Chance and I participated in a panel this past week. First we presented our journey with deafness, diagnosis, and what mode of communication we chose. The audience was made up of students studying in fields related to working with deaf children. Audiologist speech therapists etc. Several colleges listened in to the proceedings via technology. There were three other parents on the panel and each of us told our story. I have been presenting at this annual conference for years, but this is the first time that Chance participated.
Chance brought an invaluable insight into the meeting as he could talk about what the process was like as someone who is deaf. I presented the first part of our journey, Chance's diagnosis, the story of trying to Chance what he needed with a late diagnosis, and my thoughts and feelings.
Chance presented after me and he talked about where he is now in life, how he felt about his deafness in school and how he feels about implants.
After all of the panel members presented their stories, the students could ask us questions. The students wanted to know why we chose the communication option that we did, and what the hardest thing about the journey has been.
We chose hearing aids and cochlear implants for Chance because he made it clear that he wanted to talk. We all started learning sign language early on, but Chance never used sign language as his main form of communication. He used sign to supplement what he was saying sometimes, but the main way he tried to communicate with us was through talking. That doesn't mean that everything always went smoothly. We had some struggles as Chance learned to talk and communicate. It has been so worth it though.
One of the students asked Chance how he was able to learn Mandarin with implants as her understanding is that it is a very tonal language.
Chance said that he applied the same principles that he had when he was learning to speak English. He said that in English you have to listen to the tones of people's voices to help know what they are saying. For example if people are asking a question their voices go up at the end. Chance really had to pay attention to things like this when he was behind in language and was literally learning how to listen.
Who knew the skills he developed when he was focusing extra hard on learning English would later be the same skills that would help him learn Mandarin?
I remember how Chance would lift his voice at the end of a question when he was asking us something. Sometimes it was the only way we knew he was asking a question because we didn't understand all of his words. We knew he was asking a question by the way his voice went up at the end, but we didn't know what we were answering.
After the presentation, Chance told me that this was the first time he had been able to effectively put into words how he learned how to speak Mandarin and explain the process to someone.
Talking to the students and answering their questions is always a fun experience for me, It is nice to be able to talk about the experiences that families are having as they try to get the services they need for their deaf and hard of hearing children with people who will be working with the families. Chance enjoyed being able to share his journey and answer questions that people have as well. And who better to answer questions and talk about what it is like growing up deaf than a deaf teenager?