Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How Chance having an implant helped the kids score some treats at the store.....

Most of the time, our journey to help Chance hear, has involved our other kids attending many doctors appointments, going to sitters while we had meetings, and having to be quiet for long stretches of time while Chance's hearing was tested or his implants were programmed.

Today however, the kids took advantage of having a brother with implants and found some perks that come with the territory.

We were in the grocery store to purchase a FEW items namely things needed to celebrate their dads birthday. We were almost done shopping and had made it to the freezer department to pick out ice cream, when I was approached by a gentleman who wanted to know how we liked the implants. It turned out that he had a grand daughter who is deaf and he was curious if the implants were working for us. I welcome questions from people. I feel that we can all help each other along this journey. It is not uncommon for us to be stopped and asked about the implants either. On this particular day, the kids were excited to get home and make a cake and were just about done with the whole shopping thing.

I talked to this gentlemen for just a few minutes, and then headed off to the cash register. The kids were all helping to unload the groceries onto the belt at the checkstand, when one of them dropped the eggs by accident. The eggs landed back into the cart with surprising little mess considering the potential of eggs to create especially sticky messes. I of course began to do damage control and sent one of the boys back to get another carton of eggs. I remember taking out a box of Go-gurts and sending the kids to put them back as they were not on our list.

After the items were totaled, I thought to myself,"That seems like a little more than I was expecting but OK." The manager and I were still clearing up the eggs right before I paid, and as nice as he was, he told me not to worry about paying for the broken ones.

Once at home as I unloaded the groceries, I found that there were several items that I did not remember placing in our cart. The kids were particularly excited about white bread. We usually only buy wheat bread but alas, a loaf of white bread was on my counter.

It turns out Chance had also taken the initiative and put two bunches of bananas in the cart as there was a stand in the frozen isle just in case you suddenly remembered that you were craving banana splits. This even though his dad had just bought bananas the day before. I also found an extra tube of frosting as I put away the groceries and suddenly the higher grocery bill began to make sense.

I don't feel so bad anymore that the kids have been dragged to numerous appointments with Chance. Apparently, they are finding the silver lining and finding benefits to our life style.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Chance passes swim class....

Chance has once again passed his swim class even though he can not hear while he is swimming. He is a little trooper that kid.

He'll have fond memories of blue shimmering water, splashing, and silence as he recalls his childhood swimming days.

I still wonder what it must be like to swim with out hearing since so much of a pool experience for me has been the whack of the diving board as someone dives in, the sound of splashing, and kids laughing . A pool is so full of non stop noise, that I can not imagine what Chance's experience is as he swims in silence.

A thank you to the boy in the red swim trunks

Dear boy in the red swim trunks,

At first, I thought you were messing with Chance when I saw you tapping him. You were so determined to get his attention, I was afraid that you were frustrated with him and my mommy radar went off. After a few days of swim class though, my heart was filled with love for you. A special love that is generated by those people who seems to just "get it" with Chance and interacts with him in such a way that it touches my heart.

I saw you on the playground after swim class and the way you touched Chance to get his attention and made sure that he knew you wanted to play and that he knew what was going on.

In swim class, you took the time to interact with Chance as you all hung out at the side of the pool waiting your turn to swim across the pool. You both laughed and enjoyed yourselves even though you could not talk to one another.

I watched as you shared a moment with Chance on the slides during the last day of class and how you went out of your way to get Chance's attention to say goodbye.

You were kind, accommodating and a good friend for Chance during swim class. I don't know that I would have taken the time to be as friendly as you were when I was a kid if there were a deaf boy in my class. Would I have just looked at him and figured he could not hear me? Or would I have been like you and let friendship transcend a lack of conventional communication?

You are an example of goodness and I am so thankful for boys like you.

I hope that you have a great summer and that good things happen to you. Thank you for making Chance's summer a little brighter and for touching a mommies heart.


Chance's mom

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Private lessons here we come!

This year our local pool is offering private swimming lessons, and we've decided to give it a go with Chance.  Chance took the regular swimming lessons and did well, but we now have a reason to want to Chance to swim well by the fall.  

Chance's dad, brother and other family members are planning a trip to Havasupai Falls in the next few months in Arizona.  They will hike in the 10 miles to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, camp out, and swim in the beautiful pools below the falls.  I think that Chance will love it.  Several people we know have been to the falls and say it is a memorable trip and worth the hike through the Grand Canyon to get there.  We have also been told that the currents in the falls are a little funny and you need to be able to swim well.  I am glad that we were made aware of this little fact.  There is something a little unnerving still about having a child that can not hear you when they are in the water.  Being at a pool with life guards around and a limited space to swim is one thing.  Being in the pool of a water fall where there are currents to contend with is another.  Since Chance will not hear any advice given from shore or be able to hear warnings in the water, we feel the need to shore up his swimming skills.   

This is a situation where the battle of using technology to hear or using sign language wash each other out.  You can not swim with the technology so you can not hear, on the other hand, unless you are looking right at who is trying to talk to you, you will not see signing either.   There is no calling out in either mode of communication.   Deaf is just deaf in the water no matter how you talk when you are on land.

Chance's dad will be nearby at all times, and there will be strict rules on when Chance can get into the water such as someone must always know that he is going in.  He won't hear anyone call out to check to see where he is if he is in the water.

So, Chance now goes to private swimming lessons in the morning.  His teacher is good and is not intimidated at all by his deafness.  He is good at reaching out to tocuh Chance to get his attention and demonstrating what Chance is expected to do.   We have told the teacher what the goal is, to get Chance ready to swim at Havasupai Falls.  Chance uses different swim strokes,  swims across the lanes of the pool and is working on diving down in the water.  I say working on because Chance's teacher tried to get him to dive down today and Chance did not want to.  

So, Chance is now swimming one on one with a swim teacher while various other people work their buns in the water aerobics class in the next lane over.  The beauty is,  Chance is not distracted by the music or the splashing of the cardio people.  He is blissfully in his own little world not diving down for his teacher.

Are those crickets?

This morning, well after the day had begun and the house was full of the family bustling around, Chance came to me and asked,

"Are those crickets?"

I knew immediately what he was talking about since when I had passed the opened window in the living room, I had the passing thought that it was late in the morning to be hearing crickets.

I told Chance that it was a cricket and then we both went over to the window to listen. An exuberant cricket apparently had its days and nights mixed up and was just singing away.

As I sat and listened to the cricket with Chance, I marveled that I could stand at the window and listen to a cricket chirp with my deaf son. I never thought that would be a possibility when he was first diagnosed as being deaf.

I also said a prayer of thanks that Chance could hear that cricket. It was mid morning and the normal sounds of the day were present, yet, Chance had been able to pick up on the sound of a cricket chirping as he passed the window..........what a blessed wonder.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chance and his underwater fascination

Chance is once again enrolled in swimming class. He is excited and enthusiastic about being able to swim each day.

Again, we leave the implants on when Chance first gets to class so he can receive instructions, then I take them and guard them. Someday, when implants can go under the water for swimming, diving and other lengthy wet activities, I will have to tell Chance our own version of walking up hill both ways to get to school. My sob story will vary a little from the normal story, but I will have a hardship story to share all the same.

"Chance, when you were young, your implants could not be under the water during swim class remember? And you could not hear a thing, no not a thing when those babies were out. So, dad and I had to track you and motion like mad people to try to get your attention while you swam. We would wave our arms like we were trying to land planes or stand where we thought you might look next trying to bore a hole in your head with our stares so you would turn and look at us. Plus, we had to try to protect those implants with our very lives so that you could keep hearing.

Chance has advanced in swimming to the level where he is doing different strokes across the pool. First the teacher will tell the class to use the breaststroke, then they do something where they look like dolphins gliding through the water. Chance usually is attentive, but this year there is a lot more wait time in between swims. For some reason, the swim class Chance is in has many more children than years past. Due to this fact, the kids have to take turns swimming across the lane demonstrating their skill in various strokes. The kids who are not swimming have more time to hang out at the edge of the pool waiting for their turn. Kids being kids, this means they bob under the water to see how the kids in other swimming classes look under water etc.

The problem being of course, that Chance does not have the luxery of hearing what is being said so he has to pay extra attention. This is difficult when your head is under the water. I have found myself motioning to Chance a few times to look at his teacher so he does not miss what is coming next.

I think,

" Son, I know these other kids can bob in and out of the water at will, but that is because they can hear when the teacher calls them back to attention. You may have noticed by now, that you hear nothing in the pool since your implants are not on."

The teacher told me that Chance is doing great, so hopfully the bobbing is not hindering his swimming skills.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chance is a blessing

Chance recently had a birthday. Where does the time go? It was about this time 6 years ago that we realized that Chance was deaf. Many changes have occured in that time. We as a family now know a lot about deafness, audiologists and speech therapy.

We've been able to attend cochlear implant camps since Chance has implants. We give him a chear at some point during the camp to celebrate that he is the reason we are there having so much fun.

It has not been an easy journey, nor has it always been comfortable. We have had to come out of our comfort zone and we had to over come a huge learning curve as we knew nothing about deafness when Chance was diagnosed. Nothing worth while is ever easy. Not being a parent, and not our baptism by fire into the world of deafness.

Oh, how Chance has been worth it though. I look at him and my heart is filled with love. I would not change this journey we have been on. I would not exchange the deafness. There are greater challenges than having a deaf child.

Chance has enriched us, made us stretch and given us great joy. Chance is a blessing in our family that keeps on giving.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Implant camp

Our family attended a local implant camp this year instead of the one in Colorado which we have attended in years past. It was the first year this camp was put on and they did a great job.

One of the best aspects of these camps is the way they include all of the kids in the family. Yes, you are there to learn about hearing loss related issues and because you have a child with an implant, but all of the kids feel like it is their camp. This is extremely important when you have a child who has required extra appointments etc. The care and attention needed to help a child with extra needs, affects all of the kids in the family in one way or another. These camps are a great marriage of learning for us parents and activities for the kids. All of the kids feel like it is "their camp" experience.

I love to gather with other parents of deaf and hard of hearing kids and learn about what we can do and what is happening with cochlear implants. There is always something that I take home with me to further Chance's journey to hear.

I really enjoy hearing from deaf adults and their experiences as they have been there. They are living a life with implants and are thus experts on the subject.

During one of the presentations, a bilateral implant user talked about using the telephone with an implant. If you did not know that this woman had implants, you would not guess that she was deaf. Her speech is incredible and she hears a lot of what is going on. Yet, she talked about how using the phone could be a challenge.

She gave an example of a friend that called and did the correct thing by first identifying herself. But then her friend went on about a recipe, but the woman with an implant had no idea what she was talking about. She had no context to help her. She finally had to tell her friend that she needed to clarify what she was talking about. She suggested the following example to help our deaf children better understand conversations on the telephone:

Caller:" Hi Jonny! This is grandpa. I'm calling about your visit to us next week."

Now Jonny has context. He knows what the conversation is about. I thought that was brilliant. Especially for kids who have had less life experience and less vocabulary to piece together the meaning of a conversation when they may not be hearing as well as they would like over the phone. This is something that would not have occurred to me, yet when I heard it, it made perfect sense. Telling the difference between a male and female voice is apparently a struggle for some implant users on the telephone. I learned some techniques that we can use to help Chance on the phone. We also learned about a product that we can buy from Cochlear (the manufacturer of Chance's implant), which helps implant users hone in on listening and deciphering sounds etc. It is made for people ages 10 to adult, but Chance will be there soon enough.

It is also great to be with parents who are going through the same experiences that you are. One of the subjects that came up was the impact having a deaf child has on other kids in the family. I don't think it is all negative impact or anything like that, but there is an impact. My kids have all spent more time in an audiologist's office than most senior citizens have. This has required them to be quiet and to basically hang out being quiet for a while sometimes while Chance has his hearing tested. My kids have also spent time on the road traveling to doctor appointments or audiologist appointments while their friends were all at home playing. We parents were talking about how having a child with hearing loss impacts the other kids in the family.

At one of the conferences I attended, a deaf man with several siblings said that his deafness was never talked about in the family. Wow. How do you avoid that for all of your growing up years? I guess people handle things in their own way.

One woman I heard from (not at this camp) talked about how in 13 years of having a deaf child, she and her husband never talked about their daughter being deaf. This just does not sound healthy to me.

The camp was a great success for our kids. They all loved it. We parents got to attend sessions on such subjects as "FM Systems"(one of those $3000.00 investments we will need to make to help Chance utilize his hearing in school and church and apparently in the van and other places adults have told us it helps in), "Music" and various therapy techniques to use to strengthen hearing in implant kids.

The kids were put in groups according to their age and had activities like touring a cheese factory, playing games and developing a puppet show which they performed for us on the last day of camp. They loved it.

There are some thing we can do to help Chance hone his listening skills. I am always grateful for more information and more ideas to help Chance strengthen his listening abilities.

Camp was a great success and the kids have already started talking about how they want to attend next year.

I am looking forward to next year as well.

So many questions, so little hearing

"What is a two alarm fire?" Chance wanted to know after looking at the picture accompanying a photo in the paper.

Of course, Chance had no implants on when he asked this, so I told him to go to bed and I would tell him in the morning.

"I'll forget!" Chance complained.

I assured him that I would remember. He loves to ask questions like this after he has taken his implants off.

Chance actually remembered the question this morning and we had a lively discussion about how things like fires, earthquakes and hurricanes are catergorized.

Now, if we can just get Chance to ask these questions when his implants are actually on...........

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Decsions, decsions, decisions

School is out and Chance could not be more excited to experience the swimming lessons, baseball, soccer, and play of summer.

Normally, we would just be chilling out knowing that at the end of summer, Chance would be returning to the same school he has always gone to. This summer is different. Chance's dad and I are weighing our options for Chance next year. It is a weight to decide what will be best for him.

On the one hand, there is a sense of accomplishment. Chance is now doing well enough, that he does not need to be serviced through the School for the Deaf anymore. He is at the top of his class in several subjects and we are delighted. This means that where before Chance was being pulled out for about 60 to 90 minutes everyday for language help, he scored high enough on language tests etc. that it has been determined that he does not need that kind of specialized attention anymore. This means that Chance can now just go to the school closest to our house; he has been attending a school 2 cities away since he started preschool.

Is Chance ready? We think he is up to the challenge of being mainstreamed for all of the subjects and academically is up to par. Is he fully caught up on language? No, he is not.

Furthermore, the speech therapist that worked with Chance all year has stated that her opinion is that Chance no longer needs speech therapy.

So, where does that leave us? With a lot to think about, that is where that leaves us.

The school that Chance has attended makes its class assignments in the spring, before we had our transition meeting to determine where Chance would go to school next year. Due to this fact, Chance has already been assigned a class for next year. There is the possibility that he would be assigned to a mixed class - a mix of 3rd and 4th graders. The teacher of the class requested she have 4th graders along with high scoring 3rd graders which is where Chance is. Such a class would challenge Chance and help him reach his potential.

There are two things that make this option difficult: Number one, we would have to get special permission now for Chance to attend this school as it is out of our home boundaries. We are no longer on a School for the Deaf IEP(Individualized Education Program), so Chance would have to have permission from the school principal before he could attend. The principal of the school knows Chance and would most likely have no reason to say no, except for the fact that a new principal will be coming in July. So, we would need to wait and ask this new principal if Chance could attend the school. There would probably not be a problem there, but we don't know for sure.

The second problem is transportation. For 6 years now, Chance has been bused to the school. Now, because we are not on an IEP through the School for the Deaf, Chance does not qualify for busing. We even asked if Chance could be dropped off and picked up at one of the students houses who will continue to be bused, who lives about a mile from our house. We figured then that would not require an extra stop. Since Chance has been moved from the School for the Deaf to our local school district, Chance can not be bused due to liability. Liability?! After 6 years, now suddenly there is liability?!

Could we commit to dropping Chance off every morning and picking him up every day at a school that is 2 cities away?

We have 4 other kids that have lives too. What if one of my other kids is sick? What if there is bad weather? Chance can not just be hanging out at the school. My experience has been that the teachers are gone almost as soon as school is over. At least there rooms are locked. Besides, we could not expect a teacher to be responsible for Chance if we were running late due to weather or an accident on the freeway.

Other options, are that Chance attend our local school, but he would not be challenged like he would have been in the 3rd and 4th grade mixed class. The other option, is that I homeschool him and keep him challenged.

Stay tuned for out thoughts on the other two options as we decide Chance's future. It is not really his whole future, but it sure feels like a weighty decision.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Chance in scouts

Since Chance just had a birthday, he has moved up in Cub Scouts. He is now a Bear. Chance loves scouts and looks forward to it every week.

I took him to his new leaders' house to drop him off and watched him walk to the side of the house where the other Cub Scouts were. I wondered if he would be a little nervous as all of his good buddies were still in the Wolf den.

Chance just walked into the fray, confident and ready to get involved. I thought to myself,

"Look how the implants have impacted his life. He can walk with confidence into new situations with kids his age confident that he will be able to hear them and become part of the group."

He can hear and there is nothing that will hold him back.