Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Think We Finally Did Her In

Our poor, long suffering speech therapist. I think we finally did her in!

When the weather is nice, therapy is often in the great outdoors. We didn't actually do her in (she was having Matt give her step-by-step directions in how to get up). Below is proof that she's really OK:

Blowing bubbles: pop, pop, pop!

To prove that we have the best speech language pathologist on this side of the Mississippi, take a gander at the boys' shirts. She made those - one says, "I'm the big brother" and one says, "I'm the little brother." Too cute!

Painting with sidewalk paint

Cheap, easy to make, and fun: sidewalk paint

We've been doing a lot of outdoor crafts lately. The latest was sidewalk paint. We discussed color, wet vs. dry, messy vs. clean, and words like drippy, thick, thin, and mixture.

For anyone brave enough to do sidewalk painting at home, the recipe is really simple:

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6-8 drops of food coloring

You may want to double the recipe, though. We went through our paint really fast! Cleanup is simple. You can sweep it away with a broom once it dries, or get out the garden hose.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nautilus Shell...?

I came across this picture of Nolan on a playground in Santa Barbara. It's supposed to be a nautilus shell, but it'll always be a giant cochlea to me:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Crafting Language

Our Fairy House: Vacancies!

We've been outside every day this past week, enjoying weather that is more typical of July than April. While outside, I'm always thinking of crafts and ideas for increasing language. I saw "fairy houses" in a magazine and thought I'd try it with my kids. My three year old is in the target age range, but even Nolan enjoyed crafting the house and furnishing it with acorn cap sinks, bark beds, and flowers.

Adding flowers to the house

Building little houses like these is great for:
  • Imagination: Matthew checked his house this morning and was ecstatic to find that fairies must have visited. The acorn cap sinks were turned over, so the fairies must have been to visit!
  • Fine motor skills: weaving the sticks together, balancing the acorn sinks, and threading the flower stems through the sticks.
  • Language: we had to gather thin, long sticks. We had to snap them, weave them, and were constantly discussing what would go into the house next. Even Nolan would say "pow" for flower, then run and pick a dandelion.
  • Incidental spring yard clean-up: sticks were cleared from the lawn and many dandelions removed for the house.

The best thing was that Matt has continued to play with this house long after my involvement ended. Also, the activity cost NOTHING and used all natural supplies!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bad Mom Award

It was gorgeous yesterday. Absolutely gorgeous. So I threw the Neat Sheet, picnic lunch, and two boys in the car and headed off to a local park on the lake.

Sun, good food, and laughter. We had a great time, then I herded the boys back into the car to go home for a (hopefully long) nap.

What earns me the Bad Mom Award? I forgot sunscreen. Completely forgot about it. Matthew is fine- not a hint of pink anywhere. Nolan?? Now looks like a citizen of Tomato-ville. The worst part is that his ears are quite red.

After a night of Aloe Vera, all traces of pink are gone. Except for his ears. Which are still neon red.

Honestly, how could I forget something as simple as sunscreen? Nolan is terrible about wearing his hearing aids anyway, and now I have to wait for the burn to fade before I attempt to put them on again. Hopefully it will only take another day.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Summer Decisions

We are coming to the end of the school year, which is irrelevant for Nolan. For Matthew, however, the end of the school year means that services are put on hiatus. He follows the school calendar and thus receives no speech on school holidays or over school breaks.

We had a choice to make. Choice 1 is to press for summer services, because we think with a few more months he might actually declassify and no longer need speech by fall. The problem here is that we would have to prove that he would regress without services, and we haven't seen any evidence of regression. Choice 2 is to go without summer services and pick up speech therapy again in the fall.

We're going with Choice 2, since we don't think he'll regress. Our speech language pathologist isn't quite ready to let him go, either. He's about 60% intelligible to strangers, but should be at 80% or greater intelligibility. Those darn consonant deletions really make his speech difficult to understand!

A typical sentence might be, "I ree wah gee one I ree don' wah blue one I gah abou it." Very run on, and I'm sure most would need a translation:

"I really want [the] green one. I really don't want [the] blue one. I forgot about it."

He's almost 3 1/2, so most of these consonant deletions should be gone by now. We also still have a few sound substitutions, but they're not severe enough to impact intelligibility. Even if he still has some delay, he'll declassify from services because he doesn't have any other issue (like hearing loss) that guarantees the right to therapy. Once he hits the "moderate delay" category, he declassifies. We'll seek private speech therapy if his speech is still "off," of course. I do hope that his speech hits the normal range prior to kindergarten!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Disney, Day 2: With a Hard of Hearing Toddler

We woke up on Wednesday morning with some light rain and a lot of clouds in the sky. The boys were both cranky. Daddy was cranky. This was not a good start to the morning, but after breakfast we headed gamely out to California Adventure.

I've only been to this park once, the year it first opened. Back then, there was only a handful of attractions and nothing oriented to young kids. We figured it would be a half day park, at best. We ended up spending a full day at this park, and enjoying it much more than Disneyland.

For one thing, it was not very crowded. Most rides were walk-ons, and the park has a much more open feel to it. This meant less noise and stimulation for Nolan, which made for a happier toddler. We also made a focused decision to avoid anything that might drive Nolan crazy (anything loud and dark), which meant finding outdoor rides.

The first thing we headed for was the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. This is an awesome outdoor playground with rope bridges, slides, zip lines, and rock climbing walls. We spent about 45 minutes here, and both boys absolutely loved it. Matt took off with Dennis, and Nolan and I spent the majority of our time in a special toddler section.

Nolan in a giant log on the Redwood Playground.

Matt and I rode the Golden Zephyr (a spinning ride), but Daddy stayed on the ground with Nolan. We weren't sure if he would like it, so we kept him on the ground. The height might have made him upset, but the ride was quite gentle.

We did head for Midway Mania, which is a very cool 3-D ride. We took off Nolan's hearing aids while standing in line, because the line passes directly under California Screamin', a rather loud coaster. Every time the coaster would pass overhead, Nolan would cringe. We took off his hearing aids and he was instantly happy again. The particular frequency of a roller coaster passing overhead must be particularly grating for this little hearing aid user! He rode the ride and actually wanted more (signing more and saying "wheee!" at the end of the ride). This was when we realized that we must remove his hearing aids for attractions in the style of a dark ride. Without his aids, he does just fine. With them, he is not a happy camper.

We went to lunch with an old friend who now works for Disney, and then went for a character greeting - sort of. We met Lighting McQueen from the Cars movie. Matt is so in love with the characters from that movie that he actually kissed the hood of the car.

Meeting Lightning McQueen

We headed to Bug's Land next, which has four or five rides. All are outdoor and suited to young children. We were able to get Nolan's aids on again, since nothing here was loud or dark. We did run into some unexpected water- there is a very slow and tame train-style ride called Heimlich's Chew Chew train. When you go under a watermelon slice, some "juice" drips on your head. Luckily the quantity wasn't much, because we had Nolan's aids on his head at the time. Nolan clapped at the end of this ride, proving that what other people find totally lame can be the height of enjoyment to others. Both kids liked all of the rides in this area, though Nolan was too short for the bumper cars. We avoided the Bug's Life movie, thinking it would be too intense for both kids.

Riding Flick's Flyers- a great ride for the under-3 set

There are a lot of water fountain activities scattered throughout this park, so that kids have an opportunity to get soaked. We avoided all of these, to the annoyance of our children. With a cool breeze blowing and highs in the low 60's, we didn't want either boy getting drenched. We were also worried about Nolan running under a sprinkler with his aids on. When will they make water proof hearing devices? I dream of the day!

We met up with my parents again and headed to Turtle Talk with Crush. We removed his aids in this area, since it was dim and we thought it might be loud. Talk about the coolest show, ever! An animated Crush the Turtle actively engages the audience with a Q&A session. He saw Nolan on my lap and said, "hey, look at that little grommet out there! Hello little grommet!" Nolan was oblivious, of course (not due to hearing, but due to not recognizing that the turtle was talking to him). I tried to get him to wave, but Nolan just stuck his hand in his mouth. Crush then said, "hey, little grommet! Hello! Focus little grommet!" It was pretty cute and funny. We all enjoyed the show, though Nolan required lots of raisins doled out during the show to keep him in my lap.

We also saw the Muppet Vision 4-D movie, and this was when we saw some issues with the "loud factor" again. We had left Nolan's aids in, and he cringed at the cannonballs. We ripped out his aids, and again had a happy kid.

We decided to leave after this event, since it was 5:00pm. We spent an entire day in California Adventure and hadn't seen everything! I was much impressed with this park and had a much better experience than the first time around. They are going to put in a "Cars" themed land, which Matt will absolutely love.

Anyway, for a recap,

What we did right this time around:

  • Avoided almost all dark rides.
  • Removed Nolan's aids at the first sign of loud or dark.
  • Focused on outdoor rides for small children.
  • Took lots of breaks.
  • Took advantage of the giant playground to let little legs run.
  • Found a park with fewer crowds and more open space.
  • Stayed in a hotel the night before, avoiding a 2 hour drive on the day of park attendance.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Disney, Day One: With a Hard of Hearing Toddler

Nolan and Daddy wait to ride Autopia

We had two days scheduled at the House of Mouse while we were staying in Southern California. Our three year old was quite excited to visit "Mittey Mout," though Nolan was oblivious to the building excitement.

Doing Disney with a toddler is challenging enough, particularly when the toddler in question is on the less-than-adventuresome side of the personality spectrum. It is quite difficult to cess out which issues were created from his hearing loss/hearing aids and which were simply due to personality, but there were clearly some additional challenges presented by the addition of "ear gear."

We drove down to Disneyland on a sunny Tuesday morning, though rain clouds loomed. Luckily, the rain stayed away for our entire visit. The two hour drive in the car was trying on Nolan, who finally fell asleep as we entered Orange County. He woke up a tad cranky, but was fine once we entered the Dowtown Disney area.

Entering the park was fine, and we headed straight toward Dumbo. This is one of the few rides in the park that is universally loved by all toddlers, regardless of the timidity quotient. The noise level did not bother Nolan in the least, and there was nothing "scary" in this portion of Fantasy Land. Due to the time of our arrival, we needed to head to lunch after Dumbo. Lunch was great, and Nolan ate well. We also rode Buzz Lightyear and Autopia (neutral reaction from Nolan, Matt loved them so much he quivered).

After Tomorrowland, we made our fatal error. We headed over to Adventureland, which offers a few attractions for the very young. It also offers a few attractions that could send a timid child over the edge. The Jungle Cruise was great- both boys LOVED the animals and the boat. Since Nolan was doing so very well, we decided to head over to Pirates of the Caribbean. Matthew loved this ride at 15 months and Nolan seemed to be following in the same, brave ilk as his brother.

Oh, had we known then what we know now!

Nolan is not fond of the dark. Whether this is related to his hearing loss or not is up for debate, but he became much more clingy after entering the environs of the attraction. The waterfalls did him in (there are two in the Disneyland version of the ride, though they are rather short flumes). Then the pitch darkness, cannonballs, and gunshots sent him through the roof. We survived the ride, but all would have gone much better if we had avoided this ride altogether.

After Pirates, we decided Nolan needed a hearing break. Actually, he decided he needed a hearing break and ripped his aids out as soon as we left the ride. We stopped for an ice cream sandwich, some juice, and a funnel cake in a quiet corner of New Orleans Square. Nolan calmed down and relaxed a little.

Nolan, recovering from Pirates of the Caribbean.

We headed over to Tom Sawyer's Island to let the kids run around, and Matt was quite excited about climbing into the myriad tunnels carved into the island. Nolan made a wide berth around each and every cave entrance, refusing to get close to anything dark. The caves are quite harmless, but he wanted nothing to do with the dark.

Running on a bridge with Grandma

Finally recovered from Pirates.

After the snafu on Pirate's, we made our second fatal error. We rode Winnie the Pooh.

This one was not our fault, of course. What better ride for a tiny child than Winnie the Pooh? Except this was Winnie the Pooh on an acid trip. Lots of bright, swirling visuals as you navigate through Pooh's dream. And the volume level set to a minimum of 200 dB. I might be over-exaggerating, but the volume was so loud that even Matt put his hands over his ears.

To the uninitiated, loud volume for a hard of hearing child would seem to be a good thing. Trust me, it is not! A tea kettle whistled loudly in the ride, and Nolan screamed and ripped at his hearing aids. Luckily this ride is very short, but the damage was done and Nolan wanted nothing to do with his aids or dark rides after this point in time. Since it was already in the evening, we decided it was time to leave for the hotel. This was a good plan, because both boys thought the hotel bathtub was the greatest attraction ever invented.

What We Learned:

  • Nolan's hearing aids might not suppress all loud sounds enough to keep him comfortable.
  • Nolan is afraid of the dark.
  • Extremely visually stimulating rides drove him crazy.
  • Taking off his hearing aids around loud areas made for a happier toddler.

What We Would Do Differently:

  • Avoid most dark rides.
  • Focus on the outdoor rides in Fantasyland.
  • Avoid anything with a loud volume.
  • Avoid Spring Break.

Stay tuned for Day 2, in which we finally get it right and have a great time at Disney!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Back to Reality

We are finally back from California, and the much needed vacation with family. It is always hard to travel back to frigid NY after being in sunny Southern California, but at least the daffodils are blooming and the snow is gone.

A run-down of our great language opportunity vacation:

Flying: We checked Nolan's hearing aid supplies, except for a package of batteries and one case containing a tool to open the battery door. He kept his aids on for about half of the trip out to California, and did not wear them at all on the flight home. Stickers and Yogos seemed to be the best things for keeping a 19 month old entertained. The three year old was actually much, much harder to keep entertained, and he did not sleep for the entire 5 1/2 hour flight.

The Beach: It was rather windy for most of our vacation, so we did not venture near the water until our final day. The boys loved playing in the sand. We did keep Nolan's hearing aids on during most of his sand play, because he wasn't getting it anywhere near his aids. This was a time I wished I had brought his Ear Gear, though.

Disneyland: This deserves its own post. The short and sweet is that Nolan enjoyed California Adventure more than Disneyland, and enjoyed both parks better without his hearing aids.

Easter: We had a great family party, complete with Easter Egg hunt. Nolan tends to be a bit clingy, but he was quite outgoing with all the kids.

Hearing Aids: The aids stayed in Nolan's ears for all of week 1 (except at the Disney parks). He developed a virus and didn't leave them in AT ALL by the end of week 2. We have to work on getting him to wear them again- I think fluid might be an issue here.

Viruses: Ugh. Nolan's low-grade fever has never left us (is it six, or seven weeks now?) and he decided to develop a cold during our trip. Which involved vomiting every other day over the last week or so. This certainly isn't helping his low weight issues, but we're hoping he'll get better now that we're at home in a familiar routine.

Aquariums: The Long Beach Aquarium was really cool. There was a lot of background noise indoors, which made things difficult with getting new words into the little guy. Nolan was also in a non-compliant mode with his aids at this point. He loved the touch pools with the rays and sharks, even if he couldn't quite reach them. I think splashing was the main activity for him!

Water: Water, water, everywhere! This made for some anxious moments with his aids. Certain rides at Disney don't advertise that they're going to squirt or drip water on you. Heimlich's Chew Chew train at California Adventures drips "watermelon juice" onto your head- luckily it wasn't a lot of fluid. Fountains all over California beckon the curious - and surprisingly fast - toddler. Besides the hearing aids getting drenched (we left our Dry and Store at home), the weather wasn't exactly fountain friendly (in the low sixties with wind). When it warmed up enough to enjoy the water, we let Nolan go for it (sans aids). Nolan LOVES water, and Matt was pretty fond of the ocean, too.

Now we're back to reality- speech therapy starts again on Monday. We have a urology appointment on the 30th of April and an ENT appointment on May 13th (I really hope the fluid is gone by then, so we don't have an adenoidectomy and third tube insertion added to everything else). I also have to schedule a hearing test since Nolan's overdue for one.