October 15, 2009

When Silence is NOT Golden

It's pretty simple: Hadley wears her hearing aids when she is awake and keeps them on all day. I disagree with the idea that kids need a complete break from their hearing aids; yes, listening and discriminating words is a tougher job for them, but there are alternatives to just turning off sound entirely. Hadley presents herself to the world as an oral communicator, no different than any other typical kid. She speaks, she responds, she hears, she listens, she discerns: to then have times during the day when she isn't expected to listen is contrary to all of this.

But I do recognize that listening and learning through hearing aids is exhausting. Just like any parent responds to their child's highs and lows, I make sure that I respect Hadley's need to sit and chill- especially after a full day at school or coming home from an activity. She'll curl up with a book, find a quieter corner of the house, play outside on the swing, or play in her room. Some days it's just for five minutes, some days longer. However, the hearing aids stay on. Whether conscious of it or not, she's learning how to find those quieter moments during the day when she rejuvenates, where she's tuning out the sounds of life-- but not turning them off. Suggesting that she just solve the problem by limiting her hearing denies her the opportunity to learn a life skill that most of us just acquire naturally (not to mention being a safety issue).

OK, so the hearing aids stay on all the time...what's my point? Last night, in a particularly chaotic moment when Hadley needed peace to complete her homework and her brothers wanted to do nothing other than sing and play their instruments, I shocked myself by thinking, "She could just turn off her aids for a few minutes of quiet." It would solve the problem, right? Her brothers could do their thing. She could finish her work. I could get ready to go out for my meeting without interruption. What harm could come from this?

I stopped myself though. Asking her to turn off her aids to get some peace solved my problem and, indirectly, hers. It made my life easier, as I didn't have to stop and figure out another solution. It might even make her life easier at the moment, because she could fly through the rest of her homework and have more free time. But my job isn't to always make her life easier, and no one benefits if I take the easy route myself.

The aids remained on. The jam session was postponed until later. Two 2 1/2 year old boys were redirected to another activity. I stopped looking at the clock and took a seat next to Hadley, who finished her homework without further interruption. Problem solved, hearing maintained.

October 1, 2009

"I don't have special needs!"

That was the first thing I heard my daughter say to me this morning. This is the downside of having your child read over your shoulder while checking email. I recently signed up to receive newsletters from specialneedsparentscoach.com, after receiving a link to the site as a recommendation from another parenting group. Who doesn't need tips on how to better balance life, handle daily demands, or find time for yourself?

Well, apparently I don't. Hadley began to detail all the reasons why she doesn't have special needs (mind you, she wasn't even wearing her hearing aids at the time; she had literally rolled out of bed, grabbed them, and happened upon me before she put them in). She can talk. She can read. She can behave. She likes playing with friends. She was going down some internal list of special needs categories so fast that I couldn't get a word in edgewise. Finally, once she was calm and wearing her aids, I explained to her why I was interested in the website. (It might help me be a better parent to her and her brothers. It might help me create more time to do fun stuff. It might make me feel better that I'm doing the best that I can. It might give me good information to share with other parents.) What I actually said to her was I was curious to see what was on there. With that answer, she stopped reciting the medical list and moved on to more central matters (what was available for breakfast and were her brothers getting into any of her things).

This 60 second encounter kept me thinking all day. The term "special needs" isn't one that we use, but clearly one that is familiar to her...and she's formed her own opinion on it. I could tell her that, technically, she is not a child with special needs, since she's on a 504 Plan. I could go the other extreme and tell her that we all have different needs that are special. I could attempt to force a conversation about why she reacted the way she did...what she thinks of the term "special needs"...if she thinks she needs additional support because she lives with a hearing loss... The possibilities are endless.

Or, I could say nothing for now. Not everything Hadley says or does is about her hearing loss, even when it's as seemingly obvious as a hard-of-hearing child complaining about the label "special needs". I'll watch, I'll wait, and I'll listen. We might wind up having one of those conversations sometime soon. We might end up talking about being overly dramatic and making every single situation about herself (aka "the next ten years of her life"). As much as I may want some answers, this might be a time when I should not be the one asking questions.

(And, that website, specialneedsparentscoach.com? I didn't subscribe to the service, but I have read through some of the free materials. It's worth checking out, especially for parents who are early on in the journey and are still developing a support team for themselves).