Or maybe I should have titled this post "Having a child with a cochlear implant", since our challenges are completely different from having a child who is deaf without a cochlear implant. I have been wanting to blog about this for a while now, even though I have written about much of this before. Even though Jazzie may look and sound like a typical child, the fact remains that she is deaf. Yes, she has this wonderful technology that helps her hear, but she still faces many challenges, as do we as her parents.
Jazzie works so hard every day. What four year old goes to school every day, all day? For almost 7 hours a day, Jazzie is being drilled with vocabulary, language structure, syntax, etc. Of course, they do lots of fun stuff at school as well, but it is all done with speech and language in mind. Even snack time and lunch incorporate the idea of exposing kids to language at all times and having the kids speak at all times. Jazzie comes home exhausted and often has trouble keeping herself together for the rest of the day, because she has had brain-overload all day.
It is easy to forget that Jazzie is deaf, because with her implant on she does hear very well and she speaks very clearly. So, when her implant is off, it can be quite frustrating. Take bath time for instance. Sometimes, Jazzie will try to get away with things like throwing water everywhere. She will not make eye contact, so she can't see me sign to her or read my lips. She knows she is not supposed to stand up in the tub, but she will with her back turned towards me so that she can't see me. Knowing that she is doing this on purpose can be maddening at times.
Other times, when I am upset with her and I try to talk to her about her behavior, she will pull the magnet off her head, so that she can't hear me. We often joke about the fact that she will take advantage of this when she is older: "I did not hear you telling me that I needed to be home by 10 PM. I must have had my magnet off when you told me that".....
Jazzie is only able to hear out of one ear and that causes some confusion with location of sound. When I try to call her from upstairs, she doesn't realize that I am upstairs. She will look for me downstairs. I have to always remember to give her that little bit of extra information so that Jazzie doesn't get upset and I won't get frustrated. When we are outside, she might not realize that there is a car approaching. She might hear the engine, but she will not realize that the car is right there. That is why we got one of these traffic signs . This picture was taken in our old neihborhood. We are still waiting for the sign to be put up in this neighborhood. Another issue is being in a noisy environment. We went out to dinner last Saturday and the restaurant had the music turned up quite high. Jazzie wasn't able to hear/understand us at all. She was sitting on Cera's lap and Cera had to talk directly into Jazzie's microphone in order for her to hear. I do the same thing when she is sitting on my lap. I put her on my left leg, so that I can talk into her right ear. So, when I read to both girls, I need to make sure that Tahlia is on my right leg; if not, I will be talking into Jazzie's left ear and she won't hear me. This often causes trouble, since Tahlia will refuse to move if I accidentally have her on the wrong leg. Aaaaaargh....
When Jazzie mainstreams into our school district, things will be so different for her. Right now she is at a school which was designed with the deaf children in mind. The class rooms have 7 layers of drywall to make it as quiet as possible. There are acoustic tiles all throughout the school to make it quiet and to drown out background noise. The teacher-student ratio is 1-3 at average. The children at this school are being primed for going into a "normal" school. But as well as Jazzie is doing, I still worry about the fact that she will always have to work a little bit harder than all the other kids. She will need special assistance in order to hear the teacher (an FM system, a seat as close to the teacher and as far away from an open window as possible, etc.). She will have to learn to always make sure she puts herself into a position where she can get the most information.
These are just a few examples of what we deal with on a daily basis. I don't mean to sound negative. Jazzie is doing GREAT and we are so proud of her, but I want people to understand that she is still a deaf child; she still faces many challenges and she will continue to face them. However, I also know that Jazzie is a remarkable kid who has amazed us and others in the past and I am sure she will continue to do that as well.
I just realized that exactly 5 years ago today, we finally became DTC for Jazzie: February 28, 2002 was our LID. Strange to think that that was the day which officially started our path to Jazzie. The stars alligned just perfectly that day for Jazzie to find her way home. I agree with Laura, who commented that someone knew exactly where Jazzie belonged.