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:)