I remember the days when getting Lexi to hear and talk was about all I could handle in a day. After being missed by her healthcare professionals, after not being diagnosed, after missing nearly two years of speech, we had to train Lexi to hear with her cochlear implants and to also use spoken language. Any easy undertaking? Absolutely not. It was and still is one of the most difficult things I've ever done.
Until Middle School.
For so many years, hearing healthcare professionals, cochlear implant and hearing aid device companies and hearing programs/researchers spent most of their time learning how to get deaf/HOH kids hearing and talking. But, now, we're in a day where kids are getting implanted and aided. There are thousands all over the world mainstreaming. It's SO BEAUTIFUL. Kids who were born without the ability to communicate with the mainstream, spoken language, hearing world full of sound around them, can now communicate, hear, talk and listen! MIRACULOUS!
Now, trends have shifted to how these kids learn; how they keep up with academics; how their brain processes information and so much more that directly affects their education.
When Lexi was in Kindergarten, we were like "check, check, check! She can hear, she can talk, she is caught up to her peers."
But little did we know, soon, third grade would come when we realized language became much more complex. She would go from learning to read to reading to learn. Gaps from that two-year language delay would present themselves.
So, we addressed that. We visited our amazing Dr. Emily Lund at TCU (Vanderbilt grad who has been Lexi's speech path since she was a toddler) and we tested Lexi's non-verbal IQ score. How smart is Lexi naturally? What's her intelligence so we can compare LEXI TO LEXI... So we can continue to help Lexi achieve HER greatest potentials and not the status quo of all children with hearing loss.
We learned that Lexi is intelligent, but her standardized test scores at school weren't really telling the same story. More testing with Dr. Lund revealed gaps in her language development and the parts of the brain that had a deficit in sound/language stimulation. Quickly put, her bank wasn't as full as it should be.
So, we put tutoring to work and caught her up in success strategies, writing and reading strategies and all the things to help her maneuver through 4th and 5th grade.
NOW, HERE'S WHERE IT GETS FUN.... MIDDLE SCHOOL.
We are just crazy enough that not only did we go from a young girl in elementary school to a young lady in middle school, but we also changed schools. We also transferred to a very rigorous academic school. We also went from a system that was much more online (even most of the books) to a very book, binder and independent learner institution. (enter my head exploding!!!)
This was what was absolutely the best decision for both of my children. But the transition, combined with the social "thangs" that come with middle school, has made my brain hurt at the end of most days. At our former school, I had helped build her medical device plan. Here, I'm rebuilding. I'm advocating, training, educating and helping Lex to be INDEPENDENT.
I'M SO SO SO GLAD we made this move. I am seeing that Lexi had huge gaps in being a critical thinker---something that has always been a strength in her pitching/softball career, in her ability to make social decisions and her ability to manipulate me and Kevin to get out of trouble (grin, haha)!
But isn't the goal for all of our kids this: to be independent. To reach potentials. To get the job/career of their dreams. To live independently as adults. To navigate a crazy world and be able to make decisions that will not only keep them safe, but to CONQUER life helping others in the very same way they were helped???
YES. YES. YES.
So this week's blog, I'd like to share. Share some tips from our massive, wild, crazy transition which has covered every lesson in adversity, and also, ironically and inexplicably given us HOPE.
Middle School Tips, Topics and a little Jaime Love for You:
1. We CANNOT STOP LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT, LIKE EVER.
- Never stop READING
- Never stop NARRATING EVERYTHING YOU DO. Continue acting as a radio commentator. "I have to go to the store. I'm going to purchase, or buy, a full list of items. The store is a chain. Do you know what a chain of stores are? Did you know each chain has a headquarters and employs thousands of people?" ... make sure you're introducing new language in ways that their brains can understand.
- Our kids were taught in buckets to talk, try to give them every natural language opportunity to continue to fill buckets
EX: Lexi is in 100000 activities, yet there was an opportunity for her to serve on the tech crew for the play. Guess what I heard when she got into the car after a 4-hour play practice? She WAS PROUD of her knew language understanding telling me all the things she did with an emphasis on the NEW WORDS she learned. (Made me proud!)
FIND WAYS, SOCIAL GROUPS, NEW ACTIVITIES with new language!
2. SOCIAL, RELATIONSHIPS
- This is an area where my heart nearly stops. I am learning to let go a little, but never stop giving guidance. My greatest fear is someone hurting her or not dating her because of her deafness/cochlear implants.
- Remind them, tell stories, about relationships from your past and present -- and how these people were so kind; so caring; so thoughtful and how those people impacted your life.
I will take time to point out what an amazing relationship Lexi has with her dad, Kevin. I always tell her how much he loves her and how whomever she dates one day, should see her through those same eyes. I remind her that those are Godly eyes and she deserves this and so much more.
- TEXTING/social media - remember, our kids may not fully understand some of what the other children their ages do because of the language and comprehension gap. I'm not sure what to say here, other than be PRESENT. Check their social media accounts. Talk to them about their texts.
I'm actually considering taking texting down to a very bare minimum and having Lexi FaceTime her friends to increase her ability to communicate. Yes, she can talk, but she needs to learn to talk THROUGH things.
3. ACADEMICS, TEACHERS, ADVOCATING
- Don't ever, ever stop advocating. Remember, you were the one person in the whole world who was given this job. God chose YOU.
- Send weekly emails to teachers (like every Monday or Friday) when they expect it. Let them know you're sending tips and not judgements. Remind them this is for your child.
"Good morning! I'm sending a weekly update to let you know how Lexi's tutoring is going. I'm also going to try and give you one tip/fact about children with hearing loss.
DID YOU KNOW: even a mild hearing loss can cause a child to miss up to 40% of classroom instruction?
This week in tutoring, Miss Kimberly advised that Lexi is still trying to get organized with her studies. IF you could take just a moment to review her planner today for the week, that would help out. I ask you charge her or task her with making sure to use her planner as a checklist and to plan out her study time each day...when she will get her homework done so she can have social time."
So that's it for today. I will continue this MIDDLE SCHOOL topic because, God willing, I have two more years after sixth grade!!! If I make it (grin), I need to share so you can find peace knowing we're all in this together!
LOVE YOU GUYS!
Email me for copies of Lexi's academic testing/results, topics you'd like me to blog about or just to chat at firstname.lastname@example.org for a guide to success!