When my youngest son was born, we could not have been more convinced how perfect he was. Ten fingers and toes, two eyes, a nose, he was everything we had imagined. Then they dropped the bomb on us that after three attempts, he had not passed his newborn hearing tests. Hearing loss was something neither my husband or I were familiar with and we were certainly not expecting to worry about it with our newborn baby who was less than 24 hours old.
We were referred to a local resource called Willamette Education Service District for further hearing testing. After three appointments, of three to four hours each appointment, my son was diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss in one ear, and mild to moderate in his other ear. Riley (My son) started wearing his hearing aids at 4 months old.
Willamette Education Service District send someone out to our house twice a month to work on his speech and communication skills. The program is called early intervention and the idea is that if we work with him enough, he will have the best shot at normal speech and education. We have been told time and time again about how important him wearing his hearing aids are for his speech and education. If our son is awake 12 hours a day, and only wears his hearing aids two hours of that day, that is equivalent of taking away four years of listening and language skills that will directly impact his future education. (Keeping hearing aids on a now one and a half year old, pretty much takes a miracle).
I often worry and stress about what his education will look like. How will his hearing loss affect how well he does in school? Will he be in a normal classroom? Will he be excluded and pushed in a learning disability classroom? I often think back to when he was first born and remind myself how perfect he was…and still is whenever I get sad.
I was at work three days ago and met a woman who said she recently moved here from Montana. I of course asked her what brought her to Salem Oregon and she replied that her son had hearing loss and she insisted on sending him to the best school possible. My jaw of course dropped to the floor. Could someone who had a child with hearing loss like mine really have moved across the country for a school here? I also live in Salem Oregon.
She explained that there is an elementary school here in Salem Oregon that specializes in helping kids with hearing loss adapt to a normal school setting. My eyes filled with tears when she told me this. Her son is six years old and first grader. The school is Salem Heights Elementary in Salem Oregon. Every single teacher at the school knows sign language and understands hearing loss. The teachers are also knowledgeable on hearings aids and cochlear implants. The school emphasizes on normalizing hearing loss and children with hearing aids. They strive to allow all kids with hearing loss to remain in the normal classroom setting. The teachers use ASL (American Sign Language) along with their normal voice as they are teaching to make sure that all kids are understanding. This woman was a stranger to me five minutes prior, but she provided me with something that I can never thank her enough for…hope. I have been worried about my son’s education since I found out he had hearing loss….I now have hope.
Education for your child is the most important thing as a parent. Education allows them to be a productive citizen eventually. Education around hearing loss and what the school system should look like for kids with hearing loss has long weighed on my heart…but I see a bright future for my son now.
For more information regarding Salem Heights Elementary, please visit: http://salemheights.salemkeizer.net/about-us .