In lockdown with a CI

A CI user Tahlita from South Africa spent the best day of her life, right in the middle of the Corona-crisis. Her mother Bianca Birdsey explains how it happened.

Bianca´s three children with a cochlear implant

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I woke up in the middle of the night with the thought that everyone would have to wear face masks soon,” Bianca Birdsey begins her review of a year with Corona. “What would that mean for school inclusion for my hearing-impaired children?” Hadassah, Tahlita and Eden had transferred to a regular school shortly before.

Lockdown came and brought many challenges. “We involved the children from the beginning in our experiments with different masks, FM system, different voices, sign support – to try what would work best for them? The children enjoyed the experiments and also learnt how to solve problems in the process.”

The real “social distancing”

The family also used distance learning to catch up further with school lessons. “On the first day after the lockdown, our children came back to school better prepared than most other children in their classes: a great sense of achievement for all of us.”

“But the hardest thing for them now is “social distancing”. I don’t mean keeping a physical distance, but the consequences of the protective masks: because their friends also have to wear masks at the playground, and our children miss big parts of conversation there. Normally, children go to the playground to relax. My children have to work even harder during the break to understand everything. But, what’s really impressive is how empathy grows in their friend group.”

Lockdown with CI: “The extra effort pays off”

“During the time of distance learning, we got into the habit of pre-learning. If our children learn new terms before class, they can understand them better in class.” The family continues to do this, even though the lessons are now back at school.

For her daughter Tahlita, one such new term was the foreign word “idiosyncrasy”. “We googled it,” Mama Birdsey grins. Then, when the teacher asked in class if any of the children knew the term, Tahlita was able to explain it to the other children. “Mum, I felt so smart!” the girl says, concluding the tale of the lesson repetition, “I just couldn´t put my hand down because I knew the answer to every single question.”

A daughter with magic skills

On the same day, Tahlita had an online ballet class, her mother says: “Her teacher makes it very interactive. But one of the other ballet students couldn’t activate her microphone. She was very frustrated because she couldn’t participate properly. My daughter encouraged her, “Don’t give up! I have a magic power because I can read lips. I will speak for you!” So that’s what they did.”

You can hear the maternal pride in Bianca Birdsey’s voice: “In the end, the hearing girl was able to participate because of the “magic power” of my deaf child. She thanked Tahlita with a “thumbs up.” And the teacher also gave her credit: “What would we have done without you? You made today’s lesson possible!” Our daughter was on cloud nine: “Mom, this was the best day of my life!”.

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