Friday, July 13, 2012

An Idiot's Guide to Ear Problems

A real breakthrough has been made this week in our child's swimming ability. Monday was the first day of swim class. The same swim class Julia took last summer complete with the same three instructors.

I've been sitting, relaxing even, poolside, while two out of three instructors repeat the instructions at close range. They check to make sure Julia knows what she should do. Julia is paying attention without any prompting. Her determination and the instructors' accommodations have made all the difference. After three lessons, Julia figured out how to swim on top of the water. She coordinates her little arms and turns her head to the side. It's slow, but steady, and close to accurate.

I am thrilled.

There's still that third instructor though. Last year, I figured him for a teenager. Maybe he's in college. Either way, he doesn't get it.

On Monday, Julia interacted only with the two accommodating instructors. I thought this might have been by design. The boy has lots of other kids to work with.

Shortly into the lesson on Tuesday, he came for Julia. "YOU. GO. DO IT!" he barked.

By that he meant, "please float on your front for five seconds and then flip on to your back and float for five seconds."

Julia looked at him quizzically and thrashed around in the water. He attempted some crude pantomime. More thrashing. The boy eventually grabbed her by the arm and moved her back into the waiting area.

She was back with the preferred teachers for a few skills and then as luck would have it, again with the boy. This time he indicated her turn with a forceful jab of his finger.

In three steps I was hovering over him, "Excuse me, she really needs you to repeat the instructions at close range. That pancake flip you took her for last time didn't go well because the communication wasn't there. The other two instructors have been having success making sure she knows what to do before they take her. You need to explain it to her again or maybe just let the other teachers take her. That would be fine too."

I turned back toward my chair. I'd said my piece. It wasn't really a conversation, but then I heard him talking.

"I know," he said. I turned around. "We've had kids before with cochlear implants."
"She doesn't have a cochlear implant," I said, possibly cutting him off. "It's not the same thing."
"Yeah," he shrugged. "I get it. She has an ear problem."

And you have an idiot problem.

Thankfully, his boss, one of the two preferred instructors, interceded and informed the boy that he should just repeat the directions.

It's been a good opportunity for Julia to work on her self-advocacy skills. "Don't go unless you know what you're supposed to do," I told her after class. Tim suggested we teach her to say, "Hey (insert alternate name for a donkey), I didn't hear you!"

That may be a little much.

By this afternoon, the boy was doing better during the few times he instructed Julia. It seems like Julia is much less inclined to guess at what she should do. She objects when she doesn't understand. It helps that she's getting the hang of her swim strokes. And that two of the instructors are really going above and beyond. Perhaps Meatloaf was right, "two out of three ain't bad."

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