I have been reflecting on Robert and his hearing loss/ deafness over the last few months. I have been feeling convicted that I needed to hurry up and make some decisions in regard to his language. For those of you that don't know, we got Robert when he was born, I brought him home from the hospital. In fact I was there when he failed his hearing test and again days later at the longer hearing test when they told me he was Deaf in his left ear and had hearing loss in his right ear.
I didn't have a bad reaction to learning he was Deaf. Maybe partly because he was our foster son and I hadn't spent the last 9 months dreaming about him and who he would be? Maybe because we had always wanted to adopt a child who was Deaf? I had always had a big passion for sign language. Maybe it was because he wasn't completely Deaf? We were told he had some hearing in his right ear. Maybe it was becuase I have had a few foster kids with many medical issues and the news of a diagnosis just doesn't phase me in a devastating way but rather a "we need to take action" kind of way. Either way...I just went with it.
At two months old Robert and his 1 1/2 year old sister Katie left our home. I thought that was the end of our story with them. But 11 months later they came back into our family. So when we got Robert back at just over one year old we started teaching him some basic baby signs. We of course encouraged him to speak orally as well.
Robert picked up some sounds and started signing back... food, water, milk, all done etc. It was so encouraging. Then a few months before his 2nd birthday he got a BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid). We really started teaching him sounds and words. We saw improvements he responded more to us calling his name and understood more.
I have to say with all of the excitement of the BAHA and encouraging him to learn new words we put sign language on the back burner. Not intentionally but a few months ago I was realizing that here we are with our little boy over 2 years old and no real way to communicate. He isn't really speaking and he isn't really signing. He knows just a little bit of each.
This conviction has been on my heart. We have been trying to get through some behavioral struggles and at the same time trying to bond with him. He has had a lot of frustration and I always wonder how much of that is his hearing loss or other factors.
Lately God has been putting ASL in my life like crazy. It has been on my mind, I have been seeing it on TV shows, hearing stories from other people and I even dreamt in ASL a few times. :)
So, I have started teaching it to all the kids more and we put up visual cues around our house. On our cupboards, on the walls, doors etc...We have been watching Signing Time movies and getting connected with support groups both online and locally.
I have seen a huge improvement in our little guy. He is signing a few words back, or at least trying and giving him the visual communication has helped a ton. I think I always felt torn, like I am in two worlds, or rather he is. He isn't completely Deaf and he isn't completely hearing. Maybe I felt silly before doing signs with the idea that he could hear. We know he can hear but I am still confused as to what degree. Either way, I was really touched by a statement that Rachel Coleman with Signing Time made. I heard her say on an interview that her advice to new parents is always this...*"Kids need a language by the time they are three years old. Speech is a skill to be learned and they have their whole life to learn it but kids need a language to identify with." *(paraphrased)
This really backed up what I had been feeling convicted about. Of course our little guy will pick up speech and we will encourage it but right now I need to connect with my son and communicate with him and he needs to communicate with the world around him.
I have to share that the feeling of finally seeing him understand and communicate back in a positive way is heart melting. I think so much more he ran with the group and followed the other kids but now he has his own voice. I am able to tell him so much more. He doesn't just see the kids running to the dining room table but rather I can sign "go sit at the table" and he understands. What joy in that! It sounds silly to say but seeing the work being put in and then watching him respond is HUGE.
Praise God for providing me with more ways to help my kids. Our other littles have embraced it and love talking to me in sign language now. :)
I feel confident that this is the best for him now. I feel more control as his Mother and happy about the direction we are heading.