CI Activation

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Crazy Cool Teacher Conference

Earlier today, Sean and I met with Thomas' oral preschool teacher and SLP for a mid-year conference and review of the updated CASLLS assessment. Before I say anything else, I have to admit my skepticism of public school offerings for our little man. I was apprehensive at the beginning of the year because this is the first time that the public school system in our area has offered a completely oral preK option for hearing impaired kiddos.

Today my skepticism is GONE! WAY, WAY GONE...a big shadow in my rearview mirror. The teachers and SLP have done some truly amazing work with Thomas and our conversation today was so comforting, reassuring and quite joyful. In fact, we were scheduled to talk for only 30 minutes but, these women allowed Sean and me to talk with them for almost an hour. Their fondness of our little man was apparent and it truly made my heart sing with delight.

So, here is the skinny:

CASLLS Assessment
Thomas has made some great strides to catch up with his hearing peers, children that have been able to hear from birth and that learn new things at a very early age. With Thomas' EVA, we don't truly have a hearing age for him other than his CI implantation, which was roughly two and a half years ago. While he still has some significant gaps in his expressive language and complexity of language, he has made HUGE (or as Thomas would say 'gigantic/enormous/immense/massive') strides in his language since August of last year. In fact, he has mastered or has generalized quite a bit since he started the public school program.

He still has lots and lots of work to do. However, I need to remind myself to focus on the positives such as:

He is asking 'why' questions and is answering these type of questions with 'because' responses.

His use of questions is continuing to grow, almost daily.

He is much more engaged in conversations and continues to negotiate things all.the.time.

He loves, loves, loves to learn almost to the point of it being a problem (for me). He wants to do things correctly and wants to take as much time as needed to figure things out. He wants to understand everything...that's his dad in him (smile).

He talks all.the.time...sometimes over people who are talking at the same time, sometimes missing things that I'm telling him because he already wants to move on to something else to talk about or to negotiate because he doesn't like my answer.

His speech is pretty great...we have a dedicated audiologist that reads him so well during audiological testing and can negotiate with him better than I can. Yea for a good map and an awesome audiologist! Also, a big high five for an SLP that helps him develop his auditory memory and and AVT that has trained me on how to correct him when something is not correct...yea team!

Some things that were suggested by his SLP for homework.

Hedbanz -- a game that makes children ask questions about a card that is on their foreheads. Then they guess what the item is. Here is a link to the game available at Target for only $10. Yahoo, a cheap game for us to play.

Barrier games -- using auditory memory skills to accurately place pieces in a correct sequence or situation. I'm researching some options to purchase for new therapy (I mean home) toys.

Continuous noise hide-and-seek -- use your iphone or something else that you can play a song or have a consistent noise going on. Hide the item and ask the child to locate the sound. We have a monkey that I can use a remote to go on and off to help him use his listening skills to locate. Lord knows that if I put my iphone someplace, he will want to find it and then sit down to play games on the phone for the remainder of the home therapy session.

I have to applaud these wonderful women and Thomas' school. I had TONS of questions regarding the CASLLS assessment. They are using true rigor when scoring Thomas on the assessment, not giving him any benefit unless they have written documentation of him using vocabulary. They asked me to continue to collect home samples of language so they can validate it through school work (as a former healthcare communications person, I love this idea! Using the home facilitator as a way to expand and validate in another environment...kudos to them!). Now to get my handy spiral notebook out so I can chronicle things...note to self here: put a notebook in the car so you can write down when Thomas says the Pledge of he did this afternoon while driving to his grandmother's house (smile).

Academic Information

He is ready for kindergarden...what did I just say?...yep, his teacher said that he is academically ready for kindergarden even though he still has next year of PreK. His SLP agreed. Did I tell you that this kid loves to learn? He works so hard to grasp an idea or concept and they are so patient with him, allowing him time to figure things out. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!

The most uplifting thing that I heard during the meeting...and I'm paraphrasing because I didn't write it down word-for-word..."Thomas is ready for kindergarden. I have to sometimes remind myself that he is just four years old. He will be in a mainstream class in a year and a half. I won't see him in my classroom at kindergarden," Thomas' preschool teacher said (or at least what my husband and I heard).

How crazy cool is that? Thomas is in the "right" place...he is learning tons...he is happy...which means that Sean and I are happy. It was a crazy cool parent-teacher-SLP conference.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Crayons in a Crayon Box

With every new year, it seems like our family makes changes. This January is no exception...two big ones were made. One I'll share about in this post.

I've written previously about how I haven't been head-over-heels in love with Thomas' mainstream preschool. One thing that I've come to trust is my "mama gut" and it was telling me that Thomas wasn't in the right place anymore. So back in October, I got Thomas on the waiting list for a preschool that was recommended to me by a dear friend. You know "that" type of friend that you truly trust to give advice and opinions -- she is an awesome woman! Anyway, the preschool FINALLY had an opening.

I went down to meet the teacher and to talk with the director again earlier this week. I loved the new teacher. She is gregarious, loving, patient and more than anything she really wants Thomas in her class (and yes, she knows that he is hearing impaired). So, Sean and I decided to make the move. I spent about 45 minutes yesterday with the teacher, director and another staff member walking them through Thomas' technology document that I put together, how everything works and what to do in case of a problem. I also took them through the backgrounder that I created for Thomas' IEP meeting. When the teacher saw the photo of Thomas post CI surgery, she started to cry and looked at me with the sweetest wasn't sympathy it was empathy in her eyes. It was so cool.

When Thomas got home from his auditory/oral preschool, this was our conversation:

Me: Hey, Thomas. Please come sit down. I want to talk to you about something important.

Thomas: Oh no, do I have to go to timeout.

Me: No sweetie. It is something different that we need to discuss.

Thomas: Oh, okay I'll come sit down next to you.

Me: Do you remember the school that we visited a few months ago? The school where you went into the classroom and made a special new friend very quickly?

Thomas: Yes, I remember it.

Me: Well, how would you like to go to school there instead of Light of the World? Now, you would still go to WA Porter and have Ms. H as a teacher. Does that sound good to you?

Thomas: Oh yes, Mommy. That sounds like a great idea.

Me: Cool, you get to start going to the new school tomorrow. Is that okay?

Thomas: Yes (with grin and excited look on his face)! Thanks Mommy...I love you (then he reached out and gave me a big hug).

I took him to school this morning. He was a little shy at first but, quickly got into the swing of things once he put his backpack, lunch box and folder into the correct places. The teacher introduced him to all the kids in the class. Thomas would say hello, shake their hands and declare that it was nice to meet them. Once circle time began, I was asked to sit at the front of the group and talk with them about Thomas' technology. I have to admit that I stole the idea of talking about differences as with crayons in a crayon box from my friend, Tammy.

I began by saying that everyone is different. Everyone sitting on the rug looks different, just like all the different colors of crayons in a crayon box. No crayon in the same box is the same color. I then asked Thomas to come sit on my lap.

I asked the group this question, "What do you think is different about Thomas?" They all threw out things like his hair is brown, not like mine. His shirt is blue, no one else has a blue shirt on, his shoes are different than mine, etc. Finally after about 5 answers, a little girl in the front row said, "Well, his ears are different." I said, "You are a really observant young lady. His ears are different. Thomas can you show them your aid and implant?" Thomas turns his head and says, "This is my hearing aid." Turns his head to the other side and says, "This is my cochlear implant."

Even though I know that it isn't technically correct to compare the two, I told the class that just like people wear glasses to see, like me (I wore my glasses to the preschool), that Thomas wears his implant and hearing aid because they help him to hear. I got a big, "OH!" from the group. I then asked if anyone had questions. All the hands that were raised were to tell stories about how they had someone in their family that wears glasses or what their favorite color was, etc. They REALLY DIDN'T CARE that he was different. They just accepted him into the class.

As I walked to my car, I thanked the Lord for giving me the "mama gut" feeling to change schools. I thanked Him for such a great start at a new school...and as I drove away...tears of joy streamed down my face.

We are all like crayons in a crayon box...unique...and just like us all...Thomas IS DIFFERENT!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hangin' with Carnies and Cowboys

It's that time of year again...the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is here. Sean and I took the kids yesterday to enjoy the festivities. What a wonderful opportunity it was for our little man to explore vocabulary and actually work on his balance (via the rides and wacky shacks), too. Here are just a few of the pictures of our family fun.

Thomas and the Moo-Brothers

The kids faces when we reached the top of the ferris wheel.

The view from the top of the ferris wheel...hence, the kiddos' reactions.

Sid coming down the long slide. Thomas was too short to ride this one.

Thomas driving his "monster truck."

Sid ready to go around on the swings (this would be enough to make me toss my cookies).

Sean is such a good daddy...squeezing into the airplane with the kids.

From planes to helicopters.

Enough of the carnies, bring on the cowboys!

What a joyful day it was...yep, we will be going again this coming Saturday for more fun!

Monday, January 9, 2012


Birdville ISD is updating Thomas' CASLLS assessment for the mid-year. I was asked to give a list of Thomas' most recent utterances, not full conversations.

Some things I noticed while typing up the list. Thomas continues to leave out helping words in his sentences. He will ask questions with inflection rather than a question word at the beginning of the sentence. He has started to again leave off the "s" at the end of some of his words (making note for mapping discussion with his audi) and he is using "tired" words...sounds like Mom needs to be a walking thesaurus yet again.

Here is the list that I provided to his AWESOME teacher:

1. We need to go to the car wash, Kiki. Your car is very, very dirty. You need to make it clean.

2. Look Mom. These crackers are square. You can help me eat them.

3. Not sing it, Daddy. You read it.

4. I got to eat three crunchies and one sandwich. Okay?

5. Mom, I want to ride that scooter not this one.

6. Cydney, let play baseball.

7. I'm first. You can be second.

8. Hey, Mom. Watch me do a scooter race. Ready, set, go!

9. See? I go fast then I put my leg down like this. It my brakes.

10. I can promise you.

11. You can help me with this one, please.

12. Please bring the computer laptop right here by me.

13. I'm collecting carrots to feed the bunnies.

14. My room is green and Sidney's room is blue.

15. No thank you. I just making my own train track.

16. No. First I need to clean both cars real quick. Then we can go to the restaurant.

17. Hey, Mom. You twist this water open for me, please.

18. Okay, I' gonna beat you again this time.

19. I need a bat and a shoe and a clock and a dog.

20. Sidney, you need to play Kinect right now. I already told you to do it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Guess Who!

So, our new favorite "therapy" toy (other than the iPad 2) is the game, Guess Who, which Thomas got for Christmas from his awesome Aunt Kellye. My sister used this game with her youngest son years and years ago. Soon I'll write a blog post about the cool iPad apps that can be used for therapy.

Anyway, this game is really wonderful in helping a hearing impaired child, or any child really with:

Pronouns -- Thomas is about 75% accurate in his use of he/she and him/her. This game allows for self-correction or correction by Sidney, Sean or me.

Inclusion/exclusion -- closing the doors of the objects that don't match the description and leaving the doors open for those that do.

Asking questions (we break the rules and allow open-ended questions) -- our little man has a bad habit of leaving off the question word at the beginning of the sentence, many times simply using voice inflection to get across his question. This game forces him to use "does" "is" "what."

Reasoning -- identifying which questions are appropriate to ask, including the most recent question from Thomas, "Does your appliance use electricity?"

Attributes -- not only does this game use people it has boards showing appliances, monsters, types of faces (young/old), expressions, etc. It is wonderful to see Thomas' vocabulary expand by changing out the different game boards.

Speech -- we can correct his "l" "r" "w" and his blends as we play the game.

Following directions/taking turns -- as with any game, there are rules to follow and turns must be taken to stay on track.

The game says that it is appropriate for ages 6 and up but, we started using this the day after Christmas. It has been so fun...our next game to open up is Zingo.