Saturday, February 28, 2009

Children of a Lesser God

Yes, this is another review... and don't worry, there are more to come! Last night, we watched the 1986 drama, Children of a Lesser God, starring Marlee Matlin and William Hurt. And no, I'm not a really big Matlin fan, it just so happens that she is THE deaf actress to watch. And after this movie, I think I'm done with her for awhile (unless she's on Dancing with the Stars again). Since I was only 6 when the movie was made, this is the first time I've seen, or really even heard of it. But since I'm on "quest", I thought I'd check it out.

Here's the plot summary (from Wikipedia):

Matlin plays Sarah Norman, a deaf and troubled young woman working at a school for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in New England. An energetic new teacher, James Leeds played by William Hurt, arrives at the school and encourages her to set aside her isolated life of frustration by learning how to talk. As she already uses sign language, Sarah resists James's attempts to get her to talk. Romantic interest develops between James and Sarah and they are soon living together, though their differences and mutual stubbornness eventually strains their relationship to a breaking point, as he continues to want her to talk, and she feels somewhat stifled in his presence. Sarah leaves and goes back to her mother's house, in the process reconciling with her once estranged mother. However, she later returns to James, as both realize they need each other.

I thought it was pretty good... Lucas's daddy was bored about half-way through and went to bed. Maybe I was mostly interested in the signing - I wanted to see how much I could understand! I understood some, but not nearly enough. Matlin is a beautiful signer - very energetic and expressive, but VERY FAST! It kind of reminds me of when I'm teaching the alphabet to my German and Spanish students, and I spell words to them to see if they can write them down. They always complain that I go too fast, and then I ask them how they would spell their own names, for instance, and they go "oh..., I guess you're right". The film had an interesting way of interpreting the sign language - James Leed would just say aloud what Matlin and he were signing.

The other interesting part was the portrayal of the deaf school, and the speech class that James Leeds teaches. He reaches out to them in a way that hadn't been done before, and he teaches them to appreciate music by feeling the beat.

Matlin won the 1986 Academy Award for Best Actress. She is the youngest actress to have received the nod.

Friday, February 27, 2009

when Lucas can't or doesn't wear his processor...

There are times when Lucas CAN'T wear his processor:

1. bathing/swimming - water + CI = disaster
2. sleeping - not necessary, will fall right off and be uncomfortable

There are times when Lucas often DOESN'T wear his processor:

1. car - if I'm driving alone, he often pulls off his hat and the processor and uses it as a chew toy (no good)
2. highchair - as soon as he turns his head, it's off... I've been opting for the booster seat on a normal chair lately, because his head is above the back and the processor won't fall off
3. blanket time - you might be asking, what is blanket time? Well watch and see for yourself (there's no talking, just baby "grunting effort" noises):

Lucas loves blankets. If he sees one on the ground, he goes into a sprawl (a sprint crawl), and dives and rolls and rolls and rolls. If he eyes a blanket in his crib, he sprawls over to it and pulls it out from between the bars so he can play with it. During this activity, the processor falls off and I worry about the static that's being created anyway, so I often just remove it until he's done. We should just get rid of all his toys, and put blankets on the ground. They provide lots of entertainment for him. What will he do when it's summer and there are no more blankets everywhere? I'm sure he'll find something else... :)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

deaf child crossing

Last week, I read the book deaf child crossing, by Marlee Matlin. The book is intended for children ages 8-12, so it's a quick, easy read. The book, although fictional, draws from the childhood experiences of Marlee Matlin - her dog Apples, her neighborhood friends, and her love of Billy Joel music, to which she would sign the words while listening to the beat.

Here's a description from the inside of the book jacket:

Cindy looked straight at Megan. Now she looked a little frustrated. "What's the matter? Are you deaf or something?" she yelled back. Megan screamed out, and then fell to the ground, laughing hysterically. "How did you know that?" she asked as she laughed. Megan is excited when Cindy moves into her neighborhood -- maybe she'll fiAdd Imagenally have a best friend. Sure enough, the two girls quickly become inseparable. Cindy even starts to learn sign language so they can communicate more easily. But when they go away to summer camp together, problems arise. Cindy feels left out because Megan is spending all of her time with Lizzie, another deaf girl; Megan resents that Cindy is always trying to help her, even when she doesn't need help. Before they can mend their differences, both girls have to learn what it means to be a friend. Deaf Child Crossing will strike a chord with anyone who has ever had, or wanted, a best friend.

Definitely worth the quick read, if you like that kind of thing. I think it would be really great for a child with a Deaf friend. Of course, deaf education has changed since Matlin was a child, especially with the invention of the cochlear implant. The book is not quite as relevant for deaf children who don't sign and have good hearing and speech with their CIs. But, I would say that maybe it would be good for them too, to see what it could/would be like without the access to sound that the CI affords them. I will definitely encourage Lucas to read the book (in 10 years, HAHA!).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Fasnacht Day!

Happy Fasnacht Day! Lucas had his first fasnacht today. And you might be asking... what the heck is Fasnacht Day? Well, it's a twist on Fat Tuesday, that's celebrated in Lancaster County, PA (where we live), to celebrate the last day before Lent. Fasnachts (from the German for "Eve of the Beginning of the Fast") are yummy donuts, typically plain, but also made with sugar, powdered sugar or glaze. Fasnachts were produced as a way to empty the pantry of lard, sugar, fat and butter, which were forbidden during Lent. We prefer ours glazed, and headed to the local farmer's market to pick them up today! It's good we ordered them ahead of time, because by the time I got there at 1 PM, there were only powdered ones left! Lucas enjoyed the few bites that I gave him...

Friday, February 20, 2009

meow, meow breakthrough

I knew the cats were good for something (just kidding, Diane!). Lucas was consistently pointing to the cats today when I would meow (still hasn't gotten old, but I'll let you know when it does). He also signed cat!!! I think he's been doing it for a while, but I wasn't certain. I guess I'm a little video happy too, but when I get something on video, it's reinforcement to me that he's doing what I think - proof, I guess. And, it's a nice record to look back on. Here's the "meow" video:

I also have a short video of Lucas turning to his name. He doesn't always turn, but at least vocalizes then when he hears his name.

I'd love it if he would start talking, but at least we're seeing some progress! Spoken communication has 3 big components - language, audition and speech. Lucas has been getting language input through sign since he was 3 months old, and auditory input for 6 weeks now. He's at least vocal and making "mmm" and "ahhh" in addition to lots of babbling. Words will come, I just have to keep reminding myself that "it's a marathon and not a sprint" (got that from another fabulous blog mom), and that his hearing age is only 6 weeks. We're seeing that Lucas's receptive language is really taking off (both through spoken language and sign), and he's learned a few more signs. Now I'm waiting for the all important first word...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mr. Holland's Opus

In my quest to soak up all things deaf, to gain a greater understanding of deaf culture, etc. I decided to re-watch Mr. Holland's Opus. This was the first time I'd seen the movie from "this side." It was sad, it was tough to watch, it was different this time around - I could relate. The famous scene that everyone talks about - where they're at the parade and the fire truck goes by - everyone covers their ears and cringes... but Cole, the baby, who sleeps right through - is the mother's "aha" moment. It's then that she knows he's deaf. They find out that he has a 90% hearing loss, and the audi tells them they shouldn't "gesture" with him, because he'll never learn to speak (HA!). When he's 4 or 5, and still can't sign OR speak, they send him to a deaf school, where he learns ASL and thrives. There's much more to the movie than that...

I thought it was tough for me, as a German and Spanish teacher, to have a deaf son (remember though, that he will learn Spanish some day!!!!). Imagine having music be your life, and not being able to share that with your son. The movie is set in the 60s, when there wasn't the option or even thought of a cochlear implant. Wow, how the face of deaf education has changed so much since then, to include so many more options! How grateful I am to be raising a child in this day and age!

I think I'm really glad that we left the hospital knowing that Lucas wasn't hearing quite right (even if we didn't know the severity of his hearing loss). I really can't imagine finding out now, at a parade, figuring it out on my own, and then wondering why I didn't know sooner.

Great film.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!

No, he didn't say mommy (yet), but he signed it! I've seen it a few times before today, but not for sure. Today, we were certain! Lucas is a mama's boy, and his daddy definitely confirmed that he was asking for mommy. He was also turning consistently to his name today for the first time. He would turn and smile, and I would reinforce it with his name sign. What an eventful Lucas day!

So, I decided after I posted those videos last night, that I should try Overstream to subtitle them. I was checking out Deaf Village, and I noticed that my post hadn't been picked up. And I thought maybe it was because I hadn't subtitled my videos to provide equal access to all readers, so I thought I would give it a try! My timing wasn't perfect, but not too bad for my first attempt! I will do that from now on...

I am really enjoying my time off with Lucas (I'm sure you're not surprised...). I feel very blessed to be able to take this time off during a time of so many Lucas language firsts. My stress level has decreased SIGNIFICANTLY, and I'm actually enjoying life. I really like to read, and during crazy 2008, I didn't read a single fictional book. I spent all of my time reading and learning about hearing loss, cochlear implants, communication methods, Deaf culture... and I never took the time out to read for pleasure. Well... since Christmas I've read 4 books! It's been liberating. I'm addicted to the Twilight series. I'm in the middle of Breaking Dawn, and I don't want to put it down! I've also had more time to blog.

There's been a lot of blog talk lately about deaf communication methods. It's been making my head spin, because I sooooo badly want to be making the right decision for Lucas. We want Lucas to be 100% oral and mainstreamed... that's our goal, period. But we want him to learn sign language too, to give him options. So, we're using auditory-verbal strategies and are continuing to use sign language for baby communication, and for times when he's not wearing his CI. AND, we're staying flexible. I think that's most important - we will continually assess and make sure that Lucas's needs are being met. I once received great advice from Christian's Mommy (thanks!!!) to keep an open mind about communication methods and just to follow Lucas's lead. That's exactly what we're doing: the Lucas method.

And, happy belated Valentine's Day. Here's a picture of Lucas last year on Valentine's Day (2 days after we found out he was deaf) and a picture from this year. Don't you just love this year's picture?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

oh, oh, it's magic!!

When Lucas was about 7 months old, we thought he was making a little bit of progress with his hearing aids. When I would put them in in the morning, he would immediately vocalize, like in the following video, "hearing aid magic:"

It occurred to me the other day, that he's doing the same thing with his cochlear implant! When he wakes up in the morning, he's quiet until I "turn his ear" on. This time, it's "cochlear implant magic!" You might find the most amusing part of the video to be me chasing Lucas to attach the coil. It was hard to do with one hand while I was trying to see if I could catch it on video... this time I KNOW he's hearing! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

the chatty boy's processor

So.... I've received a couple of inquiries about the speech processor that Lucas wears. Some thinks it's completely attached to his head (not removable) and other have just expressed surprise that there's a part to attach to his body. So, I thought I'd post a picture and explain:

Lucas has 2 processors - one is a spare (although we switch them monthly to ensure equal use). The one you see on the left is the standard behind-the-ear (BTE) processor, and the one on the right is the babyworn BTE processor. One of the reasons we chose Cochlear was the babyworn option. The babyworn is an "accessory", and it can be made into the normal BTE by simply twisting the bottom half and re-attaching the battery pack. Eventually, when Lucas is older and his ears are bigger and stronger, he will simply wear the BTE. Right now, the babyworn option is less heavy on his ear, it keeps the processor attached to him somewhere if it falls off his ear, and it allows me to change the settings without having to work directly behind his ear (which would be challenging with a wiggly boy like Lucas!).

The processor is completely detachable. The round part at the top attached to the cord, the coil, attaches via a magnet that is implanted under the scalp. That's the most important part of the set-up. As long as the coil is attached, he can hear. Lucas does not wear the processor when he's sleeping, or when he's bathing or swimming. In fact, when he's not wearing the processor, you'd never know that he had a cochlear implant unless you looked closely for the scar behind his ear.

On another note, Lucas has been so chatty lately... it's great! At first, I thought he was being fussy, but he's making happy noises! I think he's having fun listening to himself. Enjoy the short video - I captured some of his noises while he was playing this morning. We went and had lunch with Lucas's daddy today, and he was talking all through lunch, just like in the video!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What does 30 dB sound like?

It ocurred to me that it might not be perfectly clear, exactly what 30 dB sounds like. In fact, a year ago, I wouldn't have had a great idea what 30 dB sounded like either. Check out the speech banana:

Normal breathing is at 10 dB. Leaves rustling in leaves is 20 dB. Whispering is at about 20 dB also. Spoken language occurs mostly between 40 and 60 dB. We haven't really gotten into what frequencies he hears more easily yet (although generally, it's the lower frequencies). But, in terms of loudness, Lucas can hear us speak!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

30 dB or bust

Lucas had another mapping yesterday at CHOP. Despite the fact that he was not feeling particularly well, he was testing at 30 dB in the booth! That's just crazy to me! A month ago, he wasn't even testing at 120 dB. It might still even get better... something like 15 to 20 dB maybe (I've been told). He got 4 new programs to work through until we return in a month. He continues to wear his processor well - with a little bit of toupee tape, it stays behind his ear really well, and he doesn't mess with it much!

He had a speech evaluation also, and she was pleased with his progress so far... he's interested in sound, responds to the ling sounds, and is producing "ahhh" and "mmmm." So, it's now up to Lucas! Everything is working in his favor, and his brain needs to continue to learn to make sense of the "sound" he is hearing. Lots and lots of auditory input is so essential right now, and Mommy is working very hard at that!

We just got his 1 year pics back... isn't he just the cutest thing? We just love him to pieces!

Friday, February 6, 2009


According to some of the hearing loss professionals that we work with, Lucas is considered "vanilla deaf" - meaning he has no other developmental issues that would preclude his language acquisition. It's apparently not a widely used term, just used among teachers of the deaf, maybe even just in our area. I was pretty amused by this... I asked once whether the opposite is "chocolate deaf." Nope, just vanilla deaf. Interesting, huh? Has anyone else ever come across this terminology?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

mmmmm, yummy!

So, I commented a few days ago that Lucas has been really quiet since Christmas. It's been kind of disheartening too. Before that, he was pretty vocal for having no auditory input at all. I guess he was implanted just in time.

One of the learn to listen sounds we're working on right now is "mmmm" (also 1 of the ling sounds). I say "mmmmm, yummy!" every time I give Lucas a bite to eat. Well, today, I think he repeated it back to me!!! I got him to do it several times, and I even got it on video. You might be thinking... big deal... but it means that he's hearing it and that he's imitating it!!! Some days I question whether the implant is really working! And today I got some confirmation... Next step is "mommy"! (hahahahahaha)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Lucas loves to play. I guess, don't all children love to play? It amazes us how he plays so well by himself too... his favorite toy is the Laugh and Learn House by Fisher Price. He has so much fun with it... there's so much to do!

Lucas also LOVES his books. He could spend an hour just flipping through his books. And he likes to pull them off the bookshelves now too. :)

Right now, in my attempt to give him constant spoken language input, I am reading Mr. Popper's Penguins aloud to him. It's one of my favorite books from my childhood. Sometimes, I just don't have anything more to say, so I read to him out loud, in my best teacher voice! We're almost done with it though, so I need another book to read aloud, when I need to fill that void. Any recommendations?