October 12, 2010

Grasping Concepts

Adopting a hearing impaired child has brought so many new learning experiences into our family.

Okay, when I read that, I want to yell, "THAT IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT!"

Our world was ROCKED when we brought Candie home. In a good way. Hard, but GOOD way. More importantly, HER world was turned upside down.

I like to think I am well prepared when adopting a child. And then every time we've adopted, I realize that there is no preparation like actually living the experience. Really. Does that make sense?

Before adopting Candie, we learned sign language. We made flash cards so we could communicate with her. We read up on how to teach a hearing impaired child. But other than that, we had no experience with that special need. What. So. Ever. We just knew she was our daughter, and whatever challenges we faced we would do our best with God's help to get through them.

I had no idea that hearing impaired children, especially ones adopted at a later age, especially from a different culture/language, would take a really really really long time to learn our language. In my perfect little world, Candie would pick up on things really quickly, be a little sponge like all the other older adopted children I had read about, and be speaking great within a year. I thought after she received her BAHA (bone anchored hearing-aid), which put her hearing within normal limits, that she would just start picking up the language like our toddlers had learned. I didn't realize that your birth age and your hearing age were two totally different concepts. That even though you're 8, if you've only had your hearing aid 6 mos., then that is your "hearing age". So you're language matches that of a six month old. I didn't know hearing impaired children don't hear the "little" words we speak, like a, the, and, it, and so on.

I didn't realize how long it would take for her to understand concepts that I never really had to teach my other children. Today she was shocked when I told her that the leaves will grow back in the spring. I thought she would already know that. I was wrong.

Everything, every little thing, must be taught to Candie. And re-taught. And taught again.

She's been home with us two years now. And she's ten years old.

When my step-father passed away a couple of weeks ago, I had a very hard time explaining to her the concept of death and dying. Concepts. Those are hard. Like Heaven. And God.

And if I remember that her hearing age is only 18 months old, then of course that makes sense. What 18 month old could grasp those concepts?

But she is ten. And so we wrestle with that. She's blossoming and blooming like a ten year old. Yet she's not hearing, acting, or learning like a ten year old. It's like she's stuck in the middle.

At my step-father's funeral, tradition holds that the family is allowed a private "grieving" time before guests arrive. Maybe it was all the flowers, or seeing her brothers and sisters cry, or the casket at the front of the room....but Candie all of a sudden understood. And she shocked us all by beginning to SOB. So loudly that I had to guide her into the bathroom. (And I was praying the whole way, "God how do I explain this to her? How do I comfort her?")
Through my own tears I asked her "Did anybody ever die at your foster mama's house?"
"No" she sobbed.
"GranBob is okay now, Candie. He is in Heaven and he is breathing GREAT now. And one day, we WILL see him again, okay?"
She nodded her head, still in tears.
"It's okay for us to cry. It's okay to be sad."
And then she calmed down. And I hugged her tight. And I cried some more.

And I realized that she's ten years old. And she's eighteen months old. And she's stuck in the middle.

But I think the middle of the valley is narrowing a bit. And that event catapulted our daughter closer to the ten year old side. The side of growing up and dealing with life issues. Hard, but good.
Difficult, but necessary.

And as her forever family, we'll gladly walk with her until her learning and language and maturity catches up to her chronological age. And if that never happens, then her family will meet her in the middle every day of her life.

Yes, adopting a hearing impaired child has brought us so many new learning experiences. But think about all the new experiences Candie has learned! What a brave, strong girl she is. I think God has used her as OUR teacher.


  1. I was so crying as I read your exchange with Candie in the bathroom at the funeral. How blessed she is to have you for her Mommy, someone who is willing to come find her in the middle. And love her there!

  2. Such a touching and heartfelt post, Laine. While I do not have a child with hearing issues, our Isabelle is similar to Candie in being grown up in one area and crazy immature in another. It's tough. And when we don't know what the future holds, sometimes it's really scary.
    But God teaches us SO much in that. Thanks for sharing with us all He is teaching you through Candie!

  3. This says it all so well.... We're constantly, on the one hand, forgetting that Li'l E thinks, responds, processes, etc. differently than a child with normal bi-lateral hearing. And on the other hand, reminding ourselves that because she DOES have excellent unilateral hearing we must not treat her too terribly differently (in order for her unilateral hearing to continue to grow and expand and compensate well. It's a fine line and I am still finding our balance. Which, inherent to a pre-schooler's development, changes when I finally find it. :)