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Listen to me now: A letter from the future

Posted by Mikaeel Valli on February 23, 2015 12:02 AM

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 normal child — 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.

[INSERT IMAGE] 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

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

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