils on peoples hands. He had all kinds of information to share. That means that he was hearing what was being said even with 3 classes of squirmy 2nd graders surrounding him.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The importance of speech

We recently had our IEP meeting and pushed for Chance to have speech therapy. We realize that Chance is doing really well. We are very happy about this fact. But there are still some things to work on. Isn't life just a work in progress for all of us?

Take tonight for instance. Chance walked up to me and asked,"How much does it cost for dots?"
"Dots?" I repeated back to him to make sure I had understood.

I had not understood.

"No." Chance said and then repeated the word which sounded remarkably like dots again, but at the same time a little like dolls.

"Dolls?" I asked.

Chance was getting frustrated now.

"No!" Then he emphasized the mystery word by saying it slower. Unfortunately, this still did not help me know what he was saying.

I paused and looked at Chance. He looked back at me, with a flabbergasted look that told me he could not believe I had not understood.

"Can you use a different word?" I asked hopefully.

Chance let out a dramatic sigh and asked," How much is it for an dolt at Applebee's?"

Suddenly, the puzzle came together for me. Chance has received some gift certificates at school lately for a free meal at Applebee's because he keeps getting 100% on his spelling tests.

"Adult? How much does it cost for an adult at Applebee's?" I asked.

Chance shook his head like, "Duh, that is what I have asked you three times now."

I broke down the word adult for Chance and told him how it is spelled and pronounced.

"Adult?!" He asked raising his eyebrows.

"Yes, I said, "there is an "L" in there."

We went over how you pronunciate adult a few times and then moved on.

Later in the evening I asked Chance how you say adult again and he repeated it back perfectly to me.
Chance has the ability to hear and say things. He just needs some guidance on learning some of the sounds. That is why we pushed for speech therapy.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I heard his mom on the phone!


Chance hiked up to a big Y that sits on the mountain near our home. It entails climbing about 1,000 vertical feet in under a mile.

Chance's dad, sister, brother and one of Chance's best friends made their way up the mountain before the weather made it impossible for this season. Once they had reached the top of the Y, I got a call while in the grocery store.

"Mom, I am at the top of the Y!" Chance told me rather loudly. "It is big!"

Chance's friend also gave his mom a call to tell her that he was at the tip of the Y. While Chance's friend talked on the phone, Chance's dad reported that Chance got excited and said, " I can hear his mom on the phone!"

Chance can eavesdrop on cell phone conversations just like the rest of us do! Whether we want to or not, we get to hear the conversations of other people. Chance's implant technology is keeping up with phone technology.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Why don't my ears work?

Chance came out from his bed last night and wanted to know if water in his ears made it so he could not hear.

I thought we had covered why Chance is deaf but maybe it is a subject that we need to discuss several times as he grows up. That would be alright. We want him to feel like he can ask questions and understand what is going on with his hearing or lack thereof.

Of course Chance asked this question without implants on. He loves to do that.

"The hairs in your ears don't work." I told Chance.

He raised his eyelids. I drew out a cochlea, showed how there were hairs in side that help you hear, and told Chance that his hairs didn't work right.

I then told him that the implant passed the cochlea and sent the sounds and messages right to his brain. He was truly interested now.

At this point, his dad got in on the conversation and all of our kids materialized from their beds and gathered around the computer as we looked up a diagram of the human ear. I got out a book on the body and turned it to the pages about the ear while everyone looked on.

Chance was quite intrigued with this session on ears and how they work. The other kids were too.
Funny, we have done school assemblies on Chance's hearing loss. We have pointed out diagrams in doctors office of the ear and showed Chance where the implant is located. We even went to a hospital open house a few weeks before the implant surgeries where hospital staff showed Chance what would happen and he saw a close up of the cochlea. He even saw exactly where the drilling would be in his head and got to drill into a very real looking skull.

I think we may have this conversation many times about Chance's ears and his hearing loss. I think that is great. Chance should be comfortable about why he is deaf and how the implants work.

I think part of the reason Chance had questions is because he is learning about the body at school. Chance is showing a great interest in the human body. He asks questions about our skull, what the brain looks like and tells us where the biggest bone in the body is. He also wanted to know why our spines were not the biggest bone in the body since it was so long. We explained that the spine is actually made up of many little bones called vertebrae.

We have established that Chance does not get sick when watching medical procedures when he watched the fat from his own finger be cut off and wanted to watch the stitches go in.

Maybe we have a future doctor in the family. Perhaps Chance could be a surgeon that performs implants surgeries, his brother can be an audiologist and his sister can be a speech therapist. By the time they are grown, our kids will all have inside information on the above specialist having had many opportunities to visit their offices during their childhood:)

A drive through the leaves

Chance and I were driving home yesterday and I noticed a pile of leaves that had fallen on the road as you enter our neighborhood. I had actually noticed them before and had rolled down the windows and driven through them to the delight of the other kids. It was great fun to hear all of the leaves crunching under the van tires. Chance had not been in the van at the time so I wanted to see if he could also hear the delightful sound of leaves crunching if we rolled down the windows.

I asked Chance if he wanted to drive through the leaves and he indicated that he would indeed enjoy that. So, I rolled down the front windows and we blew through the leaves.

I turned to Chance and asked him if he heard the leaves crunching. He said that he did and his face indicated that he was hearing something as a small smile played across his features.

I CAN SHARE THE SOUND OF CRUNCHING FALL LEAVES WITH MY DEAF SON! HOW COOL IS THAT?!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

He came bearing gifts...

Our Japanese student left us with many gifts so we have a bit of Japan in our home now. The kids have been working on their newly acquired origami skills. One of the gifts was several pieces of origami paper and a booklet on how to make things. Our student made several things for the kids and had taught them now to make some basic things and now they are just running with it. Their dad has taken an interest too and is now folding his heart out with the rest of the crew.

Parting...such sweet sorrow

Our Japanese student left at 5:45 a.m. this morning. The kids made us promise that we would wake them up when he left so that they could say goodbye. They had all already cried and hugged him goodbye the night before, but one can not get enough suffering when saying goodbye to a new good friend.

Our student, who was rather shy and unsure in the beginning, had turned into a sort of big brother by the end of the week. He watched out for the younger kids when we went places and held their hands as we crossed streets etc. He sat on the floor and played boardgames with Chance and his brother.

Chance wanted to know why our student could not stay longer. And then he wanted to know if we could go visit him in his home in Japan.

Waking Chance when he is in a deep sleep is usually a little like waking the dead. He is a deep sleeper and he can't hear you talk to him, so usually we shake him gently, then shake him more intensely, and then roll him all the way over. Still he sleeps on sometimes.

This morning when I went to wake up Chance, I was expecting the same scenario. I was contemplating what Chance would say later in the morning when I explained that he would not wake up, when he miraculously awakened by just being shaken. He got up and seemed to know right away that he needed to head out to the kitchen and say goodbye.....again.

We had explained to our Japanese student that Chance was deaf and how the implants worked, but we were not sure how much he understood. When Chance came out this morning, with no implants on, our student mouthed the words goodbye to Chance but did not verbally say them out loud. He seemed to know that Chance could read his lips and sound would not be necessary.

So the kids stood in the dark on the porch and our student turned back to wave several times as he made his way across the grass to the car waiting to take him to the chartered buses that would take the students on in their journey.

Chance and his siblings did eventually go back to sleep after we set pillows on the living room floor and layed with them as they whimpered for a while. Chance wanted to know when Hironao's birthday was and then he wanted to know if we had his phone number and if we could visit Japan. All of these questions while we lay in the dark and Chance had no implants on. I convinced him that talking about these things would be more effective later.

When Chance's dad woke him up to shower for school, we all heard him and knew that he was awake. He was wailing his little heart out in the shower. Chance was letting out his grief during his quiet preimplant world this morning. The rest of us hear right when we wake up however, or are awoken by sounds we hear...like Chance this morning:) It is good to get such feelings out.

Chance really took to our student and when I brought him home from school today after helping at the Halloween party, he told me,"Nothing is fun without Hironao."

Chance had fun at the Halloween party, I had noticed that. But the thought of coming home knowing that our student would not be coming back, reminded Chance of his new friend.

Who would have guessed a few years ago that Chance would have gotten to know and love someone who only stayed at our house for a week? The implants make it so Chance can communicate and participate in all that happens in the house. I am so grateful for that. And it is fulfilling for Chance to be a part of everything.

Saying goodbye..such bitter sweet agony

We had a big dinner for the last night of our Japanese student's stay. All of the host families were invited to a dinner and a program. We got there early and made sure that we got a table that was close to the stage and the screen where pictures of the week would be displayed. We figured Chance would appreciate that.
The room was full of families. They were expecting about 1600 people so we were in a ballroom. When we first got there, it was loud as is always the case when several hundred people are in a big room having various conversations. This did not bother Chance. However, when the program started and the hosts started talking into the microphone, Chance turned to us and said,"What are they doing?! It is too loud!" The speakers for the microphone was really loud and then the sound bouncing off the huge room and high ceilings amplified the already loud noise. We had Chance turn his implant to another setting made for crowded environments and he seemed fine after that. He didn't complain about it being too loud through the rest of the program which included martial arts and dance routines. He loved watching and even got up and participated in a dance with our Japanese student when the audience was invited to participate.
Chance even heard us quite well while we ate and watched the program.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Who needs language anyway

Our kids have really taken a liking to our Japanese student and this includes Chance. Chance has all kinds of questions about Japan now. He had our student point our where Japan was on our globe and he wants to make sure that he gets to sit by him during our meals.

Our Japanese student struggles with the English language somewhat, but Chance is compensating for the lack of verbal communication.

Chance along with his siblings makes sure that our student understands what is going on. We took our student out to eat at a buffet style restaurant where you can go back as many times as you want. Our student indicated in his letter to us before he arrived that he wanted to try American foods. We have been cooking traditional standards at home and introducing him to things like pancakes and peanut butter. He did not care of the peanut butter.

At the restaurant our waitress was running around trying to keep up with all of her tables but the dishes ended up stacking up in the middle of the table anyway. Seven people can stack up a good amount of dishes when they are going to the salad bar, main dish section and dessert island. It was during such a stack up of dishes that our student decided to get a picture of all of us. That is great, I am a picture taker myself. What I found funny was that his picture is going to show dishes all over the table some stacked on top of each other as we all smile. I can see the scenario back home when our student shows his pictures of America to his family. They may gasp and say to themselves,"Wow, we heard that Americans like to eat but we really had no idea of the quantity!"

What has been the most tender about having this student stay with us, is Chance's caring for our student. Though their talking has been limited due to a language barrier, Chance has become attached to our student and he makes sure that our student feels loved. When we were walking into the restaurant, Chance threw his arm around him. Chance hugged him goodnight the second night he was here and smiles up at him as they walk side by side. It occurred to me that of all people, Chance would know what it is like to feel left out and not be able to understand what is going on around you. Sweet little Chance makes sure that our student does not feel alone though and generously displays his caring. I don't know how touchy-feeley most people are in Japan, but our student will go home knowing that he has a buddy in Chance.

What's in a missed word or two

We have an interesting phenomenon happening at our house. We have a Japanese student staying in our home for a week. It is a great program really. There is a junior high in Japan that sends its students to the United States for a week when they are in 9th grade. There are 235 Japanese students scattered across households in our valley. They are getting a taste of life in America by touring various sights, attending school for a day and spending time with an American family and seeing how they live.

Our kids are so excited to have our student here that when he heads out for tours, etc, during the day, the kids constantly want to know when he will be back.

The students have studied English and some know the language better than others. Our student struggles with the language a bit and we don't know Japanese so we are doing some improvising during our conversations. During our orientation before the students arrived, we were told that the students may nod while we talked to them even though they don't understand what we are saying. My husband and I chuckled at that and expressed how we had been through such a scenario before. Chance would nod at us sometimes even when he did not know what we were saying. We are onto that technique.

The students learn English, but putting a language into practice in an actual foreign country is a different matter entirely. My husband and I have both lived in foreign countries for an extended period of time...my husband in Spain and I in the Netherlands. I studied the language before I arrived in the Netherlands but once I was there and talking to native speakers, I thought,"What language was it that I learned? These people speak a different Dutch than I know!" The people talked so fast and they didn't use words in the same ways that I had read about in the book. They did use the same words, but they said them slightly different or didn't enunciate the words as perfectly as the way the book had laid them out. So we feel for this boy who is living with us for a time.

He has been sitting in the middle row of the van while we drive since it is easier for him to fit there instead of squeezing into the back with the kids. This has made some conversations very interesting. When I am asking the student for instance to choose between two activities, Chance is in the very back not hearing all of the conversation so he has lots of questions.

"We are going to carve pumpkins?" Chance calls from the back. I had asked our student which activity he wanted to do and he had answered yes to both of them, so I was trying to restate the question using different words so that he might understand what I was asking easier.

"We are going to carve pumpkins?" Chance asks from the back seat.

"No, Hironao might carve pumpkins."

"What?! Why can't we go?"

"Because it is for the big scouts and boys from his school not for us."

"Do we get to carve pumpkins?' Chance wants to know.

"Yes. Later."

Chance's older brother has found himself in the old role of explaining things to Chance as I drive when Chance does not understand all that I have said. Chance can hear a lot, but just missing one word or hearing one thing wrong can really throw off an interpretation of what has been said.

Thankfully, Chance misses less conversations than ever before now. His hearing is not perfect, but he is not missing out on all that he used to. Moments like this remind us of just how well he does on a day to day basis.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Don't go to the zoo!

There are stuffed animals laid out all over my family room floor. Two of Chance's friends are desperately trying to contain the situation and Chance is standing at the foot of the stairs giving a news report.

"Don't come to the zoo. The animals are going crazy and they will hurt you." Chance reports.

I am sitting at the computer and have been here long enough that the kids have forgotten I am here. Therefore they are not shy about playing and going on as normal even though there is a mom mere feet from their zoo.

I like being able to listen to them as they concoct stories of a zoo gone amuck. Considering that there is now a nuclear bomb about to detonate, one can not blame the animals for getting restless.

I love to hear that Chance is right in the mix, helping to set the scene and able to hear and understand when the kids tell him that he is the news reporter and needs to go on T.V. and warn people about the animals at the zoo. Chance is just one of the kids able to keep up and be a part of their creative play and can go right along with the constant developments such as the fact that one of his friends has now been pulled into one of the animal cages. Chance has already been wounded and his friends have set up an imaginary tent around him so that they can administer first aid.

Chance is warning the public on the news, securing a nuclear bomb,and trying to decide what to do about an erupting volcano. All while fighting some grave injury incurred while trying to save the animals at the zoo.

It's just all in a days work for Chance.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The IEP

Cue the scary music.........The IEP has been known to strike if not terror, at least unease and severe discomfort into the hearts of parents whose children require them. IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. Various situations warrant a child having an IEP. Autistic kids, mentally challenged kids, and of course deaf kids have them which is why we know all about this process. I worked at one time at a residential treatment center for troubled teens and they all had IEPs.

The reason parents find IEPs so frightening varies. It usually boils down to this: if your child is on an IEP it is because they need special or extra help and as a parent, you want your child to have the services they need and want honest analysis from the school on what those services are. As a parent you study what it is your child needs and then you have to rely on the school district to administer many of those services. Sure your child is deaf and you know they need help hearing, but how much speech therapy is sufficient to get them where they need to be?

As a parent of a child on an IEP you also face the daunting task of facing a school district that does not always want to tell you what your child needs because of the fear they will be expected to provide it. What is provided by each district varies within states and there are huge differences between what each state offers. A deaf child in one state will get their $5,ooo.oo FM system paid for by the district. Other states will require a fight just to get the proper amplification into the classroom of a deaf child let as well paying for a device such as a FM system.

There are also no hard and fast rules to be found. How much speech therapy does a deaf child require for instance? I have talked to deaf adults who are out in the hearing world who talk about having constant speech therapy throughout their school years. They have gotten emotional as they talked about the role that their speech therapist played in helping them acquire the language they needed. Sometimes these same people absolutely hated speech therapy, but they admit that it got them to where they are today...being able to talk and communicate as well as they do. Advances in technology make it easier for deaf kids to hear in many instances than the hearing aids of 20 years ago. But the need for speech therapy in a deaf child's life remains vital.

Speech therapists in Utah are hard to come by in the schools and have huge caseloads. Chance was tested by a speech therapist in the school district before the IEP and she determined that Chance did not need speech therapy. This did not make us as parents happy at all. Chance is doing very well, but he has speech errors and we know that they need to be corrected. He has come a long way, but there are holes in his vocabulary and his speech needs fine tuning with a focus on articulation. We as parents have a responsibility of helping Chance at home and are willing to do our part, but Chance needs the extra help of a professional who is trained in aiding those with speech issues.

Since we were concerned about Chance's speech needs at this time and where we should go from here, we had Chance tested by a speech therapist before the speech test at school was administered. We did not realize it at the time, but the exact same test was administered by both speech therapists. The speech therapist not affiliated with the school determined that Chance did need speech therapy and diagnosed him as having a moderate articulation disorder and a mild expressive language disorder. As his parents, we knew that there were some things to work on with Chance and were looking for guidance as to which direction we should be headed.

Needless to say, the difference in the test results was troubling to us. Was the school telling us what they offered or what was needed? As a parent you ask yourself these kind of questions over and over to assess if you are giving your child what they need to succeed.

The fact of the matter is, as Chance's parents we know that he is capable of absolutely anything. We see no boundaries for Chance and what he decides to do. Our fears lay not with what Chance can't do, but if we as parents are doing what needs to be done so that Chance gets what he needs to excel. How can we make sure that he is provided with all he needs to be all that he is capable of?

We have a good IEP team that works with us to help Chance. With teachers that care about him and an administrator that has been with Chance from the beginning and is concerned that Chance succeeds. And he is succeeding. There is still some work to do.

So, in our IEP meeting, we requested that Chance get speech services from a speech-language pathologist. We brought up the testing we had done, and had a letter from our audiologist stating that he felt Chance needed speech therapy. Chance will be now be getting speech therapy once a week along with some other therapy services. We feel good about this and will be assessing if this seems to be getting Chance what he needs.

As parents, we are willing to do our part at home, it is a team effort. I have been jotting down words that Chance does not know when he reads books or when words are used in conversation. One of his teachers thought it would be a great idea if I sent in the lists of vocabulary words that I note Chance does not know and they work on them at school as well. This is a fabulous idea and will help Chance learn faster and more thoroughly I think. One of my concerns was that I would be loading Chance with vocabulary at home and they would be loading Chance with new vocabulary at school and his little brain would explode from overload. With all of us working together, we can help Chance fill in those holes he has.

We'll see how Chance does with speech therapy and if he is getting what he needs. And we'll continue to work at home with Chance and expose him to what we think will help him reach his potential.

This is a journey that never gets boring and continually highlights what an incredible little person Chance is.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The weather through music..

Chance and his class got to attend a concert by the Utah Symphony that was based on weather. Yes, that is right. Weather. Chance's class has been studying weather so hearing the symphony's interpretation of weather was a good match.

When Chance got home, I asked him, "So, did you hear thunder at the symphony?" Chance vigorously nodded his head yes and then he gave me sound effects to punctuate what he had heard.
"Babooooom!! That was thunder." Chance informed me.

Then I asked him if the symphony had done rain. Chance nodded yes and started sliding his hands on an imaginary instrument saying something like "dut, dut dut."

When Chance's dad got home, he asked Chance what a tornado sounded like. Chance started whirling his hands in the air while making a deep throated voice, "Ba-bing! Ba-bing!"

Chance then asked us if we knew that a man stood up at the front and waved his hands "like this"....then he mimicked a conductor leading music. We explained to Chance he that was called a conductor and he was leading the people playing the instruments.

Chance also informed me that he had seen the violins and had told his friends that he was going to come home and have me show him how to play it. Oh. I guess I should pull that violin out then and start playing again:) I would like to actually. Taking violin lessons was one of those things that went on the back burner when we found out Chance was deaf and started our journey to get him what he needed. Many things went on the back burner that we are gradually trying to add back into our lives. It was as it needed to be, but having a child with special needs definitely impacts your life, time and hobbies. A simple thing like Chance coming home and telling me he wants me to show him how to play the violin, reminds me how our lives have changed during the past few years. I did not play well enough to give lessons to someone else. But I do plan on playing again. Maybe Chance and I can do duets.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Chance gets political

Gone are the days when our conversations around the house were lost on Chance. He picks up things just like any of our other kids do. He is also aware of some current events.......like say the election coming up. The months of campaigning have had an impact on our little deaf son. Isn't that wonderful!!! He has heard the ads on T.V., and heard some radio commentary while we are driving around town.

We have discussed the election some with the kids. Who is running for office, how the candidates are narrowed down to two, who we are voting for, and how important it is to vote. Chance has asked some questions along the way as he tries to figure the system out. Such as when the vice presidential debate was on television. Chance wanted to know who THOSE people were. They seemed new on the scene.
Chance has decided that he wants the same person to win the election as we do which is quite natural.

It was at a birthday party for another deaf child of all places where Chance had his political discussion. I am still trying to envision how this whole conversation went down between the two boys. There they were, two deaf kids with implants in a loud room full of the sound of numerous video games, clanging from various automatic cars that go when given a token, and many people engaged in several different conversations. Maybe they were standing over by the tables where pizza is served...it would be slightly more quiete over there.

However it happened, Chance and his friend came to realize that they wanted different presidential candidates to win the election. Chance came home and told us with a sense of awe that his friend wanted the other candidate to win. Chance also informed us that he had informed his friend about who he wanted to win.

It is good to know that Chance is up on current events and is able to hold his own when discussing
politics:) Who would have thought a few years back when Chance struggled to keep up on conversations going on about the house that in a few years, he would hear well enough to be out campaigning? Life is full of great surprises!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chance is a twin...and we never knew

Chance has started getting invited to more birthday parties from school this year. For the past few years, Chance didn't really get invited to the birthday parties since he lives in a different city from the other kids in his class. The parents of the other kids don't know Chance unless they help out in the classroom on a regular basis. Likewise, we don't know the parents and families of the kids in the classroom. I know the kids since I have volunteered in the classroom weekly in each of Chance's classes. I know a few of the moms through being on the PTA Board and helping with classroom holiday parties etc, but I don't know where anyone's house is, or anything like that.

This year Chance has been invited to 2 birthday parties from school so far. Both of them have been in public places like Chuck E. Cheese, a pizza eatery with video games, and various other kid activities. Chance has been so excited to be invited. I usually go and hang out somewhere nearby during the party as the locations are all 2 cities away in the same city where the school is so it is not worth it to go home and come back.

As Chance was talking excitedly about going to the birthday party yesterday, I was asking him about Antonio who invited him. Did Chance play with him at recess? Did he sit by him at school?

Then Chance got a smile on his face and said, "Antonio thought Katy was my sister!" Then he giggled.
Katy is the other deaf child in Chance's class and she also wears an implant. Antonio must have figured having the implants in common made them twins or at least siblings. I found that to be quite funny. Apparently so did Chance.

For the record, neither Chance's father or I are aware of Chance having a twin or a deaf sister with an implant:)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The proper place for implants

Chance just got home from school and as I was asking him a question to make sure that he had heard me, I wondered why I was not getting a response. It was then that I realized that Chance was only wearing one implant and I happened to be talking to the wrong side of his head. When he came closer, I asked him why he was only wearing one implant. He told me that the batteries had died and he didn't have any more in his backpack. We load that backpack continually with batteries in the front pocket it seems. And Chance has a reserve pack at school so I am not sure what happened but we'll be loading all of the usual pockets and cubbies with batteries.

"Where is your implant?" I asked Chance

It was then that Chance pulled his jacket which had been crumpled up in his back pack out and I started to breath a little faster. Fall is not the time to put valuables in a jacket pocket. The jacket is on in the morning, off in the afternoon and dangled while running to the van or back from recess in between. First Chance checked the pocket on the left, then the pocket on the right.

I meanwhile am having visions of Chance's school run through my mind. I see an implant laying on the sidewalk out where Chance gets on the bus perhaps. Maybe a lone implant alone in the wide hall leading from Chance's classroom. Or perhaps an implant partially buried in the grass outside the school.

I am wondering if I can get to the school and surround it with yellow police tape. Yellow tape running around the parking lot so that no car can get in and run an implant over before we have searched there. Yellow tape blocking the entrances so that we can secure the halls before some child inadvertently steps on the implant and a sickening crunch follows. We may have to buy a metal detector so that we can scan the grass for any objects with metal in them before any child can set foot on the premises.

Then, Chance pulls the implant from his dangling jacket and I am able to breath at a normal rate again. I discuss with Chance how a jacket pocket is not the best storage place for an implant as it can fall out of the pocket. Chance nods and heads over to restock his backpack pocket with batteries.

Looks like we get to go ahead with our regular plans tonight and the family will not be spending their evening searching the school grounds for an implant. How delightful:)

Friday, September 19, 2008

How Chance hears in an underground mine...

On our way to the Cochlear Implant camp, we stumbled upon a little town that gave tours of a real gold mine. We figured this would be a fun learning experience for the kids so we pulled off and took the road less traveled. After winding up a dirt road, we reached the small opening that would lead us inside the mountain.

We had a brief orientation by a miner and then we were led into the tunnel. We were able to see mineral veins and follow them along the wall and ceilings of the cave. Chance found it quite interesting, but it soon became apparent that the acoustics in the cave made it very difficult for Chance to hear what was being said by our tour guide. We would walk along in the cave while the guide pointed out veins in the walls or talked about the mining process. The sound would echo off the cavernous walls and bounce all over the place. Everyone was very quiet while the guide spoke, but Chance just wasn't catching the bulk of what was said.

I tried to interpret what was being said by pulling Chance aside away from the group so that we didn't disturb the others in our tour. Chance got some information and was genuinely interested, he just could not hear as well as we would have liked.

There were parts where he got to see and touch things - like when the tour guide let him try to hammer a spike into the hard walls like miners used to do so that they could stick a piece of dynamite inside to blow a section of a wall out. Chance thought that was pretty cool.

He also got to feel the veins in the wall and see where the miners worked. And of course, there were the legs protruding out of the rock where a miner fell under an avalanche of rocks when he didn't follow safety procedures. Chance's eyes got huge and I soon had to explain that the legs were fake.

Chance got really excited when he realized that he got to pan for gold. He got his pan and headed into the stream seeking the precious little nuggets. He and his siblings found some small nuggets and entertained us with stories in the van about all of the things they were going to buy with their new found wealth.

I don't know if there is a setting on the implant that would have helped Chance hear better in the caves or not. There were many tunnels hooked together, and it was drafty. Sound just bounced all over the place. We actually talked to our audiologist when at our next visit about the mining experience and he suggested a setting we could try on the implant to see if that would improve the sound. Unfortunately, we have no immediate plans to go mining to test out any settings on the implant.

I guess this experience may dim any desires Chance may have been harboring about becoming a miner. He thinks the mine is cool, but he doesn't appreciate not being able to hear while in the mines.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bee Stings and Baking Soda

Sitting in the house, my husband and I suddenly heard a frantic cry from Chance. Upon reaching the backdoor, we realized that he was sobbing,"A bee stung me! A bee stung me!" Chance does not usually respond to pain with such intensity. It was weird too because it was almost 8:00 at night, not exactly a prime time for bees to be out and about especially in September. Once in the house, Chance told us that he had set his hand on a bee while chasing his pet bunny. He wasn't exactly sure as he was focusing on trying to grab the bunny. Bunnies are speedy little pets that take some energy and determination to catch when they decide to hop across the yard.

We tried to remember what we had heard helped bee stings (other than 'Meat Tenderizer' of which we had none) when Chance started insisting that we use baking soda. I didn't even know Chance knew what baking soda was. We asked him why he wanted baking soda and he told us that it helped bee stings. When we asked him where he had heard that, he didn't answer as he was busy trying to convince us that baking soda was the answer to what ailed him.

Not being experts in bee stings, we decided that it couldn't hurt to put baking soda on the sting and in fact maybe if Chance "thought" it was helping, that would be enough. It worked either because baking soda really does help ease the pain of a bee sting or Chance was convinced that it would.

As Chance leaned against the counter with the sting under white powder, he paused in his whimpering to ask "Bees die after they sting you?" When I answered that indeed they did, he wanted to know why.
There is no harsher revenge than death to the enemy that has just attacked you. Chance seemed to be thinking that at least he didn't have to worry about that particular bee again.

After all the cuts, scrapes and wounds that Chance has received in his lifetime, a bee sting definitely seems to be at the top of the list for having the most impact on Chance's pain level. Go figure.

Which implant to choose...decisions decsions...

When you get an implant (at least the brand we chose), you choose two controllers (the battery compartment with the on/off switch, controls for which program, volume, etc... This is different from, and attaches to, the processor, which contains the microphone and the digital sound processing components). There are 3 different kinds. The regular over the ear piece that looks like a longer, bigger version of a hearing aid. This one takes three little round batteries and can have things like ipods plugged directly into it.

There is the "mini" which is a little shorter, and takes two batteries. It does not have the capacity to have devices like ipods plugged into it.

Then there is the body unit which has the littlest over the ear piece because the batteries are in a pack that clips onto your pants or in a pocket etc. A wire runs down from the ear piece to the battery pack. If the implant should come off for whatever reason, it is still attached by a wire to the battery pack. That was an appealing feature to us when we first got the implants. (It is often a desirable choice for toddlers with implants).

Between the two ears and their four controllers, we have at least one of each kind. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. The regular sized one is the same size for children and adults and tends to be big on little kids. Chance's ears are closer to his head and have actually stretched out since he has been wearing implants. At first the bigger implant was always slipping and sliding there on his ear. Chance's ears have stretched out though and have a little pointy part where the ear curves to attach to the head due to the implants. This slight point convinced Chance's brother and friends that Chance was one of Santa's elf last Christmas.

The mini fit better and we figured that at 6, Chance could live without an ipod plugged into his implant. He would be able to plug things into his other ear if the need arose.

The body unit we got mostly for sports and amusement parks etc. when the wire attached to the battery pack would help to keep the implant from falling all the way off.

Usually Chance wears the regular sized implant on one ear and the mini on the other. But every once in a while, he decides that the body-worn implant is the coolest thing since sliced bread. He is having such a moment now. He wants to wear a belt on his shorts each day for school so that he can hook the battery pack onto it.

He told me the battery pack implant looks like a cell phone that hooks onto your pants like the one his dad has. So it is cool.

You know as long as Chance feels his implant is cool, I don't care how he wears it as long as he can hear with it. Chance thinking his implant is cool is a nice touch.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The great outdoors

At the implant camp we attended, our family had the opportunity to go horseback riding. From the age of 6 on, kids have to ride on a horse by themselves. Most of the kids don't mind, and I figure the stable must be used to kids with implants who may not hear perfectly as they ride through the forest. The horses all follow a guide up front in a straight line and there are other cowboys and cowgirls scattered along the line to give aid if it is needed. This is the third year we have gone on the horse rides and the biggest catastrophes we have seen is when the whole line has to be held up while some little kid dashes into the trees to relieve their bladder.

There is the possibility that you get a horse that wants to nibble the grass along the way in which case, the cowboys and cowgirls riding along the line will ride by and tell you to pull your horses head and keep them from grazing. Chance's older brother got such a grazer of a horse and the scenario we found ourselves in was truly comical.

We were in a long procession of riders, Chance and his brother were ahead of me and their sister, who was sharing my horse. Behind us was Chance's dad with his baby brother whose head was doubled in size when the riding helmet was put on.

The setting was beautiful, with wind blowing gently in the trees, a stream running down a slight hill, and the sound of horses hooves clompimg along on the dirt path. Chance could hear us sometimes if we called out to him, but several times between the distance of the horses, the wind and the sound of the steam, he was clomping along without interruption from us.

At the beginning of the ride, we had been briefed not to let our horses get to close together. As luck would have it, Chance had a rather slow poke of a horse that would literally stop to smell the flowers along the way. This caused Chance's brother who was behind Chance to get nervous that their horses were getting too close at times so he would pull back on the reins to slow his horse down. Not wanting to waste an opportunity to graze, the horse would begin chomping on the grass. I would pull back on our horse which the horse didn't like too much, he kind of had a purpose to his walk that did not include slowing down.

So there we were playing out the same scenario over and over again. The cowboy or cowgirl would ride past Chance and tell him to give his horse a little kick to get him moving. Chance would not hear this advice and could not hear us when we tried to tell hi again. So Chance's horse would slow way down, Chance's brother would then pull in the reins on his horse who would immediately start to graze. The cowboy or cowgirl would come along and tell him to pull up on the reins and not let the horse graze. Meanwhile, my horse was flipping his head impatiently as he wanted to keep up our stride. Soon, my horse decided that if we were going to be slowing down at a steady interval, he should graze too. Then the cowboy and cowgirl would come by and tell me to make my horse catch up to the others as they had started to move. I don't think the cowgirl who rode by us ever figured out that Chance could not hear her commands. She just thought we were all slacker horse riders; She was never mean, just doing her job of trying to keep the line in shape. It got to the point where I was just laughing though as we went through our little ritual of Chance's horse slowing down and setting off the chain reaction with the rest of us behind him. I don't know what the people behind us thought as we continually slowed down.

We all had a lot of fun and Chance wants to do it again next year so all is well that ends well.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Looking into the crystal ball of implant futures..

At the implant camp that we attended, we learned what was currently in the works for implants in the future. There is some good stuff coming!! We parents sat on the edge of our seats taking in what most likely will be available for our children. It was quite exciting.

One thing the implants will be able to do is hone in on peoples voices. So if you are heading to a restaurant with your wife, you would switch your implant to a seek option and the implant would hone in on the voice of your wife while you were in the car. Once in the restaurant, the implant would then hone in on your wife's voice and seek it above all the other noises around. How great would that be in such a noisy environment?!

Chance's dad and I have eaten with deaf adults several times in restaurants and though they have all heard really well, it has been a trial for them to hear sometimes over the clanging of dishes, the conversations coming from tables all around you and hearing across a long table.

Also in the works is technology that will allow implant wearers to hear quiet conversations from long distances. Like across a football field. Some of the dads started fantasizing about being able to hear the conversations of your opponents huddles during sporting events. At least your implanted child could hear the huddles.

As a mother, I envision this technology as being used a little differently. For instance, Chance suddenly realizing that he is "hearing voices" and then he recognizes that it is his mother's voice. She is calling him home for dinner as he plays in a field on the next street over. This could also work well at the zoo, amusement parks and at the library where whispering to your deaf child down the aisle can end up not being so quiet.

Of course, the presenter then brought up the point that discussing Christmas gifts would take on a whole new meaning if your child could hear from such a distance. Hmmmmm.

We all joked that our kids may be able to hear better than we do in the future.

It is kind of comforting to think about what might be available to us too should we loose our hearing as we reach the more "autumn' years of life too. Imagine the correspondence that could occur if Chance, and his dad and I all could converse across a football field.........

Monday, September 01, 2008

spiral ganglion cell regrowth...or "curing deafness"

We recently returned from a cochlear implant camp out of state where we got to mingle with other great families who have kids with implants.

I would like at this moment to send out kudos to the surgeon who performed both of Chance's implant surgeries....he lined up the implants perfectly. When you look at the back of Chance's head, the implants line up. This is not the case with some kids. Some bilateral implants are scewampas in their placement and on a boy with short hair, I appreciate anew the care our doctor took to line the implants up so that Chance looks good from behind.

I love going to this conference because we get to talk with other families and attend classes that teach us about implants from current possibilities to future technologies.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for me when deciding whether or not to get the second implant was that ominous question of, "What about future technology?! Does Chance need one ear saved for future technology?!" I really struggled with this question. We finally decided that Chance's need to hear now out -weighed whatever phantom technology was coming. I have no doubt that the future holds great things as far as advancements for deaf kids. But I don't think that Chance will benefit from that technology while he is in school, training for a job and setting the foundation for his entire future.

In our study of the issue, we found that many experts on the subject felt the same. They felt that the kids of today would not be the beneficiaries of the technology that was coming such as stem cell regrowth etc.

At the camp, a gentleman was telling us about future technologies with hearing and implants. He was talking about spiral ganglion cell regrowth....the regrowing of the hair cells that help us hear.

Right after we got the second implant,. I heard that researchers had been able to regrow hair cells in zebra fish and were thinking that guinea pigs were next. I had a swift thought of, "Oh, will Chance miss out on that technology?"

At the camp we were told of a report given by a Harvard researcher at a conference on hair cell regrowth. Researchers apparently thought they were close to successfully growing hair cells in guinea pigs. (mammals even...closer to Chance's make up than a zebra fish:)).

There were some slides that showed normal growth of hair cells in the ear. The hair cells were growing in a very linear pattern. Then there was a slide of a deaf person and where the hair cells were supposed to be, was just a lot of empty space as the hairs were missing. The last slide showed hair cells that researchers were able to regrow in guinea pigs. It looked like spaghetti noodles winding up and around all over the place. No one knows why the cells grow back in that pattern and it is something that will have to be figured out along with some side effects that would need to be overcome.

Something fabulous may be coming eventually for hair cell regrowth. But I don't think Chance would benefit in time to give him the best advantage where with the bilateral implants, he has the best that is available for him now.

The man giving the presentation had recently adopted a deaf little girl. This is a man who is in the know of what is going on with implants and future technologies that are in now in development. And he is getting a second implant for his daughter.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, to the audiologist we go....

The audiologist that we all have grown very attached to has moved 2 and 1/2 hours away from our house. And we have decided to follow him. We still live here, we just see more of our state through road trips than before.

We needed to do a more intense appointment than we have the past few visits as we were coming up on tests that had not been done for a while and we wanted Chance to be all squared away for the new school year. Also, since returning to our audiologists will now take more time, we want to be extra thorough in our assessments:)

The results in the sound booth were very pleasing. The testing included sentence testing which had Chance repeat back a sentence he had heard from a recorded voice that was pumped into the sound booth. The sentences were things like,"Mother made cookies yesterday." After the sentence was spoken, Chance would repeat what he heard or thought he heard. He scored 91% with just the right implant on, 77% with just the left implant on, and 97% when both implants were on together. 97%! That is what we like to see! A year ago, Chance scored 71% with the right implant, 74% with the left and 85% together.

When Chance was tested with quiet speech where the volume was lower, he scored right ear 86%, left ear 67% and both 92%.

The word test which is just random words pumped into the booth with absolutely no context....duck, hotdog, window etc. Chance scored right ear 56%, left ear 50% and both ears 58%. Average scores on this test are 40 to 50%, so Chance did well.

Chance's mapping was changed quite a bit this time. Right after the mapping, we went to eat lunch and get ice cream. Chance was telling me that he did not like his implants being so loud. The audiologist said that this might happen. When the mapping is first adjusted as much as Chance's was, many adults will complain that they don't like it. It just takes some getting used to. There are 4 different programs on Chance's implants. Usually program 1 is the main program that he uses for most of the day. Program 2 is for noisy places, program 3 is a music program and program 4 is the old primary program. I noticed that Chance had turned his implants back to program 4 which was his old program. I made a deal with him that he just turn one of the implants to program 1 and the other to program 4 for a bit. By the time we got to the mini zoo after lunch, Chance had both implants on the new programs and he had done it by his own free will.

Program 2 is supposed to help in noisy environments in school so we'll see if Chance notices a difference. Program 3 which is for music is new to us and we are going to see if Chance likes it.

We are very pleased with Chance's progress with the implants and what he is able to hear. As usual, having the two implants makes a big difference in his hearing which we see any time only one implant is on.

Our newest decision is whether or not to buy Chance a personal FM system. This is a boot that snaps onto the end of his implant with a microphone being attached to a teachers lapel, or up on the stand at church etc. (Some children also use these in other various settings such as playing sports, in the car, or noisy settings.) Since these systems are mere pocket change of only $4,000.00 to $5,000.00, money is not an obstacle:) We have struggled in the past with this decision and are doing so again. I think Chance could really be helped by having such a system. It is one of those things that he will eventually need it is just a matter of when we buy it. His school provides a another sort of technology where there is a tower speaker in the room and the teacher has a microphone, but it is not the same as a personal FM System and it stays in the classroom so when Chance is in the library or in the gym at an assembly, he does not have access to it. A personal FM system has been very beneficial to people we have talked to who have them.

Another dilemma is that there are new upgrades coming out with the FM Systems with in the next year or so and we would like to take advantage of the new product. Our audiologist says that he really thinks that Chance would benefit from an FM System now though. Hmmmmmm, decisions decisions decisions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chance has been inspired

The Olympics may be over, but Chance has been influenced by watching the world's best athletes compete for a gold medal. Chance was highly impressed with Micheal Phelps the phenomenal US swimmer who won 8 gold medals and broke almost as many world records. Chance watched Michael race and was an enthusiastic cheerleader from his perch in front of the T.V.

Chance has decided that he wants to join the swim team. I think it is a fabulous idea and I know that Chance can do anything. My question is, will the swim coach feel the same way? I know that having a deaf child on the swim team may be slightly intimidating for the coach. Chance could wear his implants to hear instructions and then take them off for the swim putting the implants back on as soon as he reaches the side of the pool.

There would be something particularly gratifying to have a deaf child on the swim team, just to really show that deaf kids really can do anything any other child their age can do.

Swim team tryouts are not until next spring which would give Chance all winter to practice and get ready. I think he should give swim team a try. You don't know unless you try. We'll have to sit down and see if Chance wants to swim above all other available sports this winter. If he does, I say we go for it!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

With the purchase of an implant we'll throw in...

We did not realize an added feature contained with in Chance's implant until this past week. With the help of some sibling and neighbor children, Chance has realized that the implants endow him with special powers.
During a romp through a field near our home, Chance and the posse of kids with him discovered alien tracks. That's right, aliens in our own neck of the woods.

The footprint was quite large and the kids realized that this footprint could only belong to one person.....the alien king. These aliens are apparently not keen on us human beings and will eat us if given half a chance. HOWEVER, the aliens are afraid of the implants AND Chance is the only person who can communicate with the aliens because they send messages through the implants. If there are killer aliens on the loose, you definitely want to be the one with the implants.

I was awakened one morning by Chance and his sister who eagerly filled me in on the alien happenings as I had not been home the night before when they found the footprint. Chance explained in detail what the alien communications sounded like. His sister and the other neighbor kids were greatly relieved to realize that Chance could converse with the aliens and therefore they could know what they were up against, and it was apparently best to be by Chance as the aliens were afraid of the implants.

Who knew that we were getting such a nifty - not to mention practical - addition when we purchased the implants? I wonder if there are any other powers that will manifest themselves as time goes on. It is something to look forward to.