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Jessica’s Story: A Wonderful Blessing

February 7th, 2008 by | Tags: , | 19 Comments »

Jessica is a bilateral cochlear implant user who was raised with the Auditory-Verbal approach like me and hears and speaks well. She received her first implant at the age of two years, and then received her second implant about four years ago. She has two siblings who were also born profoundly deaf, and they hear and speak well with their cochlear implants too! Jessica is another example of a cochlear implant success story!

I am a deaf teen who is very grateful for cochlear implant technology and the blessing it is in my life. I was born deaf to 2 hearing parents and there is no history of deafness in our family. My parents were told I would never speak and would not be able to read much beyond a 4-5th grade level. They were told this by the “experts” otherwise known as the doctor. But my mom didn’t want me to go for the rest of my life not able to hear music, my friends’ chattering, and all those other sounds of this world. She spent a lot of time in research for a way for me to communicate, or better yet, hear too. This was before the Internet offered much information at all, so she had to really work at this!

My parents explored every option available to educate me and teach me to function as much as possible in the world. One of the best books she found and read right after my diagnosis was Choices In Deafness by Dr. Sue Schwartz. Mom & Dad wanted me to achieve my potential and be able to open the doors of opportunity for myself, so they chose the Auditory-Verbal Option. They chose this option because at the time of diagnosis, they were told I had a moderate-severe hearing loss that would respond well to hearing aid technology. Hearing is the foundation of Auditory Verbal Therapy, and with good access to sound, this was a reasonable option.

After months of AV Therapy with a qualified therapist, me wearing my hearing aids all the time, and Mom working with me daily, I was not making much progress. My parents, therapist, and pediatrician were puzzled because I seemed bright and was ahead developmentally in all areas except communication. They had additional hearing tests completed but the result was the same. My mom was very frustrated and full of doubt that the tests weren’t accurate, so she made appointments at the Helen Beebe Speech & Hearing Center in Pennsylvania. We traveled a long way from our home for a week of immersion and testing at this center. It was there that my parents learned my hearing loss was not moderate- severe, BUT profound, and given my therapy history, it was suspected that the original diagnosis and follow up tests had been incorrect from the beginning.

My parents were already aware of cochlear implant technology and began researching this option more. I was fitted with new hearing aids that were stronger than the original, and continued therapy. Another therapist was added, and Mom & I began making trips to a cochlear implant and pediatric therapy center that was 4 hours round trip from our home. Dad was supportive of the whole thing but couldn’t always join us for our long drives because someone has to work and make a living for our family! I have made more than 300 trips to the city with the Cochlear Implant center. It was at this center that I began working with an AV therapist who changed my life and the life of my family. The result of the first 6 months of therapy was that I was declared to be a good candidate for a cochlear implant. I received my first implant at age 2 _.

Therapy at the center continued with Mom and I once a week. In addition, I had cochlear implant programming appointments, visits to a preschool tutor for deaf & hard of hearing students, and a speech therapist who worked to correct my articulation. Mom did daily assignments to follow through with the lessons our therapists gave her. She was creative and helped me stay focused (of course, I was like a toddler at the time, lol). She will tell you that she thinks it would have been just as much work to learn to sign and to teach me what for her would have been a foreign language because my mom didn’t know any sign language at the time (except finger spelling).

The results of all the work speak for themselves (literally). Today I am an all-A Honor Roll student at a private college preparatory middle school. I am in advanced math classes (I love math, lol) and was selected for the Duke University Talent Identification Program based on my language and verbal scores (this is based on SAT measures). I was honored to be inducted into National Junior Honor Society last year. Throughout my academic career, I have made only one “B”. In my elementary school years, I participated in dance, art, gymnastics, and theatre lessons. I love sports and played volleyball, basketball, and soccer. I chose to focus on art and soccer. I have received numerous awards for my artwork at the local, state, and regional level. I play soccer competitively and travel with my team for club. I have been a starter for the last 4 years with club soccer teams that have advanced to at least the semi-finals of our state championship tournament. This year I was selected for my varsity soccer team as an 8th grader. I participate in lots of activities with my church.

I am just one of lots of successful kids our family has been honored to know through the years who are very successful cochlear implant users. Mom told me what I write might be posted to a discussion where the choices my family made are in opposition to the views of some. I want everyone to know that our family thinks sign language is a beautiful language. So if you want to learn sign-language, feel free! It’s absolutely amazing! In 3rd grade, I read Helen Keller’s biography and was so interested in it that Mom registered us for a sign language class at our church (my church offers interpreted worship services and one of the interpreters teaches occasional classes). After she and our therapists felt our auditory development was well established (this is important for young deaf children whose goal is to listen & speak), she began teaching us some sign language. My brother is not interested (lol). It is wonderful to learn but it made me realize that if I had never gotten a cochlear implant, I would never heard the sounds “I love you”, music (my favorite thing to listen to), etc. I am so thankful that I can hear with cochlear implants.

How a person chooses to learn to listen, speak, and communicate is their choice. In my circumstance, the choice was made for me because my parents love me and wanted the best for me. They understood that there was a very early window of opportunity for me to learn to listen and speak. They wanted me to open the doors of opportunity for myself, and knew that if I could only sign and couldn’t speak, the doors would be limited. I have real opportunities to make choices for myself. I am not dependent on another person to communicate for me. I even don’t have an interpreter to sign or speak for me in classes and school, because I have the ability to speak.

Just as there are many choices in society at large, so are there choices in deafness. The essential thing is for us to respect the choices one another has made and work together for the greater good of all people with hearing loss.

19 Comments

Jeremy

February 7, 2008 at 7:55 pm

You rock! WOO!

Another mum

February 7, 2008 at 9:54 pm

What an articulate young lady! Thank you for sharing your story with us, and best wishes for the future.

Kate

February 7, 2008 at 10:18 pm

“Jessica is another example of a cochlear implant success story!”

Great. I’d love to see some of the other side. Not everyone succeeds like this. The CI is great as a tool, but like any other tool it can only do so much. Like Ella Mae Lentz so eloquently said:

“Some of your children (I emphasize some) will perform ‘amazingly for a Deaf child’ while many many of their Deaf ‘brothers and sisters’ will fail miserably and unnecessarily.”

You should go read her post. http://www.ellasflashlight.com/?p=71

February 7, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Like in everyone’s life, some things have its ups and downs, and this post isn’t very realistic because it is too one sided on positives of C.I. Have you ever experienced negative feelings on your perception of being a deaf person? Or is there any negative aspects of using C.I. that is negative besides batteries and the occasional breaking down or failing?

Because, to be honest, I feel sick to my stomach reading this entry because it is not balanced at all and I cannot even empathize with you and I was implanted with C.I at 3.

Another mum

February 8, 2008 at 1:59 am

Rini

Where in any of this did it state it was to be a balanced presentation of the total of everyone’s life with a CI? This is Jessica’s story, and she is telling us about her story. Why do you feel the need to challenge her on the basis of it “not being balanced at all”? Her story may not be your story, or the next person’s story, but it doesn’t have to be, because it is simply her story. And your story and her story are both equally valid. It seems to me that there is a commonality of thread at times both in this story and others where because these kids are happy living their lives, there is a need to psychoanalyse them and their perceptions of being a deaf person. It is almost as is there is a need to look for a negative in these stories, if it isn’t in the success of the individual it must be in the state of their mental health or self-perception.

IamMine

February 8, 2008 at 7:03 am

Yes, I agree everyone has their own story to share. :)

Rini, you could write your own story for people to read, too.

This is based on her mother’s choices of raising her girls and they wanted to share their stories as many have requested. The girls are not upset with the choices their mother made for them and they are happy and productive in their lives.

Just like the Deaf people are happy and productive in their life with ASL.

Many of us do not share the same views or definition of our individualism, even the same experiences but we can respect each other. We can teach each other and share our experiences together.

I am glad to know that you, Jessica, and your family do think ASL is beautiful! :D

I totally agree! :)

Thank you, Jessica and best of luck in your future endeavors!

February 8, 2008 at 7:26 am

I’d love to write more, but my 2YO has me on a short leash this morning: so can I just gush briefly about how much I love seeing these stories? It’s not that the kids are superstars (although they are!), but what I love is seeing how happy they are, no anger at parents for denying them some critical aspect of their lives, no regret at living someone else’s version of their lives.

My babe is deaf with a CI, and we’re taking the less-traveled bicultural/bilingual path right from the start (ASL immersion and English, though not simultaneously). I hope it works, I’ve researched a great deal and am working with great professionals, but I’ve seen studies go both ways, so I know I’m taking a chance, but it’s a route that fits us, and most importantly, it fits her.

That’s what ‘m seeing in these stories — a lot of collaboration between parents and their kids. And a lot of hard work and pulling together of resources to build language and communication skills. I think that’s what’s coming across as important to “success,” no matter what the technological aid or the language or the language mix.

Thank you Jessica, and thank you Rachel!

IamMine

February 8, 2008 at 7:32 am

Ah, Rini – I wasn’t aware that you already had your own blog!

I will read it later…I was just curious about Jessica when I checked this morning before going to work and school!

Peace and love all around!

Iam

Karen Mayes

February 8, 2008 at 9:47 am

I enjoyed reading Jessica’s story… it is very positive and full of life, being open.

Yes, the collaboration between parents and kids is very important for the success of children… both hearing and deaf. I see the constant thread of parents’ involvement in children’s lives and it explains the success of CI children.

ChrisH

February 8, 2008 at 10:40 am

signing the alphabet

*If I hear or read one more thing about how “research proves” that signing hinders the development of speech I’m going to go nuts. I think it’s great that AV therapy has been so successful for so many kids, but I am tired of the anti-sign stance that is being backed by people who are just lucky enough that deafness is the only issue their kids are facing. *

http://ethan-charles.blogspot.com/2008/02/signing-alphabet.html

K.L.

February 8, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Thanks for your story Jessica. You are a very articulate young woman, and I bet your parents are very proud of you.

February 8, 2008 at 12:39 pm

I see someone has named ChrisH has taken a quote from my blog and posted it here in the comments section. I don’t want to get flamed for something taken out of context so let me explain my point of view. I’ve got a bilaterally implanted child who is 2 years old. I know all about AV therapy and I think it’s wonderful that it has worked so successfully for so many people. I’m not against it at all, in fact we use most of their principles, but we reject the notion that using sign language is problematic in any way, shape or form. My quote has to do with people who are always pointing to research to make their point, thereby making other parents feel like they are failing their children if they sign, because “research proves”. I’ve seen research that proves both sides of the issue and frankly I don’t care about research anyway. My child is an individual with other special needs so what works for the masses isn’t going to necessarily work for him. He needs a more ecclectic approach. My only point is that I find it very disrespectful when the AV folks start trying to prove everyone else is wrong and making a mistake by using sign. I wish those AV people who are such fanatics about it had an understanding of how inept they make other parents feel about their choices.

That said, I am more than impressed by you and your sister and think you are doing a wonderful job of presenting information in a respectful manner.

February 8, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Just one note of clarification – The Jessica in this post is not Rachel’s younger sister Jessica. It’s a totally different Jessica from a family with three children, all with bilateral CIs.

February 8, 2008 at 3:16 pm

A reply to #10 -

Whoever said that all these kids are dealing with is deafness? My girls’ Cert. AVT told me recently that about 75% of the kids at her center have other issues. Most are related to their vestibular systems and include things like difficulties with spatial awareness, auditory sequential memory, and the physical effects, such as poor balance. Both of my girls had other issues which I talk about very readily in their story on this website at http://cochlearimplantonline.com/index2.php?story . Whether or not A-V is a good fit for a child with other issues depends upon what those issues are, but A-V is by no means only for the deaf child who has absolutely no other issues.

February 8, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Li-Li’s mom -

You are so right that the common thread among the stories of so many of these children is parental love, commitment and involvement. Be it taking the time that is needed to follow the A-V approach or taking the time to become fluent in sign, a dedicated parent makes all the difference.

IamMine

February 8, 2008 at 9:54 pm

#13 – Gotcha, thanks!

I was actually surprised that “your” Jessica would say ASL was a beautiful sign language and I was glowing because of the treatment she got from some angry deaf people and would have thought poorly of ASL based on her experience.

I didn’t realize that it was a different Jessica.

But thanks for clarification and I agree that it’s the parental love, commitment and involvement! :)

Karen

February 8, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Some quotes I find interesting from the posts above . . .

it explains the success of CI children
I’ve got a bilaterally implanted child who is 2 years old
the AV folks
those AV people

All of these quote focus not on the person, but on what the writer feels defines the person. They are not “CI children”, they are “children with CI’s” . . . you DON’T have a “bilaterally implanted child who is 2 years old”; what you have is a “2 year old child with bilateral cochlear implants”. PLEASE don’t focus on the technology first . . . people are PEOPLE first, with whatever issues they have (and we ALL have them).

The only “person first” statement I found above was . . .
“My babe is deaf with a CI”

and interestingly, that person is “taking the less-traveled bicultural/bilingual path”.

Interesting that many people who take the “technology route” (CI’s, for example) focus on what their child(ren) CANNOT do and people who take the “natural language” route focus on the PERSON. I know someone just like Jessica . . . excellent student, VERY articulate, bright, friendly, involved, energetic . . . and she (and her deaf sister) have been raised with sign language. When their parents found out their first child was deaf, they started sign language classes right away, exposed the family to deaf culture, interacted with deaf people and their children are AMAZING.

Interesting, too, that most programs that use sign language also include instruction in speech and speechreading, but programs that focus on A-V discourage, if not FORBID, sign language.

Who wants to make 300 visits to a place that is 4 hours away???? Your hands are right at your disposal, 24/7, without a phone call, long drive, technological failures. If you use sign language, the communication is clear, two-way and if started early enough (and I can’t stress that ENOUGH), a deaf child can be just as knowledgeable, articulate and well-read as any hearing child.

If your child was blind, would you put on the thickest glasses you could find and say, “Here, read this . . . don’t tell me you can’t, SURE you can . . . READ this . . . hold it closer . . . what’s this letter . . . YES, you can read it”? No, of course not. Many people wear glasses and we are still able to communicate with someone who can’t see. You can get comfortable moving your hands to communicate, too. Trust me.

Two more things . . .

a CI does NOT make a child hearing . . . it makes him/her a deaf child with a CI.

And . . .

which deaf children do the best with the English language, with schoolwork, socialization, obtain well-rounded educations and have knowledge of world events? Deaf children with deaf parents. Why? Because they have LANGUAGE right from the start . . . language, NOT speech . . . LANGUAGE.

Ann

February 29, 2008 at 9:51 am

Jessica,
I am so proud of you! The Lord has such great plans for you and for all that would turn to Him and trust Him. May you continue to grow in wisdom and compassion, and may you be used for His glory!

Sharon

March 31, 2011 at 2:26 am

Hi Jessica,
Great to hear such a successful solution to your hearing needs. I was just wondering — do you wear a helmet when you play soccer? If not, how do you protect your implant?
Thanks.
: )
Sharon

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