A friend on FB posted this morning that her son, who is 7, got an ear infection last night and his eardrum ruptured. A few comment in, she posted “Pray for no permanent hearing loss” and I…well, I nearly became “that parent”. The one who says “You know, that’s not the worst that can happen. Permanent hearing loss is not a huge thing, in the scheme of things. Your kid is 7. His speech is fairly established. Getting a hearing aid is a fairly easy process and kids don’t mind them nearly as much as adults do.” Except I didn’t, because that would be callous of me and completely unfair.
It does, however, make me feel like I’m in a weird camp. Should The Boy’s hearing loss be a bigger deal than it is right now? Sure, it’s come with its fair share of struggles, like learning to talk and eating. It’s put him a bit behind the curve in some spots but he’s way ahead in others. Aaron says I panicked a lot in the initial diagnoses, but that’s sorta what I do – I panic, I fall apart, and then I pull myself together and figure out what we’re going to do about it. So no, it’s by far not the worst. There’s hearing loss but he’s not profoundly deaf…and if he was, well, we’d sort that out too. I took ASL classes the semester after we found out and he got his hearing aid, because I thought it might be needed. At that point he was becoming more verbal but he still wasn’t clear enough that others could understand him and he was so young that expressing himself was an issue too. Hell, he’s 3(!) now and we’re still working on articulation and how to express oneself.
So is The Boy a special needs kid or not? I have services for him – Idaho Educational Services for the Deaf and Blind, for starters, plus he’s in a language pre-school run by his speech therapist. He gets 30 minutes of dedicated, one-on-one speech therapy twice a week at the school, working on articulation. He’s also 10 months behind on average, according to the assessment I do about every 6 months with IESDB. He was 37 months at the last one and his age score for language comprehension is 27 months. He’s been 10 months behind the entire time. Granted, the number of areas in which he is behind have shrunk but he’s STILL behind by nearly a year. So special needs? Except that you can’t tell by looking at him, unless you can see his ear, that there’s anything different about him at all. I could probably not use IESDB at all, but I prefer to have them just in case. During the summer it lets him be exposed to other kids that are just like him…which puts us back in the first camp.
I am in no way upset that he might be – it’s just a label, after all – but it is yet another identity struggle for me. Do I try to jump into the special needs kids community? I can’t really identify with most of the parents other than “yeah it’s a struggle” but in all honesty, beyond that I have no experience and would only succeed in making an ass out of myself. Do I insist that he is not a special needs kid? That just makes me look like a judgmental ass. Where do we fit?