Monday, December 20, 2010

Suitable for all ages

Ava really, I mean REALLY loves Dora the Explorer. I have to admit, we are a big tv family. Not that we watch a ton of it, in fact it is rarely on at all during the morning or afternoon. But with a house of four teenagers, and a movie buff hubby, we pretty much have all the cable channels possible. One channel in particular, has Dora on demand. Now I don't agree with toddlers watching a lot of tv. I think under an hour daily is more than enough. However, I can't believe the amount of language Ava is acquiring from watching Dora. She knows the names of all the characters (Backpack is "backcack") and most of the songs ("Do Do Do Do Dora" ). She cannot get enough of Dora. She asks and asks all day long every day to watch it. Before each episode, there is a short announcement in which one hears "this program is suitable for all ages". When I switched the tv on to Dora this morning, Ava turned to me and said "suitable for all ages!" After I picked my jaw up off the floor I thought that maybe she is watching it a bit too much :-)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The day has come. Ava graduated from auditory verbal therapy today! Really, she is finished with therapy. See her beaming therapist Mila de Melo in the photo, proudly holding Ava's Certificate of Completion. What this means is Ava has achieved the ultimate goal of auditory verbal therapy, which is to catch up fully to a hearing child of Ava's age in expressive language (speaking) and receptive language (understanding speech). In fact, Ava has surpassed those goals. Ava's expressive language is in the 88th percentile. Her receptive language is in the 97th percentile. Overall her language is in the 91st percentile. What does this mean? Today Ava is 2 years, 5 months old; she's almost 2 1/2. Yet, Ava speaks like a hearing child that is 2 years 11 months old. She understands language like the average 3 1/2 year old hearing child does. Overall, her language is that of a 3 year 1 month old hearing child. And what is even more astounding is Ava has only heard sound for 1 year and 7 months - she didn't begin to hear until her cochlear implants were activated when she was nearly 10 months old. It is an understatement to say how proud I am of her! I am so happy and grateful for our blessings. All our hard work has paid off and the reward is so huge. There are so many people I have mentioned in past posts who were instrumental in guiding us in Ava's journey. However for this post, I dedicate to Ava's loving auditory-verbal therapist ("Auntie") Mila de Melo. Mila, you gave us the tools to help Ava learn to listen and talk and she does this beautifully. We are blown away and Ava's achievements are beyond what we ever expected and hoped for. Thank you Mila, from the bottom of my heart. We will never forget you.

Where do we go from here?

The wonderful thing about Ava's graduation is now we can just let her grow and develop as any hearing child would. She will continue to learn and acquire language naturally. Our school board provides the services of a Teacher of the Deaf to monitor Ava during the preschool years. The teacher will prepare an Individual Education Plan for Ava once she starts preschool, to make sure Ava will have all the supports she needs to be successful in school. I will, of course, continue with this blog, to document Ava's development from a toddler to school age child and so forth, along with the challenges yet to come. My attitude? Bring it on! We are as ready as ever.

Mommy, Daddy and our angel, Ava Rose

Friday, November 5, 2010

Loving Music!

I read somewhere that CI recipients may have some trouble appreciating music. Clearly with Ava this is not the case. She loves music and she loves dancing. Here are two short videos. In the first video, Ava is about 21 months old and has been hearing for just under a year. The second video was taken at her older sister's class Hallowe'en dance this year. She is almost 2 1/2 and hearing for 1 1/2 years. The video is really dark but about 10 or so seconds into the video you will see her older sister (in witch costume) enter the gym and hug a little dark figure in a giraffe costume (Ava) dancing up and down.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fun With Nursery Rhymes!

We are working on new nursery rhymes with Ava. Since mastering the finger plays "itsy-bitsy spider" and "round and round the garden" a while back, we wanted to introduce new ones to her. Ava's therapist showed me some really cool little booklets she had made with the nursery rhymes so I came home and made my own version. I found the pictures on the internet; some were already with colour and some I had to colour myself. I bought some foam sheets :

and yarn, armed myelf with scissors and a glue stick and made 5 little booklets (Humpty Dumpty, Little Miss Muffet, Jack and Jill, Hickory Dickory Dock and Hey Diddle Diddle). Here is an example of Humpty, Dumpty:

I used yarn to hold the pages together like a booklet. Then it will be easier to take the booklet apart for another game once Ava masters the rhyme - which will be to put the pictures in the correct sequential order.

I also printed off the complete nursery rhyme on one page:

Another idea is to put the pictures on popsicle sticks - as we have for "One Two Buckle My Shoe":

I will try to capture Ava's progress with these nursery rhymes on video.

Have fun!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Counting Fish

Ava is mastering her counting!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

End of summer road trip

Every summer we visit my parents in beautiful Miller Lake, Ontario, which is just over three hours northwest of Toronto in the Bruce Peninsula. Ok, I know some of you other CI moms are probably killing yourselves laughing at my declaration that 3 hours constitutes a "road trip" when a real road trip should be 5-6 hours minimum. But trust me when I say that anything more than one hour in the car with Ava is a road trip. Ava hates road trips. I think I am partly to blame, because our van has a DVD player and Ava demands to have Elmo playing whenever the car starts. But sometimes I just want Ava to look out the window at um other cars, trees, windmills, signs, cemetaries, empty fields, cows grazing, cows grazing, more cows grazing (ok the drive to my parents is really boring), anything but Elmo. But one can only hear a constant repetition of:

"I want ElmoIwantElmoIwantElmoIwantElmowantElmowantElmowantElmo?wantElmoWANT ELMO ELMO ELMO ELMO PLEASE MORE ELMO MORE ELMO PLEASE!!!!! in increasing crescendo" for so long. So, I end up giving in.

While the drive may be boring, once you get there, it is truly breathtaking. My dad took us all for a hike on the Bruce Trail......

Ava loved being in the backcarrier because she had views like this......

and this......

looking in the caves for bears......

of course the hike wore her out......

We also visited the beach which is fantastic because it is shallow for such a long way out ......

and jump over the waves......

Ava was fascinated with Grandma's mailbox ...."its emtee"

no summer is complete without skipping stones.....

and chipmunks to feed......(I couldn't get a picture of Ava feeding them - she either ate the peanuts or scared the critters away)

Looking forward to our next visit at Thanksgiving!!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Voice Camp 2010

Last weekend we had an AWESOME weekend at Voice camp! VOICE is an organization here in Canada which offers support to parents with deaf and hard of hearing kids. Voice's mission is to ensure that all hearing impaired children have the right to develop their ability to listen and speak and have access to services which will enable them to listen and speak. Every year Voice hosts an annual weekend camp for families with deaf/hard of hearing children. It is SO MUCH FUN! As an adult who grew up with a hearing loss, I know this camp is SO IMPORTANT for my children Lauren, who wears hearing aids and Ava, who has the cochlear implants, to be around other children just like them. When I was growing up, there was nobody else in my school who wore a hearing aid and there were many times that I wished I knew someone else my age who wore a hearing aid just like me. MY perception was that I didn't feel "normal" because there were no other kids who had hearing loss and wore a hearing aid in my town. I still had a very HAPPY childhood and did EVERYTHING the other kids did and had lots of FRIENDS. But that part about not feeling "normal" stuck with me throughout my childhood and know that I if had the company of just one other kid like me, that would have made all the difference. However, that being said, those were MY feelings. My children may or may not ever feel that way and I hope that they don't. But attending VOICE camp is fantastic for Lauren and Ava as they are surrounded by tons of kids just - like - them. The feeling is incredible.

What was especially exciting was this year I got to meet Amelia's daddy and his beautiful daughter Amelia.

It was Amelia's daddy's blog that inspired me to start my own blog and gave me hope when Ava was diagnosed.

Also at Voice camp we met Chris Loewen. Chris is a young man who received a cochlear implant when he was 12. He entertained us all with his amazing magic show. Chris gave an excellent talk to the parents about what it was like growing up with a cochlear implant. His mother was a very strong advocate for him and was determined that he learn to listen and speak no matter what the professionals said. He has excellent speech! He was an inspiration for us all! Thank you Chris!

Of course my wonderful talented children's musician husband Markus entertained the kids around the camp fire:

We can't wait until voice camp 2011! See you all next year!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Close Call

Ava and I were hit by a car on our bike yesterday. It is still hard to even write those Miraculously, we walked away with bumps, bruises and scrapes. The bike is a write-off. But we are alive and we were wearing our helmets. I am a very cautious person but all the caution in the world does not prevent the stupidity of some drivers. My advice is to always make eye contact with drivers and ensure that they see you. Even if you have right of way, even if your light is green and even though you are in the crosswalk, you need to make eye contact with the driver BEFORE you proceed. As we crashed to the ground my immediate thought was that no way was God going to take Ava from me after giving her the gift of hearing and all that we've been through. She didn't even cry. She was stunned. But thankfully, she was o.k. I noticed a welt on her forehead. No doubt from the helmet which saved her life I'm sure. There has been a lot of discussion on CIcircle (which is a discussion forum on the web for parents of children with cochlear implants) about bike helmets and how some parents have problems buying the right helmet to fit properly over the coils. Ava's helmet is a Bell helmet we bought at Walmart. We also used a Hanna Andersson pilot cap to wear under the helmet to help keep the coils in place. They look like this:

Ava's AV therapist informed me about a cool website which sells decorative accessories for hearing aids and cochlear implants. They are called Tube Riders and are sold by I purchased 3 pairs - pink flowers, blue flowers and pink butterflies. They have really cool sport themed and animal tube riders for boys. Ava's older sister Lauren wears hearing aids so she was thrilled to wear the Tube Riders also. The tube riders have a small little rubber ring attached to them which you simply slip on the ear hook of the processor or the tubing of the hearing aid. Here are the girls proudly showing off their new accessories!

Feeling oh so good to be alive! And, always always always wear your bike helmet!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"WordFUL" Wednesday

Just a quick post to post a couple videos of Ava singing and talking. As I've said previously, Ava is very difficult to film. She is constantly on the go and never seems to want to perform for the camera. After bribing her with blueberries, we finally were able to post two videos. The first video is of Ava singing "Twinkle Twinkle" . She actually can sing it much more clearly than in the video but it's the best I could get from her. The other video is of Ava simply talking about whether she wants one cookie or two cookies. In that video she is utilizing a couple things she is working on in AV therapy. One is giving direction where she in turn asks her sister and father if they want a cookie and also utilizing the plural for cookies vs. cookie. Soooo exciting to see her applying what she learns in therapy at home! Her speech isn't always clear at times. But that is to be expected for a two year old.

I have spent a lot of time trying to attach pretty flowers to Ava's coils. I got some ideas from other moms on how to sew snaps around the coils but it is quite difficult to do it with the N5 coils. I also don't want to sew something on only to have to remove it later and then sew it on again. I found these pretty flower stickers at the craft store. They stick fairly well and stay put for days. Even when I remove them they will still stick after a second or third time.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday Ava!

Happy 2nd Birthday Ava!

Ava's big family party will be on Sunday so I will post birthday photos then. In the meantime, Ava just completed her second PLS-4 testing. She is still performing above age level in both auditory comprehension and expressive communication. In fact, because of this, Ava technically would be discharged from auditory verbal therapy. However her therapist felt that because Ava is still so young she would benefit from another six months of AVT. I can't imagine Ava not having the AVT and despite how well she is doing I still don't feel ready for her to give it up yet. So I'm really glad that we are continuing with the weekly AVT sessions until January when she will graduate! (that will make 3 graduations for us - Ava's from AVT, my son's grade 8 and my daughter's grade 12). Ava also recently had soundbooth testing and is hearing at 20 db! She could detect whisper at 10db! I was so amazed and overjoyed at this because I could not detect many of the sounds in the booth (I wear hearing aids) and Ava responded really well to them. So proud of you Ava - you can hear better than mommy and you are profoundly deaf. Still can't get over how AMAZING CI's ARE. THANK YOU GOD!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Swimming with CI's!

Ava absolutley LOVES swimming in her pool. There was no way I was going to allow her to swim without being able to hear anything. I want her to participate in everything fully that a hearing child can. Especially in an activity that she enjoys so much! We did a little research and got some great ideas from other CI parents. We have her wear one processor in a special waterproof bag worn under her swim cap. The bag is from aLoksak - it is certified leakproof and airtight bag tested by the US navy. It is waterproof to a depth of 200 feet. Just follow the steps below:
1. the processor must have the rechargeable battery attached - the disposable batteries will not work because they need air to work
2. tighten the magnet on the headpiece as far as it can go - the magnet has to be strong enough to stay on the scalp while inside the bag

3. put the processor inside aLoksak waterproof bag - size 5" x 4" - we order this on-line - a 3 pack costs about $7 plus shipping

4. place sealed bag on child's head with the magnet properly positioned on her head and put a headband over the head and bag to help hold it in place

5. put the swimcap on - Ava's is a lycra/spandex cap we ordered from amazon. we tried a latex/silicone cap last year and it was too hard to hold the bag in place and stretch a latex cap over top of it without knocking the magnet off. Remember, what keeps the CI dry is the aLoksak bag, not the swim cap.

Just remember to check that there is a good seal on the bag before your child jumps in. I personally checked the bags following the instructions that came with the bags before I used them. Also remember to return the magnet to its original state after swimming or your child may develop a nasty sore on her scalp!

Here's a video that I am so proud of which shows Ava HEARING and SWIMMING! (Don't worry - her dad is close by)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


One year ago today, lil Ava's cochlear implants were turned on. One year ago today, lil Ava heard sound for the very first time. One year ago today, was one of the most exciting days of our lives....ever. One year ago, our fears were released and we could take that deep breath....I mean that deep in-the-pit-of-your-stomach breath, and just let it all go. And as the days went on, and seeing how quickly Ava was adapting to the implants and how quickly she was learning new sounds and verbalizing, each breath became much easier. Ava was going to be o.k. Ava is going to have a bright future. Ava is going to go to school, just like a regular kid. No, the journey is not over. But the ride has been mostly exciting and positive. We had to learn not to dwell on her deafness. Not to dwell on the fact that she needs special equipment on her head to hear. But to dwell instead on how well she can hear and speak. To dwell on the bright future ahead of her. To dwell on how Ava has really glued this blended family together, by having all her siblings eagerly participate in encouraging her to learn to listen and speak. And how we are confident that Ava, with all her happiness, zest for life and chutzpah, will have the ability to advocate and stand up for herself. We have set the bar high and we don't look back. Ava, we are so proud of you!
Here's a little video of Ava enjoying one of her favourite books..........

Friday, April 23, 2010

A little game we play

I have attempted many times to take a good video of Ava talking. But the little stinker never wants to perform as soon as I get out the camera! It seems like I always had that trouble even with the other kids. One of the kids will learn something really cool or say something amazing. But whenever I want to show someone else or get my child to repeat it in front of someone, they never do it! I was successful though this morning at capturing a little auditory memory game that we learned in therapy last week. It's quite simple. You put two familiar objects in front of your child. Then you get them to close their eyes and you quickly hide one of the objects. Then your child opens their eyes and you ask them "what's missing?" It took a few tries to get Ava to understand the concept of "missing". But now she wants to play the game over and over! Our therapist indicated to use only two objects for the first little while. Then, gradually add another object.

Here's the video. I attempted to add the captioning through the transcript option on YouTube. I apologize that the captioning is a bit out of time in the middle when I'm getting Ava to close her eyes, but then it eventually corrects itself. Enjoy!

And in case you were wondering what Ava's shirt says....."IT'S SO FUN TO BE ME!"

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Troubleshooting the cochlear implant equipment

Ava's coil failed on Easter. We noticed a steady flashing orange light blinking on her processor at the rate of one blink per second. This usually means the coil fell off and is not attached to her head. Or, it can mean that the processor is on the wrong ear. However, the coil was on her head and the processor on the correct ear yet the orange light continued to flash. We knew it wasn't the battery because the processor would show a fast flashing orange light. But nope, this was the slow flash. My husband hooked up the listening headphones to the processor and could detect good quality sound. So we knew it wasn't the processor. We got out the remote to troubleshoot. The remote indicated that "coil is disconnected from the implant" and displayed this picture:

which means the coil is no longer picking up a signal from the implant. The remote instructed us to check both the coil and the coil cable. So, first, we took the cable off the other ear and attached it to the faulty coil. Still got the steady orange flashes. Then, we took the good coil off the other ear and placed it on the processor and presto, the flashing stopped. Therefore we determined that the coil was faulty and not the cable. We went to our kit to get out a replacement coil. We found replacement cables; but lo and behold there were no replacement coils to be had! I found that quite odd, as we were given backup replacements for all parts (except the processor itself) with the Nucleus Freedom kits. Apparently the Nucleus 5 kits do not contain backup coils or magnets, only extra cables. A new coil costs $195! I did a brief survey of some fellow parents and some kits contained backups and some did not. It seemed most of those in the US had backups of everything, including a backup processor. Fortunately, Ava's coils were still under the 1 year warranty. Because it was a holiday, I couldn't do anything about it till the next day, Monday. Thankfully, Ava is a bilateral user, so she could still hear with one ear. I just can't imagine the thought of her having to spend a whole day without ANY access to sound whatsoever. On the advice of Ava's audiologist, I called "Hear Always", which is a division of Cochlear Corporation, which helps with troubleshooting and equipment replacement. I spoke to a kind gentleman, who confirmed the troubleshooting steps with me over the phone. I also learned that if we swiped the coil over the back of the remote, the remote would indicate whether the coil was receiving a sound signal or not. So cool! He arranged for a replacement coil to be fedexed overnight and we received it Tuesday morning. It worked! I felt so proud at figuring it all out. There were shipping instructions to return the faulty coil, at Cochlear's expense. All in all, it was quite an easy process and the remote was very simple to use. We do not use the remote on a regular basis but it sure came in handy this time!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Best Language Toy Ever

A crucial element to the success in using cochlear implants is receiving auditory verbal therapy. Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT) teaches deaf children how to utilize what ever usable hearing they have to acquire speech and language. It teaches the children how to listen. Ava receives AVT once per week. What is the best way to teach a child how to listen? Why through fun and play!

While you are playing with your child, you can help her/him increase his language skills and you can have fun together at the same time. It is amazing how an an incredible amount of language can be drawn from the simplest toy. After all, children learn best when they are having fun. A toy that not only promotes language but also maintains your child's interest.

I have been wanting to blog about a really great toy that Ava plays with constantly. It so happens that I think it is probably one of the best (if not the best) toy to use for auditory verbal therapy for toddlers. The toy is the ubiquitous MR. POTATO HEAD. Below are my reasons why Mr. Potato Head is so fantastic:

*BODY parts - Ava learned the names of the common body parts this way. First she learned body parts receptively by pointing when asked "where's the eyes?" Now, when I ask, "what's this?" she can respond orally and name the correct part.

*COLOURS - Ava learned her colours from this toy.

*AUDITORY MEMORY - "Give me the shoes and the eyes"....or "get the red shoes and the orange nose"

*WHAT'S MISSING? - leave the nose off and ask your child "What's missing?" or you can be silly and put the parts in the wrong spot and ask "Do the eyes go here?"

*CHOICE - do you want the ears or the feet?

*LEARNING PREPOSITIONS - "put the ears in", "take it off", put the hat "on" his head, "lay the feet beside the arms", "his hat is behind him"

*LEARNING PRONOUNS - "give the eyes to me", "those are his shoes", "where are your ears"

*SAME AND DIFFERENT" - put on a red ear and and orange ear and ask "is this the same?"


*FUN FACTOR - Ava first received her Potato Head at around 12 months. She is now 21 months and still plays with it every single day.

Ava's AV therapist recommended a really great book called "The New Language of Toys"by Sue Schwartz. It is all about how to use toys to stimulate your child's language skills. It recommends age appropriate toys to use for different age groups as well as how to make some homemade toys. It also has a guide and checklist to follow as to what language goals are reasonable for their age and development. I am constantly referring to the book for new language game ideas. It retails for about $22US.

I bought a used one on Amazon for much less than that.

Happy Playing!