Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Piece of the Puzzle

I know I've talked about the troubles we have had with group classes and activities for Peanut. We did ballet, soccer, a music class...and it always seemed as though she was going to the guillotine. I'd work my tail off trying to encourage her to participate without pushing (or sometimes maybe with some pushing) and leave frustrated and annoyed that we were spending money on her standing there. She would then come home and do the whole class routine for us, so I knew she was paying attention, and she'd say how much she was enjoying the activity, so we thought it was all just personality. She and I had a few discussions about how it was hard to hear the instructor with all the other noise - I chalked it up to sensory processing after a good deal of being frustrated. Since it was so stressful to me, we decided we would not enroll her in any more classes after last fall's second try at ballet, and that has been working out fine.

Since then, she has continued to lay low in larger groups, especially when there are kids she does not know well. The time it takes for her to warm up is really really long - like an hour or two. I've often noticed that Peanut looks like she wants to engage with other kids she doesn't know well but does not know how. And when other kids approach her to play, she often uses gestures and body language that stop the interaction rather than interacting. When the group is children she has known her whole life, it is all fine and easy. Just one new kids causes her to cling to me, lay on the floor and roll around, hold her doll tightly, and otherwise look like she has gone boneless.

So of course all of this concerns me, but I also know that her personality and temperament is different from mine and that my anxiety about it all is not helpful. So I've worked on relaxing. A few weeks ago, honey and I both noticed that we were having trouble getting Peanut's attention. We'd call her name over and over with no response. I told her that it seemed like she was having trouble using her ears, and asked if she felt that we should see a doctor about it. She said yes, so I took her in to have a look at her ears. After Peanut's ears were deemed "clean and clear" they did a brief hearing screen. Once Peanut figured out the "raise your hand when you hear the sound" thing, she raised over and over on her right side. The nurse switched the left and the hand stayed down. Obviously down. So obviously down that the nurse didn't say anything and the doctor returned with a "well, we need to refer to audiology and ENT". Which of course I had already scheduled.

We are not yet through all the evaluations, but the consensus so far is that she has a high frequency hearing loss. That means she hears people talking but can't make out what they are saying, especially in a loud or echoing room. It's harder to hear higher tones, so ballet teachers, little girls, sweet gentle music...

So, this changes everything. It explains so much. While it is a big deal to discover a hearing loss, I'm glad to have figured this out. I think she is too. I understand so much better my little Peanut; her personality, her time to warm up, her need for clear directions, her taste in music. I have concrete ideas to give to her teachers and to our friends in order to help them help her participate. Speaking with a little girl who you think is shy vs. speaking with a little girl who may not have heard part of what you or her friend said because the music was on is a whole different thing. The strategies to engage her are different than what we had been doing, assuming she was shy. After sharing this story, someone said, "Oh poor baby!" and I got pretty miffed. I don't feel like this is a "poor baby" situation at all. Clearly, this is a part of who Peanut is, and I am grateful to have listened to her and my mama instinct to figure it out. We are on a path to see the specifics and how best to proceed, but I am already feeling more competent as a parent knowing this piece of the puzzle.

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