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Disciplining a Deaf Child

1 Mar

hearing aids sketchChild no.1 gets all the attention. As a parent you may not know what you’re doing but you have the time to read up about it and do things by the book. You travel in packs so know when it’s time for your child to eat solids / stop using a high chair / do potty training / move to a big bed and have long discussions about it while doing kids tea  party/ adult wine time on a Friday.  Child no.1 grows up feeling nurtured but slightly neurotic.

Child no.2 follows in the slipstream of child no.1. You can still remember what to do so have none of the anxiety you had with child no.1.  Some of the rules may have slipped a bit. Chocolate buttons replace carrot sticks and Annabel Karmel home made recipes are replaced by Ella’s Pouches. You signed them at birth for the classes / child no.1 was already doing. You don’t obsess about them.  Child no.2 grows up independent, happy and confident.

Child no. 3 is pretty much ignored. You can’t remember what to do but everyone thinks you do so no one tells you. Not only does child no.3 watch a lot more TV than the others but child no.3 watches inappropriate TV. More likely to be watching Take Me Out than Mr Tumble.  More likely to be singing One Direction than Wheels on a Bus. Child no.3 is wild.

Now imagine that child no.3 is deaf so can’t even hear you on the rare occasion that you try to do the Mary Poppins bit and instill some discipline.

I have always taken my children to church on a Sunday morning. The older one preferred to sit angelically on my knee, the middle one bounded happily into creche, the younger one bounds happily into creche then clouts anyone who tries to plays with the toys and tries to lock other children in the toy cupboard.  I have taken to pretending that he is clingy and / or toilet training so that I can stay with him and police potentially hazardous situations.

When he’s good he’s really, really good. His smile could power the national grid. His eyes twinkle mischievously.

When I try to get him to do something he doesn’t want to do he goes mad.  He screams.  He Shouts. He Cries.  Often I cry. My biceps are bigger than they ever were when I was going to the gym every morning as I wrestle him into cars / out of cars / into the bath /out of the bath / into the buggy / out of the trampoline.  It’s nothing to do with being deaf but being deaf doesn’t help when you’re trying to talk soothingly through a major tantrum.  Or a cinema with surround sound when I’m trying to hiss at him to be stop bashing the chair in front.  Or crossing the road when he can’t hear me over traffic noise and is flatly refusing to hold my hand, oblivious to the danger. Or at the swimming pool when he has his hearing aids out and any attempt at discipline is quite literally falling on deaf ears.

It was a particularly disastrous swimming class yesterday.  Before the lesson even started he was told off by a life guard. I had to tell her he couldn’t hear her. Once in he kept trying to get out.  Obviously once the lesson was finished he wanted to stay in. He was jumping off the steps with glee when an impatient mother asked him several times to move. He couldn’t hear her. I grabbed his hand and yanked him off the steps. He wailed. I carried him kicking and screaming into the cubicle. I wailed.

Then I heard a clear little voice, still without his hearing aids in, say ‘what’s the matter mummy?’.

I had thought I was crying for him but in fact I was crying for myself. He is fine. I am the one with the problem. Most of the time I am fine but when the deaf diagnosis lamps me between the eyes I am ashamed to acknowledge that I am still the quivering mass of anxiety I was when he was first diagnosed.

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‘Don’t leave us!’ – Continuity of Care

20 Sep

2 yr old hearing aidsWhen the 2 year old was first diagnosed as being deaf we were assigned a Teacher of the Deaf and a Speech Therapist. The Speech Therapist left fairly quickly to be replaced by a lovely girl just back from maternity leave. The Teacher of the Deaf was with us from day 1.

She was the person I cried in front of. She was the one who tolerated my mood swings as I debated whether or not I wanted to meet the parents of other deaf children or not. She was the one whose visits I genuinely looked forward to as she taught me games to stimulate my deaf baby and created fabulous books to help him learns his first words.

When we went to the horrendous ‘weekend for the parents of newly diagnosed deaf children’ in a grim seaside town when he was a matter of months old one of the few highlights for me was the relationship the deaf teenagers had with their Teachers of the Deaf. They seemed like members of the family and I hoped that ours would be with us forever.

In fact she was with us until this month when a promotion, I think bound up with cuts, means that we are being handed over to someone else. The new Teacher seems lovely but I don’t want people to abandon my little boy. When she first mentioned she was leaving in June I was in tears and to my shame think I reacted with the maturity that my 11 year old does when things don’t go her way.

As I flailed around for some continuity of care for my deaf little boy I clung to the Speech Therapist who he had become increasingly fond of. When she left in July he shouted out ‘Bye, bye Lisa’ and I was immensely happy. Not only that he could speak but that we had a medical professional who could fill the gap left by the Teacher of the Deaf.

We didn’t. When she returned after the summer holidays it was to tell me that she was pregnant again and would be leaving us at the end of the year. I was devastated. How can everyone leave us at once?

When the older girls were younger I was devastated every time one of our favourite nursery nurses left. When you lose someone who is vital not only to your childs happiness but to their development it feels even worse. However I am trying to rationalise it by convincing myself that professional skills can be replaced. Genuine love cannot. We are still in touch with my older girls two favourite nursery nurses and I know they love my children. The one person who is most important in our little boys life is our childminder. She genuinely loves him and is as delighted when he learns a new word as if he were her own. He in turn does a ‘Roo, Roo’ shout every time we get in the car and runs to her door without a care in the world. She’s like a young, glamorous ‘Granny Murray’. When she gave up Saturday mornings with her own family last year to come to sign language classes with me I was so moved that I filled in the Surprise, Surprise application form in the hope that I could show her how much she means to us.

Unfortunately I didn’t actually get round to sending it so this will have to do.

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