My 5-year-old son Ethan is both autistic and deaf. He has the power duo of communication challenges! He was born deaf (due to a CMV exposure in utero) and has been hearing with cochlear implants since the age of 16 months. He became a very good cochlear implant user and loved his hearing. In spite of his significant apraxia, he was starting to sing along with The Wiggles.
Then one of his implants stopped working. The process of its failure seemed to span weeks, maybe months. We’ll never know exactly what happened since he wasn’t able to verbally communicate his experience to us. We just had to watch him slowly and surely reject wearing it altogether. Then he began to reject wearing the cochlear implant on his other ear; apparently he generalized the bad experience from the right side over to the left. We spent 10 months of the past year with him in total silence. Tests showed that the left Ci was in perfect working condition, so his rejection was totally psychological, which is completely understandable! Unfortunately, he lacked the reasoning to be able to understand what had happened to him and as a result developed an intense fear of going to see the audiologist.
Having a young deaf child is actually pretty challenging, but when you add an autism diagnosis to the situation, well let’s just say it’s a wonder that I’m not heavily sedated in a padded room. I spend the majority of my time parenting him solo, so believe me I’m thankful for my coping skills! What a gift. But I digress.
Each person that Ethan works with at our children’s hospital is just incredible individually; they’re all very compassionate, talented, and patient. Lately his audiologist has been thinking creatively about how to make progress with Ethan, so he suggested that rather than bring Ethan to his office, he would travel to see Ethan in one of his speech appointments. Since Ethan has a lot of love and trust for his SLP, we figured this seemed like a decent idea, definitely worth a shot. It has worked like a charm! With the different environment and the addition of another adult to help engage him and keep him calm, we’ve made huge strides! He is now wearing his left Ci and hearing again. After nearly one year of silence, he is starting to relearn how to vocalize speech sounds correctly.
All of this progress is because we have professionals who are willing to try new approaches and who bring incredible levels of patience and persistence to the table. When the people working with your child actually communicate and recognize that ultimately, they have the same goals, a lot of good can come from it. In our case, it has given our son the chance to hear again.