His Ears

It often feels like I’m living in two worlds – the adoption world and the Deaf world. If we could only find a support group for adopting Deaf children we’d be laughing. Oh, to dream…. (if we could find a support group for just adoption I think we’d hit the lottery…more on that another time)

Trying to balance both these worlds and be a part of both and learn and know and do the right thing with both and meet both world’s needs all. of. the. time can get a teensy bit overwhelming. (This is why Gord is so good for me, he mellows me out. Sometimes, I’m even able to mellow out and just relax and enjoy it all without over analyzing and over thinking everything all on my own! No seriously I can do it. Sometimes)

Jonathan being Deaf (he has Cochlear Implants (CI’s), or as he calls them ‘my ears’,but at the end of the day he Deaf, he can hear not a peep without them) is something that we didn’t bat an eyelash at when we were considering adopting him. Ok, maybe one eye was batted briefly while we discussed if we had the skills to raise a child who couldn’t hear. What initially happened through was I told my boss we had put in our application for adoption and she immediately told me about a boy she was doing respite for who was in foster care. She showed me his picture (big no no but….). It was Jonathan. He was vacuuming. She said ‘he’s Deaf’. I said ‘how perfect’.

It had a little full circle sentiment; I had wanted to be an ASL interpreter at my first go at college. The first year of the program was strictly learning the language. It was intense – every class was in ASL, all my teachers Deaf. It was a sink or swim situation. I loved it, I ate it up. And at the end of the year, I had a very solid language base. I even clearly remember having a conversation with one of my teachers about Cochlear Implants, a pretty new technology at the time and very controversial (still is). I didn’t continue on to become an interpreter (long story) but I never lost my love for ASL.

A quick background: Jonathan was born Deaf and at two years old when placed in foster care he had no language and no signs. He was given bilateral Cochlear Implants at two and a half, basically rendering him bionic and very cool. The foster family he was living with at the time, were not exactly…well I don’t have nice things to say so we will skip that part. About this time last year however, he ended up with an amazing foster mom. He had almost no words, no signs and he was one frustrated little dude. Within 8 months, when we met him, he had started talking and was signing. This mom I tell ya, she did so many great things for him.

People often talk about biological age and cognitive age. In hearing we talk hearing age. Basically Jonathan is at a hearing age of two years old. Even though his hearing age is technically 2, he’s really only been using his ears consistently for about a year, making his progress in speech amazing. In one year he’s learned 2 years or so of language! The boy is a freakin’ sponge! He tries soooo hard to repeat words every. single. time. I’ve ever asked. He soaks up new signs like it’s going outta style and he just wants to chat and know about everything. No doubt he wants to communicate and wants to learn and this will carry him far.

When we are at home and it’s just the 3 of us it’s somewhat easy (ahem, in terms of communication). If I can’t understand what he is trying to say we can usually figure it out quickly by gesturing, pointing, signing and Gord and I both decoding jumbled chatter through context. But that’s where easy street ends.

A lot of the time, it’s hard.

His Deafness, CI’s and his lagging speech effects how Anthony interacts with him, how other adults understand him (they have to turn to me for interpretation), how we can’t have a conversation in the car because I can’t see him and signing is how I get 50% of what he’s saying (I swear I’m going to crash one day soon I turn around so often) how he is either stared at by other kids at the play ground and not asked to play or when he is asked to play he doesn’t understand them so the kid/s think he’s weird and run off. I’ve even had an adult stop pushing her cart in the store and stare right at him mouth agape. I kid you not.

Do I care most of the time? Not really. Probably because Jonathan doesn’t seem to notice or connect that the stares and ignoring are because of his CI’s, not yet anyway. And some days the stares and the whispered comments are handled with grace and understanding on my part; I jump in to make others feel more at ease before they can judge too harshly…and other days they are handled not so well (lady in the store with cart I hope you learned your lesson!)

When compared to his peers he is lagging dramatically (hello reality check when he’s with a 2 or 3 year old!) But for where the little dude started, he is doing SO good. His thirst for knowledge of the world around him, his effort time and time again to learn is astounding. And nothing gets by him. Nothing. I have become soooo stealthy at sneaking cookies midday I should get a prize. He’s learned to be so observant and he wants to know EVERYTHING.

All in good time my little firecracker, Johnny Rocket, Johno, Johnnyboy will you take off and take the world by storm (ok let’s face it you kinda have already). No doubt you will go far and one day you will be able to tell the lady pushing the cart to shove it all on your own. Ooooh I can’t wait;)


This is getting long but I wanted to share a funny story. I don’t think Jonathan was connecting that he could hear sometimes with his ears and why he couldn’t without. I started telling him he was Deaf we’d chat about it but still, didn’t really get it. One night after his bath (he doesn’t wear them in water) I stood behind him looking into the mirror. I put his ears on and as he watched me in the mirror I went lalalalalalala and slowly pulled his ears off. He could see my lips moving but couldn’t hear me anymore. He whipped around looking at me and screamed excitedly and started laughing We did it again and again with different sounds etc. and he kept exclaiming so happily “mommy can’t hear deaf!” I think he finally got it:)


17 thoughts on “His Ears

  1. I’ve long left behind the notion of assessing my children against their peers or what they “should be doing”. Progress is what I look for, each step in the right direction is what really matters and it’s sounds like you’ve got plenty of these. I have the up most respect for you coping with all the chaos that adoption can bring and then on top of that dealing with your son being deaf. Making the much need attachments is hard enough with children who can speak and hear, for you the mountain is greater again. Sounds like you are doing amazingly well and as much support as we can offer you here and on twitter you are welcome too but know it doesn’t always replace the having a coffee and a chat for real. The “mommy can’t hear, deaf” gave me goosebumps. x

    Thank you for linking to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out

    • Thanks Sarah…Gord and were joking last week what a breeze it would be to raise ‘normal’ kids, but how boring! Haha. And don’t doubt that I don’t feel the support on here and Twitter – it’s been so amazing and comforting. Thank so much for reading, again!

  2. I know that it’s still a growing organization in Canada, but have you looked into whether there is a Hands & Voices chapter/group in your area? I ask because it is an amazing support group for hearing parents of deaf/Deaf children, as well as providing a wonderful group of peers for our children. As school boards and families phase away from the Deaf residential schools of the past, more and more our little people are so isolated from their actual peers, which is tragic. As an adoptive mommy, I don’t think I could ever send my little Deaf boy off to boarding school, given the trauma and attachment issues that we face, but I grieve on his behalf for a culturally and communication supportive peer group for him. Anyhow, all that aside, Hands & Voices is an incredible, parent-driven, organization and, while this may just be true of my local group, the adoptive percentage is really high. I don’t know if it’s because Deaf children end up in care at such high percentages, when compared to children in their own age groups, but there are several adoptive moms raising children that joined their families through adoption in my city’s Hands & Voices group.

    On a totally selfish note, this post grabs my heart so much and, maybe what makes it even worse, I read and desperately wish that this was my son’s story! There’s a social worker on my “If I never see you again, it’s the best thing for us both because I’d probably hate myself for the things I’d say” list because of how horribly this person failed my boy. Though he was born Deafblind, they pulled the “no implant until he is old enough to make the decision for himself” move, which is a valid decision, but only if they had placed him in a home that signed! My poor son learned his first sign at 4 and, while we did a single implant at age 5, I grieve deeply for the language and communication that he was deprived of. He spent the first 4 years of his life completely isolated and the frustration levels that he faced kill me.

    • Thanks so much Elizabeth – I have just joined Hands and Voices here in Alberta and actually attended my first meeting earlier this week! They are an amazing support of wonderful people and although just getting off the ground here in Alberta/Calgary they are mighty! Although it’s missing the ‘adoption’ part people there are very interested and supportive of that part of our journey as well so I hope that I can build some networks and friendships through them.
      I heard a couple stories similar to yours this week at our HV meeting – it’s so brutal that bureaucracy and lack of knowledge makes kids loose out. Sounds like he’s got an awesome advocate now in you:)

    • I know that it’s a lot to ask for and will never happen but wouldn’t it be nice?! I have actually just found a pretty good support for the Jonathan’s hearing stuff and this online community of bloggers and Tweeters is very awesome and supportive on the adoption side…well on every side for that matter! Thanks for stopping by:)

      • I’m glad you found support in those places. My now adult son has a rare neurologic disorder and there isn’t a support group and when you add in being adopted it’s hard to find someone else who understands. We keep on keeping on though.

  3. It’s hard enough to find good adoption support groups isn’t it, let alone adoption and…. anything else.
    It sounds like Jonathan is doing brilliantly, and you’re giving him the best possible support. Long may it continue x

    And thanks for sharing with the Weekly Adoption Shout Out x

    • Thanks so much Vicki. As I wrote above, this online community is very supportive and very appreciated. Thanks for giving me and so many others a voice and chance to share:)

  4. Hi Lindsay,

    I’m enjoying your posts. You sound like a super mom, and at the end of the day that’s all that counts. Can’t wait to meet that little man one day!

  5. I came across your blog today via the link on The Adoption Magazine’s site and am kind of amazed with your posts so far. We just finished our home study in Calgary ourselves about a month ago for public domestic adoption, and I kind of had to laugh here, as I went to college to be an ASL interpreter as well 🙂 Looking forward to further reading, and just wanted to thank you for an insightful blog!

    • Hi Kat! I’m glad we found each other! Thanks for your kind words:) Congrats on finishing your home study…such a relief isn’t it?! I find there isn’t much of a local adoption community in Calgary so if you ever want to chat let me know! Where did you go to school for interpreting? Is that what you work in now? Thanks again for reading!

      • Lindsay, I’d love that – the chat that is! Sometimes the process seems so slow and it’s hard to find people who understand what’s going on. We were slowed up more waiting an extra 6 months while they decided whether or not (they went with no) I had to have a US intervention check as well, though we’ve lived in Canada more than ten years! We did our training right after yours actually, in March. I know when you did yours from stalking your blog. 😀

        I went to school at Columbia College in Chicago – I was planning on teaching at the IL school for the deaf after graduation, but then met this crazy Canadian boy who convinced me to move home to Alberta with him. Somehow, along the way, I wound up working as a writer (go figure the roads life takes us down) instead.

      • Those Alberta boys…they getcha! Haha Wow, I can’t believe it took 6 months to figure that out. The system astounds me sometimes. My email is lindsayabunting@gmail.com if you want to have more of a chat that way or in person let me know:)

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