Roberta was four months old when we learned that Andrea was hearing impaired. It was indeed a difficult time. And I felt immensely alone! (Absentee husband due to his career change goals and subsequent grad program required long days of travel to Boston and back; when he WAS home, he was holed up in the basement studying!) We needed to learn quickly how best to promote communication skills in Andrea, and I still had to care for an infant.
And I was desperate to know that our baby had normal hearing! Testing began almost immediately - at my insistence. So at 4, 7, and 11 months, her hearing tests were "inconclusive!" Small comfort there! The axe fell at 13 months on a day I will never forget (but I do forget the date). What I remember most was how I reacted once in the car with the two girls. I completely broke down and sweet Andrea said to me, "Mommy, what's wrong?" The only way I could make a 4 year old understand was to reply, "Roberta needs to wear hearing aids too!" to which Andrea said, "Oh, goody, now she'll be like me!" How sweet! But for a mom, this was devastating news.
So once again, thanks to the Willie Ross School for the Deaf in Longmeadow, MA, we received training in assisting our children with language acquisition, speech and articulation through play, and other activities to encourage and enhance communication. Willie Ross was an oral communication school for the deaf, so we were naturally encouraged to teach our children the tools for oral language, rather than signing. What did we know? N O T H I N G !!!!
But as preciously stated, this decision turned out to be the best one for our girls - they will tell you so today. I'm not sure how that will play out in the future, if/when they are no longer able to see well enough to read lips, but it was correct then and still is.
The early years were tough! When Andrea was five and Roberta 2.5, we moved from MA to RI - where my husband finally found a job in his new field of hospital administration. Three+ years of little income (I substitute taught on occasion) were fraught with tension of newly discovered child disability, absentee husband, career change, and now a move to a state where we had no family, no friends, no ties at all.
But the move to Cranston, RI was a blessing! We landed in a cute little neighborhood with lots of kids and friendly neighbors who became fast friends over the years. Children of all ages played together on the street, in our homes, and the families socialized frequently. It was safe and fun for all of us! Although there was a neighborhood school, where Andrea attended kindergarten for a few months, services for the hearing impaired were provided at another local school, so that was arranged for her first grade. Roberta went to the local YMCA for preschool. Mrs. Jean Wilson was the invaluable teacher of the deaf through most of the girls' elementary school years - in a pull-out program - for speech and language and as liaison between us and the teachers. It was wonderful! And she was the mom-substitute for me. I could call her at any time with questions, concerns, etc. And Mrs. Hoffman was Roberta's pre-school teacher for three years. She was another godsend!
Mrs. Wilson passed away when Roberta was still in her care in elementary school - a sudden and very untimely death. We all mourned her passing forever - since the replacement left something to be desired, and neither the girls nor I liked her very much. Thanks to Jean Wilson, both girls were quite independent and by that time needed less assistance and instruction. Besides....both girls at this point HATED both the replacement and the very obvious attention and impression being taken out of class made on their classmates. So while IEPs were always in place for both of them through their public schooling, they availed themselves less and less, and that worked!
The constant interaction with neighborhood kids, who accepted them wholly and helped them in every way, was a bonus. I am forever grateful to Mary Joan and Earl, Linda and Joe, and Marcia and Joe for their tireless support of our family. And the move to RI brought me to a mother's group at the RI School for the Deaf that changed my life, even though the girls were never schooled there.
To be continued.......!