Monday, August 23, 2010

She's Got Skillz! - Part 2

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If you missed Friday's post on my first tip-toes into conversations about pre-school, head here.  Otherwise, read on...

Li'l Empress's unilateral hearing creates some unique (to her) circumstances that make pre-school this year (at the tender, early age of JUST 3 - gasp! Sigh.) a really important consideration.  Now, I'm no expert on hearing or hearing loss, nor am I academically equipped to give you all the technical jargon for what happens inside Li'l E's head. But AS I UNDERSTAND IT, the ability to effectively tune out background noises and TUNE IN to important (and sometimes even urgent) sounds is a skill that must be developed over time. It does come naturally to some degree, as she's never known anything different. But it also has to be practiced and developed. It's been a conscious effort on our part to change some of our environment to aid her acquisition of these skills, and she's been quite successful here in the safety of our home setting. And if there's a set-back or regression in her handling of the noises of home, we all re-adjust or tighten up some of our habits. It's been a safe place for her to try, to experiment, and even to fail. None of this has been terribly conscious on her part but we see her growth and her efforts regardless. The progress and the change in just two years has been fun to experience together.

This mechanism that she is developing and honing continually requires tweaking and adjusting even within the consistency (at this point in the summer, my older kids call that monotony!) of our home life. When our home environment changes significantly for any length of time (for example, when we had my sister and her family here for 5 days), she has to almost "re-calibrate" the norm that she is experiencing. Or rather, she has to re-calibrate how she functions in response to that environment. At this stage of her life, that shows up in moodiness, exhaustion, or anxiety. In fact, with the unusual schedule and pace we've kept this summer, we have also seen some regressions in her separation anxiety.  (That's a post for another day, trust me!)  

So, while she is perfectly capable and successful at "knowing" what noises are background (sibling chatter, dishwasher running, etc.) and what noises are crucial (Mommy's voice, Shaggy's drumming :), Daddy's car in the driveway, Kai Lan on the tv!) here at home, "knowing" the difference between other kinds of noises elsewhere is a skill she must acquire to be successful in school and not experience any regression in her hearing and communication skills. Now, this may be a really dumbed-down description of the type of processing that goes on when Li'l E hears environmental noises, but it's the best way I can summarize the research I've read and the clinical discussions I've had with her therapist, audiologist, and ENT. Introducing her to the school environment (at the tender, early age of JUST 3 - gasp! Sigh.) seems to be the best move for Li'l Empress. It seems to be a tried and true means of introducing her to the next level of acquiring the listening skills needed for the eventuality of the elementary classroom. (Sigh. I can't ignore or deny the information, no matter how hard I try.)

AND, (because it can never just be one thing at a time when parenting children!) that's all ON TOP of the normal skills that pre-schoolers are adding to their repertoire. Shaping and molding her strong will toward  submitting properly and respectfully to our covering and authority. (Have I mentioned before? She's the strongest willed of all five of our kids. By FAR and away!)  Teaching her some age-appropriate emotion-management skills. Guiding her choices and figuring out the delicate balance between independence and reliance. Being as consistent and present as possible with her for all of it. Those are tasks set out before me that, in and of themselves, make me want to cower in my bed and delay the start of yet. another. long. day. by another hour. Or two?! Put all of it together, and that's just for one kid?! Oh, but wait. This post isn't about me.  Hee, hee. Gulp.

Yeah. So. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Pre-school . . .

So, we made the decision to put her into the local E@ster Se@ls pre-school program for two mornings a week.  I have so much more to share about the process and the different reactions we've had to it all.  In fact, I think I might make this a multi-parted series of posts.  Not because I have any great wisdom or knowledge to share. But because I really hope that what we are learning can help someone else. Because I learn so much from all of you and your insights and comments. And because writing it all out like this helps me process and think through the journey - hopefully saving me struggles on the learning curve for future adventures with this little one.

Parenting a special need child, parenting any child really, is something that none of us should be doing alone. I've said many times since we chose to pursue a Waiting Child adoption that I feel like I've gone back to college, given the amount of academic-type reading and information-gathering that I've done in the last three years.  This conversation about pre-school is not one I'd planned on needing to consider when I was researching microtia or unilateral hearing loss (or when considering our history of not "needing" it with the older kids), but it's been valuable and terribly interesting for me in the process.  No matter where Li'l Empress falls in the continuum of special needs, no matter what success she has or doesn't have going into the new school year, the skills I've been gaining along the way have been very useful.

And not surprisingly, I've learned a lot about a few other areas of life that are sure to help this momma as I grow in my role as her advocate and biggest cheerleader. That's coming up soon. . .


Chris said...

Yep, 'we' mommas are or should I say..need to be...ready to grow and learn and adjust to our children's needs at all's a constant..isn't it??...this growing thing???....on our part???

And yes, three does seem young...deep sigh...
I remember when I was advised to enroll Shea into a pre-school environment when she wast three. It was hard. She was only home with us for a few months...but, she needed to be around other kids to help her with speech development.

Look forward to your future posts!!!

heidi @ ggip said...

As someone who also just knows a little bit about hearing loss,I think you did a great job describing it. It makes perfect sense that Lil Empress go to preschool to get some of those skills and learn to deal with those emotions of separation anxiety etc.

Obviously you can't answer this on the internet, but what town is your E-aster S-eals in? Is it going to be a far drive to take her?

Trish said...

I remember putting a crying Michael on the van for his first day of preschool and getting a sound asleep little boy off three and a half hours later! It was a difficult experience, even though he had been in childcare before, because I knew they would really be stretching him to interact and learn.

But in the end it was so worth it to hear his voice again and have him be able to finally communicate to me what he wanted (he has absolutely NO problem telling me what he wants now - all the time!)

Kudos to you for being flexible and informed. Blessings!

Wife of the Pres. said...

I'm so there with you on this preschool thing. We sent our boys b/c I just thought it was the thing to do. GASP. Seriously, I regret it.

Now here we are sending LM, but she is almost 5. And she just needs more than I can give her here at home while schooling the three older boys and keeping Li'l Dude close.

I can't believe btw that Li'l Empress is three already. Wow, time flies.

Aus said...

Morning GM - with you 100%. I'm pretty dang deaf w/o my aids - and you are spot on with learning how to process the different amounts of data in different environments! Every time I get the aids tweaked (or new ones) it can take me a week or more to 'adjust' in my ability to process all the new data. (Do you have any idea how annoying crickets are at night? Probably not - but only because you've been hearing them all your life and learned to filter it out!) And - 1) I'm an adult and 2) once upon a time I had normal hearing so I had already mastered this skill!

Starting her slow with pre-school will give her ample time to learn these new skills (emotions are the worst - I get fussy for a few days when I've got new ears) with out the added pressure of falling behind in her work! Couldn't agree with your decision more!

hugs - aus and co.

a Tonggu Momma said...

I still struggle with auditory processing, so this post really spoke to me.

The Drinkwaters said...

" I grow in my role as her advocate and biggest cheerleader."

Well said!

BTW - I came to visit your blog via the No Hands But Ours site.