Friday, October 24, 2014

Learning to Listen

Most of you know, my middle child is deaf. I will use this blog partially as a journal for his progress because I know so many of my extended family members, friends, and even strangers are praying for him and invested in this as we are. I have felt your prayers over the last few months. As you may or may not recall, the first time he heard our voices, he was terrified.
But after the initial shock of finally hearing what was coming out of all these moving mouths, he began to react much differently to his new "ears". For about a week after activation, every time we put the processors on his head he became very still and would sit and listen to everything for the first few minutes. Now, he even asks for his "ears" to be put on by handing them to my husband or me OR he will point to the magnet if it falls off his head and he needs it re-attached. It makes me so happy to see him wanting to hear. That was one of my biggest fears during this whole process. I was afraid he would  not want this sense and for the first few years I'd have to force it on him. Thankfully, this is not the case at the moment and I'm counting that as a major blessing to us.

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-
We're so proud of him and we're hoping to have more stories to share with you all soon!

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


Little Sweet Ones said...

Reading your story makes me relive our over again! Let me tell you, you're such an amazing mom and everything you're doing is working trust me. I had a therapist once tell us, "she will do things in her own time" and she did she now says sentences and gets her point across its taken 3 years (with lots of setbacks) but we made it! She just said mom last year and it was so hard when she wasn't communicating but we signed with her even though they told us not too and it made a world of difference! Hope it helps!

erika said...

That is exciting stuff. Love seeing how he accomplishes things. Millie has officially changed her prayers from "please help baby Abel hear" to "please help baby Abel learn how to talk". We talked about how he is having all these new experiences for the first time and it's a lot to handle, and I guess she put two and two together. So, as always, still praying!

Chantal said...

It's amazing to hear his accomplishments! I'm sure everyone can tell how much you adore and love your children, and especially how much hope you have for Abel.

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