Sunday, August 30, 2009

ideas borrowed, ideas new

My baby boy has turned into this beautiful toddler, and along with that comes the need for some more sophisticated language activities. I've been a busy, crafty mommy lately! I've been partly motivated by lots of great ideas from my blogging mommy friends, and partly motivated by my need to be extra organized and on-top-of-things with my new work schedule. Here's a list of new activities in our home, hopefully giving credit where credit's due!!!

I cleaned off the top half of our refrigerator and created our "family work board". Right now, it just has the list of strategies that we're supposed to be working on for the week with each of his therapists, and also the summary sheets for the week and/or the handouts we get from them. I picked up the white board and the cork board at the Dollar Tree. I got this idea from Briggs' mom originally, and here's another great example from Aiden's mom. I really like Tammy's idea about the ling sounds, and moving them as you get a response to each one throughout the day. I hope to expand this area with other ideas. But for now, it helps us focus on our strategies for the week.

I also decided, that with a change in Lucas's schedule, I should start a calendar with him, to help him prepare for what tomorrow will bring. He is still a bit young for this, but I know that he will quickly grow into it, and that his language will catch up with it, just like it has with everything else. I originally got the calendar idea from Ben's mom, but then I got the exact calendar idea from Tayten's mom. Here's another variation on the calendar idea from Nolan's mom. You can find that calendar here from the Listening Room, which has a host of other GREAT activities.

Also from the Listening Room, I found these two great posters. This one is for focusing on nursery rhymes and songs, and this one is a game for practicing the learn to listen sounds. We've really been enjoying these. Just today, when I started to sing "Twinkle, twinkle, little star," Lucas touched the star right away. I was so excited! Here are pictures of these two posters, that I've hung in our dining room and playroom, respectively.

Reciting nursery rhymes with Lucas twice a day is one of our strategies for this week. So, I took a clear plastic box (that I found at the Dollar Tree), put in all of the books that we have with nursery rhymes and added the handout on nursery rhymes, so that everything is in reach. Here's what the handout looks like, if you're interested:

We're also working really hard to condition Lucas to the Ling sounds. I feel we're past just waiting for a behavioral response (like Lucas looking up or pausing) and we should be able to get a conditioned response from him, like pointing to his ear or the sound association. I know it's possible, and Aiden has given me some extra motivation! So, I'm using 2 different activities to work on that. One activity is a meal mat from the Listening Room (there are 3 others, if you're interested). I learned about these from Alexander's mom, who apparently got it from Marielle's mom! I say the ling sound, put a piece of food on the appropriate picture, and say it again.. Sometimes I have Lucas try to put it on the right picture. He's been pretty accurate so far. Here's what it looks like:
I soon hope to graduate to this great resource. I used speaker cover material, that I got at the local fabric store, glued it between the two pieces of paper, and voila! Those are the same pictures as the meal mat, and I'm hoping he will start pointing to them soon. Here's what that looks like:

Lastly, I've created quite a few experience books. Lucas's teacher of the deaf has talked about them, I saw some examples at Great Start, and also got ideas from Drew's mom and Peas' mom. I made two of them on Snapfish. They're the flipbooks - you can write one short sentence on each picture, and they're pretty cheap. The other ones I made with photo albums from the Dollar Tree and flashcards with great pictures on them. The two flipbooks are called "Let's go to the petting zoo" and "Let's go to the pool."

The other photo books are "Lucas & family," "my favorite things," "food and animals," "my body parts," and "Lucas' ABC book" (I ran out of pages, so I had to make 2 books). Here's what the books look like (inside too).

While I was looking for links to all of these resources, I found this new activity that I'm going to go print now. How fun! Another source that I'd like to check out is Tune Ups (again from the Listening Room). I called to order it when Drew's mom first posted about it, but it hasn't come yet, so I think my order got lost somewhere. I will have to try again.

Thanks to all of my blog friends for all of the wonderful ideas! Sorry for the super long post. I hope I was able to share some new ideas too! And, I think we're set for a while. Do you have any other ideas you'd like to share?

Friday, August 28, 2009

cue mommy guilt

It's that time of year again. Kids are going back to school, and so am I. After a most wonderful, fulfilling, and very productive 7 months, I get to go back to work. I wish I could tell you that it's bitter sweet, but it's not.

I will always remember these months as a very special time with Lucas, when I could experience all of his awesome hearing and language firsts and during which we did many activities that otherwise wouldn't have been possible had I been working. He went from no hearing, to hearing beeps and buzzes, to us having to spell words in his presence. It has been SIMPLY AMAZING! It was the greatest decision and sacrifice we could have made. I would not trade in the extra time with him for anything in the world!

Now what am I going to do? I'll be honest and say that I'm NOT okay with it. It's extremely daunting to think about doing what I'm doing now with so much less time. It kind of makes me sick.

But, I still have a lot to be thankful for, so here goes.

* I'm thankful to my school district for granting me this much needed leave.
* I'm thankful for a wonderful, secure job, where I get to teach German and Spanish all day!
* I'm thankful that Lucas will be watched by both of his grandmothers while I'm at school.
* I'm thankful that Lucas can still be in his own home 3 of those days.
* I'm thankful that I only work 6 blocks from where we live.
* I'm thankful that we work with 2 flexible therapists who are willing and able to come after 3:00 to work with me.
* I'm thankful that I'm done with school mid-afternoon and have the rest of the afternoon and evening to spend with him.
* I'm thankful for the school year calendar that provides for some much needed breaks and extra time with Lucas.

Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers as we make a lot of adjustments over the next few weeks - that Lucas would continue to thrive and adjust well to not having me around all the time, and that there would not be any backlashes to his change in schedule and surroundings. He thrives on routine, and his world is about to be inconsistent.

Life is going to be tough for awhile.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's all about expectations

There's lots going on around here, I just haven't had a lot to post about. That's okay! Lucas is wearing his hearing aid really well (in addition to the CI, of course), although I haven't noticed a big difference yet. I think that's hard with a 20 month old who can't tell me how he hears with it. It can't be hurting anything though, that's for sure.

There are lots of changes going on around here. I'm preparing to return to work in a few days with the start of a new school year, and we're making some changes in our communication method. Lucas is talking a lot more, and he is all but functionally walking, choosing to walk now instead of crawl most of the time. YAY!

I've been a big proponent all along of "baby" signs to facilitate communication, hence this post. Lucas has 37 expressive signs to date, and he responds to all of them with verbal only cues. As I talked about in #8 of this post, I think it's important to regularly re-evaluate the effectiveness of a communication method decision. Even if you never change your method, it's good to reinforce your decision too! Well, we've re-evaluated, and we're making a change. In the past, we've stated that we're doing the Lucas method: an oral approach with AVT strategies and baby signs. We are now taking a strictly oral approach. No more baby signs.

Basically, we're at the point where Lucas no longer needs manual communication, because he hears and understands us SO WELL. And although we really cut back on the signs after he was implanted (only teaching them to him so that he could express himself), we have decided to drop signing all together.

It's all about expectations. In the past, we would speak, he would sign back, and we would move on. We were just excited that he understood us!! It has become way too easy. We are raising the bar. It's fine if he still signs back, but we are now expecting a word, an approximation or even just a vocalization, not just a sign. We know he is capable. Just in the past week, he has begun to approximate outside (ow) and knock, knock, knock (nah nah nah).

We are beginning to work with Clarke, an oral school for the deaf, and look forward to benefiting from their services this fall, if all goes well. Lucas may also join their toddler group for 2 year olds come January. We're hoping to give him an extra boost, so that he can be comfortably mainstreamed for preschool.

We couldn't be happier with our decision to have Lucas implanted. It has been seriously life-changing. Not a day goes by that I don't marvel at the miracle.

Friday, August 14, 2009

We have to do what?

I never thought I'd be able to say this. Lucas hears and understands us so well, that we have to spell words around him. Yes. Around our deaf son, we have to spell words. U.N.B.E.L.I.E.V.A.B.L.E.

I mean, it's not that he understands everything that we say, but enough! His favorite things right now are going outside and going for a ride in his beloved car. This car:

So, we have to spell "outside" and "car". That's it so far, but I'm pretty excited about it. Again, I take nothing for granted with him.

Here are a couple of other recent Lucas observations:

He is walking much better and can even stand for extended periods of time on his own (see above picture!). I'm soooooo thrilled about that. He's not exactly functionally walking, but he's getting there!!!

The other day, Lucas was resting his head on my shoulder and the room was completely silent. One of our cats walked into the room and quietly meowed. Lucas sat straight up and looked for the sound. I was impressed.

I've been whispering around Lucas to see what he can understand. When I whisper "let's go find Daddy," Lucas signs "daddy." I'm so excited that he can hear me whisper.

I'm still waiting for a spoken language explosion, but Lucas is consistently saying "up," "down," and "bye-bye."

Cochlear implants are amazing. I really never thought his would work this well. But it does, and I am soooo grateful.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

bimodal baby

On Thursday I got a call that Lucas's earmolds were in, and they had a cancellation yesterday, so our baby is officially bimodal, sooner than anticipated. There haven't been any 'aha' moments yet, but I guess he needs time to "learn to listen" with this ear again. It will be interesting to see how he tests in the booth when we head back to CHOP in October.

He wasn't so sure about everything at the audiologist this morning. He kept wanting down off my lap, then he'd toddle over to the door and cry a very pouty cry. He just doesn't seem to like this audiologist. Oh well, we won't have to see her very much.

The HA matches the CI pretty well, although it's much smaller. We're also trying a skeleton earmold with Lucas's CI. It will help keep it on his ear much better. That is, if he leaves it in his ear. So far, he doesn't seem to like it OR the hearing aid. *SIGH*

the skeleton mold for his right ear

the earmold with his HA for the left ear
he's constantly touching it both devices, side-by-side
nope, not gonna wear it...

Friday, August 7, 2009

speech therapy at the petting zoo

What a novel idea! We've been working a lot on farm animals and their sounds lately, so our AWESOME speech therapist suggested we go to a petting zoo to meet the animals in person. We went to Hayloft Candles and Petting Zoo. We had no idea this place even existed! We got to see goats, donkeys, pigs, deer, llamas, ducks, a parrot, a kangaroo!?!, bunnies, birds, peacocks, turkeys, among others.

Lucas didn't exactly name the animals there, but he was very excited! We walked around, making lots of animals sounds. We probably sounded very silly, but it was fun! With all of the pictures that I took, I'm going to make an experience book on Snapfish, so that we can talk about all of the animals that we saw. Maybe we can go back again in a few weeks too. It was free!

Lucas learned to throw food to the ducks

this yak had a really long tongue!

this miniature donkey knew exactly how to ask for food...

Lucas was getting up close and personal with the kangaroo!

sitting like a big boy on a big chair!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Great Start

Lucas in Oct. '08 at the Nittany Lion Shrine!

I just returned from a conference on hearing loss. Great Start is part of the Pennsylvania Low Incidence Institute, which is held yearly at Penn State. The first 2 days of the conference are devoted to hearing loss. Best of all, it was completely free to parents!!

I went by myself, because Lucas is not old enough for the Children's Institute. Maybe next year. I attended 4 sessions, 3 of which were great. The 4th had a misleading title, and had no valuable information for parents, but rather service providers and support coordinators with early intervention.

I thoroughly enjoyed spending a few days at my Alma Mater. I pretended like I was a college student again, walking around campus and visiting all of my favorite places. I met up with two old friends from high school, and even had dinner with a former student who is just beginning her years at Penn State. If there was a time in my life that I could repeat, it would be my years spent in Happy Valley.

The conference also provided networking opportunities for parents. There were about 20 other parents attending, and they organized a time for us to meet one afternoon. I got to talk to Jim from CiCircle again, and that was VERY helpful! He is so full of great information and experience!

I hope I get to go again next year, WITH the whole family this time. I don't need an excuse to spend a few days in State College.

Tomorrow we are visiting Clarke School for the Deaf. I'M SO EXCITED!