Thursday, April 12, 2012

advocacy

dyeing Easter eggs!

Wow, it's been a long time. There are no excuses, but several explanations for my blog hiatus. Although I have SIGNIFICANTLY more time on my hands than if I were working, having two kids is keeping me very busy! Mostly though, Lucas's hearing loss journey has slowed down. It has peeked and plateaued. We are right where we'd like to be.

Despite the missing processor that we are still desperately searching for, Lucas continues to progress remarkably well, and especially thrive in his mainstream setting. He continues to take swimming lessons and has started playing soccer. He has lots of friends with whom he communicates brilliantly. He is doing everything that I would expect of a typical 4-year-old boy.

Our biggest buzz word around here lately is advocacy... in several different contexts. I like to believe that I moved into advocacy mode when I stopped grieving his hearing loss when Lucas was 6 months old and I began this blog. Before that, I couldn't read about other children with hearing loss, because it was just too painful. Thank goodness I got over that quickly and began advocating for my child. I believe that this advocacy mode will last for a long time to come, at least until he goes to college and I now longer have much input. He will then have to fully advocate for himself. And those are the skills that we have begun to work on... NOW.

Prior to re-writing his IEP this year, Lucas received services at home from a teacher of the deaf once a week for 3 out of 4 weeks a month, with the 4th visit being at preschool. She now pushes in to his classroom every other week, with her goal being to teach him self-advocacy skills. He is learning to speak up when he doesn't hear, to ask others to repeat themselves, to position himself strategically in the best location in the classroom (away from loud objects such as radiators or music, as close as possible to the teacher). These skills are important LIFE skills, and will be most important when he enters grade school.

Although we're teaching him self-advocacy, I'm still advocating for him from the sidelines. I have mastered the 1-minute here's-what-you-need-to-know-about-his-ears-and-his-needs speech. This has been helpful for swim lessons, soccer practice and church. It goes something like this:

"Hi, my son's name is Lucas and he's deaf. (pause and let it sink in)... But, he hears and speaks really well with his cochlear implants (pause longer this time for the processing of an illogical concept)... I have two tips for you... get his attention before you speak to him, and be as close to him as possible when you do. Don't worry if one of the magnets falls off, because he can put it back on himself, but if the processor falls off, he may need some help positioning it back on his ear. Okay, thanks, bye... and good luck."

I'm also advocating for our local children with hearing loss. By starting a support group, we are helping each other advocate, informing each other about how to give our children the care and services they need and deserve, every step of the way.

Recently I visited my local state senator to speak to him personally about supporting oral deaf education in Pennsylvania. The idea was not all my own, but it made me feel incredibly empowered, like I could truly make a difference on a broader level. What was really cool, is that I took Lucas with me, so he could speak for himself. He certainly left a lasting impression on the senator, who was thoroughly impressed at Lucas's ability to express himself. I got to do some educating on cochlear implants (one of my favorite things to do), and the senator gave me a 100% commitment to writing a letter of support, which was my request. I also encouraged him to continue to support Medicaid in PA, without which Lucas may not have one and would certainly not have two cochlear implants. We would be paying for that first surgery for the next 50 years, and would probably both have 2 additional part-time jobs. He agreed that it was worth every penny the state spent.

Life is good, and we are immensely blessed by this hearing loss journey. It has opened many new doors and experiences, and we've met so many people whose paths we never would have crossed.

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." ~ Helen Keller

3 comments:

Bill and Shelly said...

You know in some ways I miss the days when I could advocate for Jared and Allison, I miss the days of sharing with perfect strangers about Allison's journey and how amazing it is. Life is so normal now that unless Allison's hair is pulled back, you would never know that she had CI's, she speaks so clearly and fluetly. With them being almost 11 and 9 1/2 they pretty much do it for themselves. It is a life lesson that proves to be a valuable one each and every day. I love the fact that my son or daughter can tell someone that they cannot hear them or that Allison can explain what those funny looking things are in her ears.
If you ever get back to Columbus, lett us know, we would love to get together with you and your family again.

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Claireabell said...

Thank you for this post. We are only at the start of our journey (mod bilateral SNHL in our 8 month old little girl) and while I have learnt to be her advocate, I hadn't thought about how she will need to advocate for herself when she is older. I'm saving this to reread as she gets older. Well done Lucas on coming so far, you are inspiring.