A duty, nay, a privilege

I have a friend whose baby was born around the same time as D. Back then she didn’t have a car so when I drove into downtown to go to Whole Foods, she would go with me and stock up on the things our neighborhood stores didn’t carry. We got some healthy food and good company, our babies got a car ride and a ride in a cart.

Once on a dark winter afternoon, as we sat in traffic that inched us closer to home, she told me her son, a year older than Lei, had been diagnosed with ADHD.

I wish I remembered exactly what she said about it, but all I remember is the black sky above and the rain hitting the windshield as I sat there thinking, “That sounds just like Lei.” Continue reading

Can You Hear Me Now?

I love this video of a young deaf woman speaking in her own words about how she feels about being deaf.

Like this family, we opted for both signing and speaking with Lei. It turned out to be a good choice, I think. Lei’s language skills are a good indication that getting language into her brain any way we could was the right strategy. And it’s interesting that the young woman in the video doesn’t view being deaf as a disability, but she would like people to remember that she is deaf and communicate with her appropriately.  Continue reading

School refusal, or what anxiety does when it smells blood in the water

This morning Lei woke up and blew her nose about 20 times. A mountain of tissue accumulated on the bed next to her and she looked at me miserably.

“Mom,” she moaned, “I don’t feel well.”

I could see that, and my heart went out to her. I told her to ask her dad – when he got out of the shower – if he thought she was sick enough to stay home.

As she waited about five minutes for her dad, Lei became more and more miserable. She groaned and held her head, blew her nose another score of times, and ran to the toilet to throw up a bit of bile.

By the time my husband got out of the shower, Lei was a complete mess. Fat tears rolled down her cheeks as she told him how terrible she felt and that she really couldn’t go to school today.

But I had watched her emotional state escalate from “I feel cruddy” to “Going to school will kill me dead.” I could see what had happened: she smelled blood in the water.  Continue reading

Speech and the Language Sundae

Buffy: "Stop new wordage? Never gonna happen."
In addition to being bouncy, our speech therapist Buffy was also into slaying anything that interfered with speech and language development.

A playful area rug on the floor, a foot massage with fragrant lotion, a little song performed as though Lei’s toddler feet were microphones: thus began her early speech therapy sessions. Her speech therapist was petite, perky, blond Buffy, a person worthy of sharing a name with the Vampire Slayer. Her approach to speech therapy was to get the child’s nervous system regulated, to give them all the sensory input they needed, to get the muscles of their mouths and faces all working in perfect concert, and only then work on speech. She was (and is) the best.

All this laying of foundation taught me something about speech and language.

Continue reading

From the archives: This I believe

In 2004, my brother emailed me that I should think about submitting an essay to NPR’s then new series, This I Believe. About a year later, near the end of my daughter’s second year of life, this playful reflection is what I wrote. I never did submit it to NPR, just posted it to my long-defunct blog, Today in the Life. Anyway, enjoy!

Someday they really are going to grow up.
Someday they really are going to grow up.

I believe that housework offers its own reward, and those who perform it are bounty hunters.
Continue reading

Doctors, fairy tales and oxytocin

You know what happens when your car is making a weird noise and you take it to the mechanic? Right. Nothing. Suddenly everything is smooth as silk and the noise has mysteriously gone away.

Lei has always been like this. No, she’s not a car, but when she was a baby she could have a high fever, or never make eye contact, or emit a horrible high-pitched shriek all day every day, but as soon as we were in the same room with a doctor, she was golden. Bright, alert, looking that doctor straight in the eye, as if to say, “I’m the healthiest, happiest, milestone-hittingest kid in the world, doc.”

And the doctors mostly thought I was extremely neurotic. It was great.

Continue reading

Can’t you see? Inklings of life as a deaf visual thinker

The other day my husband was telling Lei to come to the dinner table and not sit back down at the computer. She had her CI processor on and it seemed to be working, so he figured she could hear him. But she walked steadily towards the computer as he repeated, “Lei, please don’t go to the computer. Lei! Please come to the table!”

No response, no change in trajectory.

Finally Hubs got a bit impatient and took Lei’s arm. “Hey! I’m talking to you! Why are you completely ignoring me?!” I heard the commotion from the kitchen and came in to see what was happening.

Lei was upset with him for grabbing her arm. “Why are you grabbing me? I didn’t do anything wrong! I was going to sit at the table as soon as I got a sheet of paper from the computer desk.”

For the millionth time in Lei’s life, I wanted to tear my hair out, wondering WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST SAY SO?

Continue reading

Group work and the deaf, gifted learner

Maybe if Lei could work with people more like her, group work would go better.
Maybe if Lei could work with people more like her, group work would go better.

In the multi-purpose room all the fifth grade families are sitting at lunch tables, listening to a presentation that explains about the Big Group Project our kids are about to start working on. I am grumbling under my breath.

Group work is my daughter’s nemesis. This is one of the areas where the challenges of being deaf and gifted complicate each other so much that two plus two seem to equal five.

My daughter attends an International Baccalaureate (IB) school. Her school is great in a lot of ways – organic food, inquiry driven learning, top-notch IEP team – but all the emphasis on group work puts her right up against one of her biggest weaknesses almost every day.

Continue reading

Doctors I’d like to kick, or why Lei didn’t get a newborn hearing screening

When I took Lei to her three-month well check-up and told our family doctor that she hadn’t had a newborn hearing screening yet, he checked it for me right there in the exam room. What a cool guy.

He stood in front of me. Lei perched on my lap, facing him. He extended his right hand to Lei’s right ear and rubbed his fingers together so that a very slight shhhh sound was produced. She turned towards his hand. After repeating this highly scientific evaluation on the left, he pronounced a finding of 100 percent normal hearing.

“She can hear just fine, see?”

I’m not a violent person, but I do sometimes fantasize about finding him and kicking him in the head.

Because that is not a hearing test. It’s not. It’s not even a screening. It’s really a test to see if a baby will be curious about why you have put your hand outside their peripheral vision and what you’re doing over there.

Continue reading