Thursday, October 23, 2014

hearing, language, choices.

it seems that I've had about thirty conversations in the last month about shilo's hearing, and our choice to not use hearing aids (for now), as well as using ASL as her first language.  some of the conversation has been because we had another sedated abr, and there was a new audiologist who delivered the results.  some was a result of going to a conference for parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.  and, some are because shilo will be three in a few weeks, so she ages out of early intervention and into the school system.

so here's some more information for those who are interested.  first of all, there is a whole community that some know exist, and some don't.  it's the deaf community.  in this community, being deaf or hard of hearing is not seen as something that needs fixed.  the adults in this community are just like the adults in any other community.  some went to college.  most of them have jobs.  they raise their children, go to soccer games, and have hobbies.  they might use apps on their phones to help make doctors appointments or to help with ordering in a restaurant.  but, they are perfectly capable of functioning in the world, just like everyone else.  some of them choose to use hearing aids for themselves or children.  some don't.

most hearing parents who find out that their child is deaf or hard of hearing choose to use hearing aids, have cochlear implants, and to work hard to make certain their child speaks.  the view is often that being deaf or hard or hearing is something that needs fixed.  for people who are hearing, it's hard to imagine functioning in a world where hearing, and speaking are the norm, and not having those things.

our personal view lines up more with the deaf community.  while shilo has some hearing, and we have hearing aids for her, she doesn't like to wear them.  matter of fact, without them on, if their is a loud noise, she puts both of her hands on her head and makes a whiny noise, or sometimes cries.  she is completely overwhelmed by loud noises.  hearing aids just amplify this.  so for her, her hearing aids cause her to feel overwhelmed.  she stops playing or interacting.  most of the professionals we have worked with have pushed us to have her wear them as much as possible so she will get used to them.  we have followed her lead and decided that if they are overwhelming for her, we aren't using them for now.  some day, she might change her mind. 
also, while this isn't always true, because people with Down syndrome are individuals, and there is no one thing that describes everyone with Ds, often times, people with Ds can be hard to understand.  they have low muscle tone, and it's harder for them to move their mouth and tongue in the ways needed.  people who are deaf or hard of hearing also, often times, have trouble with speech because they don't hear certain sounds.  for us, this meant that it was possible that shilo would have extremely hard to understand speech as a result of her Down syndrome and being hard of hearing.  our goal for her was communication.  we wanted her to be able to communicate her wants and needs easily.  so it made sense to us to have ASL be her first language.
at this point, we are not working on speech with her. I don't foresee it being something we do in the future, either.  we still talk to her while we are signing.  she still hears music, and watches signing time that is both signing, speaking, and music.  we are not preventing her from learning oral language.  however, we are also not willing to spend hours of therapy every week trying to make her imitate sounds.  i'd much rather we use that time for motor skills.
so at this point, shilo's communication is almost all through ASL.  (she verbally says, mama, papa, go, and Abigail sometimes.  however, she signs those things more often than saying them).  she actually has a vocabulary on par with that of other three year olds, and uses two and three word sentences.  she uses feeling words, and blows us away all the time by signing something we had no idea she knew.  just like all toddlers, she has some words that are the same, and we have to figure out in context what she is saying. 

we know that everyone makes the choice for their child that they think is best.  I am not saying that people who choose to use hearing aids, implants, and/or oral language are wrong.  but, for whatever reason, every conversation we have about hearing, language, and the choices we have made based on what we are doing for Shilo, I have to defend it.
here's our defense:  we love our daughter.  we are the ones who spend more time with her than anyone else out there.  we know her.  we have tried to do what is best based on what we have observed from her.  it's working for her, and our family.  i'm going to assume that the majority of people I meet are doing the same, whether it has to do with hearing, schooling, or the millions of other things, we, as parents, have to make decisions about.  if you could make the same assumption about us, we would appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

the weaning of the tube: part 2.

a while back, I shared that we were doing a somewhat aggressive tube wean to attempt to get shilo to eat food by mouth.
the wean began on june 15th.  in the beginning we did weekly weight checks.  she lost weight.  also, once all daytime calories were gone through the tube, we would attempt to get some extra calories in by pushing a blend through the tube once she was asleep.
on august 9th, we got the official clearance from the dietician to stop the night time calories.  in a little under two months, shilo went from every sustainable calorie being through a tube, to everything she eats being by mouth.  (she still has not figured out how to drink so the tube is still in use for all liquids and meds).
I can't even share how well this went.  there are families who spend months, and even years attempting to get their kids to eat enough to not use the tube.  our only magic potion was working hard to follow shilo's lead-which meant, 'don't try to feed me.  i'll do it myself.'  we still have to cut everything up, and give her one bite at a time, but none of this seems like that big of a deal.  six months ago, shilo didn't know how to swallow.  at all.  and now, we have to buy her, her own meal when we go out to eat.
there are days where it feels like life has always been like this.  but, most days, I am in absolute awe of the fact that my child is eating by mouth.  she has no true texture aversions.  she doesn't like cold, and we are working hard on getting her to eat fruit.  so no ice cream (unless you warm it a bit in the microwave first.  weirdo.), and we are continually offering her different fruits over and over again with the knowledge that lots of children have to try things multiple times before the decide they like it.  we're making progress as we started out with no fruits, and she will now eat all types of melon, banana, and grapes, and is willing to humor me with a few bites of plum, kiwi, and strawberries before she refuses them.
she has favorites, like most toddlers.  (pasta of any sort, as you will see in the photo below). and there are meals where I have to remind myself not to get upset or panic that she didn't eat much, because all toddlers do this.  she puts food in her hair, and gets it all over herself.  her weight is more than it was before we started, and she's grown 1/2 an inch.  she tells us when she's hungry.  if she sees someone else eating, she asks for some (or attempts to grab it out of their hand or off of their plate).
I really hope this gives others some hope that their child will likely eat some day.  it may not go as easily or as quickly as it did for shilo, but it's possible!!