Sunday, April 29, 2012

A.G. Bell Speech Fair and MY heros

The annual Alexander Graham Bell Association chapter's speech fair was held a few weeks ago.  What this means is some parents of deaf and hard of hearing children and some of the professionals that work with them spent countless hours preparing for a night to let our kids shine.  I am so grateful to all of those who put in the time and effort to make these events possible.  There is no pay.  Along with long night of burning the midnight oil to bring events to fruition, but it is worth it.

We have seen Chance grow from a cute preschooler, hard to understand yet giving everything he's got to his performance, to a confident 11 year old who sings and plays the guitar in front of the assembled audience with a clear voice.

The theme of the event this year was Heroes.  Our youngest child broke out his superman costume for the event.  Chance dressed up as a sports hero that took our town, and in fact the nation, by storm and made for many memorable games watched at our house.  If you know who Jimmer is, you know the devotion he elicited.

My heroes though, were not really known as such to anyone but me.  My heroes were my two sons...Chance and his older brother.

Chance for all of his hard work through the years, the fact that he never gave up and overcame huge obstacles to talk and hear.  And he does them both well.

Chance introduces himself, his brother, and their song.
His older brother is my hero because he is his brother's keeper.  His devotion to his younger brother has brought tears to my eyes as well as to others through the years.

The speech fair this year was another example of selfless giving.

Chance and his brother take guitar lessons together.  They are also in choir in school together.

Chance is doing really well with his music.  As he sings and plays the guitar at the same time, he sometimes struggles to stay on key with both things together.  Usually he can correct himself and come back, but you don't want to get off when you are performing for a group.

So Chance asked his brother yet again if he would perform with him.

This is not a time when Chance's brother shines.  On the contrary,  it is a time for Chance to shine.
Chance's brother is quiet in his role deferring to Chance.  It is Chance's time to shine and his brother is for support.

This year, Chance's brother just sat next to Chance softly strumming the quitar and singing ever so softly to help keep Chance on track.

What is of note this year, is that all of Chance's brother's friends from school were having a party the same night as the speech fair.  They all asked over and over again if he would be attending the party.  At first, he was excited about the party and spending time with his friends.  As soon as he realized that the party was on the same night as the speech fair, he simply stated that he could not go because he was singing with his brother that night.

No complaining,  No lamenting that the two things fell on the same night.  Just matter of fact support for his brother Chance.

We took two cars to the event and told our son that if they got done soon enough, we would drive him home for at least part of the party.

The boys didn't perform until towards the end of the program however and so when all was said and done, there was only time to make it for the last 30 minutes of the party.

Chance's brother shrugged when I apologized that it was so late and offered to drive him home if he wanted.  It was ok he said.

Then he asked if he could have some of these friends over for night games after we got home.  We thought that was fair and Chance enjoyed the night games in the cul-de-sac as well.

Yes, I have heroes.  Chance for all of his efforts, and his brother for his great love and devotion to his brother.  Never expecting to be noticed and never leaving his brothers side if he is needed.

(Editor's note:  Due to fussy toddler, we didn't capture a decent-enough video - but they sang "This Land is Your Land")

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chance is a leader..even.when he can't hear

I had a very interesting conversation with a women in our church group who is a friend of mine.  She helped take Chance's scout group swimming.

It all started because I was relaying a conversation I had with Chance after he got home.  He was telling me what a great conversation he had with this woman on the way home from scouts.  Then he said that he would like to talk with her more often.

She had really made an impression on my boy.

While I was telling her about her effect on my son,  she told me what a great kid Chance was and how he was a leader in scouts.

I jokingly said,'Especially when he is swimming and can't hear anything?"

She said,"Actually, yes."

She told me that Chance would help to round up the other boys when the leaders were calling them to line up.

Chance can't hear anything in the pool because his implants are off so that was interesting for me to hear.

I mentioned that I wondered if Chance felt a part of things when he was at a scout swimming activity and my friend said that he got along just fine.  He was involved and played around like all of the other scouts.
She noted that the leaders actually had to call many of the other boys several times to line up etc. but not Chance.

Chance has learned to watch signals and pay attention to what is going on in his silent world during swim team activities.  Plus, when you are deaf, I am sure you just have to learn to read the subtle signals around you since you can't take for granted that you'll just hear what is going on as you do something else.

There was only one time that Chance's deafness came into play and that was when there was a false start.  The leaders called all of the boys back to start again.   Chance however, simply continued his course down the swimming lane.  He didn't notice anyone waving him back or that everyone else had stopped.

She said we just figured,'Oh well!  And let him swim to the end of the pool and then motioned him to come back and start again with the other boys.

Chance may have been a bit more tuckered out than the others seeing as how he had already swam the length of the pool and all, but he didn't seem to mind.  He just swam again.

That's my boy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Together anything is possible

My husband and I teach Chance's age group in church.  A bunch of cute 11 year old boys who will all turn 12 sometime this year.

One of the boys is on the autistic spectrum and I just love him.  He doesn't say much at all, and it is hard sometimes to know how much he is getting out of class.

I want him to be able to do anything and everything that he is capable of doing and not feel left out.

This is personal for me because when Chance was first diagnosed,  his church class was a challenge for him sometimes.  When we informed people that Chance was deaf at age 3,  most people were naturally completely unfamiliar with the situation.

Some people were uncomfortable and didn't know quite what to do.  Should they try to include Chance or just leave him alone and not call any attention to him in case he didn't hear what was said? So there were no expectations and Chance sat not participating in any of the activities sometimes.

Then there were other people who seemed to naturally know how to relate beyond the words and talking.  There were people that still bring tears to my eyes when I think of them because of how they were able to relate to Chance.  It was usually simple gestures like the man in our ward whose last name is Bird and he took the time to pull Chance aside and show him the sign for bird so Chance would know his name.  Chance would run to this man for years and hug him when he saw him at church.

There were people in the hallways who would gently touch Chance and say hi with a smile just to make sure that a connection was made.  It made Chance feel so welcome.  It made me feel so welcome.

I am not passing judgement here, as I honestly don't know how I would have reacted had I been introduced to  a deaf child before I had Chance.  I don't know if I would have been one who instinctively knew to reach out or not.

I have learned on this journey though, that little gestures can mean a lot and to reach out even if I don't know exactly how to do that.

As part of our church services, the kids go to their own classes while their parents attend other meetings.

Songs are learned and principles taught each week through games and lessons while the kids gather in a room for what is called Sharing Time.

Most of the kids are practically bouncing out of their seats to be chosen to come up and "fish" or put up a picture etc.

Our little autistic class member can not participate most of the time due to various reasons.

Well I could see him watching the happenings at the front of the room with great interest and I thought how great it would be if he could participate.  The activity involved picking a topic out of  a brown bag and drawing it out on the chalk board.  This would not be something that he could do alone.

Then I thought that he COULD do it though if he had a little help.  And I knew Chance would be able to provide just the right amount.

Chance walked up to the front of the room with this boy and without any prompting, stood back and took only a supporting roll when it was needed.  He seemed to naturally know when to help and when to stand back and let the boy have his independence.

I often wonder if Chance's experiences on his road back to hearing gives him a special understanding and insight into what the needs of others might be.

Monday, April 09, 2012

A friend of the heart

This past Saturday, we had our annual neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt and brunch.  It is an occasion that the kids look forward to all year long.  It is hosted by our neighbors, a retired couple that my kids lovingly refer to as grandma and grandpa.  It is a time to gather, share food, hunt for eggs and mingle with the neighbors in a relaxed setting.

Chance looks for more treats
In our conversation with our hosts,  they mentioned how they could not believe how big Chance had gotten.  They were recalling the days when he was quite young and was learning to hear and speak.

I will forever be grateful for the love they showed when Chance was diagnosed as being deaf.  Seeing as he was  only two going on three I went to each of the neighbors in our cul-de-sac to talk to them about Chance's condition.

I explained that he had been diagnosed as being deaf and so if he did not respond to them, he was not being rude or defiant.  He simply could not hear them.  I also wanted them all to understand that Chance could not hear cars, so just to be aware that he would not hear them approach or honk.

Our neighbor looked over to where Chance was playing in their yard while he waited for me and replied,"We'll just have to love him more."  What wonderful people.

This past weekend they were marveling  back when Chance was first diagnosed, (and I'd dare say for a few years afterwards), when he was hard to understand sometimes when he talked to you.  This did not faze Chance, who had talked to us in the family during his whole two years of hearing nothing.  I think he figured we were the ones who had issues when we did not know what he was saying.

Chance shows off his new Easter tie.
We in the family could of course understand Chance more than other people just like a mother can usually understand many things her toddler says that other people just don't understand.

There was another person who understood Chance though.  In fact, he acted as a sort of translator.  His name was Cade and he is still one of Chance's best friends.

Our neighbors marveled at how Chance would say something to them, and they would try their darnedest to understand what he said, but many times they just did not get it.

Cade would then translate for them what Chance had just said.  He did this a lot.

"Cade always seemed to understand just what he was saying and would tell us and then help Chance understand what we said in return.  It was phenomenal!"  Our neighbor said chuckling.

It was indeed phenomenal.  I truly believe that Cade was a gift of God to our little son.  A peer who was not phased that his little friend could not hear or talk like other kids.  The two could always be found together riding bikes, playing cops and robbers or just conspiring while they ate popsicles.

Just this last week in church, I smiled as I saw Chance and Cade sitting side by side in their class just like always.  And just like from the beginning of their relationship, if Chance misses something that is said or needs clarification, he turns to Cade and Cade clarifies what has been said.

Best Friends - the early years
Chance has also been dedicated to Cade.  Cade has a milk allergy that sifts out many foods as an option for consumption.  Chance ensures at each of his birthday parties, that something is served that Cade can eat.  He has been known to regularly go through our cupboards looking for something that Cade enjoys too eat when all of the other kids are slurping down fudgesicles or eating chocolate chip cookies.

Chance has also earnestly studied several wrappings that our food is packaged in to check for hidden dairy products or come to me and asked,"Can Cade have this?"

Cade is truly a blessing in Chance's life and I believe that Chance is a blessing in Cade's life. They are truly friends of the heart.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

April Fool's Day

Notice the orange sign:  "Ear Protection Required!"
As you may know, today is April Fool's Day, a day to trick your family and friends and add a little zest to their lives.

For instance, Chance's dad and I filled the Fruit Loops Box with popped popcorn to give the kids a little jolt this morning when they poured their cereal.  We only let them eat sugar cereal on Sundays so we knew they would  the pick Fruit Loops:)

As it turned out, everyone got up before Chance this morning and delighted in the reminder that it was April Fool's Day. 

Chance eventually wandered out this morning and looked at the popcorn filled box with confusion and a slight smile.  Then he just moved onto the cereal cupboard to pick something besides popcorn to pour his milk on.

A few other tricks were played during the morning and then about noonish, someone mentioned that April Fool's Day is a great day but kind of a rip off when it falls on a Sunday and you don't have contact with as many people(i.e. friends you can have wild fun tricking).

Chance got a surprised look on his face and said,"It's April Fools Day today?!  No wonder all of that weird stuff was happening!  I didn't even get to trick anybody yet!"

Chance did not have his implants on during the initial start to the day when the fact that it was April Fool's Day was established.

Turns out, we got Chance even better than we could have planned for:)