Thursday, August 27, 2009

Aiden's Learning to Listen Workboard and Calendar

About a month ago, I saw this calendar from Ben's mom and this family workboard idea from Brigg's mom, and immediately knew I needed something similar. I wanted something that my family and I could look at as reminders of what we needed to do to help Aiden achieve his current goals. I wanted to create a sense of responsibility (I am a HUGE list maker type of person) not only for myself, but for the entire family. We had strayed from reading Aiden his 10 books a day plus I felt a big burden on my shoulders (especially since I stay home with him and am his main "therapist"), to get it all done by myself.

This is the family workboard I created and have hanging in the kitchen. I'm lacking in the creative department ... nothing too pretty, but quick, easy, and cheap.

Sorry it's sort of hard to see (not sure what's going on with my camera lately) but here's what it entails:
  • Poster board and four foam backgrounds with self adhesive backs, foam shapes used as note holders, velcro strips, paperclips, markers, and cardstock.
  • The top left is a reminder to practice the Lings. I glued on twelve velcro strips to the foam ... six on top and six on bottom and then a velcro strip onto six pieces of cut out cardstock with a Ling written on each. If they're moved to the bottom, we know that Aiden responded to all six that day. If not, we know which Ling to recheck throughout the day. Once I get my printer working I'll print out a picture representing the Ling and then laminate to help it last longer.
  • The top right is a copy of the WASP sounds (learning to listen sounds) with the appropriate object representing the sound. I have about four pages of sounds we're working on, so I just rotate between the pages each few days.

  • The bottom left contains our theme for the week. I glued five foam stars onto the foam background, then I use cardstock (or index cards) to write the theme we're working on, some key vocabulary words to use, activity ideas, a song we may be working on, and the key phrase(s) we're working on. I use a paperclip to clip them onto the stars so I can change them out easily each week. Again, once I get my printer fixed I'd like to put laminated pictures up with the key phrase or vocabulary words it pertains to. This way, I can reuse the cards for other themes or when we revisit a particular theme.

  • The bottom right provides everyone with a reminder to READ, READ, READ to Aiden! In the beginning, we all shared in this. Aiden's daddy and I read 3 books each to him and his brother and sister read 2. But we've all slipped and need to get back to 10 a day. I have a basket that contains books related to whatever theme we're working on, which everyone is to read at least one of these books and then can choose any of the others.

Each time we start a new theme, I sit down with the family and review the activities and vocabulary we're working on. This way we all feel a part of Aiden's progress. His brother and sister play such a HUGE role in Aiden's journey and they don't even realize it. Aiden absolutely LOVES them and is very receptive to any play time he gets with them.

The other thing I did to help keep myself planned and organized is start a weekly calendar for all to see. I loved this calendar Nolan's mom created, but knew I had no art skills and wasn't about to try and cut out all kinds of shapes (seriously ... you should see the sheep on this week's calendar - very scary indeed). I also loved Ben's mom's calendar, but I needed something smaller showing just a week at a time. So when I found a dry erase weekly calendar board at Target, I knew it was for us. In fact I love it so much, I went back and bought another one to keep track of Aiden's siblings activities. I plan out our week on Sunday night and talk with Aiden each morning about our main activity for the day. I also took pictures of his therapists to hang in photo magnets, which I place on the day we see them.

Aiden loves our family workboard so much that I'm going to take Leah's calendar idea and make it into a felt activity board. This is another fun interactive way to practice his learning to listen sounds (using printed pictures glued onto felt), sing songs, or tell a story! Oh, and I just saw this calendar idea from Tayten's mom, which is another great idea as Aiden gets a little older. What's great, is that with all these different ideas, I know I can easily change up what I'm doing as Aiden gets older.

Do you have a calendar/activity board you use? If so, I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quiet Time

This morning,
Aiden and I walked his sister to her second day of third grade.

Then came home and drove his brother to his first day of eighth grade.

When we returned home,
we played baby,
and read a couple books.

We practiced the Lings,
and just lounged around a bit.

It's my second school year as a stay at home mom.
I miss my job, my friends, and meeting new students,
but I am enjoying my children,
like I never have before.
I feel blessed,
and am very thankful.

Aiden is taking his morning nap.
Floors are swept, laundry is done.
House could be vacuumed,
and I should start planning dinner.

The house is completely silent.
It's been a busy, yet very fun summer.
So I think I'll just enjoy these first moments,
by myself,
doing what I want to do,
engulfed in silence.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Heard That!

One of the very first things I learned from the wonderful Miss Helen (the very first AV therapist I met with after finding out about Aiden's deafness) was to point to my ear whenever I heard something, in order to condition Aiden to do the same. She taught me that when Aiden was with me and we heard any sound what-so-ever, I was to point to my ear and say in a very excited manner, "I HEARD THAT! I HEARD THE PHONE RING (or whatever it was I heard)!"

So I did. Everywhere. Everytime. And by the time Aiden was 8 months old, he too would sometimes point to his ear as if telling me or his audiologist, "I heard that!" (and I catch myself doing this ALL THE TIME with the hearing kids in my neighborhood!)

Another time we use the whole pointing to the ear is when we're practicing the Ling Six Sound Check, which is a way to determine a cochlear implant's effectiveness. These six sounds (ah, oo, ee, sh, s, mm) indicate a child's ability to detect all aspects of speech. If Aiden is not consistently responding to one or more of these sounds, he may not be hearing across the range of frequencies, and therefore missing out on important sounds. This indicates to us that something is wrong with his mapping (programming) and an audiologist appointment is needed. Therefore, it is critical we practice the Lings everyday. In fact, I practice it with both of Aiden's implants on in the morning, and then again after his bath, at which time I rotate every other night between the left and right CI, to check each ear on it's own.

Since Aiden still cannot tell us verbally whether or not he hears these sounds, we have been conditioning him in other ways to show us he hears them. One, as mentioned above, is to point to his ear. After I voice a ling sound and Aiden shows some behavioral response, I point to my ear and say very ecstatically, "I HEARD THAT! (then repeat the Ling)". We have also been conditioning him to perform a certain action when he hears one of the Lings (such as drop a block into a bucket or put a stacking ring on its base). The ultimate goal is to get Aiden to imitate each sound when he hears it, but right now he will only imitate /m/, /ah/, and sometimes /oo/, but not very seldom.

Well ... all this explanation to preface the fact that AIDEN IS FINALLY POINTING TO HIS EAR WHEN HE HEARS THE LINGS!!!! He has always pointed to his ear when hearing an airplane or mowers outside or daddy coming home or the cats meows etc., but never to any of the lings! We have always relied on behavioral responses or the little bit of imitation he gives us.

In this video I do not point to my ear until he points to his, to reinforce his actions. I also cover my mouth the whole time (even when I'm not voicing any sound) so I know he's actually hearing me and not seeing me talk. You will also see his favorite sound to make is still "mmmm"!

(Make sure to turn off the music to the left before playing.)

Another thing I've been doing with Aiden the last couple of weeks is to ask him if he wants milk or juice as I point to each in the fridge. The last couple of days we've been getting some variation of "milk" (sounds like "malm" to me) and when he wants juice, well, he says his favorite "mmmmmm" sound and points to it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Shout Out to a Dear Friend

There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of my father. Not a day. They're mostly good days, when I smile about fond memories, but some of them are just down right yucky and all I want to do is sit in a corner and cry type of days. This morning I was doing the laundry, Aiden was down for a nap, and for some odd reason I just started thinking about how almost two years ago I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my lifetime ... to take my dad from his home and admit him into assisted living. It was the last thing I ever wanted to do, but he was to the point where I had no choice. We tried to have him live with us many times, we tried the full time nurse at his house, we tried and tried and tried to do what was needed to keep him living a normal of a life as possible. But the time had come ... and I hated every.single.minute of it and still do to this day.

That was October 10th, 2007. By January he had spent time in two different hospitals and three different nursing homes before we found the right one for him ... but by then it was too late. He had given up and he was dwindling away in front of my eyes. I felt so alone ... and SO guilty. How could I have let this happen to him?!? I spent one last night alone with my father, before my mother and brothers arrived from out of state. I was 8 months pregnant, and just held his hand all night long, praying and crying. praying and crying. He passed away less than 48 hours later.

That's all I could think about this morning .... and the guilt set in again. But within folding a few towels, my thoughts veered to why God gave me Aiden. It was right then that I realized that I was blessed with this deaf little boy to focus on the good and the positives and the rewards life has to offer. He gave me my sweet little boy to help me let go of that guilt, to realize life is too short to constantly wonder "what if", and most importantly, to help me let go of what my father endured and to focus on this miraculous journey my own child was about to endure. He prepared me for Aiden through my father, and with heartache comes great joy ... and Aiden is his grandpa through and through.

Right after, literally within seconds, of my crying episode and heart enlightening episode in the laundry room, I went to check my email and found this from a dear friend of mine with whom I taught back in Texas. It had JUST BEEN SENT.

"Hi Tammy,
I am so thrilled to hear that Aiden was accepted into the school of your choice with financial aid no less. Every time I check your blog and read of something so extraordinary, I can only thank God for giving you a strong character and the determination and tenacity to do everything you can for your little man. Bless your heart. I don't know why God allowed Aiden to be deaf, but I am so thankful He chose you to be his mom. You are a blessing girlfriend. I am so proud of you."

I was in tears. Sharon has always been there for me with a hug, with a positive message, with hope and belief. She is one of a few people who truly helped me stop questioning God, but to believe in Him. She always had a hug, a prayer, words of encouragement, or even agreeing with me that yes, sometimes life sucks. She has always followed Aiden's blog and has been one of my biggest supporters. She is always in the right place at the right time ... even if I'm in Maryland and she in Texas!

I emailed her back immediately explaining my episode and how her message, once again, was sent just at the right time. This is part of an email I received back:

"Tammy, I always feel so blessed when I listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do something and today it was writing to you. You are a blessing to me and so many others, and I hope you never forget that. And you were certainly a blessing to your dad - no one doubts that or just how much you loved him. But with all of that, you could not change his destiny. I know the pain I had in losing my parents most especially my mom."

So here's a shout out to you my dear friend ... THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. Your words mean so much to me and I couldn't have received a better message at a better time! I am truly blessed to have you in my life!

and cheers to my dad ... an amazing son, husband, father and grandfather. We miss you so much and will never ever forget you! You'd laugh out loud at the fact that Aiden is just as stubborn as you and has that smile and blue eyes of yours that wins everyone over each and every time!

Friday, August 21, 2009

He's Going to School

I was beside myself with excitement yesterday as I opened up the mailbox and saw Aiden's class placement at THE RIVER SCHOOL! It feels like I just had my little monkey and now he's starting a two-day-a-week toddler program at one of the best language enriched schools around!?!? I'm truly in awe.

To make it even better, when I looked at Aiden's class list, I saw he's in class with Ben!!!! Ben's mom and I have never "officially" met, but we stay in touch through emails, discussing our boys successes and supporting each other each step of the way. We have followed each others journeys from the beginning. Ben was our hero as he was Dr. Niparko's first simultaneous bilateral cochlear implant kiddo, which helped us with our wish to do the same (Aiden was his third). When I first "met" Ben's mom over a year ago, I had no clue I'd be living so close, and better yet, that Ben and Aiden would be attending such an incredible school ... together ... in the same class! We can't wait to meet them!

The River School was founded in 1999 by a mother who wanted her deaf son to be part of a developmentally appropriate program with hearing peers. Approximately 15% of the students are deaf or hard of hearing while the remainder of the students are hearing. So Aiden will be in a classroom with hearing peers a.k.a. STRONG LANGUAGE MODELS! He will go to school two mornings a week in a theme-based environment where the children develop skills in play, socialization, and communication. This is such a fantastic opportunity to build a solid foundation for Aiden's learning to hear and speak. To top it all off, The Listening Center at Johns Hopkins has a unique relationship with the school and Aiden's surgeon sits on the school's Board of Directors! Still total awe.

There is one educator per classroom AND one speech language pathologist who works one on one with the deaf/hoh kids in the class! Aiden's class only has 8 kids, and I believe him and Ben are the only deaf kids in the class. So this is four straight hours in an oral language environment with pretty much their own private speech language therapist! On top of all this, the school also has an onsite Occupational Therapist (who could possibly help with the fact he is STILL NOT WALKING), and a full time audiologist who will work with our audiologist at Hopkins should any issues arise. The audi will have access to all of Aiden's maps (CI programs), supplies, a soundbooth, etc. so troubleshooting/mappings can happen right at the school! Aiden will also receive one additional hour of private therapy once a week after school. Pure Heaven.

I first heard of this amazing school as I followed Christian's hearing journey. At the time, we were still in Texas with no plans to even move to Maryland. Before we knew it, Aiden's daddy got a different job which relocated us to Maryland. We couldn't believe that Aiden was going to be implanted at Johns Hopkins, by Dr. Niparko, whom we wanted to do Aiden's surgery from the get go. Our thoughts when we first found JH and Dr. Niparko were, "Oh wouldn't it be nice." Well it happened. Then shortly into our journey I read about The River School from Christian's mommy, shared it with my husband, and again we imagined the possibilities, "Oh wouldn't it be nice." Well it happened again. Truly Blessed.

When we first moved up here I started attending the parent-infant class at the school and was taken aback by their whole approach in teaching deaf/hoh kids - the atmosphere throughout was thick with language development. I wanted more. The drive isn't easy (45 to 90 minutes depending on traffic). The tuition IS NOT in any way cheap (WOW!). With me not working we figured it just wasn't possible and decided to avoid any disappointments. Well, as time went on, I could not not try. I couldn't live with the "what if's" so I pushed forward. Sure enough, even though we were late to apply, they entertained the idea of Aiden attending, we went for a tour, they did a play "interview" with Aiden, and within a couple weeks we found out Aiden was accepted and that we received some financial aid!! So with the aid, some MAJOR sacrifices, and Aiden's daddy's recent promotion, we decided we had to make this SIMPLY AMAZING opportunity work for our son. Since we were late to the game though, I didn't want to jinx anything until his actual placement was in my hands. It's here. Can you tell I'm excited?

I am a very nervous momma leaving my little man, as he will turn 18 months just days after he starts school. Plus, he's not used to being away from mom; he freaks if I leave him for 5 minutes with a neighbor. Oh ya, did I mention he's STILL NOT WALKING! In the same sense, he loves being around other kids and is such a social butterfly. He's going to do great. He's going to be okay. (repeat to self 1000 times a day!)

We will continue our weekly Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT) as we have really made some good strides this past few weeks. I am cutting back to every other week with his TOD (Teacher of the Deaf) and PT. So every other week, he will be getting four days straight of some sort of therapy. Ya, I think we'll take Friday off and make them Friday Fun Days!

Words can't describe my excitement. We have been so blessed throughout Aiden's journey! We are so thankful for all the wonderful opportunities that have been presented to us, and now this. The Lord works in mysterious ways and although we were never too excited to move to this area, He brought us here for many, many wonderful reasons. We truly are blessed ... and VERY thankful.

Now if I could just get the boy to walk before school starts!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Busy, Busy Bees

I'm trying to catch up on all my blogs I love to read and saw a this from AJ's mom, and decided to do the same thing. I have been SO busy getting things ready for ALL THREE of my kids to start school (yep, all three ... more to come), a last minute family trip back to my wonderful in-laws (a much needed break ... we all had such a GREAT time! Thanks for letting us stay Aunt Tus and thanks for the wonderful bbq Aunt Mo!), getting the older two signed up for different fall activities, Kailyn's birthday, appointment after appointment, etc. etc. that I just have not had time to post! There's so much I have to say, but I just haven't had the time. I can't wait to share some exciting news, show the family workboard and calendar we started with Aiden, post Aiden's tiny language explosion, and much more!

Soon though. Very soon.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Last Week's Discoveries

1. Hear Always (Cochlear's customer service) is very helpful in troubleshooting any problem. The Listening Center at Johns Hopkins suggested I call them to help figure out why Aiden was pulling his CIs off so much ... and Ben was VERY helpful. Thank you Ben.

2. I need to check Aiden's CIs everyday with the listening headphones. In my attempts with Cochlear to figure out why he would be pulling off his CIs, I found they sounded a little muffled (probably from moisture) and one of his backup processors wasn't getting any sound what-so-ever!

3. CIs really need to go in the dry&store every.single.night, especially in the summer months (the dry & store is an electronic dryer that dehumidifies CIs/hearing aids). I missed one night .... and see number 2 above.

4. CI mic covers should be changed at least once a month in the summer ... every few months during dryer parts of the year.

5. Note to self ... I cannot stay up hanging with friends until 4am anymore and expect to function the next day with a one year old. Nope. Doesn't work.

6. Aiden says "yum, yum" ... or more like "umm, umm" when he's eating. Love it.

7. Don't react when Aiden pulls off and dissects his CIs every.other.minute. He likes reaction. He laughs at it. Instead, put them back on or just take them off for a 10 minute break then try, try, try again.

8. Lucky Charms marshmallows are a great bribery tool for getting responses to the Lings and to point out pictures on these Meal Mats found at The Listening Room.

9. Aiden looks darn cute in a baseball hat. I'm his mom ... I can say these things ;)

10. Aiden is signing no. Next comes saying "no". While I am so thankful my baby is babbling/talking, I'm not looking forward to the "no-no mommy" stage, (okay, secretly I truly am because anything he says is music to my ears ... I say that now anyway!)

11. Aiden would rather play with a laundry basket (especially when the cat's in it) than his toys anyday.

12. One cat is very patient with this boy, the other just runs.

13. Aiden is FINALLY getting more teeth ... two more on the bottom which will now give him a total of 8 teeth at 16 months.

14. My little monkey climbs on everything - his latest, the toilet. But he's not trying to climb onto the toilet, he's trying to climb into the toilet ... the one item in the house I haven't put a safety lock on ... yet.