Monday, March 31, 2014

Cochlear Implant versus ASL

I'm having one of those moments of serendipity, and I feel compelled to share it.  Thank you for allowing me to indulge.  So, you all know how mini SP 2.0 was all set for his Advanced Bionics cochlear implant surgery on a week's notice, and when the doctor went in to implant it, he found his inner ear was full of gunk which he was thankfully able to clean out, but prevented him from implanting the hearing device?  And how I was pretty upset by it, but realized that there must be a reason why this would happen this way (I know there are some who don't like to hear that whole "Everything happens for a reason" line, but there comes a point in a preemie mom's life when you just have to grasp onto something, and that works).

Well, yesterday we figured out the "Everything happens for a reason" thing.  We were out to lunch with some friends for Mr. Spray Pal's birthday, and we stopped into our favorite bakery for dessert (insert big shout out to Blackmarket Bakery here).  As we were sharing our snick @ night cookie sundae, Dave pointed out a lively group of young couples actively chatting and signing with each other.  One of the members of the group was Deaf/hard of hearing and his girlfriend was signing and translating for him, and the rest were chatting and signing interchangeably.  As the parents of a deaf child, we start to notice these things and sometimes stare in admiration (and admittedly with little bit of envy) as they so easily communicate with one another.

As we walked outside to leave and we were standing out front saying our goodbyes, I asked Dave if we should go back in and see if they could teach us some sign language.  Even though we are pursuing cochlear implants for our son, we would still love to encourage sign language as another means to communicate.  We've been doing some basic signs with him since he's been home from the NICU, just as we did with our hearing, full term baby girl when she was little.  I've also been using a few online ASL video dictionaries to learn and use a few other signs, but self-learning really isn't the way to go when it comes to ASL, I don't think.  I really, really want to learn it properly.  I've searched for local classes, and we've met with the local school district that will be working with Ryan after he turns three, but there aren't a lot of resources out there for us to learn ASL.

So, as I was convincing him to go back inside and talk to them, they came out and we're standing right in front of us!  I couldn't resist.  So, we walked over and introduced ourselves and I asked if they'd be willing to meet with us and give us lessons so we could learn ASL and teach it to our son.  They were such a sweet group of people and they were SO completely excited to meet Ryan.  And on top of all that, they were totally willing to meet with us to just hang out and immerse ourselves in the ASL language.  I gave them my email address and waited to hear from them as anxiously as if I was back in college waiting for a guy to call.

When they emailed me today and said they'd love to plan a meet up, I just knew it was meant to be.  Every bit of it.  Ryan's cochlear implant delay, the fact that just days after surgery we were in the right place at the right time to find this amazing couple, and then their willingness to help us learn ASL.  It's amazing how your heart just buzzes with excitement when things like this work out.  Now we'll have 3-4 months for Ryan's ear to heal before we try the implant again, and in the meantime we can just learn as much ASL as possible to help improve our communication.  We are beyond excited and blessed.

To tie in the title of the post, I just wanted to share that we are very aware of the controversy in the Deaf community surrounding the cochlear implant.  I've been doing loads of research since the day we found out that our son had profound hearing loss in both ears, and we did not take the decision to have him receive the cochlear implants lightly.  But, as his parents, we feel that it is important that we give him every opportunity to hear at such a formative age, especially when he's already dealing with so many global delays on top of a visual impairment.  All of his tests and scans show that his ear anatomy is normal, and he is the perfect candidate for a cochlear implant.  We do not want to discourage the use of ASL as another accessible language, though.  And we hope that as he gets older, he will find his own belonging in either the  Deaf or hearing culture, or better yet, both!  We hope to teach him acceptance and a non-judgemental perspective, and we hope and believe that he will receive the same treatment from his peers, no matter the function of their ears.