So it's over seven months now since Tom's first implant was switched on and six months since his language was first assessed using the 'Preschool Language Scales-3' (the UK version - the link points to an explanation of the US original).
The idea is that a child's understanding and use of spoken language is evaluated and then compared to a scale derived from a large sample of children aged from birth to just under seven with typical hearing. The results produced give an 'age equivalent' score, comparing Tom to the sample group, for both Auditory Comprehension (does he understand what has been said to him) and Expressive Communication (the quality of the language he uses).
So... how's he doing? Well he's scoring right in the average range for children of his age with typical hearing (and you'll understand why I emphasise that a second time). His 'Age Equivalence Score' puts him at 2 years 7 months; he's actually 2 years 6 months - our boy's ahead! (all dependent on standard deviations and confidence limits of course - I did listen in Stats class).
Proud? You bet. I'm not going to tire of expressing just how marvellous these implants are and what they have done for Tom's life. Charles Arthur, tacking a similar course at more or less the same speed, would hasten to agree. In his latest entry he talks about baby3's remarkable progress with his Advanced Bionics implant after being born profoundly deaf. Interestingly, he's also ruminating on the pursuit of bilaterals - a pathway fraught with no small amount of tension but, ultimately, great rewards.
Its impossible to compare the progress of kids with implants against each other in any meaningful way; different start points, different aetiologies and so many different language experiences post-operatively. This is, of course, why it is tricky to quantify the benefits of bilateral implantation for any given individual - there are just too many factors having an impact on language development - and why any attempt to measure what added benefits Tom's second implant have had over the first is on shaky scientific ground. We're confident it has but the counter-argument goes, he was 'lucky' enough to have had hearing for 20 months before meningitis and was implanted very shortly afterwards. What portion of his success is due to these factors rather than the second implant?
There is no meaningful way of comparing the period with one implant with the bilateral state, not at the age he is. We just see the benefits every day - the way he picks up language almost incidentally, his ever-improving localisation - the 'normalisation' that has occurred. All the considered arguments that appear in scientific publications (and that I described during a bit of a week last July) are being borne out. But then, we had to pay to find that out.
Which is where the PCTs, with their ever-present cash shortages and demands to save money, come in. I wonder which way yours will jump should you ask them, Charles?