Sunday, January 13, 2008


I am constantly amazed by how many unbelievable people I am able to meet and understand just by means of internet. I'm all the way over here in Tuscany, living my daily life and every now and then appreciating the incredible view of the Tuscan hills that I have from my terrace, yet completely absorbed in what I have found by means of internet. I consciously made the choice to come to live in Italy - I did not want to live in Baltimore my entire life - what I did not know at the time was that this choice would have been made permanent by my son's diagnosis of bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss. I left the USA like myself - crazy, funny, adventurous and so excited to live a new culture and lifestyle. I was a new wife, new mother and still a girl in love with the idea of being married and creating a family.
Jordan's diagnosis shocked my head into action and threw my heart into total confusion, but my head led and my heart grew bigger and bigger as my child suffered and grew, suffered and grew and slowly began to smile. When he was with me, I totally understood what he was trying to communicate and I gave him words. When he was in pre-school, I left him in the hands of a support teacher who loved him and protected him, but did not understand him well enough to help him find the words he needed. I suffered every single day I left him at that door, expecting a call from the teacher that he had thrown another temper tantrum or was screaming for his mom.
Thinking back on this now...would access to Italian sign language have helped him? Hell, yes. But I was so busy trying to learn the Italian necessary to teach him to speak that the idea of incorporating another language was mind-blowing, and I was terrified that sign would have had a negative affect on his language production. He was wearing hearing aids at the time. We desperately needed a bridge at that time, yet I did not realize it at the time. But what if all of the agony we went through with language difficulties led him to dominate the Italian language to bring him to the point where he is now? I have a lot of questions, but I do not have the answers. This is why I trust each parent to know his or her child and to make the decisions they believe are best, and to be able to modify the program based on the needs of the child.
The cochlear implant changed our lives because it gave Jordan the extra hearing he needed to comprehend others and most importantly EXPRESS HIMSELF. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to express your feelings, opinions, and experiences. When they told me I couldn't speak English to Jordan, I decided that I would dedicate one hour a week to teaching him English in a group of four of his friends. He went from the child with the most difficulty in learning - always needing visual assistance in understanding new vocabulary, which I provided (obviously)- to the absolute best in the group in comprehending when I ask questions. The cochlear implant enables him to rely on auditory input - really unbelievable. Even the kids in the group are amazed by him and have so learned from him. My eleven year old son is educating other kids, that's some powerful stuff.
Jordan went to Elementary school with the same class and the same teachers for five years. In Italy, the same teachers follow the class for all five years, so if you have terrible teachers, you're screwed. We had the most wonderful support teacher and class teachers who learned from my son. They took him from a temper tantrum throwing lost six year old to a sensitive, proud, creative ten year old and we walked together to help him acquire language, confidence and balls.(:))
Six of those Elementary School friends are currently in his Middle School class. They protected him from day one, but the amazing thing is that he is learning to protect himself. He has this highly sensitive Italian teacher, Alessandra Del Fa, who encouraged the class members to tell something about themselves in a roundtable discussion during the first week of school. He came home that day and said, "Mom, (with this glowing face)I told everyone about my cochlear implant and that I'm deaf. When I was finished the whole class clapped their hands for me." I melted.
If eleven years ago I arrived in this country a girl...I am now a woman. My son has enriched my life: I have no regrets about decisions I've made, and I will raise my voice.


Karen Mayes said...

Wonderful blog... explaining the joy of parents to be able to communicate with a child.


Valerie said...

That is so wonderful. I can understand the fustration a parent feels to communicate with her child. I also have that fustration, but it was to understand my child. That is why I choose to get my cochlear implants. I can communicate with her unlike when I had hearing aids. Not just in dangerous situations, but as she tells me about her school work and how much she loves me.

My deafness makes me, me. My cochlear implants allow me to hear the beauty of communication.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jodi, Another great post. One point really resonated with me. When the "professionals" told you not to teach Jordan English, you listened to your gut instead. At my daughter's first oral school, I told them I wanted her to learn how to speech/lip read. "No, they pick it up naturally," I was told. I went ahead and did it anyway at home. We practiced a few minutes every morning before she put her hearing aids on and every evening during bathtime. I was taught speech reading skills in therapy as a very young child. My husband, who is also hearing impaired, cannot lip read a single word. Who do you think can function easily in noisy restaurants and social situations? ;-)

At 12, she's an amazing lip reader and has been following swim instruction at camp since she was 3 without a hitch. I'm not convinced she would have picked it up naturally, some people do, some people don't, like my husband.

Hence, my wariness of parents listening to the professionals as if it is the word of G-d.

Anonymous said...

When you go to the physician, you ask the physician for his or her expert opinion on whether or not you need a certain operation, etc. You don't expect to be able to understand all the details like your doctor can.

In the same way, you should trust that linguists know what they are talking about when they say that there is no need to worry about sign language interfering with your son's ability to progress in learning a language orally.

Anonymous said...

If you and your family can embrace LIS (Italian sign language), it will be enriching. It's one of the beautiful sign languages in the world.

Have you meet Deaf Italians? Go to a Deaf club where Deaf Italians socialize?

Maybe you'll be interested in this DVD:

I'm from Pittsburgh and maintains a great friendship with a few Deaf friends in Italy.

Karen Putz said...

Oh gosh, a caring teacher makes all the difference in the world! My daughter was in a gifted class in elementary school and she absolutely did not like the teacher. She was completely miserable in the gifted class. I finally pulled her out and she was a changed girl overnight.

Anonymous said...

LW, Your rationale is a bit off. Do you listen when a doctor says to get an operation without getting a second opinion or doing further research? I certainly wouldn't! Life decisions are too important to allow others to dictate.

Who are these linguists you are referring to? What education and background do they have other than personal experience which is unique to each individual? What research or study are you referring to when you say to "trust...linguists when they say that there is no need to worry about sign language interfering with your son's ability to progress in learning a language orally?"

Unknown said...

ROFL! Paula, do you realize that we did it again? I was leaving a comment on your blog at the same time you were leaving one on mine! There is some weird esp stuff going on here! I'm going to beddie bye, now...night night - I'll comment on the comments tomorrow. Jodi
For anyone who sends me a personal email, my freakin email hasn't been working all day...Jodi

Unknown said...

Hi Rene,
I checked out the video you generously posted, but there are no captions and I can't understand what the person is signing without them! Also, I can't figure out which to learn first, ASL or LIS, gets confusing with two spoken languages, you can't imagine how crazy my house is! Thank you for posting the link, much appreciated, Jodi