Monday, July 12, 2010

Drinking From a Fire Hydrant

If you have a child who is deaf or hard-of-hearing and can make it to Los Angeles for three weeks in the summer, then go to John Tracy. This place is absolutely incredible. Everything is tailored to helping children succeed, by teaching the parents how to guide and teach their children.

Day 1 of the John Tracy Clinic was a resounding success. Transitions are marked with song, starting with the "Time for school" song, then the "clean up" song, the circle time song, the welcome song, etc. We placed Nolan's lunch into his cubby, along with his diapers, nap towel, stuffed bear, and change of clothing. We played in the classroom for about 30 minutes, during which time Nolan's speech-language teacher (SLT) Ms. C came to talk with us. Nolan will be pulled out daily for individual speech sessions ("stickers") and we will have consultations with her on a regular basis.

Before the parents were dismissed, we accompanied our children to the playground. They had Duplos, bubbles, easels set up with paint, and sand toys set out for the children. Nolan was painting when I left, and he moved over to the bubbles when Dennis left. Not a single tear was shed, much to our relief!

We moved to the parent classroom, which resembles a small lecture hall in college (complete with tiny pull-out desk attached to the chair). From this point on, a torrent of information was given to us. The Los Angeles police talked to us about safety in the area, and they were extremely helpful and caring. The playground across the street is not a safe place to play (we stick out like sore thumbs and it can be a gang hangout), but if we want to play there as a group, we can call the USC division and they will send uniformed officers to hang out while we play. There is another playground off S. Flower St. that is safe (I heard about this playground from energyofx).

There are two vacuums for the JTC families to share, so two "vacuum monitors" were chosen, and questions about the apartments were answered (one family has broken air conditioning with plastic over the windows, so they're roasting!).

The "Tip of the Day" was given, which was to "Make Your Point." This is pointing to your ear and saying, "I heard that" for various sounds. While Nolan generally responds well for environmental sounds, it was interesting that he did not respond to the drum being struck for circle time until we stopped and said, "I heard that." Then he turned and paid close attention to what was happening in the direction of the sound. He knows that a doorbell means someone is at the door, a microwave beep means food is ready, and now he is learning that the drum means "circle time."

We were given a full three-week schedule with all planned activities. The classes start out with basic information, and conclude with things like "phonological level speech" and "advanced auditory skills." We were given a tour of the facilities, which included the office where the correspondence course reports are received and support letters are mailed. We saw AVT therapy rooms, the school library, audiology booths, and the observation rooms for our childrens' classrooms.

We broke for lunch and Dennis went to pay for the apartment/parking permit/linen fees while I went to spy on observe Nolan in his classroom. They were eating lunch, and the little guy was inhaling his food! The teachers didn't realize there was a sandwich in the lower compartment of the lunch box, but they came to the window to ask if certain parents were in the observation room (one little girl was crying a lot). We said no, but then I mentioned Nolan's sandwich in the bottom compartment. Soon after, he was munching on his PB&J (though I think he was full from the yogurt, blueberries, and pretzel crackers I had packed for him).

After lunch, we met for our support group. We each wrote letters to ourselves expressing our worries, fears, and hopes about our children. These were sealed, and we will receive them back at the end of our three weeks. It will be interesting to see what our feelings are now vs. the end of the program.

The group went around and we gave a brief introduction about our families, including where we are from and when we found out about the hearing loss, type of amplification, and how we heard about JTC. One mom talked about having a progressive loss, and how the same grief of initial diagnosis happens again and again, each time a new loss is discovered. This really hit home with me, since the first real drop in Nolan's hearing (August 2008) was the hardest point for me- far harder than his initial diagnosis.

After the support group, we had a little break. This meant I headed to the observation room, of course! Most of the children were sleeping, but Nolan and little S. were wide awake. Nolan was sitting in the play kitchen area, getting some attention from the classroom assistants. He seemed to be enjoying the individual attention, as he was all smiles as they chatted together!

The final part of the day was going over the four areas the family support counselors would cover (which include sibling relationships, developmental concerns, and two other topics that I forget). Forms for developmental assessment requests were handed out, for parents who would like to have a consultation about specific behaviors or problems. In our case, I will probably turn one in for help with Nolan's screaming and sleep issues. John Tracy focuses on the WHOLE child, not just the set of ears that many professionals care about.

After we were dismissed, I went to check on Nolan again. They were eating snack, and even meal time is a language lesson. Kids were requesting various parts of the trail mix and they were singing a "fish in the sea" song every time a child requested a goldfish cracker. Nolan thought the fish song was hilarious!

He had loosened up a bit by the end of the day, so when the final circle time was called, he started to run around the room like a little monkey. They brought him over to the circle and had him sit down, and he participated in the "goodbye" song. Then the parents were let in through the parent door (this door is only used by parents leaving and entering- the staff use another door so the children don't expect a parent to walk in every time the door opens).

There are six children in the class, and as many as six teachers/assistants/Speech Language Teachers at any point during the day. At the minimum, there are four adults in the classroom (the main teacher, her two assistants, and a volunteer). Nolan's class consists of four boys and two girls, and he is the second-oldest in the class. His non-napping buddy S. is the oldest, and he and Nolan get along really well.

Nolan and I played on the lawn with a few other kids (including the adorable Noah), and then we headed up for some quiet time. Tomorrow will be full of more information than today, and we have a consultation with his audiologist tomorrow morning. We have speech-language consultations scheduled as well, but I can't seem to find the piece of paper with this information (I might have left it in Nolan's classroom).

I am going to give Nolan a bath and then put him to bed, so that he's ready to play and learn tomorrow morning!


Apraxia Mom said...

WOW! You truly painted an amazng picture for us all! It's like we are there with you.

I hope these three weeks go by oh so slowly for you. Take it all in. You are going to be armed with so much information when you get home.

So happy that Nolan has adjusted so quickly.

MB said...

Thanks for all the detailed updates! Brings back good memories.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the great summaries, I love following along, and I know many other families in the Deaf Village community do, too!

xraevision said...

Oh, I'm so relieved that Nolan is adjusting well to his new surroundings, and he's got a great appetite too! Looking forward to hearing more soon . . .

tammy said...

Wow Leah ... it was like I was right next to you. I know I've always wanted to go, but the more I read, I REALLY want to go! It sounds just absolutely amazing! Look forward to more of your summaries! I'm sure by the end, you'll have me requesting the application for next summer! lol

leah said...

Tammy, I HIGHLY recommend it. If you want to apply, don't wait too long. There are about a dozen families already signed up for the 2011 course, and a few have even inquired about the 2012 course! You can always apply, then if it doesn't work out, you can cancel. I'm telling you- the older kids can be in the sibling program and Aiden would get enormous benefit from their preschool setting. Seriously, these people are geniuses at getting kids to use their listening skills!

Julia said...

Great info, Leah! Sounds like everything's off to a good start. Speaking of advance planning, did you see Melanie's blog post about trying to get a group together to go to the 2012 AG Bell conference? Sounds wonderful, although I don't think we can commit this early.

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

I'm so glad you're in such a worthwhile program. It sounds amazing!

Julia wanted to see someone else's blog so I showed her your pic of Nolan on the 4th of July. She says, "can I ever meet him?"

Young internet romance!

mamatoadeafmiracle said...

I'm so glad Nolan is transitioning well. Unlike my Lucas, he's doing fantastic!!

leah said...

Julia, I did see Melanie's post. That would be pretty cool- or hot, since it is in Scottsdale! Hey, we might even qualify for a 'first time family' scholarship now that Nolan's PTA falls within their specified range (>55dB). We can't commit now, either, but Dennis has a ton of family in AZ, so it is a possibility! We could visit family and do AG Bell at the same time!

Jo, we're only 3 hours from Pittsburgh- Nolan and Julia could have a date, haha!

Anonymous said...

I'm also really enjoying these posts Leah! How your'e able to provide so much detail after the travel and unpacking is a totally mystery!!

I got an acid reflux tip that I thought I'd share with you. I don't know if Nolan gets "attacks" after sitting in the car (or on a plane) for an hour or more, but Ethan sure does. I heard that this is due more to motion than to the seat itself and that if you take dramamine an hour before you travel, it prevents the acid from churning. This explains why Ethan has hated swings and merry-go rounds, etc. He also always has reflux after an hour or more in the car. Just thought I'd share.

Keep up the great posts! So glad you're having fun and the little guy is adapting so well. Oh, and LOVE that they are invested in the WHOLE child, not just the hearing loss. World class folks!