People often think that cochlear implants are a miracle. I agree partly. It's completely amazing that my deaf son now reacts to his name occasionally. He dances to music. He will turn when I clap! I used to bang on the walls or clap when I would try to get his attention before we knew the degree of hearing loss he had (bilateral profound) and it's a hard habit to break. Now, Abel will clap at us when he's trying to tell us something. Ha! I love this technology, but the truth is it's not just a simple flip of the switch and his deafness is "cured". Not at all actually. With this miracle technology comes years and years of therapy. At this point, my two month old is more familiar with sound and language patterns than Abel is. He has been hearing since 20 weeks in the womb! Abel has only been hearing for a month.
The area of Tennessee that we're in is not great for hearing impaired folks who want to be aided. We LOVE his speech therapist. She's great, but she's one of the only ones in the area. It's why she chose to come here. I'm so thankful she is here, but I've spent much of the last few months worried that I wouldn't be able to provide for him the help he needs to make this new access to sound work for him. I fretted over not having an auditory verbal preschool to take advantage of. Of course as his mother, I want to do all that I can. I just find myself torn between focusing on him/playing with him to facilitate listening skills and teach language development and attending to my other small children and making them feel equally loved. It's a lot to juggle. As of now, Abel goes to speech therapy twice a week for an hour at a time. He enjoys his time there. There are so many toys that he gets to play with without other little hands grabbing at them, too. He also gets praised and lots of attention when he acknowledges hearing or attempts to speak. That hour is HIS time and he likes being the center of attention there.
Sometimes doubt creeps in and I feel as if his hearing is inconsistent, but the past week has given me renewed hope. Some days he responds to environmental noise all day and seems to ignore all spoken sounds. Then other days, he'll flip flop it and do the opposite. We are beginning to think he just is bored with our games some days! This week he started imitating noises in a sing songy fashion so when he repeats what I just said in the same rhythm, I go crazy with pride for him. He's hearing, he's listening, and he's trying to talk! That's more than I can ask for at one month post activation.
In addition, he has said or attempted to say some words. You know I'm going to list them now. I've been waiting for so long to say that Abel's first words were x, y, and z. As parents of his peers began proclaiming their child's newest word, I always grieved a bit for the words Abe wasn't saying. He has come a long way and I know this because this week alone he has said (or attempted to say): Mama, hi, bye, up, off, and on. Incredible progress.
I'm going to call his updates "hearing stories" because we have so many throughout the day that I always want to share. Just yesterday, he began to choose the item that goes with the corresponding sound. I'll show you if you promise to ignore the powerade all over his face and my messy kitchen counter-
In the mean time, we are going to keep plugging away- working with him. Two hours at therapy over the course of a week is not enough for language development. A huge part of auditory verbal therapy is parental involvement. As I mentioned before, I try to have focused play with him throughout the day but it's hard when there's another toddler vying for attention and a new baby asking to be fed. This is why I decided to create an area in his room that is just for him. I scoured the house for appropriate toys and took a trip to the dollar store for cheap play things. We've already had our first therapy session there! Kinley likes to help when he isn't feeling jealous or telling us he's "so deaf". He will make the LING sounds and prompt Abel to do the same.
As a family, we are invested in this sweet little guy. I know he will overcome his obstacles.
"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." - Albert Einstein