When a family of a deaf or hard of hearing child successfully access appropriate services in their home community, they often have a team of professionals supporting them. Here is the Smith family’s story of how many hands have helped them access services closer to home.
**This story is from our archives. It originally appeared in our newsletter in early 2002. This version has been edited for brevity.**
When our journey started nearly a year ago, so many family members and friends were there with support, encouragement, love and prayers to help us along the way. Never was there a quiet moment with our busy and bright Brianna, unless she was sleeping. She was so self-reliant and quick to learn, yet her speech appeared to be delayed.
Somewhere between the ages of two and three, we began to notice that when we called to Brianna, she would not always respond unless we were close by, and on her right side. We would get comments from others such as “Oh, it’s selective hearing”, “She’s just speech delayed”, or “She’ll be just fine.” Still there was something that just didn’t sit right with us. Sure, she had speech, but it sounded like a language all her own at times.
First we visited our family doctor to share our concerns. From there we were sent to a pediatrician. After the initial checkup, and question and answer period, he agreed with us that Brianna might have a hearing problem. There seemed to be little or no response from her left side. The pediatrician immediately made arrangements for hearing tests with an audiologist. On our drive home our emotions were taking us on a wild roller coaster ride. Was this really happening? During the 4-week wait for the hearing tests we paid very close attention to Brianna’s activities, responses, and communication skills. Our instincts definitely seemed to ring true.
The day arrived for our first visit with the audiologist. The roller coaster of emotions had returned. As I observed the testing I could feel my eyes welling up. Quietly I held back my tears. I just did not want to hear what Diane, the audiologist, had to say. There’s no way our little girl is deaf! As Diane spoke, I released all my tears. I could read those same tears in her Daddy’s face, yet he remained strong and composed. In a very warm way Diane shared every little detail about Brianna’s testing. Brianna had bilateral hearing loss. She had moderate to severe loss on her right side, and profound loss on her left. We were given wonderful advice and booked our next hearing tests.
Over the next 2 weeks I cried whenever someone asked about Brianna, and her 10-year-old sister, Selina, cried along with me. How could I/we get through this? What will people say? How will others look at our daughter? How is Brianna going to deal with this? Personally I felt helpless, yet the inner me knew that our family was embraced with so much love. Funny how a situation takes hold of one’s emotions. This wasn’t about me, this was about a family. Jim shared with me the importance of accepting what we were given. Brianna had more or less accepted this, as she didn’t know any different, and now it was our turn. We began to share this information with family and friends. Each time we spoke about Brianna, the tears diminished.
Our second trip to the audiologist was easier on all of us. We had started to understand how important it was to get Brianna all the help that we possibly could. Ear moulds were made, and soon we had a pair of loaner hearing aids. Brianna showed instant awareness of the new sounds around her, and was very good about wearing the hearing aids regularly. We had already begun to teach ourselves sign language on the advice of our pediatrician. Brianna seemed to catch on very quickly to signing.
We also got information on how to contact the B.C. Family Hearing Resource Centre for assistance. Through the Centre we were assigned Judy, a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Sharon, a Deaf Sign Language Instructor. About 3 months into our journey, a friend recommended that we contact the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre for in-home support. Since then we have had a tremendous amount of support from that facility. After four months of using the loaner hearing aids, Brianna was fitted with a pair of digital hearing aids. The audiologist was pleased with how much more Brianna could hear with this new technology.
Now into our tenth month, so much has changed for Brianna. We use total communication, and she has quite a large vocabulary, both oral and sign. She asks for her hearing aids each morning, and has also learned to listen. We have also started using an FM system. Brianna likes to use the computer several times a day. She attends preschool twice a week, and will go 3 times a week next fall. We know there will be a lot of peaks and valleys as our journey continues, but feel that we have enough support to carry us through whatever comes.