Please excuse the ramblings here. While I've often thought of writing about life with two hearing-impaired children, I hadn't quite planned to do it at this point in my life. But I guess it's time.....one never knows when it might be too late. Those early days are a bit of a blur - also it was a LONG time ago!
What do new mothers know around child-rearing? Not a whole lot! There is no manual; there is no prep course. My mother did not live nearby; my MIL did but was not a huge part of the equation. I know now that MILS of young mothers often feel uncomfortable "interfering" with their son's wives. Nonetheless, it was my MIL who first suspected that Andrea was not hearing properly - although she was speaking - just not articulating well and her language at three was not building as rapidly as expected. My husband had been a delayed talker, so no one had seemed terribly concerned, and my pediatrician poo-pooed the concern. Mothers seem to have a sense about problems in their children - regardless. But my MIL put the bug in my ear (pun intended), and so with little (naive) trepidation, off we went to the audiologist!
Crushing news! MIL was right! Andrea did indeed have moderate sensorineural bilateral hearing loss. OMG!!! What the heck did THAT mean? I was in shock, confused, frightened, devastated, and ALONE! Any new mother who receives a diagnosis of child disability of any sort MUST feel the same. I was not at all prepared for this, didn't want it, and didn't have a clue what to do! And I am a DO-ER!!!!
Remember, this was 1971 - no Internet, no easy access to information, no immediate source of help, few resources to pursue. Thanks to the Willie Ross School for the Deaf in Longmeadow, MA, I began the journey. (I actually thought the school could not possibly still be in existence, but just Googled and found it!) They were the only source of info, providing written materials, parent advising, in-home speech and language assistance for parents/child, pre-school classes, and a connection to others facing the same challenges. It was newly established, and at the time they focused on strictly oral communication. With their guidance, we determined that Andrea would attend their own integrated pre-school as well as another local program where she was the only hearing-impaired child.
Whether by personality or disability, however, she was always socially reserved, shy, and adjusted slowly to new situations. She began to make huge strides in communication and social skills, and as a result of these experiences, we decided that she would continue in public school, a decision made early on and one that pre-determined the course of her and her sister's education. They both lived in the hearing world, never signed, and proceeded through public schools and college with few disability resources.
Since Roberta was already born at the time of Andrea's diagnosis, our focus became split: teaching ourselves how to best prepare Andrea for life and finding out if Roberta shared what was apparently a hereditary trait. But we COULDN'T have TWO with the same disability!
That will be the focus of my next post. But I recall that at the time of this initial diagnosis, my husband was going to school full-time in Boston for another degree, changing careers, and largely unavailable to me and the issues at hand. He had his own struggles with commuting to Boston, attending classes, studying, writing papers, etc. He had little time to provide the comfort, share my distress, learn along with me, and be the support that I really needed. Many marriages would not have survived! I'm proud to say that in September, we will celebrate our 45th anniversary - TOGETHER!!!
To be continued......