Since Sophie was born, she has been receiving services through the First Steps program through our state. First Steps is an early intervention program that provides services to children (and their families) from birth to age three. When she was diagnosed with profound hearing loss, we automatically qualified for this program because deafness is considered a developmental disability.
At age three, the First Steps program ends and children that continue to need services are placed on an IEP (individualized education program) through their local school district. In children with hearing loss, this usually means that the district will provide a teacher of the deaf, ongoing speech therapy, or cover schooling at an oral deaf school if the district cannot accommodate the child.
When Sophie was a baby, I had researched a lot about this transition process, talked to other parents, and generally just assumed she would automatically qualify for services through our school district because she is deaf. Well, I was wrong. ;) Sophie's speech and language development was evaluated a couple of months ago by our school district in preparation for the IEP process. Before the district can determine eligibility, they must first evaluate each child to determine where they are at developmentally.
Because we have no other concerns with Sophie's development (academically, socially, physically, etc...), she was only evaluated on her speech and language abilities. The evaluation itself was SEVERAL hours long and had to be completed on two separate days. I was pretty emotional and anxious about the results and looking back, I still can't quite pinpoint why I was such a nervous wreck about it. I think much of it had to do with feeling as though all of our time, effort, hard work, and tears for the past three years were leading up to this judgment of whether or not our child qualified for special services because she exhibits a language delay.
Anyway, it suffices to say that Sophie does not qualify for services through our school district, so we will not be going down the IEP road. In fact, I can confidently say that her language abilities blew the school district away and it was hard for them to fathom that a deaf child could speak so well and demonstrate the advanced language and communication concepts that Sophie does.
To give an idea, a couple of the formal tests that were administered included the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation (GFTA-2) and the Preschool Language Scale 5 (PLS-5). On the GFTA-2, Sophie's score fell into the 92nd percentile, meaning that she performed better than 92% of typical hearing children in her age range. Her test-age equivalent shows that she performed similarly to a child who is 4 years and 7 months of age (she was tested at 2 years, 9 months)! Her total score on the PLS-5 was in the 99th percentile, indicating she performed better than 99% of hearing children in her age range.
Similar to the ABR testing and meeting informing us that Sophie is deaf, this meeting with the school district was very surreal to me. As they were going over the test results and telling me that my child is a phenomenon, I just kept thinking that it had to be a dream. I know that Sophie is incredibly smart and her language development is on track, but I still just kept wondering, "how is it possible that a deaf child can score this high on these tests?!" As the meeting went on, I continued to sit there and wonder when they were going to break the news to me, to tell me where they have major areas of concerns, where her delays are, etc... But it never came. The conclusion was that Sophie's progress has been simply amazing.
Needless so say, I felt like I was floating as I was leaving the meeting and for the rest of that day I was on cloud nine. There are many reasons behind her success such as early intervention, advocating hard for early implant surgery, dedication, and most importantly, the incredible audiology team, staff, and teachers at the Moog Center. Whatever the reason, the feeling of success and amount of pride I have is immense.