Thursday, May 7, 2009

Line in the Sand

My daughter was implanted in May of 1999. She was 12 ½ months old. At that time, the minimum recommended age of implantation was 18 months of age, unless there were extenuating circumstances. Ossification from meningitis was one of them. Newborn hearing screening was a rarity. The doctors had yet to truly understand how critical the magical first three years was in regards to language acquisition.

Before the ossification in her right ear was discovered, the doctor was fairly unconcerned about how much time would be lost between when she lost her hearing and when the implant would get activated. Her belief that if we implanted somewhere between 15 and 18 months that would be good enough, and that there really wouldn’t be that much lost in the process. The ossification was discovered at about 9 months of age, and that changed everything. If they wanted to get a good insertion of the electrode array into her left ear before it too ossified, they needed to hurry. The ossification process had just begun in her left ear when they operated. They were able to slide the array right through the bit of fibrous tissue they encountered, and got a full insertion. She was the first 12 month old at that hospital, and one of the first in the country to receive an implant at that age.

She is now 11 years old, and will start in middle school in the fall. She is the line in the sand. The number of kids implanted younger than 18 months of age, who are older than my daughter are few and far between. When she was two, the minimum recommended age of implantation lowered to 12 months. When she was three, newborn screening was more common than not, and now it is in place across the country, for all babies. And now, the doctors are far more aware of the brain development that occurs during those critical first three years.

There were no ASL CI programs available when she was little, so we went with a TC program. She still signs SEE, but is learning ASL, and will be around other kids who know ASL when she gets into middle school. But we know of no families with kids in her age group who were implanted as young as she was. We were forging our own path for the most part. When kids enter the teen years, they start to come into their own. How she does in middle school will be the beginning of our parental report card. That is usually when the payoff for early intervention begins. We will see where we did things right, and we will see where we did things wrong. This payoff period will last at least through high school, and into college. But it begins in September.

Up until now, the number of kids implanted early, who are in middle and high school have been a trickle. Most of the teens who have implants got them at over the age of three. However, behind my daughter the trickle will turn into a stream, then a wave. It will be at least five to ten more years before enough early implanted kids get to the upper levels of school before the trend can be seen as to their success. Success with both their implants and with education and language in general. But my daughter is at the head of the wave.

I am looking forward to the journey.


1 comment:

kim said...

Awesome post! Gave me chills.:-)