Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nagging doubts put to rest

Cochlear implants and music appreciation is an interesting sub-topic and one that has given us some cause for thought. With so much of pre-school and early school years featuring action songs and the learning of rhymes, we feared Tom's hearing would be a significant barrier to participation. In the paranoid parents' brain I foresaw a dispondent son standing on the edge of a circle while all around him his peers Dingle Dangled their Scarecrows and Wound their Bobbins Up.

Michael Chorost, in his article 'My Bionic Quest for Bolero', addresses the issue in an engaging manner without skirting round the science of it. The limitations of the 'channels' of sound offered by implants makes distinguishing between note close together on the scale impossible. There is promise of more with Advanced Bionic's HiRes 120 Strategy .

We aren't quite at that level of need yet. The 16 channels (well, 15 in the left ear) that Tom is getting seem to be more than sufficent for him to get the tune, the all-important actions, most of the lyrics and a huge smile on his face.

As for the other nagging doubt - to explain it I have to admit, in a slightly guilty middle-class parent way, that Tom likes a bit of TV every once in a while but I've always had the impression that Tom wasn't really understanding much of what he heard. The quality of the sound is different to natural voices and there aren't always visual cues to aid understanding so I assumed it was just the bright colours and rapid movement that was holding his slack-jawed attention.

Watching Tom at AV therapy yesterday allayed this fear and much more besides. I watched most of the session with tears in my eyes; I was so moved by what Tom could do. It was such a simple exercise (as is so much of what we learn with the marvel that is Jacqueline Stokes). Jacqueline played an audio story on an old style mono cassette recorder which Tom and she followed with the book proper, stopping frequently to talk about what was heard and how it related to the story.

Tom was utterly inthralled; attentive, excited and hearing everything. He didn't miss a trick and, when the story was finished he wanted to plough on into the next one. The story held his attention for upwards of 20 or 30 minutes and then, with very little encouragement, he proceeded to recreate the story with toys for another half an hour.

Just to make anyone aware who's joining this story at this point (and remind the rest of you); Tom is deaf, relying on cochlear implants... and he's not quite three years old.

He is loving sound - he's also learning words that we haven't taught him (this is where it starts to get dangerous) and experimenting with the language he's learnt. His progress is such that we've scaled down to once every two months with Jacqueline. There's the transition to school to manage but I'm beginning to suspect that Tom won't be the quiet one on the edge of the circle - he'll be the irrepressible one that the teacher needs to shut up.


Karen said...

I love the audio books-- I used those with my kids as well. :)

John said...

Very interesting. Please clarify, is it good news or bad news that he will be able to become a couch potato and watch TV?

Anonymous said...

That's great. You know, I recommend the Winnie-the-Pooh books on CD narrated by Charles Kuralt. Great books, unabridged text, marvelous reader. I'm delighted to hear Tom is doing so well.
-- Mike Chorost

Drew's Mom said...

How exciting! I must say that I thouroughly enjoy reading about Tom - he is quite an inspiration to those begining this journey.

It is hard sometimes to really understand WHAT exactly our little ones hear with a CI. I don't think we, hearing parents, will ever fully know. So we will always have fears of how they will enjoy music, how they will participate in class. It is natural to feel this way, I believe. Parents always worry. But the wonderful thing is that, while we worry, we have so much to rejoice in.

My husband and I often joke that we have cried enough tears to fill a small river with the diagnosis that Drew is deaf (as I am sure you did, especially with Menegitis - I can not imagine). Now we think we are going to cry enough to fill another river when we have these amazing moments.

Tom can HEAR! My guess is that this is not the last time you shed a tear in amazement for what your son can do!

Anonymous said...

I second Drew's mom's thoughts wholeheartedly. Reading about Tom and his accomplishments in the world of sound always provides much needed inspiration for this worrier.

We recently switched speech therapists to go with someone with an AV and cochlear implant background. I'm amazed at the simplicity of it yet it is so obviously purposeful and I love the direction I'm getting. There is so much to be said for the people working with you, and the fact that Tom is so young and already scaling back to so little therapy is just huge in my opinion.

Hugs to you, Tom and Nik!

Orfhlaith said...

Hi, just found your blog, love your story. My son is 13 and uses the cord that came with his implant to plug into his iPod. He frequently has a hard time with lyrics, but he is innovative and goes online, finds a copy of the lyrics, and then plays the song over and over until he is getting most of the lyrics from just hearing them. Do you think he knows he is also doing auditory verbal therapy at the same time? I'm certainly not going to tell him. My son was almost 6 when he received his implant, a totally ASL kid, and while he still signs, he is much more oral, gained about 10 yrs of oral language in the first two years post-implant and while he loves sign and the deaf community, he really loves his implant too. I tell him he has the best of both worlds.

Jason said...

This is one of my favourite sets of comments - old friends and new stopping by with advice and experience.

And Mike - if you stop by again - loved the book. I foolishly lent it to a relative and haven't seen it since though...