Frankly, we’ve had it easy. But one thing we didn't have (for Tate) was an early diagnosis. Apparently newborn screening hadn’t been introduced in our town when Tate was born, so we didn’t know.
There were little clues, but it really wasn’t obvious. (Okay, maybe I’m self-justifying? See for yourself…)
Our oldest, Wyatt, was not your typical kid. Smaller than average (as in, falling-off-the-growth-chart smaller), he did everything early. Walked at 8 months… mobility and no sense. And TALKED! That boy was talking in sentences when he was 12 – 15 months old. In the high-chair, “Done eating, down, go play, please.” Or, before bed, “Get it, snuggly-cuddly blanky.” Or, just to get a laugh from strangers, “GOOD GOLLY MISS MOLLY!” One day when Wyatt was four, or maybe almost five, he walked up to me and announced, “I’d like to learn to read today.”
When Tate was born, my (ex-speech-therapist) mom kept reminding me that kids are different, and I shouldn’t expect him to do things as early as Wyatt. And he didn’t, but he wasn’t behind the curve either. His baby-talk had some quirks that make more sense now, but didn’t set any alarm bells ringing. He had no “s” at the beginning or end of his words. “Hey Mama! It ‘nowin’! Let’ make a ‘nowball!” He mixed up his “m” and “n” sounds. But it was all very toddler-appropriate. And even people outside the family could understand him.
Tate’s vocabulary was phenomenal… especially in certain spheres, like insects, trains, and heavy equipment. One day, driving down the street, I pointed out some road-work being done and enthusiastically described three kinds of excavators. Tate gazed out the window, then looked at me calmly and said, “Actuawee, Mama, a back-hoe.” And he was right.
So his speech was not a tip-off. Could be because he did have more hearing then, than he does now – his loss is progressive. Also, I like a quiet house, which might have helped him be able to hear our voices. It probably helped that I have always been big on eye-contact as a respect issue, even before we knew about the hearing loss. And not having cable TV was probably a plus, as we spend a lot of time with books. Frankly, I think it had a lot more to do with the grace of God, and with Tate himself than anything I did.
But, Tate didn’t have the tolerance for sitting on my lap and reading that Wyatt did. I may have read too quietly for him to hear most of it. He probably only bothered when he really liked the pictures, or he just wanted a big snuggle. :0) (And he’s a VERY snuggly kid!) In retrospect, he was probably loving the sensory input, making up for the communication he was missing.
There are a lot of things I’ll never know. Is Tate “like this” because of his hearing loss, or would he have been “that way” anyway?
Tate was a wanderer. When Wyatt was a toddler I could take him out in the yard while I worked in the flower beds and he would happily play near me, chattering to himself. Tate would hang around for awhile and then just launch! He wasn’t being defiant or sneaky, he’d just go. Did he do that because my back was turned and there was no communication? Or is he just a happy-go-lucky, confident child, off to explore his kingdom?!
So, really, we had no idea until he was about 3 and a half. One day a relative called to talk with the boys on the phone. Wyatt chattered away happily, but when I handed the phone to Tate I saw confusion and frustration. I could hear the voice at the other end, and he probably heard something, but it didn’t make any sense to him. I remember him saying, “Whaaaaat? Talk to me! TALK to me!”
That’s when I knew.