The Forest through the Trees
Rex and Oliver at school
I have long been thankful for the wonderful professionals who have passed through Oliver’s short five years of life. Teachers, audiologists, deaf and hard of hearing specialists, ENT’s, Primary care physicians, speech pathologists, and school administrators (to name a few) have all made a huge difference in Oliver’s overall growth and development.
With so much to think about, sometimes it is difficult to see the forest through the trees. We want to make sure that our children are learning and growing and communicating and perhaps hearing to the best of their abilities. There are so many variables to think about and to consider. Is my child able to identify the difference between the “f” and “s” sounds? Are they learning and using sign language? Do they have the appropriate tools to be able to learn in the classroom? Are they being implemented properly? Are they feeling comfortable with who they are?
My son’s friend Rex, without knowing and in only a few sentences, made me see the forest the other day.
“I am not so naive as to believe that Oliver won’t face social obstacles related to his hearing loss, but I am also not so cynical as to believe that the world is a cold and insensitive place.”
Rex, who is also five, came running towards me. “Mrs. Boehme, Mrs. Boehme!!!” he said with both excitement and worry. “Oliver was playing. His hearing aid was broken… He was running and he fell, and it got all crooked and it was all out of his ear and stuff and it was broken! Now he can’t hear!!”
While Rex was relaying the story, and panic was playing out secretly in my head over the implications of a broken hearing aid, Oliver sauntered up very calmly. As it turned out, Oliver did fall on the playground. His hearing aid did flop out from behind his ear and looked broken; however a quick fix put it back to normal.
Walking out of school with Oliver, I was amazed. This is what we want from our children’s peers. We want not only friendship and compassion, but also a true understanding of the importance of what sign language, hearing aids, and/or cochlear implants mean to kids who use them. In a simple sentence: “Rex gets it.” He gets it when many adults don’t. And Rex is not the only one in Oliver’s class to “get it.” He is surrounded by a wonderful group of five and six-year-olds who accept him for who he is.
When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, kids did not “get” it. At least that is not my memory. Most children with any kind of special need were not in classes with me. I think that we’ve come a long way. The more that people with differing abilities are intertwined, the more accepting as a society we hopefully become. Now, I am not so naive as to believe that Oliver won’t face social obstacles related to his hearing loss, but I am also not so cynical as to believe that the world is a cold and insensitive place. My hope is, however, that more children gain sensitivity towards differences and that everyone is more like Rex. I learned a lot from Rex, and hope to strike a healthy balance for myself and Oliver between the worries of speech or sign language production, of audiology testing and medical diagnoses and just being a kid who has friends who love, understand, and accept him for who he is.