Tuesday, November 28, 2006

To ASL or Not To ASL



Here is a picture of Ethan signing "Dad", his favorite word.

As many of you know, I'm a member of a few different online support groups that consist of parents of deaf children. They have been a tremendous help for me by providing me with up to date information on everything implant related as well as emotional suport. One of the parents on Ci Circle recommended this site for ASL and I love it. It's really fun because you can see signing in various categories and you can also quiz your knowledge. Click Here to see it!

We continue to use ASL and even learn new signs with Ethan. Many people who are raising young children with Ci's stop using sign in favor of a strong auditory approach, so this has been a controversial issue on my various lists. Those in favor of the auditory only approach even go so far as to site various studies showing stronger test scores and other success benchmarks. I struggle with this sometimes because we obviously want the best for Ethan, but I'm not convinced that they are right. The teacher in me wonders if test scores are really the best indicator of aptitude anyway, I'm more convinced when I see critical thinking skills and problem solving rather than a good test score. How can having a manual language foundation be anything but a huge help for learning spoken language? Studies have shown that children that are raised in a bilingual environment are slower to learn each language (they're doing twice the work) but that they eventually catch up and can then surpass the skill level of their peers.

I think we'll follow Ethan's lead. We're definitely planning for him to get by entirely on spoken English rather than ASL, but if he continues to use sign with us we aren't going to shut him down. What if he grows older and wants to become part of the deaf community? He might want to meet other deaf people his age or look at a deaf college someday, who knows? There is a local boy who was raised orally here in Athens and now he is attending a college for the deaf in Rochester, N.Y. His parents have said that he no longer wishes to speak and only wants to be around his deaf friends. This is a boy who was raised speaking and attended a mainstream public school! I find that pretty interesting.

This won't be easy, but I think we're in for a great ride with E-Boy.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Zoo Trip



We were in Cincinnati last weekend and decided to take Ethan to the zoo. It was a beautiful day, just a bit chilly outside with a gorgeous blue sky. What a great time to go, hardly any people in the way!

Ethan LOVED it! The first thing he saw (and HEARD!) were the Gibbons monkeys and they were really putting on a show. We could hear them in the parking lot, they're very loud. Ethan pointed and laughed and never took his eyes off them. The first picture is his face after looking at the monkeys and the next picture is Ethan watching the gorilla's.

He is doing really well, vocalizing constantly (even without the implant on) and we are hearing different types of sounds coming from him, mostly variations in pitch and tone rather than consonent vowel combinations. His "hearing age" is only 1 month, so that's about right on target I guess.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 17, 2006

WOWZA!!!


We took Ethan to his audiologist in Cincinnati yesterday and he effectively blew her mind as well as ours! Ethan tested in a sound booth and did so well (hearing as low as 30 db!) that our jaws were all hanging open! He has a map that is really working for him and now all we have to do is go back once in awhile for fine tuning. It can take months to get a map as good as this one, so we're thrilled to find ourselves at this point so early in the game. He is hearing everything, even if you talk softly several feet away, he is hearing it!

This is my most "thankful" Thanksgiving EVER!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

10 Days of Hearing and Counting


Even though Ethan has been activated since October 10, I feel like he has only really been hearing since we saw the first response to sound 10 days ago. Last week he was tested in a sound booth and detected speech at 60 decibels, which they assured me meant that he is hearing conversation. Since he has only turned to sounds like clapping and rattles, I wasn't convinced until the test was done. Now that we realize he can hear us speak we are really talking up a storm and saying his name a lot.

Today he vocalized more than ever. We heard him vocalize the M all day long, but by evening he was making the N sound. It was very distinct too, no mistaking it! This is seriously cool people!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

He Hears! He Hears!


Yesterday we went back to Cincinnati to see the audiologist and get a new map for Ethan’s implant. The map is a specially designed set of instructions that tells each electrode how to stimulate the nerve endings in the cochlea. The audiologist connects his implant to a computer that programs his speech processor. The computer also performed an NRT test, or a neural response telemetry test. This just makes sure that all of the electrodes (there are 22) in the implant are correctly stimulating the auditory nerve. He passed that test with flying colors!

So the big news is that Ethan reacted to sound! The audi played a very annoying wood instrument behind him and he immediately started to scream and cry. I was able to calm him down and several minutes later she played the noise again. He reacted the same way, cried real tears and was very upset. You would think I’d be all smiles seeing first hand that he was hearing and responding, but I was too consumed with his unhappiness to really appreciate what was happening.

Ethan cried this morning when Rich put his processor on, not a good sign. I think we needed to give him more time to wake up because we tried again one hour later during therapy and he did really well. His therapist played all kinds of sounds and called his name from across the room and he turned several times to see what the sounds were. I’d say that he detected 90% of what she did during the session. Tomorrow she’s putting him in a sound booth so we can get more quantitative information since what we have so far is fairly subjective.

So now we are just going to have to remind ourselves to keep his environment free of too much background noise so that he can really learn to detect and distinguish sounds. We’ll have to “take him to sound” and really focus on teaching him to listen. Lots of work ahead of us, but the rewards are going to be fantastic!!