Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hearing Tests and Texas School for the Deaf

Last month, the seven of us loaded up in our trusty monster of an SUV and drove down to Austin.  Our main purpose in going was to tour Texas School for the Deaf and have both boys tested by an audiologist there.
Our view (Instagram)
Driving into Austin, we headed toward Congress to our favorite hotel, Embassy Suites.  We stay there whenever possible in almost any town we visit. We like the consistency of nice, clean rooms, comfy beds, great customer service, an indoor pool, and the made-to-order hot breakfast included.  When you're a family of seven good eaters, that breakfast can be a major blessing!  It also helps that Ken stays in Hilton hotels as much as he can when traveling, so we often are able to use points for a room or upgrade.  This time, Ken surprised us with the Presidential Suite!!  We had a picturesque view up Congress, a huge living area and dining room, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and enough places to sleep that everyone is on a bed and comfy.  (This is also a perk of being able to travel on a Monday and Tuesday non-holiday. Upgrades are often readily available!)
Our awesome room! (Instragram)

Tuesday morning, we headed to TSD.  Since my first visit about 5 years ago, I've been impressed with the campus.  It's located right in the heart of SoCo, surrounded by hip shops, unique restaurants, and a plethora of food trailers.  The campus itself is beautiful, sprawling, and more modern-looking than other schools for the Deaf I've visited.

We were met by Avonne Rutowski who led us on a tour around the early childhood and elementary rooms.  The boys went right into each room, immediately exploring the colorful toys, games, and people.  My heart was happy to see the adults conversing with the boys.   That constant exposure to language is just what they need.

We saw the class that will be the boys'.  They will have about 10 classmates, most of whom have Deaf parents. That's contrary to the statistic that 90% of deaf kids have hearing parents.  I'm sure it's because many parents like us move to where the good schools are.  Like I've said before, there aren't many good ones left.

After a couple of hours touring, we headed to the administration offices.  We met with one of the admissions specialists.  While she was explaining the ins and outs of the admissions process to us, I was struck by how easy it was just to...be...there.  We didn't have to get interpreters.  During the tour, I could chase after the boys while Ken stuck with the tour.  The admissions office workers talked to KEN and didn't default to me.  It was such an "ahhhhh" moment.  On the way out of the office, I was able to meet a junior Chinese girl, Amy, who had been adopted at age 6.  She loved seeing the boys and I loved being able to visit with her.  There are quite a few Chinese kids at TSD, which pleases us.  The Deaf community tends to be more diverse and accepting of variety anyway, but it's still nice that they will see other kids "like them."  Adopted.  Chinese-American.  Deaf.

Tian and Travis during audiogram (Instagram)
We grabbed some lunch off campus, took the kids back to the hotel for a quick rest, then headed back to TSD for the boys' audiology exam.  Tian went first and, of course, did fabulously!  He responded reliably and ended up stumping the audiologist a bit.  We were expecting "normal" hearing in his left (non-microtia) ear and some lower hearing levels on his right (microtia) side.  What the audiologist found was that he seemed to hear well behind his closed ear, but had some lower levels of hearing (what they would call "mild hearing loss") in his left ear.  To us, this was good news.  It meant he would qualify for TSD.  The audiologist requested we schedule an ABR exam to get more specific information.

I was curious about Travis, as well, knowing he couldn't hear much of anything.  He responded well to the test (both ladies kept commenting on how smart he was...what else should I expect!?) and quickly understood he was to drop a block in the can every time he heard a sound.  He was identified to be profoundly deaf in his right ear and severe-to-profound in his left ear.  No big surprise there.

Tian during ABR testing (Instagram)
This morning, Tian had his ABR test which confirmed his audiogram.  He may have "normal" hearing behind his closed ear, but since it is closed, he has lower hearing levels in that ear.  His left ear was identified as mildly deaf.

Since Tian does have lower hearing levels in both hears, he qualifies to attend TSD with his brother.  Ken and I know this is the best place for them right now!

I'm so glad we waited almost a year to do all of this testing.  It would have been hard to deprive Tian of food and drink right after he got home with us.  Since he knows, loves and trusts us, he did great today!  The sedation meds made him drunk!  He was a happy drunk, but there's something totally wrong about seeing a two year-old acting like a drunken college student.  He did fine with the food and drink fast, but as soon as he could, though, he downed about 4 bottles of tea and one and a half bottles of milk.  :)