My name is Chavi. I’m 10 years old and I’m in Grade 3 in a regular school.
My rehabilitation process was long, hard and confusing.
I know there are lots more children who can’t hear who are at different stages on the journey. At the beginning, in the middle or maybe already at the end (is there such a thing?), so I want to share with you my own personal experience and that of my family.
Maybe our experience can help you navigate the way better.
So where do we start?
Well, I was born a cute little baby and everything was fine for the first few months. No one dreamed that a “bomb” was lying deep inside my ear.
At the age of eight months, my Mom began to be concerned. “I don’t think Chavi hears,” she said, but everyone just laughed it off and said she was being oversensitive.
I still wasn’t speaking at 18 months.
Mom decided she’d had enough. It was time to act. We went to an ENT doctor at our health clinic. He checked my right ear, looked in my left and… also joined the group of non-believers. “It’s probably just liquid in the ear. Let’s wait till the summer and it’ll dry out.”
Summer came and went and I was still not talking. Mom was very worried now and took me for more and more tests. I didn’t like them at all. At first I cried and didn’t cooperate. I couldn’t wait for them to finish. Later, I learned to be cleverer. I understood that if I just did what they expected me to do, I would find myself out of there a lot quicker.
When I thought I heard a sound, even a very weak one, I turned around. I won the battle but boy, did I lose the war. The tests were over but no one had discovered my hearing impairment. The audiologists said to Mom: “Your daughter hears okay. She’s probably got liquid. It’ll dry out and it’ll be okay.”
I’m already three. My friends are chattering away and I don’t say a word. By this time, Mom didn’t know what to do and took me all over the place. I went to a speech therapist, I had a grommet put in (which of course didn’t help) and the lessons with the speech therapist didn’t get me anywhere either.
I was quite happy with the toffee she gave me after every lesson but she and Mom were very confused. What’s going on here? The hearing tests show a slight loss but Chavi doesn’t hear at all!
At this stage, when I was almost four, my parents were referred to a BERA test at Tel Hashomer. This test proved that Mom’s gut feeling was correct even before my first 12 months were up.
I was hearing impaired.
I don’t remember much about those days; after all I was little and didn’t understand what was going on around me. Mom and Dad looked sad, very sad. If until now they had some hope it might be okay, that I would speak very soon, the bitter truth hit them like a hurricane… Chavi is hearing impaired!
This diagnosis was threatening and scary but my parents decided to do all they could to overcome it and make sure I became a normal little girl like all my friends.
When Mrs. Irenstein, the Director of Shema Kolenu, approached Mom and Dad and offered her help, they knew it wasn’t for them. Their daughter would not study in a special education framework. She would not be abnormal. Shema Kolenu was not appropriate for her.
So what was?
Well, I began wearing hearing aids and going to the speech therapist again. I didn’t like it but I knew I had no choice if I wanted to hear. I was at a regular preschool and an assistant from Ezer Mitzion came every day to work with me.
A year went by, and another and I was already in my final year of preschool. I actually liked it there – they had a lot of interesting games I loved to play with. I didn’t know what we were learning, I didn’t understand what the teacher was saying, I would just dream. I wouldn’t even try to listen because I knew what would happen…
The preschool teacher saw I had a problem but didn’t know what it was. She said to Mom: “Chavi’s really cute and we love her. She’s a good girl and does what she’s told but – Mom knew this was coming – I think she needs to move to an inclusive preschool, for children with special needs.”
It was then and there that Mom decided.
“Enough! We’ve tried everything, we’ve worked hard but Chavi is not making any progress. She’s not coping with preschool. It’s time to go to someone who specializes in hearing problems. It’s embarrassing, it’s hard, it’s full of stigmas but that’s what Chavi needs right now.”
So she called up Shema Kolenu again and we went there the very next day. The Director was very nice and asked Mom how I was being treated. Mom answered very confidently that I had a speech therapist and even a personal assistant!
It was only afterwards, when I was already part of the Shema Kolenu family, that Mom realized just how silly that answer was. How so insufficient…
The preschool at Shema Kolenu was small, crowded and full of hearing impaired girls speaking, hearing understanding and knowing loads! The gap between me and them was enormous. I was light years away from their level, and I had been at a regular preschool! They had been in rehabilitative preschools in special education frameworks and they were so much further ahead…
But as soon as I started at Shema Kolenu, my life changed.
From being a passive little girl, I became one of the gang! The Shema Kolenu staff worked with me six days a week around the clock. The speech therapist, together with the language and reading teacher, worked closely with Tzippy, my amazing preschool teacher. They carried me far along the path. I was making progress in giant steps, even running!
I heard and understood. I listened, spoke, laughed, learned and even read! Even today, when Mom tells of the first Shabbat we sat round the table and I began to talk about the weekly portion without stopping, she gets emotional.
The change was unbelievable!
And so I finally reached Grade 1, as ready as all the hearing girls were and perhaps even more. I went to a regular school. I knew how to read already so I was able to use the reading lesson to study with the special teacher from Shema Kolenu who came to the school and helped me progress in other subjects too. Every so often, the teacher let me take a friend with me for a supplementary lesson. It was a difficult choice. They all wanted to come!
Today I’m in Grade 3.
Shema Kolenu is an integral part of my life and it’s thanks to them I can study and be successful. They study with me for tests, help me with Math and accompany me all the way.
When the teacher said to my Mom, “If I didn’t know that Chavi was hearing impaired, I couldn’t tell,” I felt as though one circle had been closed. This circle had started at a few months old with Mom’s first fears… she always wanted the very best for me.
The journey was long and we didn’t always know where to go next or where to turn. But Shema Kolenu was waiting for me and closed the circle in the most perfect way possible.
I know there are other circles still open. They surround me and will continue to do so. I am hearing impaired and will continue to be so. But with the support and help I get from Shema Kolenu, my heart is overflowing with hope and faith.
Adds Chavi’s Mom:
I think anything I say will be superfluous. If you’ve understood the tune behind Chavi’s words, you understand it all.
Yet it’s important for me to add a mother’s voice to emphasize something so valuable. The social support system that envelops Chavi, us and her brothers and sisters, gives us so much strength and reinforcement.
We have felt it many times. For example, after the fun-filled activity days Shema Kolenu organizes for families, we feel we are so much richer because of Chavi!