I’m so excited to share this eloquent and poignant post from Heather at Wordplayhouse. She and I became fast friends and I can’t tell you how much I value her sharing her story here at LIttle Stories. Her gentle kindness, simple beauty, and love for her family is quickly evident in everything she writes, and this post is no different. Please read, enjoy, think, and share…
It has always been a blessing to share the nature that surrounds us, with our children. We live in the midst of it. Our hill, our grove of maple trees, our woods. The branches to climb and swing from, the hills to sled down, the glade to traipse through, the songs of the birds and the leaves whispering.
Only, all of us weren’t enjoying everything.
As mothers, we know much about our own children. Each is different, and we know these differences. I did, and, I knew that one of ours was quiet, imaginative, and daydreamy. Just like me.
But, because I knew this, I did not notice that sometimes I repeated what I shared with this one child, often more than once. And, more loudly than I did to the others. And, I did not notice that this was not because she was in a daydream—
—She could not hear.
She could not hear the twitter of the birds, or the leaves swishing underfoot, on our nature walks. She could not hear the wind she felt against her cheeks. She was the one not enjoying everything. I did not know it. And, she was young enough where she may have never heard those soft, beautiful, sounds ever before.
In someone older, hearing loss may be just that. A loss of enjoyment of what you once had. And, then, perhaps hearing may be restored with the aid of a hearing device. But, for an infant or a toddler, hearing impairment is detrimental to so much—to learning about the world around them, to hearing instructions to learn basic tasks, and to simply learn to speak. Our child was not only not hearing the quiet sounds we were hearing outdoors—she was not hearing her parents or her siblings speak clearly. She did not possess access to the very way children learn to speak—by listening to others. So, her own speech began to take on irregularities.
Of course this has a happy ending, you know I am going to tell you soon that we discovered her hearing problem—fluid in both her ears that caused severe hearing loss in one ear especially. And, after ear surgery and a few sessions of speech therapy, she learned to recognize she was making an “s” sound instead of a “th” sound. And, she overcame her other speech problems as well.
But, the happy ending came with a price. Children in our state receive speech services free. In fact, the speech therapists travel to your home—no need to bring your children to an office for services. It is a wonderful benefit to children in need of services—
—If you are under three years old.
Our daughter went undiagnosed with her hearing difficulties and her speech problems until she was five. She was beyond the benefits of those helpful state services. We were responsible for acquiring private speech therapy for our child—and, we acquired the bills to go with them. Speech therapy is expensive. Our 30 minute sessions were $50. And, a 30 minute drive away.
It was an expensive lesson our family paid for more dearly than in simply money alone. Hearing impairment is so vital to catch early on. It effects more than missing out on the songs of birds and leaves rustling—It effects the very essence of being human. Communicating. All this time our child had spent being deprived of the wonderful tool of hearing, to participate fully in what many of us take for granted, is what our family paid most dearly for.
How can you be sure your child is hearing well and is acquiring proper speech patterns? In hind-site, I recognize some of our own missed signs. Look for them, and follow up on any concerns as early as possible:
Repeating. When giving instructions to our child, I would often find myself repeating the instructions, or find she had not followed the ones I had given—and, she had not heard me give. Are you repeating what you say to your child?
Speaking loudly. Are you speaking louder to your child than you normally speak to others? Does your child also speak loudly in return?
Lip reading. Does your child’s gaze drop to your lips while you are speaking? Ours began to compensate for her lack of hearing by watching our lips form the words she could not hear.
Ignoring. Does your child turn toward your voice when you begin to speak? Or, does it sometimes seem as though your child is “in their own world” or deep in their own thoughts?
If you question whether your child does have hearing difficulties, make an appointment with an audiologist. An in-depth hearing evaluation will be done, and a follow up appointment with a specialist will let you discuss ways to rectify your child’s hearing impairment, if any is needed.
Now, everyone here enjoys everything on our beautiful nature explores. And, everyone hears everything on them too—Our child has joined us with her own gift of sound.
Heather Cahoon is a mother of a few, and children’s book illustrator and designer, who shares her family’s inspiration for creative play and family time at wordplayhouse.com. Visit the inspiration shared there.