I remember when I first took Sonya to group therapy at the Center of Hearing and Communication. All of the parents seemed to share one concern: how to keep their child’s hearing aids on their heads. It was a problem we faced as well. At the time, Sonya was only a few months old. As long as we came up with a solution, be it double sided tape, headbands or hats, Sonya would wear her hearing aids and later, CIs without complaint. I remember the frustration I felt at that time. That it would never be this hard. I was so naive then….
These days, keeping Sonya’s CIs on her head is a constant battle. Now in toddlerhood at 17 months, Sonya realizes she holds tremendous power. If she doesn’t like carrots, she can make it clear by throwing them off of her high chair, along with her CIs. If she wants milk from a bottle instead of a cup (another battle we are simultaneously fighting) she can remove her CIs until she gets her way.
This change seemed to happen overnight. A month ago, she would point to her CIs anytime the coil came off her head (leaving her without sound), to ensure that I corrected the issue promptly. She was connected to the hearing world, and she seemed to prefer it to the quiet.
Last week, however, during our gym class, Sonya decided she didn’t want to hear the world around her anymore, and she threw her CIs to the ground and had a full-on tantrum. It was (I hate to say) embarrassing, worrisome and scary for me to watch. Embarrassing because I felt like other moms may have been judging. I worry about the fact that perhaps some day, Sonya will prefer this world. And that thought is frightening. In the clip below, I am observing Sonya playing with bubbles at the end of her gym class. While I sound happy, I am feeling very discouraged. Sonya, now calm – but without sound – looks so into her own world here…
As Sonya becomes more aware of the world around her, I imagine it can be quite overwhelming at times. Perhaps the sounds of the world can feel to be too much, and since she has the ability to simply turn it off, she may choose to do so. When this happens, I feel there is little I can do. If she turns her back to me, I can’t communicate with her (Sonya reads lips, and knows a few simple baby signs). It is a powerless feeling.
I have surveyed other moms in this predicament, and their responses have been mixed. They include:
Completely ignore the behavior. When Sonya takes her CIs off, I try not to react. She seeks a reaction. However, ignoring her behavior does not get her to put them back on. Further, Sonya is inclined to try to get into mischief when not wearing the CIs. Frankly, it is impossible/dangerous to ignore a 17 month old…Perhaps it would work if she were older.
Engage the child in a way so that she wants to wear her CIs again. For example, read a book, or do an interactive game on the iPad. This sometimes works for us. If I give Sonya my iPhone and put on Masha and the Bear (her favorite show) – she will sometimes allow me to put the CIs back on. It’s not an ideal solution, since I can see this getting out of control pretty quickly.
Prevent the child from participating in an activity they enjoy until they put the CIs back on. For example, if the child doesn’t want to wear the CIs in the pool, keep her out of the pool and make her watch the other children until she agrees to put them back on. I have heard from several moms that this technique is effective. However, it is too strict for me. I don’t want to force Sonya to feel left out because she has CIs.
Praise the child when she allows you to put them back on, and do so throughout the day. It is hard to say whether this strategy is effective, but it makes me feel good – and hopefully makes Sonya feel good too. I can tell that she loves to please us. As soon as we put the CIs back on her head, we give her a hug and kiss and tell her she is doing a great job.
Within this strategy, some suggestions include:
- Give the child a sticker or a treat every time they allow you to put the CIs back on. For us, praise itself seems to be the strongest motivator – although I realize that could change soon.
- Praise the child indirectly, by letting them overhear you talking about them positively. I try to compliment Sonya indirectly by telling my husband what a great job Sonya is doing by wearing her CIs, while she is in the room. I can tell Sonya knows when we are talking about her.
I realize this list is short. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution, yet. If I come across a foolproof technique, I’ll be sure to let you know.