Today was a good day.
This morning we packed Fiona into the car and headed out to the Auditory Verbal Center (AVC) in the North Druid Hills area of Atlanta. Maybe a 20 minute car ride without traffic.
The AVC specializes in speech and development therapy for infants and children with severe to profound hearing loss. They are not a doctor’s office nor do they perform medical procedures. Instead they focus on the training and development of both children and their hearing parents. The AVC is not a state sponsored program, but strives to be affordable and bills through insurance when possible.
We’ve been looking forward to this visit ever since hearing about it from our friend Zoe. We’ve since heard nothing but good things about the program, and did not leave disappointed.
As we waited in the waiting room with Fiona, Eliza and I had our first experience with children with Cochlear Implants. I won’t lie, it was a little disturbing at first to see young children with small devices attached to their heads. It breaks your heart and makes you feel sad – until you see they are getting along just fine and it’s really no big deal to them.
We were then escorted back into the facility to talk to one of the therapists. I’m not sure what I was expecting – maybe the standard “patient room” with the paper-wrapped bed and a model of the ear on the counter, or perhaps just the standard office with a desk and a dilbert calendar.
Instead, we were brought into what looked like a “family room” with couches and toys everywhere. We were immediately set at ease.
We talked about an hour with the therapist, and ran down a laundry list of questions. We were pretty encouraged by what we heard. By catching Fiona’s loss at such a young age, they have every expectation she will be fully integrated with her hearing peers at PRESCHOOL! Preschool, can you imagine that?
We talked through the process of therapy and got some great details. The flow will likely look something like this:
- On July 2nd we do the hearing retest with the Audiologist at Scottish Rite. (See my earlier post abouts about the ENT and the Hearing Test). Assuming nothing new surfaces there, Fiona will be fitted for hearing aides.
- Soon after she gets her hearing aides, we will begin sessions with AVC. They ask us to come in once a week with Fiona, where they will go through new lessons each week that we then take home to reinforce the following week. I personally am looking forward to checking out their massive treasure trove of fire trucks and airplanes.
- Early lessons focus on major sound distinctions, deep uhhs versus high ahhhs, with cause/effect association to make associations. As the child shows progress, the distinctions between sounds gets narrower and narrower until they reach early speech levels.
- Since Fiona has “severe to profound” loss, its not expected she will hear many of those distinctions, but its rare the child will hear absolutely nothing. They do expect Fiona will get at least some benefit out of this process prior to getting CIs though.
- Once she is eligible for the implant (1 year old), she will resume therapy afterwards with full focus on catching up her auditory speech skills to those of other children at her age. Because this is so young, the catch-up time is now quicker then ever.
- The expectation is she will “graduate” into classrooms with hearing children by kindergarten, and likely even preschool. At that point, her education would proceed at the same pace as her hearing peers. (of course i’m pushing for calculus by 2nd grade ;->).
The AVC is a proponent of integrating deaf children with hearing children, as that reinforces the development of strong language skills. They are NOT a proponent of using sign language after the CI is received, as that weakens their training methods and prolongs the learning of their auditory skills. This is somewhat at odds with what we researched earlier in my post The Great Sign Language Controversy, so clearly we have more research ahead of us. Like most of you, we are learning this as we go along and are still filling in all the pros and cons here.
On our way out we met Samantha and Jonathon from the AVC videos I posted earlier, both of which have Cochlear implants. We had a great conversation and quickly forgot anything was different, it was like any other conversation. It was incredible. Made us feel like we were making a big F’n deal over nothing.
We’ll still have our ups and downs I know, but this helped a lot. Today was a good day.