Jack sits down for an interview with Tatiana Edney, a student from the Atlanta Speech School.
I couldn't start writing this from anywhere but the beginning! Please edit and use the parts you need! I so love telling her story that I was my own worst editor!
I will never forget the day we found out we were expecting Anlee. Like any parents, we immediately had a picture combined with hopes and dreams for this new life. When we found out her due date was Easter Sunday, I felt like it was God smiling down on us. So when she came as a screaming little bundle on that sunny day, I felt like I had the world. It had not been an easy pregnancy with grad school and still dealing with grief from losing our son and when she was born, all I wanted to do was rest with my new daughter. When we were told she failed her first hearing screen, all I could think was that she screamed too well to have hearing loss. In fact, everyone laughed it off, especially when she passed the second one.
Our oldest daughter was so content. Lena was the dream infant and toddler. No willfulness, always smiling, sleeping through the night, readily transitioning through the phases of growing up. I had been warned not to expect Anlee to be like Lena. This seemed an unnecessary almost rude thing to say. Of course, there would be differences but the parenting that guided Lena would guide Anlee as well. Famous last words, folks.
Anlee literally did scream as though it were her calling in life. She never took a pacifier, did not care one bit about trying new foods and seemed to have her own agenda. Speech which had freely flown out of Lena since about 2 did not do the same for Anlee. She was talking but not in the same way. Being a teacher, I had some concerns but again I was told that all children are different.
The summer she was 3, I began to worry about her speech. My mother and husband had both had speech and I thought this was a real possibility for her. She was frustrated at not communicating effectively. You could tell she had the words needed to say what she wanted to say but her speech was so unclear that we all had trouble understanding her. That fall she began preK. I was scared to death! I told my husband to keep his phone on all day because I just knew she was going to get in trouble for something. Surprisingly, Anlee loved school. I couldn't fathom that our little rule breaker was good as gold all day. She quickly became one of the top students in class and slowly more of her speech began to sort itself out. However, by spring there was still a lot going on with it and I pushed for an evaluation. She passed the speech screen with flying colors, the therapist even commenting on how bright and articulate she was.
That summer we made a point of working on her speech and communication. We slowed down to talk, we made in our head of what we were going to say, we practiced beginning and ending sounds. She was so excited for her second year of PreK and I was beginning to feel like an overprotective momma bear forever being concerned. Then the phone call came. Anlee had failed a hearing test. The school system wanted to retest. Yes, I said, send me whatever I need to sign. I called the pediatrician, what were the next steps. When the hearing supervisor called me back from the school, she said there had been an error and Anlee had indeed passed her hearing test. I felt like a crazy person.
There were things she was doing that I couldn't put my finger on that bothered me. Yes, she was reading but there seemed to be some definite sounds missing. Her cadence and rhythm of speech were still different than others. The tone of her voice had a sound that can only be described as characteristic of someone with hearing loss. Whenever I voiced my concerns, people always said she was fine, that she was improving, that not every kid was like Lena, that I was only worried about Anlee because I still had grief over the loss of our son. So, I buckled down, applied myself to the job of being Anlee's mom. I read books about fussy children, about emotionally needy kids, about parenting your children in different ways. In school, shes as good as gold so we made a more stable routine part of the home as well. But in my head, I knew something was up. It was like I was holding my breath, just waiting for someone to tell me what was wrong with my daughter.
You know how the sky always gets really clear and pretty just before the big drama in the movies? Wait for it, here's your moment. This beautiful afternoon, at the first of December, I went to pick the girls up from school. Anlee's teacher was in the office. She mentioned getting her tested for speech. The shade I threw at that woman. I told her no, in no uncertain terms, that she had already passed a speech screen twice and we weren't doing that. Almost before I even knew it, I said she was going to the audiologist. Her teacher looked stunned.
At that appointment, we found that momma had indeed been right. Anlee had a moderate hearing loss in her left ear that was all at one certain pitch. On that pitch, you receive a lot of information. When looking at the chart we were given and the sounds she couldn't hear, it was like reading a list of the way she spoke. It was unbelievable. I moved things along as quickly as I could, naively believing that our insurance would cover the cost. At our fitting appointment, I found that at our office, you had to pay for everything up front. I'm a teacher, whose husband had just started a new job, with a sick mother and no other close family. You do that math. So, there I was with Anlee trying on aids and no way to pay for any of them.
As a teacher, I am programmed to research and to find answers. After her diagnosis, I began looking for resources. I found a Facebook group for parents of kids with unilateral loss. When we left the doctor and knew about the cost of her aid, I reached out to the group. I was at an utter loss. How in the world could finances have such an impact on my little girl? The reality of it seemed unbearable. I put it to prayer and began to just brainstorm. That is when 20/20 Hearing found us and what a God thing that has been!
Our son that we lost is Jack, we always say he watches out for Anlee. The blessing of Jack now being friends and big brother of sorts to Anlee is just one part of our healing. Jack and Anlee have formed a bond that is just so touching. She calls him her Jack! Tanya and Jack have helped us navigate this new world. This has helped Anlee better articulate what she is experiencing. Music is new, the class can be loud, everyone sounds different. Did you know there is a whistle on the playground?? She has told us of many coping skills she had worked out on her own. She is adept at reading our hand motions, she watches the actions of other kids for social cues, and she learned to read lips some as well. The most boggling part of that is that we had no idea she was using these techniques.
She has always been a little fussy, a little sensitive to sensory things. However, since getting her aid, she has not had a single major breakdown. This was a daily occurrence that has completely disappeared.She is overall more content. She is also very serious about her aid. She told her class there were 2 rules, "Don't touch my aid." and "Don't ask me to touch my aid.". Every morning she comes to us and asks us for it. She says she wants it in because nothing sounds funny anymore. She has also recently told us that nothing ever went in her left ear, as in no sound was ever in it.
I am amazed at my girl. Not only at the discoveries, she has made but at all, she was dealing with before. She lived in a world I had no knowledge of and now our whole world is open to her. Compared to some, Anlee's trials are nothing yet let us not trivialize the gift of hearing and its' impact on not only those impaired but on the families as well. At 6 years old, I can finally know and be known completely to my little girl. That is the best feeling ever, except for maybe hearing the whistle at recess.