Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I had my hearing tested!

Several years ago, when the shock of Julia's hearing loss had finally subsided, I decided that I should get my own hearing tested. I'm in the booth with her at every audiology appointment. I can hear most of the whistles played into my daughter's ears, so I figured there wouldn't be any major surprises. Still, I think it's even more important for parents of kids with hearing loss to be proactive about hearing health. If it's important for the child to hear, it's important for the parent to hear. If it's necessary for my child to wear hearing aids, it is necessary for me to wear hearing aids (if needed).

So I called my insurance and an audiologist. I discovered that my insurance, Highmark PPO Blue at the time, did not cover even a basic hearing test. Making an appointment eventually fell off of my to-do list.

Then, a few weeks ago, I walked into my local Sam's Club and found they'd erected a sound proof booth in the front of the store. "Hearing test, No cost, No obligation" says the flyer. I stuffed one in my purse and promptly waited another two weeks to make an appointment.

They say it takes several reminders to get human beings to do anything. It was finally an email from the Hearing Health Foundation that got me to make that appointment. May is Better Speech and Hearing Month. HealthyHearing.com is donating $1 (for a total donation of up to $10,000) for each person that will pledge online to get their hearing tested. Funds raised support the research of the hearing restoration project.

When I finally made it back to Sam's Club for my own hearing test, it took a total of fifteen minutes. Carilynn, the audiologist, asked me a list of questions. She put a little video camera thing into each ear to check my ear drum. I now have a picture of both inner ears. Inner ears aren't cute, but Carilynn says mine are beautiful. I was expecting the wax, but I have to say I'm a bit put off by photographic proof of all that ear hair!

I went into the booth and pushed a button for each sound I heard. More in depth testing would be done if a person needed to be fitted for hearing aids. My test was the short version.

My audiogram revealed that I have a slight hearing loss at the lowest frequency. Carilynn thinks this might be from noise exposure (perhaps auto racing). It won't cause a problem unless I start to lose the higher frequencies as well.

I showed off my audiogram at home that evening. Julia wasn't very interested. Tim was surprised that the little bit of track time we've had could have damaged my ears. We'll never really know, but noise-induced hearing loss only takes one time. Once the hair cells die, there's no bringing them back, yet.

But with just a few minutes of your time, you can contribute $1 to research that might someday bring back hair cells. Take the pledge. Carilynn at the Pittsburgh Mills Sam's Club is very nice. She'll test you for free even if you're not a Sam's Club member (call 724-274-1748 for an appointment Tuesday through Saturday 10am-6pm). Or find a Sam's Club hearing aid center using their web site. Do it for your health. Do it for magic ear kids like Julia. Just do it!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Another Year, Another IEP

There are only a handful of days left until summer vacation. My little girl is graduating from the K-2 "primary center" to the big kid "intermediate center" for grades 3-5. She is eight-years-old. She is going to be in THIRD grade.

By typing these facts, I hope to cement them in my top of mind awareness. Occasionally, I catch myself thinking that she's six.

This school year has gone faster than any other period of time in my life. Months swept by in a blur, and suddenly we were gathered around the IEP table. Three professionals, my husband, and I met in what amounts to the school's supply closet. Our table was jammed in between stacks of books, discarded (mostly broken) chairs, and unused desks.

Having attended a fair number of these meetings in other school districts, I had to laugh. No comfortable conference room here. No secretary offering chilled bottled water. Our school offered only the bare essentials in room that used to be a first grade classroom before budget cutbacks furloughed its teacher.

In spite of our surroundings, we worked as a team and created a good plan for third grade. It includes every accommodation I asked for and does a fine job documenting the highs and lows of Julia's primary school career. She will have everything she needs in the new building.

Still, I left with mixed emotions. IEP time seems to bring out ample negativity even when the meeting itself isn't contentious. Five adults sat around a table and talked about one kid's shortcomings. We glossed over the great triumphs of second grade because that stuff has such a small part in the plan. As a parent and responsible advocate, you can't go into the meeting full of pride and brag about all that your child can do. You have to talk about the places where the kid struggles. You have to bring up the less than perfect parts of the past school year. You have to voice worries about the future.

As I drove home, I wondered if I'm too hard on Julia. I recalled the number of times I said, "she's getting good grades, but..." and "she understands the concepts, but..." and worst of all, "I can't imagine her doing that..."

The morning after the IEP meeting, I got an email from the editor of Gallaudet University's annual publication, The Odyssey.  The 2013 edition has been published. It includes an article I wrote about Julia surfing. Re-reading that article helped me look at the previous morning in a different light. So many adults: parents, teachers, and therapists, have worked with Julia for years to get to where she is now. She has achieved so much, not by ignoring problems, but by identifying challenges and tackling them head on.

It remains my biggest challenge to balance my worries with the knowledge that there are no limits for my daughter. I can't ignore problem areas. I certainly can't let the school ignore problem areas. I have to guide and support and always remember that the work, Julia's work, will pay off in the end.