Sunday, September 26, 2010

Growing pains

Chance has been in 5th grade for about 2 weeks now. It has been a bit of an adjustment for him. Not academically, but socially. Since Chance started out the year in 4th grade, he got into a little comfort zone. One of his deaf friends was in 4th grade with him and they were overjoyed to have been reunited. There was also a boy from our neighborhood that Chance knew and sat with. Plus, Chance had begun to know many of the kids in 4th grade during the short time he was there. He had some homies that he was comfortable with.

Since this is a charter school, the kids are not kids from the same neighborhood. There are kids from 4 or 5 different cities that attend this school, so when Chance moved up to 5th grade, he was with kids he had never seen before in his life. He started to struggle a little with the fact that he did not know any of the 5th graders. He even started to get teary eyed in the morning when it was time to go to school as opposed to running out the door to ride his bike to school. So, we had some talks about how sometimes new things are hard, but they get better once you get used to them. Realizing that the kids in 5th grade would also have started to find people they were comfortable with during the past few weeks of school, we also gave Chance some Mike and Ike candies and told him to give two candies to two or three 5th grade kids he did not know and introduce himself. The first day, Chance gave some candies to his brother and his brothers friend. Good sharing, wrong people:)'

Now that it has been almost two weeks, Chance says it is getting better in 5th grade. He is not as anxious about going to school and he actually gave me a thumbs up on Friday when I asked him how school had been.

Chance actually will be more social having moved to 5th grade because he'll get to know two grades of kids, having gotten to know some of the 4th graders. When I have been at the school, I have heard kids call out as we walk down the hall,"Hi Chance!" Many of these kids are 4th graders who talk to Chance in the hall and I am sure that 5th grade students will start conversing with Chance in the hall as well as time goes on.

I would like to give a shout out to Michael who goes by Donovan. This sweet boy who is a 5th grader, came and put him arm around Chance one of the mornings that he was teary eyed outside the classroom standing with me and asked him if he wanted to walk into class with him. Thank you Michael who goes by Donovan!

When Chance is feeling emotional, he also doesn't want to go up in front of the class to give the teacher his FM system. I can understand that, so we have just been working on getting Chance comfortable in 5th grade.

Chance's sweet brother has been looking out for him as well and even took a football to school so he could gather a group of kids together to play a game. He made sure to get several 5th graders so that Chance could meet more of them :)

Things are looking up. Chance is getting more comfortable in school AND he got a locker like the junior high kids. Now he feels extra special :)  And I am hearing of new kids each day that Chance is getting to know.

Like Madison and Cody.

Things are looking better.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Inservicing the teachers on the FM system

So I went into Chance's school with two consultants from The School for the Deaf to give an in service to the teachers that work with Chance and the other little boy at the school who uses an implant to hear.

It was just an awareness sort of thing to let the teachers know simple things that can be done that make a big difference to kids who wear implants.  For example,  not talking  into the white board when writing on it, but instead facing the class when giving instruction.  Or when kids answer questions, having the teacher repeat what was said such as,"Jimmy said conifers are trees that don't shed their leaves in the fall."  These steps are especially important right now since many classrooms in Chance's school are large and combined, as the school is waiting for dividers to be put in.  Clarifying who just said what is a great help to implant users who may not hear a child from the back of the room.

I told the teachers about the FM system and showed them how it works and demonstrated how the microphone piece would be worn as they will be wearing a headset.  The teachers were very helpful and when I opened it up for questions, I was impressed with their concern about what they could do to make sure the kids were getting what they needed. For example, the chorus teacher asked about music and implants.  I told him that it usually takes kids with implants longer to learn the words and tune to a song and so he asked if it would help if he sent the songs home that they would be working on.  I told him that would be very helpful and today he sent me an email listing the songs they would be working on for the next bit and the words.  I am very grateful for that.

I told the teachers that they did not need to be afraid to teach these boys, that they had been in school for several years in regular classrooms and just taking a few steps would make all of the difference.  I also told them that we as parents were more than willing to talk to teachers about questions or work with them to solve any problems that may arise.  I feel good about the meeting and feel that the teachers want to help these kids with implants succeed.

So after the afternoon meeting with the teachers, I went home and Chance and I went over the FM system and how Chance would give the headset to each teacher and told him he would need to remember to get the headset from each teacher as he moved from class to class.  Then the next morning, I went to Chance's first class with him to help him get comfortable with the FM system and to make sure that it worked like it should.  It actually didn't work like it should much to my consternation.  I ended up taking it home and finally realized that one part of it was not charged all of the way.  This little FM system needs LOTS AND LOTS  of time to charge we have realized.  It needs to charge all night and then some so we have to get Chance in the habit of putting it right onto the charger as soon as he gets home from school.

The next day I headed back to the school and helped Chance set up the system and he  said that it is helping him to hear better in class.  Except P.E.  First of all, it is hard to run around while wearing the equivilant to a wide cell phone hooked onto your pants, and number two, the gym is just one huge spot for noise to bounce up down around and through. I don't think the FM system would do much good in there.  But Chance is used to PE class, he watches the other kids and the teachers try to make sure they give instrucions on how to play games etc. before all of the kids are running around the gym making all kinds of noise with both their voices and their bodies:)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reflections at a Time of Triumph

I met with the academic principal of Chance's school this week and we talked about Chance's test scores from the end of last year. Chance scored as a 4th grader heading for 5th grade although technically on paper he is in 4th grade this year.

Chance learned to hear again twice during his younger years. He got hearing aids at age 3 and learned to hear and respond using those. Then, three days before his 6th birthday, he received his first implant. Six months later he received his second implant and so he learned to hear again using implants.

Due to the changing in his hearing devices and his late diagnosis of severe to profound hearing loss, Chance is a grade behind the other kids his chronological age. He did not repeat a grade, but had a year in between kindergarten and first grade where he was in a class of deaf children who built vocabulary and other things to get them ready to mainstream in a regular classroom as opposed to a School for the Deaf classroom.  It was the right thing to do at the time and we have never questioned the decision.

Chance's only delay has always been in language and things relating to hearing. He has been closing the gap in his language delay and last year I home schooled him and we were able to work one on one in language arts.  Chance was a joy to teach with a drive to learn and a quest to do his best in all he did.  As I taught Chance,  he was working at a 4th grade level last year and we realized that Chance had developed academically to the point where he was level with his peers that were his age and could possibly now go into 5th grade.  So we had him tested at the end of last year and he tested as a child who was LEAVING 4th grade not entering into 4th grade.  We realized that this was his shot to catch up to his peers who were entering 5th grade if ever there was a chance.

When we started this journey, it was not important to us that Chance be in the same grade as his peers his age.  We only wanted what was best for Chance and after learning to hear again twice,  it was best for him to have that extra year to learn vocabulary and get help with language.  Some parents of deaf kids were really bothered by the prospect of their child being a grade behind their peers their same age.  We knew that Chance needed that extra year.

Now the testing has shown that Chance is ready for 5th grade.  I get teary eyed thinking about that.

It is hard to adequately explain to someone who has not experienced it just what has gone into the past several years since we  found out that Chance was deaf.  The unknowing, the long road to get him what he needed and the uncertainty.  When we first found out Chance was deaf, no one dared tell us anything concrete about his future.  "How well would he be able to hear with hearing aids?"  They didn't know.

We sat through several years of IEP meetings (Individualized Education Plan) where Chance tested at least 2 years behind his peers his age in language.  That was to be expected we were told.  Chance's first goal in preschool was to respond and turn when his name was called by the teacher.

We went through years of weekly therapy where we were taught how to help Chance develop language.  We went to seminars,  read books and talked to other parents of deaf children.  We spent 6 years of our lives engaged to a great degree in deaf related activities.

I stayed up late nights, after the kids finally went to bed, searching the internet for books that would inspire Chance to want to read, as when he first learned, he got easily frustrated.  In the past, deaf kids have notoriously had difficulty in reading past a certain point.  I did not want that for Chance.  I remember sitting with him many nights as he became frustrated with reading and I would work out deals with him such as he read one page and I read the next page.  Chance went into a reading recovery program and I sat with him each night as he read the assigned books and attended the class once a week with Chance where I learned ways to help him with his reading.  I volunteered in Chance's classroom each year and watched to see how he was doing.  I kept up a dialogue with his teachers and we worked as a team to help Chance succeed.

We maxed out on the benefit of hearing aids and looked into implants.  Professionals thought the implants would help Chance but no one could tell us to what degree.  One medical intern told me the night before the surgery of the second implant not to expect too much.  Hah!  What did he know?

Chance learned to hear again with implants and we did more language therapy and learned how to help Chance basically learn to hear with the implants.   I had a box in the pantry dedicated to Chance and helping him learn to hear.  Just little things like magnets, a white board and various other things to make learning language a little fun.

Chance continued to close the gap between where his peers were and where he was in language.  And now,  4 years after getting the second implant,  the academic principal at his charter school has looked over the testing with other school officials and deemed that Chance can move up to 5th grade.  He starts officially tomorrow.  Chance has not only overcome his language obstacles but caught up to his hearing peers in many ways.  He is amazing and few people will ever realize just what it took for him to get here.  He is incredible and has been the recipient of nothing less than a true miracle in his life.  We have prayed and sought guidance from a power higher than ours to help guide us in our journey with Chance.  We know that those prayers have been heard and Chance has been watched over. I believe that our prayers are always heard,  though they are not always answered the way we think they should be.  We have had many  bumps in our journey where the way we thought things should work out, the way it seemed to make sense for things to work out, didn't happen and we had to change course. 

We'll be watching to ensure that Chance is ready and thriving in 5th grade.  It will be a change for him and he may have some things he needs to work on, but he has reached his goal. He has been telling us for the past while that he wanted to be in 5th grade like his friends his age.  It did not bother him until fairly recently that he was a grade behind.  He has worked hard and pushed himself and now here he is where he wanted to be.   Like I said, we will be watching and helping him to make sure that he is doing well in 5th grade.

I am emotional when I think about it.  We have reached a milestone in our years-long journey for Chance to hear.  There are many years left to go, but today we celebrate that years of effort by all of us have yielded what can only be termed a miracle.  A miracle that was helped along by dedicated teachers,  professionals in audiology, us as his parents, Chance himself and most notably by our Father in Heaven.   

Sunday, September 12, 2010

One thing leads to another....

It all started with a decision to go look at the just-beginning-to-emerge fall foliage in the mountains.  That led us to a roaring little stream where many people stood on a bridge watching as a  garter snake tried to cross over to the other side.  That led to Chance and his brother feeling sorry for the snake and getting a large branch to aid the snake in getting across so that he wouldn't drown.

Which led to a nice doctor who had been watching the snake and then the boys walking over and kindly explaining that the plants they were standing in to rescue the snake were stinging nettle.   Stinging nettle is a little rascal of a plant that lives in our mountains and does pretty much what it's name implies.  It stings.

Chance and his brother were rubbing their legs when they climbed up the bank of the stream.  As the doctor good naturedly said,  "It's a lesson in nature!" 

Thankfully, the boys did not get that much contact with the stinging nettle. Just a little brush on a small part of their legs.  It could have been so much worse.

I explained to Chance what the doctor had said since Chance had been busy sitting on the path rubbing his legs while the doctor  knelt down to tell the boys that those plants by the streams edge were stinging nettle.

"Really?"  Chance asked.

"That is why your leg is annoying you."  I explained.

"Oh!"  Chance said his eyes getting big.

For the rest of our walk along the trails, Chance would point out various plants and ask,"Is that stinging nettle?"  The stinging nettle had been mixed in with other plants at the streams edge so Chance didn't get a good look at what exactly it looked like.   We tried to show him some so he would know what to avoid in the future but we couldn't find anymore as we hiked down the trail.
You know, I think that doctor was right.  This HAS been a lesson in nature that the boys won't soon forget.  Now we just have to let Chance know what stinging nettle actually looks like so he can avoid it in the future.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Chance starts a new school

Chance is attending a new charter school this year near our home. Due to the fact that it is not wired for FM systems, and the fact that the kids move from room to room for each class, Chance is going to get an opportunity to be learn to advocate for himself. Chance will be wearing an FM system starting next week, but he still will have to let teachers know if he is not hearing what is going on.

During the back to school open house, we got to go around and meet all of the different teachers. We told them a bit about implants, and also what Chance would need such as sitting near the front when there are many kids and being close to the teacher when the class goes outside. We have not experienced an FM system before, so we'll see how well it helps Chance in school. The history teacher told Chance just to get up and move his chair to wherever he needed to in the room if he could not hear what was going on. I like that. Chance can just move himself to where he needs to be if he can't hear.

Each child has a mentor teacher that they can go to if they have questions or have a problem. Chance's mentor teacher is the art teacher. And he wears a hearing aid. I thought that was brilliant of the school to hook Chance up with a teacher who wears a hearing aid and would thus have an understanding of what it is like to not be able to hear things. Especially in the lunchroom and during assemblies.

Chance has been in school for 3 days now and I asked him if he was hearing alright in class. He said yes, but there was one class he could not hear the teacher sometimes. I asked him what class that was and he said he couldn't remember. Hmmmmm. I told him to write down what class he could not hear in as well when it was over so he could remember and we could see if we could do something to help him hear better.

The FM system that he will be borrowing will be here on Wednesday. I am kind of excited to see how it works for Chance. Chance will have what they call a "loop" which will hang around his neck and hook onto his belt. It can go under his clothes so that it is not as visible. I don't know that Chance would be bothered by having the FM system be visible. The teacher will wear a little microphone that hooks onto their shirt that will transmit to the loop Chance is wearing.

It is all kind of exciting to see how Chance likes the FM system. Hopefully, it will work for him and he will like it.

On another note, I followed the boys as they rode their bikes to school to see the best route to take and see how long it takes them to make the trip. At one point on the way home, the boys veered off and crossed the street. I honked the horn of the van to get their attention so that I could talk to them and remind them that we were timing how long it takes to ride to and from school so we shouldn't make any diversions. Between the road noise, the fact that I was behind him and Chance had a bike helmet on, he did not respond to the horn.
I thought, "Chance is not going to hear if a car behind him honks? Are you serious?" There is one stretch of road that has a really narrow shoulder that the boys ride on for several yards. I don't like the fact that Chance did not seem to hear me honking. What if a car behind him honks at him and he does not hear it?

I will be testing out how well Chance hears a horn from behind during the next week. I want to know if this was a one time incident, or if Chance does not hear horns coming up behind him very well. I think that without the bike helmet, he would probably hear better, but the helmet protects him in case he falls. I'll be doing some investigating to see what Chance hears this week.