Category Archives: I’m all Ears

Listen to me now: A letter from the future

Mikaeel Valli

Dear Mom and Dad,

You are probably both wondering who this person is who is writing to you. It’s me, your son, Mikaeel writing this letter from the future as a 21 year old, but for now, you both know me as your young four year old, being raised beside my bustling older brother, Talib. Raising two young boys and balancing your work demands has, without a doubt, been keeping you both very busy. Raising us to adults as we are today, you both deserve a lot of credit for your hard work. Trust me, it will be worth it, though admittedly, we will have driven you nuts and given you splitting headaches many, many times.

I can only imagine how hard it was for you to learn that I have a severe to profound hearing loss. A deafening echo of ‘deaf’ must still be going through your minds and it has no doubt left you wondering what the future holds for me. Will I ever listen and communicate like any normalchild — especially like Talib? Even deeper echos running through your minds will probably be whether you will ever be able to communicate your thoughts to me or even for me to communicate my thoughts to you. The truth is, it will all happen! Rest assured that though it will be difficult in the beginning as you are now experiencing, over time I will gradually improve with my communication and listening skills to a point that these fears you are having will become non-existent.

As with many parents both of your minds must be racing as to what I  feel being that I am hard of hearing (HOH), especially once I reach an age of understanding. The reality is that I never felt any resentment over being HOH. I feel life is too short to dwell on things that cannot be changed. I believe we need to progress forward, focusing on the blessings we have, always being positive, no matter what. Rest assured that the cochlear implant has opened a tremendous floodgate of opportunities for me to such an extent that I don’t feel HOH (when wearing the cochlear implant, of course!). My listening and articulation capabilities are, at this point, very similar to individuals with typical hearing in many listening situations.

Currently, all you see is “little Mikaeel” being so quiet, and generally having a difficult time grasping the ability to learn to talk. You and your therapist wonder if I’ll ever talk myself out of my shell of shyness. Therapists and teachers have expressed concern and wonder if they are doing everything they can to help me. Both of you are convinced, however, that I just need more time. I want to assure you that you are absolutely right! There is a great misconception that upon cochlear implantation, recipients will automatically have the ability to hear and speak, but clearly you both understand that that’s not exactly accurate. It not only takes appropriate hearing technology and intervention, but time.  Along with the professionals, you have all done a tremendous job! Now, it’s time to wait for me to continue to learn, grow and express myself.

A young Mikaeel in an auditory-verbal therapy session with his auditory-verbal therapist

A young Mikaeel in an auditory-verbal therapy session with his auditory-verbal therapist

Dad, your determination to consistently take me to Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT) sessions every Wednesday morning along with the time Mom takes to watch each of the taped AVT sessions along with your combined determination to enforce the lessons taught during those sessions will prove to be the recipe for my success. I certainly feel that, beside the decision for a cochlear implant, enrolling in AVT (and you both taking it seriously) are the best decisions that you both made. Without a shadow of doubt, I would never have achieved my current level of articulation and listening skills with it. The determination, love and work ethic you both possess is unmatched.

There is an expression that says, “No pressure. No diamond.” You both are placing a good amount of pressure on creating the conditions that will lead to the polishing of me — your diamond. Your tenacity of continual pressure for your children to attain their highest possibilities; having high expectations, will have diamonds descending onto your laps — guaranteed.

Continue going with the flow, even when the going gets tough. Many doors of opportunities will open up along the way for both Talib and I. These doors, however, will open when you least expect it. Talib will become a very confident young adult who will eventually meet a wonderful wife who brings a vibrant perspective to our family. He will earn great success in his career. I will mature quickly and, admittedly, I am very surprised at myself for this when I look back! You have encouraged me to focus and this has led me to pursue and develop my career from a relatively young age.

Mom and Dad, always continue to work together as team of two in supporting each other, sharing comforting and reassuring thoughts with each other and always continue to ensure there is a line of communication between the two of you as well as with your children. Continue to strive to integrate your boys together and treat your journey with Mikaeel as a holistic package involving everyone in the family. One possible way is to incorporate Mikaeel into Talib’s activities and vice versa as much as possible. Consider bringing Talib along to a few of my AVT sessions. I bet Talib would find it a lot of fun to play with the abundance of colourful toys in the therapist’s room. It would certainly make Talib feel part of this journey to a greater level and would encourage me to mimic Talib, using him as my model. You could do the reinforcement of AVT lessons at home together with the two siblings as well. This will give prime opportunity in re-enforcing your conviction that everyone has a valuable role to play within the home and that everyone needs to feel included.

I know you both are very determined that Talib and I achieve an education and you are probably wondering how we both will do in school. Talib will become a proficient academic performer especially in high school where he will earn honor rolls throughout the four years. As for me, it will take time for me to gradually catch on, adjust to different listening situations and to effectively understand and communicate language properly in the earlier years of elementary mainstream school. But don’t worry. I will catch on, especially when I reach mainstream high school where I also will achieve honor rolls in all four years. I speculate that my continual exposure to children with typical hearing in my age group in mainstream elementary school was the driving force pushing me toward success. I believe that being assimilated has led to my ability to communicate effectively.

As I have already spilled the beans on your children’s school accomplishments, you are probably on the edge of your chair wondering what happens next after high school for both of us. Well, I have to say that patience is a virtue and that you will have to wait until prime time in about ten plus years! I just would like to let you know that as an adult, life is very positive and I am very happy just the way it is. This is thanks to the lessons and mindset that you instilled in us right from the very beginning. Your dedication has brought forth rewards that I think will surpass your wildest dreams.

You both are still probably wondering who I am and how I can say such decisive things. The reality is, once again, I am speaking from the future and you will be with this person through to the future and much further. I need to let you know that, along with the excellent family support received especially from your sister (in-law), Zainab and her family, you are both doing a fantastic job! All of you ought to be very proud of your accomplishments for molding Talib and I into our full potential in being happy and healthy.

Warmest regards from your old (and more behaved) son,

Mikaeel

As an adult, whenever possible, Mikaeel enjoys spending time with Warren Estabrooks and Karen MacIver-Lux

As an adult, whenever possible, Mikaeel enjoys spending time with Warren Estabrooks and Karen MacIver-Lux

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Letter to my 10 year old self

Jonathan Samson
Dear 10 year old Jonathan,

Hi kid, it’s me, or actually your 43 year-old self from your future. I’ve just finished working with your brother Noam on some exciting new investments that we’ve been following.

You don’t realize it yet, but with unwavering support from your family, you have set the groundwork for great things to come.

It all began with your parents making the BIG decision to provide you with powerful hearing devices (those clumsy body aids) and helping you learn to listen and talk the “auditory-verbal” way. That means no sign language and no emphasis on teaching lip-reading, although ultimately, your natural ability to lip-read expertly will come in handy!  Your parents’ decision had a huge impact on your life and I think you’ll be ecstatic with how you turned out.  I know I am.

Right now, however, you probably don’t think life is too great. You are 10 years old, just finishing up Grade 4 at Summit Heights and I know it has been an extremely difficult year for you on a personal level. The year started off with a teacher who enjoyed being difficult, which then spilled over to the kids in your class who treated you worse than ever.

Remember that day when you decided to bring your baseball bat to school to “get back” at Matt? That did NOT go over too well with the principal, did it? Luckily, nothing bad happened and he was very understanding.

Next time you have issues with any of the kids at school who are really bothering you, please tell your teachers and your parents. I know you like to keep things to yourself, but the teachers and principal can really help you. If you ever feel the urge to bring the bat to school to “get even” again, I strongly suggest that you leave it at home.  Go to the teachers and principal and have a chat with them. Believe me, it’s not the same as ratting the bullies out. The teachers and principals really CAN help smooth things out for everyone.

Please don’t worry what other people think of you,
otherwise you can’t be who you are. Consider your deafness
a good friendship gauge – it will show you down the road
who your true friends really are.

I know there are times when it seems so hard when kids are making fun of you both in front of you and behind your back, and picking on you on the way home from school. It also feels like your “friends” treat you one way in private but in public, they act in a totally different way. This must be somewhat confusing and unfair. Please don’t worry what other people think of you, otherwise you can’t be who you are. Consider your deafness a good friendship gauge – it will show you down the road who your true friends really are. Build upon those friendships and hang on to them, especially in times of change and uncertainty.

You have just replaced your clumsy body aids with new ear-level behind-the-ear hearing aids (BTEs).  Freedom at last!  Believe it or not, hearing devices will change even more. In another 16 years, a cool hearing device will literally change your life. In fact, it will blow your mind what you will achieve as a result. More on this later. This is what we call the suspense part of the story!

You have an itinerant teacher of the deaf who you really dislike. You may not know it now, but she is just fresh out of school and not all that experienced. You will only have her for another year. The lesson is that nothing is permanent and try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Difficult periods do pass.

Mom and Dad work hard day in and day out to improve your listening skills and speech pronunciation. So, next time you feel annoyed about your mom correcting your speech, especially in public, it is ok to calmly share your feelings with her that you would be more comfortable if she did it privately. However, just remember what I told you in this letter…that the unwavering support from your parents and family, have truly set the groundwork for things to come. Trust me, you owe your parents and family a HUGE thank you. Everything they do has a reason to it, and usually is for your benefit and Mom always means well.

Jonathan Sampson at that time

For many years you saw Louise Crawford at The Hospital for Sick Children to learn to listen and talk.  Two years ago, you “graduated” to The Learning To Listen Foundation at North York General Hospital where you now enjoy weekly auditory-verbal therapy sessions with Warren Estabrooks within spacious quarters.  Remember how your lessons with Warren and your mom were in the broom closet at the Metro School for the Deaf? All of this seems pretty routine and unremarkable to you, but believe me when I say, their unwavering support paid off. Your teachers and family will be there for you in the tough and good times ahead, so cherish and appreciate those bonds.

Your life has been somewhat a blend of optimism and “Teflon,” an amazing belief that everything leads to ultimate success. “Can’t” is not in your vocabulary. For some reason, you’ve never asked “Why am I deaf?” or “Why is this happening to me?”  Deafness has been a secondary issue, despite all the difficulties and obstacles. Hold onto this optimistic view that the glass is half full because this has been and will continue to be your survival tool.

In the years ahead, you will experience major changes to your life, which will open all kinds of doors. You will need to remember how important it is to adapt yourself to variabilities and to learn from these experiences. Use them as the springboard of opportunity to soar to extraordinary destinations in life.

I have two more pieces of advice, buddy. Be more social and try to overcome that fear and shyness. Put yourself out there more and trust yourself. It is worth it and really so important. Get more active and involved in sports. I know you think you suck at it, but you’ll get better and it is good for you in every aspect. You only woke up to this fact at the end of high school. University was such an enriching experience and it is too bad you didn’t do all of this earlier.

So what are these changes? End the suspense, you say?

Technology will explode like you would never believe. You will have surgery to receive a cochlear implant, which will allow you to hear far more than you ever believed possible.

Television programs and movies now have closed captioning or subtitles and you don’t have to bug your little brother and sister all the time to find out what’s going on.

The world has become a level playing field for you with the explosion of personal computing and mobile telephones.  No more relying on interpreting help on the phone. Nobody talks to each other anymore on the phone anyways – they now all type/text to each other!

You’re going to look like everyone else. Yes – you read that right. Half the population is going to be walking around with something resembling a hearing aid plugged onto their ear and no one will be any wiser nor stare any differently at you.

You have an unbelievable journey ahead of you.

Small successes line the road to big wins. So look for those small triumphs and just grab them and improve and improve upon them. Good luck!

From your older and somewhat wiser self,
Jonathan

P.S. You know that computer that your Dad just bought you – the Apple IIe? Go buy stock in Apple NOW. And hold on to it. Trust me on this one!

Samson Family

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We appreciate your interest in this blog post. The text contained in it is copyrighted by SoundIntuition as of the date of publishing. Contact us by leaving a comment on this post if you would like to use this text elsewhere. When used, we would ask that you cite this page, using the full URL (http://soundintuition.com/blog/letter-to-ten-year-old-self/), as being the originator of the content.