Thriving in the Detour

By Sara Kennedy

I remember attending my first Hands & Voices workshop and wondering to myself if the people in front of the powerpoint were "normal," or if they had grasped their child's hearing loss as the ticket to a vocation/ministry and taken it a bit too far.

How silly that seems now, realizing that of course the way life unfolds affects the choices we make and the directions we go. I felt that way again as I talked to Lisa Eberlein, a parent who has allowed her son and daughter's hearing loss to influence a lifelong desire to write and create.

Some years ago, Lisa was stunned after one of several therapists left her Florida home in the wake of yet another impossible task of therapy homework. Her toddler Ford had nine therapies a week for speech, sign language and sensory integration issues. At that time, Ford's father had to return to his native country to complete his master's thesis, but Lisa stayed behind, believing that Ford would get better services in the States. She felt consumed by therapies, by the sacrifice of living as a single parent, and the loss of the vision in her mind's eye of what motherhood was going to be like.

And here was the speech homework asking for repetitions of ma/da/ba/la, disconnected of any meaning or routine in her son's life.

Lisa realized that one of the few typical things she and her son enjoyed together was reading. She knew reading together was good for his language development, but it was also fun and part of her own values and dreams for motherhood. So she took those speech therapy sounds and wrote them into a story. Lisa retrieved generic pictures from the Internet and pasted them together to keep Ford's visual interest in the makeshift book. This enabled her and Ford to sit and "read" together--making the lessons less like "homework." It was now something they could easily do every day, and with joy.

As the book became childworn, she realized that other families might benefit from this, but she got no response from a few publishers, and the book was put away.

Fast forward six years when Stella was born and also diagnosed with a hearing loss.the book idea resurfaced. This time, Lisa decided to publish the book herself but was frustrated by not being able to find an illustrator. In desperation, she picked up a pencil and started to sketch. Her first attempt shocked her husband who had believed her when she previously told him she couldn't draw. She realized that she could do the illustrations herself, and within one week had the entire story board completed. The book, Good Morning Me! has been well received by reading specialists, speech language pathologists, early interventionists, and the kids themselves for its engaging story, use of imagery and even theory of mind behind the story, as well as the obvious uses for speech. I won't even mention the bunny slippers here.

Next in the plans? A publisher has picked up the book for distribution and Lisa has plans for an entire series--with each book working on various speech classes. She also has six other children's titles waiting on the back burner, but for now, the Sounds Great! Series is her first priority. As Lisa stated in the dedication to the book, sometimes the "detour is the actual path," and the world narrows just enough to show us which way to go.

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