Back in February, I started interviewing families and deaf adults with cochlear implants for an upcoming article in the Hands & Voices Communicator. The idea for this article came about when my daughter's friend had an implant that suddenly stopped working. It was a tough journey for her to be re-implanted and adjust to new mappings. She is now enjoying her Beatles music through her implant again.
If you recall from my previous post, I took some criticsm for attempting to write this article.
It was one of the hardest articles I've ever written.
Twists and Turns: Journeys with Implants is available in the current Hands & Voices Communicator. Join Hands & Voices and receive quarterly issues of this excellent newsletter.
Here's an excerpt from Twists and Turns:
“Families who choose implants are set up to either succeed with the implant, or fail,” said Susan Raad, owner of Communication Clubhouse in Illinois and mom to two deaf and hard of hearing children.
Susan’s son, now 13, obtained an implant at 18 months with good results.
“The very first day, he responded to a dog barking!” Susan recalled.
Despite a background in speech, language and audiology, Susan found herself vulnerable as a parent in a field that is often polarized. Prior to obtaining the implant, a doctor suggested that she pursue a certain method of communication, and Susan found herself pursuing it, even though her son’s audiogram showed no response.
“Even with my background, I found myself acting in irrational ways based on my hopes as a parent, rather than what I knew from my academic background. We often talk about implants in an either/or situation. If the implant takes off, it is considered a ‘success’ and our child has ‘succeeded.’ But if an implant doesn’t work for a child,” she continued, “it is considered a ‘failure’ and parents begin to question what they did wrong. We begin to humanize the technology.”
“What’s more,” said Susan, “it’s a technological crapshoot. Most of the time, the odds are in our favor, but what do we do when it doesn’t go in our favor? Families end up blaming themselves, feeling like they haven’t done enough.”
Susan believes that the idea of “choice” is a misleading one. “If parents are told they can simply choose a path for their child based on the decisions they make,” she says, “then what happens if their child isn’t able to function on that chosen path—does that mean they’ve failed?”
She shakes her head.