Sunday, September 25, 2011

Carol Flexer and vocabulary

Carol Flexer came out to Salt Lake City and spoke to parents, teachers, and those who work with deaf and hard of hearing children. She is an audiologist and quite amazing. I always learn something to use with Chance when I listen to her and I appreciate her knowledge.

It was after hearing Carol Flexer talk about how we should expect our deaf children to hear from 30 feet more than 6 years ago that got us seriously thinking about getting Chance a cochlear implant again.
My husband and I looked at each other and mouthed,"THIRTY FEET?"
We realized that we could have expectations like that with Chance's hearing.

When Carol came this last spring, she talked about many things that struck me and made me think. One thing she talked about was when a deaf child starts struggling in school when there was no problem before, don't immediately decide that it is the child. Look at the vocabulary and the terminology first. Many a deaf child has struggled due to the fact that they did not hear or understand the vocabulary or terminology, not that they could not get the concept. And the terms get more difficult as they get older.

This is a concept that I remember focusing on when Chance was younger, but I think I need to make sure that he is getting the terminology now.

Imagine how lost you could get if you just missed what eruption meant when doing a unit on volcanos in science. The teacher would start talking about the different signs that a volcano may present before it erupts and you would be trying to figure out what in the world she was talking about.

Or what if you missed what the word sum meant in math. The teacher would be up there telling you to figure out the sum and you would be a lost little puppy.

I went out to lunch with two deaf adults in the break during Carol's conference and it was so enlightening to learn from them. The gentleman had been one of Chance's consultants when he was in 2nd grade and wears hearing aids. The woman is a friend of mine who has bilateral implants.

I saw how when a baby started to cry a few tables over they both leaned in to hear better. I heard the baby but my hearing was not hampered by the noise.

I also learned from Chance's consultant that he has seen how vocabulary issues has side-tracked kids that otherwise are doing great in school. Once they understand the vocaulary they are good to go.

I know that Chance has some holes in his vocabulary. He went two years without hearing plus several years not hearing all that he needed to so every once in a while a word will come up that other kids his age will know the meaning of but Chance does not. He did not hear the word the 500 plus times they say a child needs to hear a word to "own it" from the ages of 1 to 6 like most of his peers. Plus, these deaf kids hear amazingly well but they do not hear absolutely everything.

I have requested that Chance's science teacher send me the vocabulary and terminology for their units as much of it is going to be stuff Chance has not heard before. I think it will do a lot of good to get the terminology and go over it with him to make sure he gets the meaning of the concepts at least the vocabulary involved. That will help ensure that he is on an equal footing with his peers when his teacher starts throwing around new terms that Chance has never heard before in his life.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chance is the one they look up to now

Years ago, our family attended an A.G.Bell ice cream social in a park right after Chance was diagnosed.

We were a little like wanderers in a confusing universe. Our universe consisted of having an almost 3 year old diagnosed as being deaf and now we were trying to figure out what to do about it.

What tests did he need to determine the cause?

What doctor should we be seeing next?

How much was Chance hearing with his hearing aids anyway?

And perhaps the question that was topmost in our minds:"What was the best thing for Chance and what should we be doing about that?"

We ambled over to the pavilion and watched strangers with children with hearing loss. We were actually more interested in the children with hearing loss than with their parents at the moment.

Were the deaf kids really hearing?

Could they understand what was said to them?

Did they look happy?

How were the older ones, like 11, 12, and teen-agers? Were they talking? Could you understand them when they talked? What were they doing in school? Did they need all kinds of special help when they got to be that age? Were they integrated with their peers and not left out of everything?

Last night, 8 years after that first ice cream social in the park, Chance was the one being watched by parents with young children and babies with hearing loss. I introduced myself to a few parents and after briefing each other on our children's hearing loss situation, they would want to know where Chance was.

I would find him playing football, playing in the jumpy house or just goofing around with friends and call him over.

I would show him the little baby with teeny hearing aids and he would think they were cute. Then the parents would ask Chance a few questions:
How old was he?
What grade in school?
Did he like his implants?

He would smile and nod his sun-bleached head as he answered their questions.

Chance on recent campout with his Dad and brother
Chance represents the possibilities now. He is the bigger kid who talks, goes to a regular school and plays on the city league sports teams. He is completely capable and able to do whatever he wants to do.

The journey was not always easy and there were a lot of things we just didn't know. Our journey was a little different because Chance was diagnosed later and therefore we were playing catch up and none of the professionals dared to give us too much hope since no one had any idea what Chance would be able to do. It had not been established if the hearing loss was progressive. We did not know if there were other medical issues that accompanied the deafness. Chance had a lot of make-up time in language. He was well behind his peers his age and he had had no hearing input or any other language input for two years. No one quite knew what would happen with Chance.

Miracles occurred, that is what happened. Bonafide God-given miracles. Lots of prayer, years of effort, hard work, frustration, the unknown and never giving up have come to fruition. The results are in and the scores are awesome!

The possibilities for these deaf and hard of hearing children are amazing.

I hope some of those parents left the ice cream social a little more confident in their ability to carry on and realizing that the future for their deaf and hard of hearing children is bright. They will be able to do what ever they set their minds to. And those wonderful parents are just the ones to help their children on this incredible journey!~

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Karaoke

Karaoke moments elicit fear into the hearts of many a person. There seem to be two types of people...those who get up and have a good time singing karaoke, and those who given the choice would rather take their chances swimming with a shark.

Our church congregation had a party up the canyon by our house with a picnic and karaoke singing. A red book was passed around with all of the possible songs one could sing in front of friends and neighbors.

As the night wore on and Chance listened to more and more people get up and sing, he and his sister decided that they would like to give it a go. So they found a song that they knew called,"Hey There Delilah" and up they went in the mountain air to sing their song.

Chance did not know all of the words to the song and instead was relying on the scrolling screen in front of him that displayed the lyrics to fill in the gaps.

At first he just sort of looked down at the screen trying to make sure he didn't miss any of the words like his sister. He did a good j0b singing all of the words and soon the two of them began to loosen up.

After he was done, he was so proud of himself and he told me," Mom! At first when I got up I was nervous and was just trying to sing all of the words, but by the end of the song I wanted to sing all of the songs in the book!"

Ahhh the confidence of youth. Maybe it was the mountain air, but whatever it was, I hope Chance retains this confidence forever.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Chance tells the state school board about his great teachers

A few months ago the state of Utah had a series of meetings to determine what should be done with the School for the Deaf and Blind. In a nutshell, due to the passionate views on the debate on whether deaf children should learn to talk or use sign language, the states school board of education had been hearing many complaints about the education of deaf children. People were unhappy that their particular choice was not being honored the way they thought it should through funding etc. And frankly, the school board had heard enough complaining that they were wondering if the School for the Deaf and Blind should even exist anymore. They felt that perhaps the services provided by the school should be transferred to the various school districts in the state. Bad, bad, bad idea!!

Some people just don't understand the education of deaf children. I of course come from the listening and spoken language route, having a child with bilateral implants. What is done for these kids in the early years makes all of the difference in their later years of life. In my opinion, few investments offer such a huge pay off for the state in the long run as that of giving young deaf children the services they need when they are young.
Take Chance for instance. Chance is thriving and is completely capable to compete with his hearing peers in school, sports, scouts etc. He got what he needed when he was young and now it is paying great dividends.
Since Chance has been so blessed by the services offered through the School for the Deaf through the years, he accompanied me and his father to testify before the state school board of the importance of the services that are provided by the school. Passing these services off to local school districts would be a tragedy for deaf kids and I am not exaggerating in saying that. The teachers and professionals at the School for the Deaf are trained to work with deaf kids and give them what they need so they get what they need to reach their potential.

Special education teachers along with school speech therapists would try to give what was needed but frankly they just don;t have the training to give these deaf kids what they need.

Thankfully, the state school board has not dissovled the School for the Deaf as of yet, and hopefully, they never do. The school is vital for our deaf children to get what services they need and we have a great spoken language program with superb teachers and professionals who are dedicated to these kids.

Long live the School for the Deaf!

Here is Chance's speech to the state school board of education: (it is a bit choppy sorry about that - no image-stabilizer, and volume in room was low... )

video