I’m not talking about Gigi. Like we established last week, we really believe Gigi doesn’t hear a whole lot. This week’s struggles have been with our local school district. Not the school. They’re pretty awesome. I’m struggling with “our team” at the district level. We sat with them last week, at our dining room table, in our home, where I explained the unique composition of our family, what we know of Gigi’s history, and yes, her deafness AGAIN.
They all nodded. They seemed to be listening.
I don’t think they heard any of it.
So, we’re struggling. We’re struggling with the fact that they know academics, I know motherhood and family, and right now, those two are at odds. We live in a fairly large city, and while investigating the educational options available for deaf/hard of hearing children in our district, I found this…
“Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing may attend their neighborhood school. In this placement, they have a building-based case manager and may receive services from an itinerant teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. A student who is Deaf and Hard of Hearing that attends his/her neighborhood school may also use the services of a sign language interpreter to access information presented in the classroom, a speech and language therapist to increase communication skills, and other services as documented in the IEP.”
This was right under a little blurb about their center-based schools for the deaf and hard of hearing, the schools I absolutely see the value in, and may choose for Gigi in the future, at some point, like during the annual renewal process for this ridiculous amount of paperwork on which we are currently working. The issue is, I don’t want center-based services for Gigi right now. They do. And, I don’t want them in the fall. They do. I don’t know what I’ll want, or more importantly, what Gigi will want, after that, because I lost my crystal ball somewhere along this journey. I have no clue what Gigi’s educational and medical needs will be like 18 months from now. You see, I barely know Gigi. That’s what I tried to tell them.
“Gigi’s mom, which route are you going? ASL only? Oral? Cued speech? Or any of the other one million options we’ve just overwhelmed you with.”
“Gigi’s educator, we are using ASL for now…”
“ASL! WOOHOO! Great! Here is this…this…this…and this. We’ll get her on that track then. We’ll hook you up with this…this…this…and this.”
I see their thought process. I really do. I see the value in everything they are saying.
They’re still not listening. Yes, I am learning ASL as fast as I can. I am teaching my other children as fast as I can. Right now, our only option is ASL. Gigi has no other means of communication. Will she in a week from now? Probably not. A month from now? Still probably not. 18 months from now? Ah, yes, well, at that point, it all remains to be seen.
If Gigi can have some access to sound, I would like to give her that. Whether that comes through hearing aides or a Cochlear Implant, I don’t know, but amplification of her hearing is on the table. Will she be able to hear speech? The powers that be, after the one visit we’ve had, were a little negative about this. Does that mean it’s off the table? Nope. So, I get one answer from the medical professionals, “Wait and see.” Then I get another answer from the educators, “Accept her deafness and get your kid into the Deaf program.”
I absolutely accept Gigi’s deafness. I can’t avoid accepting Gigi’s deafness. In fact, I am PROUD of having a deaf daughter. I am proud because my deaf daughter is wicked smart and proves it in ways other children never have to. I marvel in the change in her every day. I expected NOTHING of Gigi, and she is flying over hurdles left and right.
She is a rock star, whether she can hear or not.
She is a rock star, whether she can ever speak a word or not.
She is also ridiculously loved, partially because she is deaf, but, not ONLY because she is deaf.
Being deaf is not the sum total of who Gigi is. Being black is not the sum total of who Cam is. Being adopted as an older child is not the sum total of who Ally is. My kids are complex, completely unique, individuals, each and every one of them. I’m not going to let anyone tell me that one part of them comes before EVERY other part of them. That’s not the way it works. I’m not going to let anyone tell me that there is only ONE way to do this.
We’ve been down that road, with another little girl from China.
When we were trying so hard to find answers for Tess, I got a lot of “You need to come to terms with…” and “You need to accept that…”
I don’t need to accept ANYTHING.
There is no end point here. There is no finish line. This isn’t a sprint and then “Done. Phew. We’re finished doing that. Oh, 5th place? Oh well, I guess I’ll just accept that and move on.” This is about me, as her mom, shooting for FIRST PLACE for her every single time. I’m not talking about first place according to my standards. I’m talking about my looking back, at her, and being able to honestly say “Yes. This is the very best she can do. She is being educated, comprehending what love really means, and is living life to HER absolute max potential.” Whatever that is, if we’re there, then first place for us.
We’re not there.
I don’t feel we’ll ever be there if we ONLY look at her academic and social needs. She has emotional needs as well. At the age of four, life centers around your family. And, it should.
Prior to seven weeks ago, she never had one.
I’m not about to make her think that’s changing now.
–FullPlateMom, who is in it to win it, every single time, for each of her very unique children.