Friday, June 27, 2008

To tell or not to tell - that is the question

The kids had swim class these past few weeks and I have been in the mom-and-tot class which has me in the water with my youngest.

We are helping our young ones learn to kick, go under the water, float etc. so there is not a lot of time for talking, but I did have a conversation with one of the moms one day.

One of the moms was watching my son and expressed that he talked well and wondered how old he was. I told her that it was just the last 6 months or so that my son has really started talking like he is now.

She said that her first daughter started talking in sentences by 12 months but that her younger daughter wasn't really saying anything at 19 months.

I had never met this woman before and I did not know her daughter at all. We only had a minute to talk and then we were helping our kids swim.

I saw the little girl again a few days later and she seemed to take in everything around her - very visually aware of her surroundings. Her mom would say things to her, but the little girl never said anything back.

I am no expert and do not claim to be such, but I could not help but think, what if this little girl is another little Chance? What if she is not hearing what is going on around her and it doesn't occur to anyone that she can not hear?

This little girl could just be a late talker. She could be really quiet. There could be any number of reasons why she is not saying anything.

Do I mention that maybe she should have her daughter's hearing tested? Calmly and kind of off hand of course, but do I say anything?

Poor little Chance went 2 years with out hearing and we had no idea.

But I have no relationship with this woman. She doesn't know me and I don't know her. I tried to think what I would have thought if someone I didn't know, out in a public place like a pool or park had suggested that I get my child's hearing tested. It would have been so out there, that I might have thought the stranger suggesting it was paranoid.

Then I may have gone home and done one of those "tests" that people do on their kids. You stand behind them and bang pans together and see if they respond. Well, Chance may have heard that! Chance responded to thunder. The noise scared him.

Also, if I had been told about checking Chance's hearing on trash day and watched Chance dash down the driveway to sit and wait for the garbage truck because he heard it coming long before any of the rest of us did, that would have been proof that he could hear right?

I have had several parents who have told me that they thought their child had a hearing loss for a while but then they did one of these "tests" to see and their child passed. Kids can have hearing loss and pass those tests.

In the end, I was hoping that somehow, I might be able to talk to this mom again and mention that my second son was deaf. In the natural flow of that conversation I could have mentioned that he could not hear for 2 years because we did not catch it. Maybe that would have been enough to get her thinking. I was in the midst of deciding what to do on the last day of swim class. Could I just let it go and hope that if this little girl had hearing loss, someone else along the way would plant the seed of having her hearing tested? How much time could be wasted for this poor little girl if she does have hearing loss?

Well, the mom and her little girl did not come to class the last day. I never had an opportunity to say anything. But it got me thinking of what would be the best approach in the future. I hope and pray that if that little girl has hearing loss, someone catches it soon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lessons on Breathing

We were on our way to the library today and as usual we passed the cemetery.

"Everyone hold your breath while we go by the cemetery!" My oldest son urgently told us.

After a few seconds, I asked him why we were doing this.

"I don knoow!" He tried to muffle through inflated cheeks.

Chance turned around to see what was going on and when he saw his brother and sister with their cheeks all puffed out, he asked them what they had inside their mouths.

Both of them vigorously shook their heads. Chance looked bewildered. "We are holding our breath while we pass the cemetery," I told him. Obviously I was cheating a little and taking breaths.

"Holding our breath?" Chance asked confused.

"We're not breathing while we pass the cemetery. I told him.

"Cemetery?" Chance questioned.

So I told Chance that we were passing the cemetery where they bury people when they die.

"You don't breath when you die?" Chance wanted to know.

I told him that you didn't breath and your heart stopped beating.

Chance was now staring at his brother and sister who were panting for air. It takes us a few minutes to pass the cemetery.

"If you don't hold your breath when you pass a cemetery, you are haunted by people that are buried there." My oldest son informed us.

So all in all, I think Chance learned some new words today that he can bank up in his memory for later use. We'll have to work on those words though. Holding your breath and cemetery are not words that come up in everyday conversation.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A hoop a loop

We had an incident at dinner tonight where Chance felt that his siblings were making fun of his pronunciation of a word.

We had just sat down for dinner, when Chance said he knew how to use the "hoop a loop". Since the kids had all been playing with it before coming to the table, we all knew what he was talking about. His siblings started to laugh thinking that Chance was being funny.

It soon became apparent though, that Chance was not amused, in fact he was holding back tears.

I explained to his siblings that Chance was not meaning to be funny, that he didn't realize that it was called a hula hoop; he had just heard it wrong.

Chance's siblings were rather mortified to realize that it had been a hearing mistake and seeing that Chance was crying.

They all started to apologize and to tell Chance that they thought he was trying to be funny.

Chance's dad took him over to a chair and talked to him for a minute. and then Chance came back to the table much more composed.

To be honest, Chance has had several late nights this week due to rodeos, a movie birthday party and just having a difficult time wondering why he should not be up when it was still light outside. So he was more tired than usual. And Chance's siblings do not usually mock Chance's speech so the fact that he thought they were making fun of his honest mistake hit him hard.

We have clarified though that it is called a hula hoop and we'll try to say the word several times this week so that it sticks in Chance's head.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Things are not as they seem...

Today as several kids played down in my basement I heard footsteps clomping rapidly up the stairs. Then I heard a neighbor child call out, "Chance!". Next thing I knew the front door opened and closed.

It was late afternoon and the kids had been playing together all day together and I wondered if there had been some sort of disagreement.

I was just about to go see if Chance had gone outside and was upset, when I heard more clomping this time going down the stairs. The familiar neighbor child's voice then called out,"Chance! It was just the T.V.!"
Then all was quiet again.

It is always nice to have friends that help you tell the difference between the sound of someone knocking on your door, and someone knocking on a door on T.V.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A suprise for Chance's swim teacher

Chance started swimming lessons today. In the past, the kids and I have been able to walk in all together and find the teachers on the first day of class. Due to stricter rules on showering before entering the pool, females must enter through the girls bathroom and males must enter through the boys bathroom. So Chance and his brother dashed off to one side of the building and the rest of us headed to the other side of the building. We had to make a potty stop before heading out to the pool, so the boys beat us out by quite a bit and found their teachers by themselves.

I looked all over trying to locate Chance's class in the pool but it took me a while to figure out which wet bobbing head was his. I wondered if Chance's brother had mentioned to Chance's teacher that he was deaf, since Chance had taken his implants off and left them in the van for swimming class.

Finally, I located what I thought to be Chance across the pool and headed over to see how things were going. Chance was swimming along just like the other kids. I bent down and asked the teacher if anyone had mentioned to her that Chance was deaf. Her eyes flew open and she said,"No. I didn't know that!" By now Chance had been in class for as long as 10 minutes. I told her the usual things that I tell Chance's swim teachers. That Chance is very capable and if the teacher will just demonstrate what they want done, look at him when they talk to him and tap him if they need his attention, Chance will do just fine. I figured it was only fair to both Chance and the teacher to let the teacher know that Chance was deaf since he wouldn't hear a single thing she said.

After class, I was asking all of the kids what their teacher's names were and Chance did not know. Neither did I. So I dashed over to where his teacher was standing and asked her her name. She said it was Stephanie. I told her that I would let Chance know. She then told me,"He is so good! He just swims along! I couldn't even tell he was deaf!" She also told me that she had taken sign language for a year but really didn't remember how to sign. I showed her the most important sign she would need to know which is the "I have to go to the bathroom sign", and she laughed and said ok.

I am in the mom and tot class with my youngest child so I am in the water too. This year, my class happens to be right next to Chance's class so I am able to observe him. I see how he watches the teachers and other kids closely so that he can see what they are doing. He laughs and has a good time as he goes along with the other kids. He has learned to focus in on his surroundings and respond to the cues around him and he does really well. He just has to focus harder than most of the other kids at swim class. What a kid!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chance becomes a junior ranger

We visited the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona this past week while on vacation. It just so happens that you can become a junior ranger by working through a workbook about national parks, animals that live in the area, and various other nature related topics. The point is to learn about the environment and learn to appreciate nature and our national parks. When we arrived at the visitors center, two boys were being deputized, taking the oath of a junior ranger and being pinned with a badge. Chance and his brother and sister thought this looked like a swell thing to do so they got a workbook and got busy.

Chance had to write a story about various things we had seen in the park. While reading through his story, I realized that he had picked up on words like fossils, science, petrified (we'll obviously have to keep practicing this word so he remembers it), and ranger. When we first entered the park, Chance wanted to know what all the people in brown were called. He also had to match which animals were carnivores and omnivores, and X out anything that is human made in a picture of a nature scene.

When Chance went up to be deputized, I wondered if I should go stand by him and make sure that he understood the questions that the ranger asked him and ensure that he was hearing the oath well enough to repeat it back to the ranger. Then I decided that I would be better to stand back and let Chance do it, only stepping in if I was really needed.

Chance and his brother were deputized together, so they stood side by side and got ready to answer the questions the ranger had. The ranger talked quite fast and Chance glanced over at me after the first question, but the ranger repeated it, and Chance got it the second time around. Chance was able to go through the process by himself asking "What?" a few times, but following the oath and repeating it back and answering questions about various things he had seen in the park.

I was quite proud of him and he was quite proud of himself. He is a junior ranger now and he did it all on his own.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

It is too loud!!

We were visiting my sisters church and all of us were spread across the bench. This was not a problem for the first half of the service, but about half way through, Chance's sister started to color right next to him.

I sensed movement and looked to see Chance and his sister frantically whispering to one another. I thought I heard Chance say something like," It is too loud!"

I looked to see what his sister was doing, but she was just coloring.

I caught Chance's eye and had him come over to me. I asked him what was going on.

"She is too loud! He frantically whispered.

"Chance, she is just coloring. " I whispered back.

"I know! She is too loud! I cannot hear!"

I had Chance's sister move over by me to resume her coloring and Chance was just fine. Apparently, in the quiet, he could hear the sound of the markers on the paper and it disturbed him. Once I had his sister next to me and focused in on it, I realized that I could hear her coloring too. This is just one of those sounds that usually just fades into background noise for most of us I guess.

Well, we can't fault a deaf child for hearing too much can we?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Chance goes to soccer camp

Up until this year, although I have signed Chance up for community sports with out mentioning that he is deaf, I have always told the coaches on the first day.

This year however, Chance signed up for soccer camp for the first time and so did two of his really good friends in the neighborhood. We moms set up a carpool and one of the other moms drove the first day of camp. After Chance got home, I asked him if he had heard what the coach said and he said yes.

The second day of camp was my turn to drive so I dropped the boys off and then had to hurry to drop off Chance's brother at another camp in another part of town.

I arrived a little early to pick the boys up so that I could observe how things were going and if Chance seemed to hear what was going on. The camp was held in a park with several college students helping the kids. I saw two teams playing each other as the coaches gave directions and observed. I found Chance's two friends right away and watched them play while looking for Chance. I figured he had to be in the vicinity , but I could not see him on either team. Finally, I realized that there were two more teams out further on the field playing each other. Chance was out there running his little guts out to get the ball. Chance was doing just fine, getting in the game and playing along like any of the other kids.

When it was time to come in because practice was over, Chance just ran in with the rest of the kids and heard the coach remind him to get his hat which was laying on the grass. Chance scooped up his hat and ran to the van with his friends.

I asked Chance how soccer camp was and if he heard what they said and he said yes. He loved it. His dad went and observed a little early the next day and found Chance just playing along like any other kid. He is not afraid to get in the game and hustle. He can hold his own.

Chance is not just the little deaf boy but a good and valued asset to the team. He wears implants to help him hear, but he is just like the other kids. This is just what we were hoping for when we decided to get Chance the implants. That he would be able to just be like the other kids and be able to interact and play with all of the other kids. He is doing that. Our next step needs to be helping Chance learn to advocate for himself... letting people know when he can't hear something and asking them to repeat it etc. He has no problem doing that with us and people that he knows. We'll have to observe closely this summer and make sure that he asks coaches to repeat what was said if he didn't catch it, and make sure that he is confident in asking people to repeat things if he needs them to. I want to make sure that Chance feels confident doing this and does not feel funny at all. He is amazing, hearing what he does. Self advocacy will just be part of his life experience.

Houston, we have a problem

Chance's brother had a birthday party today so we headed up to a store where they sell pinatas. We had a friend from the neighborhood with us and each of the kids had a great time salivating at all of the party favors and fun things that you could buy.

Chance's brother and I were picking out candy to go inside the pinata, when Chance appeared at my side and causually announced. " One of my implants is gone."

I of course had now lost all of my zeal for choosing out candy.

I asked Chance how long his implant had been gone.

"I don't know." Chance said.

My mind started frantically back tracking through the day. Surely this was a new occurance. Chance had gone straight from soccer camp, to get a haircut, and then to the store with me so far today.

I also could not help but think that Chance would have mentioned that the implant was gone had he realized it was missing right after soccer camp which is held in a park.

"Chance was your implant on when we came into the store?"

Chance indicated that the implant had been on when we entered the store, and then said that it came off "over there," and he waved in a vague direction over to the left where isles of themed party supplies were.

I told all of the kids that we were taking a break from looking at candy and all heading over to the aisles that Chance had just been to to see if we could find his implant.

This was so weird because Chance never just sets down one implant or loses one.

Chance's friend then mentioned that the implant was probably over in the mask section where he and Chance had been trying on masks. And that is where we found it, stuck in a mask that you pull over your head. I think the implant had just come off when Chance pulled off the mask and he had not realized it was gone for a minute so he really had no idea where it could have gone.

All is well that ends well. We left the store happy campers with two implants and no unsuspecting customer got their monster mask home with the added bonus of a bionic device.

I think it worked out best for everyone.

Chance gets baptized

Last Saturday, Chance got baptized into our church. You can get baptized at any age, but the youngest you can get baptized in our faith is at the age of 8 because at that time, you can choose between right and wrong.

It was important that Chance want to get baptized because _he_ wanted to and also that he understood that he was making a covenant with God when getting baptized. It is a very important step, and a very personal one too. Chance has heard from a young age what baptism is and that it is a very important step in his relationship with his Savior. We wanted to ensure that Chance understood what a covenant was, and that he got baptized because he desired to, not just because he had just turned 8.

For months now, Chance has been talking about getting baptized and has told practically everyone he knows that was going to be baptized. We talked about it and made sure that Chance understood what it meant.

It was touching to see how many people both of our faith and those not of our faith who showed up to share this very special day with Chance. He has touched a lot of people and his baptism brought many of these people together.

In our church, you are baptized by immersion after the pattern of Christ, representing rebirth. Since this would mean that Chance would be completely submerged under the water, we planned that I would stand off to the side and as soon as the blessing of baptism was over, I would take the implants right before Chance went under the water. That way, Chance could hear the baptismal prayer. His dad baptized him and told Chance that should he forget and start to put him under the water before the implants were removed, Chance should call out. Chance's dad did not forget, and a towel had actually been thoughtfully laid out off to the side inside the baptismal font. So Chance heard the prayer, and then the implants were laid off to the side just for the immersion part of the baptism. Right after he came out of the water, the implants were put back on his head so that he could hear everything going on around him.

It was a beautiful and touching service. Chance's grandmother and great grandmother offered prayers and Chance's grandfather gave a talk about the Holy Ghost. We believe that after you are baptized, you receive the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide you for the rest of your life. This is done by another prayer which Chance's father also performed. There was also a talk about the baptism itself. The only problem was that there was no microphone in the room we were in. Chance was sitting on the front row since it was his baptismal service, but I was worried at first that Chance would be unable to hear all of his own service. He was close to the piano which was good. And he was only feet away from the speakers. I was watching very closely to if Chance seemed to be catching what was being said. Soon after the service had stared, the speaker asked Chance a question about baptism. Chance answered right away and heard when he was called up to participate with the speaker. I started to rest a little easier as it was clear that Chance was following what was happening.

After the talk on baptism, all of the children in the room stood up to sing,"I Am a Child of God". Chance heard as soon as the children were called up. He also answered other questions that were asked of him so he was obviously hearing what was being said. A man who came to watch Chance be baptized and is deaf himself with hearing aids remarked after the service that he was quite impressed with how well Chance heard. He said, " He was right on. Right on! He answered those questions with out a problem. It is impressive what he is hearing."

I have to agree that it is impressive what Chance can hear. After the service, we had a luncheon at our home and several people joined us there. Chance mingled with people and gave and received many hugs.

It was a great day full of people who have grown to love Chance. Some of them were family and friends. Others were people who knew Chance because they interacted with him as teachers, therapists, bus drivers etc. It was a great outpouring of love and we are very grateful and will hold this special day with those who loved Chance in our hearts forever.