Monday, June 29, 2015

The School for the Dead

I just finished having a conversation with Chance's brother Ammon.  One of the great things about having a deaf child is, when they hear things wrong, they think that it was you that said something wrong, not them that heard something wrong.

An example of this was the conversation I just had with my son.  Chance is at a friend's house where he is hanging out with some of the kids who attended The School for the Deaf with him.  Chance has a few friends with implants that he sees regularly and they have just discovered the where abouts of another friend they went to school with so they are all getting reacquainted again.  I was on the phone telling Chance's dad that Chance was hanging out with some friends from The School for The Deaf, when my other deaf son Ammon overheard me.

He misheard what I said though, and I heard him turn to his sister and say,

"Mom said Chance is with kids from the School for the Dead. That is funny huh?"

When I got off the phone I corrected him and said, "School for the Deaf, that is where  his friends are from."

Ammon said, "You said School for the Dead the first time."

Naturally, I am the one in the wrong when it comes to my deaf son hearing what I said:)

Ammon was a baby when Chance was attending the School for the Deaf, so that phrase is not part of his regular vocabulary.

So, just so you all know, Chance attended both The School for the Deaf AND "The School for the Dead."  I'll have to ask him which school he liked better when he gets home.

Monday, June 08, 2015

100 miles or bust!

Chance can now say that he has biked 100 miles.  In one day.  All at one time.  Over two mountain passes.  He had trained for this.  He had prepared for this. Then on Friday, he did it!  And this after a 10-mile mountain hike on Thursday, in the Grand Tetons!

He climbed mountains, putting all the power he could into the course.  He got rained on.  And hailed on.  (He has welts to show for it.)  But he kept going.

He rode through the beautiful states of Wyoming and Idaho.  90% of the ride was in Wyoming.  It took from 7:15 in the morning until about 6:30 at night.  Chance's scout troop held the line and helped each other meet their goal.  Boys who were struggling on the ride were supported on by boys who were near the front.  They all cheered each other on.

He rode over two mountain passes.  The first one was a 3-mile 7% grade for the final push after already climbing a steady 3% climb for several miles!!!  (If that doesn't mean anything to you - it's STEEP!)  The second one was a 2-mile 6% final push.

One of the scout leaders is an avid biker and Chance was able to keep up with him even going up the hills and ended up being the first boy over both mountain peaks.  All of that soccer training where Chance came home exhausted paid off:)

Chance now knows that he can do hard things, like bike 100 miles in one day through rain and hail and live to tell the tale.

His dad was one of the leaders on the trip - and rode the first third of the trip with him - so he got some footage to share:

You don't see messages like this everyday on the highway.

Chance is the guy in blue with a yellow Cochlear shirt underneath. Notice many of the boys have Cochlear shirts:)

On the road again......

There is Chance keeping up with his scout leader on a looooooooong moutain climb.

They made it! 

Chance and his dad enjoy the waterfall at the end of their 10 mile hike.

What a view!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Living with hearing loss

I attended high school and church having a hearing loss this week.  I know, I know, I can't really know what it is like to live with a hearing loss because quite frankly, for a hearing person to block off all of their hearing is really hard if not impossible.

You can wear earplugs, and try to get a feel for what it is like to hear LESS but you can't make yourself deaf where no sound is coming through unless you are in some sort of a booth.  Even then, that would make it quiet because you can't hear noise coming in from the outside, but if you decide to move a tissue box or move your chair or brush lint off of your clothes, that stuff all makes sound.

I am currently taking a diversity class and one of the assignments was to see what it was like for people living with blindness, or who were a minority etc.  Having hearing loss was not on the list so I drew up a plan and sent it to my teacher to see if she would let me live a day with hearing loss.

She agreed. This is what I used to give myself a degree of hearing loss.  The ear plugs I used looked exactly like this.  Only they were brighter orange so I kept pulling my long hair over my ears to try to cover them up.  I didn't want to draw attention to my ears, the point was to see what it was like to live the day with hearing loss.

I contacted Chance's school and got permission from the dean of students to attend school for an afternoon.  The staff at the school know me so the dean of students told the office what I was doing and had me check in with the office and get a visitor pass to wear all afternoon.  One of the stipulations I made for myself in my request to spend a day being hard of hearing was that I eat lunch with the high school students in the cafeteria.  I did this because the lunchroom in a school is SOOO loud and sound is bouncing all around.  I figured I could only get a feel for having hearing loss at school if I ate with the other students.

As it turned out, it was a very warm day, so the majority of the students ate outside on the hill and steps in front of the school by the parking lot.  Chance was playing soccer and gave me a smile when he saw me.  I had told him and his brother that I would be coming to school but that they didn't need to be with me when I sat in their classes etc. and could just go on as normal.  As normal as you go when your
mom is attending school with you in your classes:)
I didn't just go to random classes because that would make it harder to get permission to come to the school as no one would know where I was.  I just told the dean of students that I would attend classes with one of my boys so he knew what classes I would be in.   There were four periods of classes and the boys had two of those classes together.  

So I sat on the hill in front of the school eating a sandwich and getting a feel for the earplugs that I had squished down into my ears.  It was unnerving to cut my hearing off.  I could still hear some stuff, but everything was much quieter and I didn't always hear things the first time.  Background noise from all of the chatter of several conversations going on by students around me became like a buzz that I couldn't fully understand. Perhaps I can better explain this by explaining how it usually is for me in these situations. 
 With my everyday hearing, I could sit on the hill and watch Chance play soccer while easily sorting through the conversations going on around me.  I would hear students talking about where they were going after school, what their parents had said and what teacher they did or did not like etc.  With the ear plugs, all of those conversations became more like a background buzz, and I couldn't easily sort through and then discard the conversations going on around me.  I spent more time really looking at what was going on around me to make up for the loss of hearing.  What really got me though were the cars.  Since it was lunchtime and students, teachers and parents were coming and going from the school, many cars passed right behind me on the hill as I ate.  I would not hear them coming though from a great distance like I used to so I kept finding myself being startled as cars would drive by right behind me.

The bell rang and it was time to go to class.  Chance helped guild me to the first classroom I would be going to with his brother.  The desks were arranged in a big circle as they were having a class discussion that day.

  I explained to the teacher what I was doing and she was gracious to let me join her class. It was a teacher I knew as I had done a presentation for her class last year on the book, "The Hiding Place," since I had been to the Ten Boom house where the true story had taken place.  The office had been told about what I was doing but not every teacher knew. 

 I found one of the few empty seats which happened to be almost directly across from the teacher in the circle.   When class began, the teacher started going around the circle asking kids what they had liked and disliked about what they had done this semester in her class.  She told the kids that she wanted them to give honest feedback so she could see what had worked and what could be improved. I obviously had not been in class all semester so I wasn't sure what the teacher would do when she came to me.  Normally, this would not have been a big deal, I would have just waited until it was my turn in the circle and then introduced myself.  However, with my hearing loss, I could not hear the responses of all of the students leading up to me.  I could hear some of the responses, but some of the kids talked quietly and even to hear the ones that were pretty loud that were across the room from me, required me to concentrate to hear everything they said and I sometimes missed some words that they said.   I had no context as to what they were talking about at first but soon I clued into some of the units they had talked about all year.  Since I wasn't hearing everything that was said, I began to be nervous about the teacher calling on me when it came my turn in the circle.  I was worried I would miss what she said.  Luckily, she passed over me and then I could relax.

The class had a study period where students could read or study together for the final exam which was coming up in a few days.  I took this time to write some of my thoughts down in a notebook about my newly acquired hearing loss.  The desks were pretty close together and my desk happened to be one the kids would squeeze by when they needed to get to the other side of the room.  One girl had left and then come back into class.  She knocked my notebook off of my desk, but another boy just picked it up and gave it back to me and it was no big deal.  I thought the girl hadn't even realized that she had knocked the notebook off.

She had noticed, and apparently she apologized profusely.  I didn't hear her since I was looking down and  writing on another sheet of paper and many of the kids in the class were talking about the final so there was quite a bit of noise in the room.  

My son later told me that the girl was one who felt very bad about everything and when she knocked my notebook off, she had told me that she was very sorry.  My son was about 7 desks down from me and he tried to get my attention but I wasn't looking that way so I had no idea about the incident until later that night

I felt horrible that I had not responded to this girl.  I would normally have let her know that it was no big deal and given her a smile.  Since I did not hear her, and the boy in class just picked up the notebook and gave it back, I said nothing to her. I thanked him for picking up the book, but I ignored her on accident.  I hope she didn't take that personally or think that I was mad.

I took lots of notes through out the day about incidents I had with my "hearing loss."  I will share some of them on the blog during the next while mixing them in with other posts about Chance and Ammon. 

Meanwhile, I have more empathy for people who have hearing loss. I got a feel for what it is like when you aren't hearing everything going on around you and how that makes a difference in how you respond to your surroundings.

In church during Sunday School, the teacher will sometimes ask if someone wants to read a particular passage of scripture. Normally I like doing that, but with the ear plugs in, it took me a minute to realize what passage we were supposed to read plus I had a bit of a complex about how loud I might be.  When I had attended school with Chance, he had laughingly told me that I was talking louder.  Chance had also given me a test in the hall of school by putting his hand in front of his mouth and then asking me what he was saying.  I didn't always know exactly what he was saying.   Just being one word off can make a difference sometimes.  

I will report back on the block as I write my paper about hearing loss and share what my experience was.   

I now feel even more for my deaf sons.  And I would just like to say that schools are noisy places sometimes.