All Ears Podcast Episode 21On episode 21 of All Ears at Child’s Voice: A Hearing Loss Podcast, Tatum and Wendy are joined by Valli Vida Gideons from the “My Batlle Call” and we talk about hearing loss in a military family.

“My Battle Call” is a website dedicated to supporting families of children with hearing loss by navigating through the fog of raising kids with cochlear implants and other things from the heart. She reaches over 800,000 people per month and has recently written a new ebook called “Navigating your child’s hearing loss, a practical guide of resources and tools sprinkled with some of the magic moments that occur along the way.” Valli also has a bachelor’s in journalism, is a certified running coach and a strength training director, and a team manager for a club basketball team. She is a regular contributor on a number of websites dedicated to parenting in the military and other topics.

Tatum and Wendy talk to Valli about her life as a military wife and mom of two teen aged children with hearing loss. We discuss how she began writing about being a parent of children with hearing loss and why she does what she does. She shares her thoughts on how to talk to teachers and coaches about your child’s hearing loss as well as how to empower them to do it themselves. We also talk Valli and her family’s specific journey through life as a military family.

Where to Find Valli:

Now Hear This book

Check out Valli and Harper’s new book:

Where to Find Us:

  • You can email us at podcast@childsvoice.org.
  • Follow Child’s Voice on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram: @childs_voice
  • Follow Wendy & Tatum on social media: @WendyDetersSLP, @TatumFritzSLP

 

Special thanks to John McCortney & Michael McCortney for their work recording All Ears at Child’s Voice episodes. Episodes of All Ears at Child’s Voice are graciously edited by John McCortney.

 

Disclaimer: Child’s Voice is a listening-and-spoken-language program for children with hearing loss. All Ears at Child’s Voice: A Hearing Loss Podcast is a resource provided by Child’s Voice. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by Child’s Voice. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Views and opinions expressed by Child’s Voice employees are those of the employees and do not necessarily reflect the view of Child’s Voice.

Episode Transcript:

Melissa:

Welcome to All Ears at Child’s Voice, a podcast discussing all things hearing loss. We aim to connect parents of children with hearing loss with the professionals who serve them. I’m Melissa Hyder and I’m the school counselor here at Child’s Voice. My favorite thing about my job is working with the kids. We’re so excited to be back for the new 2020 season. As a reminder, our schedule has changed to an episode being released each month so please listen to the last mini-sode to hear more. We’d also love to hear your thoughts this season so please fill out the survey found linked to the show notes and episode description. Thanks and now to start the show.

Wendy:

Welcome to another episode of all ears at Child’s Voice. We aim to connect parents of children with hearing loss with the professionals who serve them. Where your host. I’m Wendy Deters.

Tatum:

and I’m Tatum Fritz. This week on the show, we are joined by Valli Vida Gideons. Valli is a military wife and mom of two children with hearing loss who use cochlear implants. She is the voice behind “My Battle Call,” which is a website dedicated to supporting families of children with hearing loss by navigating through the fog of raising kids with cochlear implants and other things from the heart. She reaches over 800,000 people per month and has recently written a new ebook called “Navigating your child’s hearing loss, a practical guide of resources and tools sprinkled with some of the magic moments that occur along the way.” Valli also has a bachelor’s in journalism, is a certified running coach and a strength training director. Wow. And a team manager for a club basketball team. She is a regular contributor on a number of websites dedicated to parenting in the military and other topics. Valli,. thank you for talking with us today and welcome to the show. We are so excited to learn more about you and your work.

Valli:

Thank you both for having me. I’m happy to be here.

Tatum:

I didn’t realize about the strength training. That’s really cool. I like to lift weights so, I love to meet fellow strong ladies. We are so excited to have you on today. We like asking our guests every week for a story from the past week. You may have heard this if you listened to our show. It could be anything, something cute, something funny, something heartwarming. Do you have a story that comes to mind?

Valli:

I do. I thought about this. My newest project is my daughter Harper, who’s 13 and I have written a children’s book and so that is the thing we are talking about most in our family right now. It’s due to be published in late January, early February. So it’s her story. It’s me and her working on this project. I mean nonstop. We’re obsessed. So my son, his name is Battle. The blog is named after him. “My Battle Call.” Well, he wants to have nothing to do with this children’s book because he’s more private. Ironically. However, he’s just turned 15 and I am watching this transformation of him occur in the last couple months and we were driving in the car last week and I said Battle, I would really like you to be in the photo shoot for the book. And he said, “okay, I’ll do it.” No hesitation. I’m like, what? He goes, “Mom, I know this is really important to you and Harper, so I’ll do it.” And I tried to hold back the tears but like, Oh thank you so much because he really doesn’t want his picture in the book, but he gets it because we’ve made such a fuss about it and he’s actually even letting me use his name in the story and one illustration with his picture.

Tatum:

Yeah, I think I saw a drawing from the story on your Instagram.

Wendy:

Well that’s exciting. We have show notes for every show, so we’ll definitely get more information from you about the book and where our listeners can find it. It sounds great. So how did you divide the tasks between you and your daughter with the book?

Valli:

Well, I’m making sure she is doing her fair share because her name is getting to go on the cover as the co-writer. So, with that I said you don’t get to have all the fame and the glory and not do the grunt work. So, the story came from her writing journal. She’s like a budding writer and she has been since she was little reading and writing and you know how kids come home with that backpack full of stuff. At the end of the school year I opened up her writing journal from the year. This was back in fourth grade and one of the prompts that the teacher had asked is what makes you unique? And she wrote a whole two pages about her deafness. And I said, “this is the book,” people have been pushing me to write a book for years. My best friends, my family, it’s not my book, this, it’s her story is the book. So really she gets the credit for like the inspiration for the book. She’s going to be part of the marketing team and then we’d go through the illustrations together. But I think because it’s her name and her face on the book, she’s caring too much about how it portrays her. I’m like, it’s an essence of you. It’s not a cartoon of you. The long story short is I’m making her participate in every bit of it.

Tatum:

Yeah, that’s such a great experience to have it at a young age.

Wendy:

Well, our main topic today, you mentioned a little bit about your son Battle, but our main topic today is about navigating hearing loss as a military family. So we’d like to start with you describing a little bit more about what your website, “My Battle Call is and how it all began.

Valli:

Again, I, you’ve mentioned I had a degree in journalism and I was a writer and I transitioned and pivoted to different careers, but when my son was born with hearing loss, I didn’t really have the inspiration to start writing again. However, I didn’t want to forget how far we had come, and so that’s how I started writing about our experiences. And then it was by the prompting of my two best friends who said, you really should start writing again. And I decided to start my blog and hit publish. And I kept it very low key for quite a while until I got part of this writers group and started reaching out and getting approached by writing for different magazines and stuff. And so it was really writing about what I wished I could have read when my kids were born. And so my community on Facebook really is my biggest community and it’s just really become a place for people to come and feel supported and less alone. And you know, we interact. It’s very interactive and I think it’s just a supportive environment where we share stories.

Tatum:

I like how you said that you’re writing what you wish you were able to read when your child was first diagnosed. What kinds of topics do you write about that you feel like really resonates with families that are in the early part of that diagnosis?

Valli:

I think what I am really drawn to writing is straight from the heart. I don’t sugarcoat it and wrap it all up in a pretty bow because that is just to me, patronizing. It isn’t all pretty and it hasn’t been easy. So I share what my fears were, what I found challenging, what I still find challenging. I just share all the emotions, but it always goes back to hope and encouragement, because my kids are thriving I feel like I have perspective now that they’re 13 and just turned 15. But I remember what it was like when they were newborn wondering, would they be able to do this and that and the other? You just don’t know. And I always also encourage my community and my readers that your story is going to look very different than ours. My children are very different than one another. So I think that’s important to just provide hope and encouragement, but also know you’re writing your own unique story.

Wendy:

So part of that unique story that you have, like I mentioned, is you’re a military family. That’s something new to us. So how do you think that has changed your journey or influenced your journey as a parent of children with hearing loss?

Valli:

Thank you for asking that. I forget. We also have that unique component and I think that has shaped how we’ve handled the diagnosis and just raising our kids because when my son was born, we were living remote, so just the fact of having no family and close friends around us, we really were left to do it alone. And I think that can make you feel very isolated and you don’t have that support. And then I think also building that continuity of care, you really rely on that team. And we had the best team in Cleveland, Ohio, which is where my son was born and to leave that team was very difficult. I was not sad to leave Cleveland per se because I’m Californian and the weather was challenging, but to leave that team that we had built was really tricky. So I think in a military life it’s the constant change that is tricky as a parent and also for our kids.

Wendy:

That sort of brings up in my mind how part of our job, especially as early intervention therapists is to teach parents what we know so that they don’t, not that they don’t need us, but they don’t rely on us. That we empower them. So how did your team in Cleveland do that? What advice do you have for professionals?

Valli:

That’s such a great question because our team in Cleveland, they make the book, the children’s book, because they had such a profound effect on setting us up for success. We were so lucky to have a team like we had. And one of the things that has always stuck with us from the very beginning when my son was six months old in auditory verbal therapy and our therapist said “set the bar high,” he will reach and he will rise wherever you set it is where he’s going to reach expect. And he saw like the best in my son. Battle is very smart, very curious and you know, was very engaged from a very young age and he just celebrated that. And rather than just measuring him against the lowest common denominator, just measure him high. And not to put unrealistic expectations, I don’t mean it in that way, but just expect for him to reach for the stars and he will. And that’s kind of one of the things that always stuck with us is just he has the potential to do amazing things, so don’t limit him.

Tatum:

Yeah, I feel like that can be hard to do both like as professionals and parents, you don’t maybe aren’t even realizing that you’ve lowered the bar. So it’s good to remember and encourage families to have high expectations. Could you tell us a little bit about your children when they were diagnosed? And that process of like getting implants and then we’ll go from there?

Valli:

Yeah, so like I said, battle was our first and he was born in Cleveland and he failed the newborn hearing screening, which Ohio had just recently implemented the mandatory screening. So we were lucky that he was born when he was born and identified. So we went back the two weeks later for the ABR, expecting it to be fluid in the ears and we were told he has severe hearing loss and he’ll probably get hearing aids and a cochlear implant and go to mainstream high school. And I write about it and we were like spinning. Like what? What? I mean we were in shock because we literally were not prepared for the diagnosis. But since we were surrounded by a great team, we were able to do genetic testing and identify his cause for hearing loss, which was Pendred syndrome. So that did give us more information than a lot of people I know get. So I found it very useful. I know some people don’t and I think it’s really personal, but for us it did then prepare us for having our second child, Harper, who was born 21 months later and we were able to find out in advance that she also had the syndrome so we could be prepared when she was still in utero. I could prepare for that. So they both got hearing aids as infants. So that was fun.

Wendy:

We relate to your sarcasm. Hearing aids on infants is so hard.

Valli:

Yes. And so Battle’s 15 so he had the hearing aids that didn’t have feedback managers and they used to be only do one mold at a time, so I’d nurse him to sleep so he would hold still for 10 minutes. It was 10 minutes each side and it was the most excruciating 20 minutes and he grew so fast. He grew so fast that we were in there every two weeks getting new molds and I do write about that too, just like that’s one of the number one questions I get from parents in general is “How do you keep them on?” We just had this system that I believed he should wear them during all waking hours. I was not taking no for an answer and we would just put them right back in. We do this magic ear dance, the song that we had come up with and we just kept his hands busy but just we didn’t have any fancy headbands or caps and we just kept making it a pleasurable experience until one day he realized wait, these things help and he didn’t want to take them off anymore. So it is not easy to have a baby with hearing aids.

Wendy:

Do you remember how old he was when that happened? When that switch kind of flipped?

 

Valli:

I do. It was actually after his first cochlear implant. He got his cochlear implant at 14 months and it was at 18 months. We were riding in the car, he was in his car seat and I always insisted they would wear their ears in the car cause I just felt like I needed to narrate what I was seeing, playing music. I mean I was obsessed with just narrating life. I mean I was sick of my own voice, but I was always having to look in the rear view mirror. I was a real, probably a hazard because I would be looking to see where his hands were to see if he’s pulling them out because then it was like going on the hunt to find them right or looking. It’s in his mouth. That’s a hazard. So long story short, we’re rolling up to a red light and I look in the rear view mirror and he’s taken the magnet off his head and I’m like, Oh boy, here it goes. This is usually the cue he’s going to throw it or do something with it. And then he put it back on the magnet back on and his eyes just lit up. And then he took it off again and then he put it back on and I blared the music and I’m like, yes! Magic ears, magic ears, you hear it! And I’ll never forget that moment. It was like, okay, the lights are on. He gets it now. It didn’t mean he didn’t still throw it off, leave it in the sandbox, toss it. Cause he was not even two. But it did mean that he made that connection. I feel like that was pretty young.

Tatum:

Yeah. I feel like too, like you said, he was 18 months and then he had his implant for four months and that you just had to keep putting it on and putting it on for that long. And I feel like some of our families, it can feel like they’re never going to get to that point or they don’t see how all these little steps of putting it back on every single day is going to get them to that point. Which I understand cause even in my hour long therapy session with kids that are having trouble keeping their devices on, it gets so frustrating.

Wendy:

Yeah. So it sounds like he started with one cochlear implant?

Valli:

Yeah, so they weren’t doing a lot of bilateral at his, and since they had a progressive hearing loss. It was more of a, we were unsure whether to do both because they did have residual hearing in their other side. My daughter had only a mild to moderate loss in one ear and then a severe loss in her other, so she ueses unilateral right now. But her hearing loss has just, she’s very consistent. It’s decreased every year by just a certain amount but the same shape. So she still does get benefit from her hearing aid, but it’s just a matter of when we’re going to do the other side now, which there’s never a good time to have your child go through surgery. So we’re just kind of holding out on the right time in life. I think

Tatum:

Earlier you mentioned auditory verbal therapy, so something else we’ve talked about on the show before is making like a decision on communication mode and getting into therapy. So that’s not our main topic today, but just to learn more about your family, could you talk a little bit about the decisions you’ve made regarding that and the kind of services that your kids got?

Valli:

I really do feel like this topic, I know you all are familiar with what a hot button it is and so I kind of shy away from going into too much depth about our personal choices. However, I will say they were our personal choices. We made the decisions we could for the information we had at the time. And again, you know, Battle is 15 and I have to keep saying that because he just turned 15 and it’s still shocking to me like when did this happen? Seriously. But it’s been really interesting to watch how the science has changed and just the beliefs about language and communication have evolved just in his lifetime. So we decided early on to go with an oral approach and we did all the things that were going to set them up best for success. And one of those included the auditory verbal therapy and our kids just kept thriving. They’re good listeners and they are very vocal, both kids, very super vocal and super interested in oral expression. So yeah, I think at one time we were going to auditory verbal three days a week. And then like I said, I made it my job to narrate their life. And then all the people around us that were part of their lives kind of picked up on that, which was pretty cool. It was how we parented. So bathing them in language and assigning meaning to everything and they’re both motor mouths.

Wendy:

Well I like how you mentioned that their personalities and their tendencies like that steered where you went with your communication mode, what was important to your family, but also what seemed to be successful and working for them. As you know, we’ve done episodes on this, we can have a whole podcast just based on communication, but that’s I think one other good principle to have as we think about communication mode. How is the child showing us that they’re successful?

Valli:

Yeah, and I think we were just open to trying to give them the best opportunity for communication and it just is what seemed natural. It just seemed to work. But I was always open to all different ideas and pathways to do it and in fact both kids went to a deaf and hard of hearing preschool when we moved back to California. There’s actually a really cool program through our district. And in that program they have kids using all different communication methods. Some were cochlear implants, hearing aids, some all sign language. And the teacher signed an used spoken language and my daughter picked up on sign language quickly cause she’s very visual. And my son, I don’t even think he could do a single sign because he was just not interested. So that was kind of a cool experience to expose them and see kind of what they gravitated towards as well.

Tatum:

So our main topic is the military life.

Wendy:

I think what we’re interested in is because it’s new to us. Do you think it’s different from other families that you’ve connected with and what are the particular strengths and challenges of being a family in the military but also having children with hearing loss?

Valli:

I mean there’s a couple of components. One, we have amazing insurance and so with all the sacrifice that our family has made, my husband’s a career Marine, he’s a Colonel now and I’ve been with him his whole career. So with that it’s been 10 deployments and they’re six months or longer and we’ve moved 10 different times and so that’s a lot of challenge in itself. But because of that we have this amazing insurance that we have been able to give our kids access. Our insurance didn’t view therapy as nice to have. We were covered for that, for implant surgery, all of it. So we realized that that is been a huge bonus being in the military. But I think the frequent moving is just hard because every time you move one, you don’t pick where you’re moving. My husband kids, he’s like, they don’t call them orders for nothing. Like you get told where you’re going. When that happens, you have to find the best school and then your pediatrician, your ENT, your speech, audiology. That became the most important person for us was our audiologist. So I think just that starting over and having to build that team is exhausting because you’re exhausted anyways having a child with any needs that are out of the ordinary. And then having that burden of having to set that team up, especially when you get a team that you love and then you have to start all over again. So that and hairdressers, the two hardest things about moving.

Tatum:

That’s funny. So you’ve moved 10 times. Do you mind either sharing where you all have lived or like the types of cities that you’ve lived in? Has it been more rural or are you sometimes in a more urban area?

Valli:

Well, one thing that’s great about the Marine Corps as well as our children, because of their disability, they’re categorized under “exceptional family member program,” which then my husband can only get orders to geographical locations that have our specialists within a mile radius. So, like there are certain places he would not get orders to because we just simply couldn’t get the care. So that’s been a good thing for us, although it hasn’t prevented him from getting all the amazing jobs and getting to do all the things he wants to do. So it’s not been a take away as far as his career goes. But we’ve gone East, West coast mostly. And then the stop in Cleveland, that was our one Midwestern stop, but Florida, couple of tours in the DC area and then California, which is where we call home. We’ve been back here four different times.

Tatum:

Wow. What’s the shortest time that you have lived somewhere and then what’s the longest time you’ve been in the same place?

Valli:

So currently we’ve been here six years, which is crazy. My daughter’s like, “we need to move, this is boring.” It’s just boring to stay in the same place even though this is home. So I love that that’s her attitude. And then our shortest was 10 months when he was going to the Marine Corps. When you’re an officer on career military path, they go to lots of advanced schools. So one of his, I think it was his Masters, we were in one place where my daughter was born for only 10 months. So that was challenging.

Wendy:

It sounds like you put a lot of effort into building your medical team, but what about a community of other families and other children with hearing loss? How hard has that been to find amongst these different places?

Valli:

I think that’s something that I feel like we’ve missed out on a little bit because of just the geography of where we’ve lived. I think my kids haven’t had as much access to other kids with hearing loss as I would like them to have had. And it’s only really starting to become more obvious how that would have been pretty cool. And it’s not too late. So every November we go to, our audiologist is also a professor and we go join her class on audiology and my kids are on a panel with some kids that live like an hour away and they bond. It’s crazy. They’ll talk for the whole year. They’ll talk about these kids. One’s a teenage boy, one’s a little younger than my daughter, and they just share something that those of us who don’t have cochlear implants in particular just can’t relate to. So I hope this book that Harper and I have written will allow her to build more of those relationships cause I think it is important to see kids that look like you and you can relate to. They’re just so, I don’t like the word mainstream, but they just live like just normal kids. So it really didn’t become that obvious until this group we meet with for this panel that I saw connection. I’m like that’s different.

Tatum:

Yeah. That’s interesting. I don’t know if you heard our most recent episode, but the guest speaker Michelle, she’s an anthropologist and studies deaf communities and she talked about that sense of sameness to people who are using cochlear implants or more. There’s a connection there that as a hearing person we don’t understand. That’s really interesting that you’re seeing that. So I know you have your Facebook page, my battle call and how that has been a sense of community for you. Is that something that has allowed you to interact with other families in a way that you haven’t been able to do on like a local level?

Valli:

Yeah, I think it’s funny. After all this time it’s really been something that’s opened my mind to connecting with other families in a way. I didn’t know I needed either. So it’s been so fulfilling for me personally as well as what I hope I give other people. I get just as much in return. So I’ve been asked to be a guest speaker. Being a speaker is one of the things on my list of things I like to do and getting to go to a parent retreat and be one of the speakers. But then also I said, can I please participate in the retreat as well? And they’re like, absolutely. So I think I wouldn’t have even been given these opportunities had I not created this platform. And then being able to meet some other writers of children’s books who are writing in categories similar or just about being inclusive and different things like that. So I think it just opens up a world of connecting. And I think it’s what the internet does that when it does it so well. I still have faith in the internet being used for good things because of the people, well I wouldn’t know you two!

Tatum:

Yeah.

Wendy:

Yeah. So can I ask that question and maybe you and Tatum went through this before, but how did you find our podcast?

Tatum:

Oh yeah. I don’t know how you found us.

Valli:

I think on Instagram, I think I follow you on Instagram.

Tatum:

I definitely follow you. Maybe you followed me. And then our past host who we miss, Jessica Brock was very active on Instagram. So maybe you found us through that. Oh, we’re glad that our Instagram outreach is working.

Valli:

I love it. The hearing loss community, even though there’s so many people with hearing loss and involved in the profession of hearing loss and it’s a really tight knit group. So it’s like six degrees.

Tatum:

Yeah. Yeah, that is definitely true. So we talked a little bit about how like moving a lot has affected your ability to find services and how that can be stressful. And a little bit about the impact that it’s had on you. What about your children? So they’ve moved a lot. How do you think that’s shaped them and does their hearing loss play a role in that at all?

Valli:

I think it’s still hard to say how it’s impacted them because I think, well one, my son has changed so much in the last year. He’s really become so much more confident and self-assured, but he still, I wouldn’t say introverted, but he’s still someone who prefers small groups. But I do think that’s because of his hearing loss. He starting to articulate that more, that he’s being drawn to do more social things, but he’s now being able to say how certain situations are super challenging. So I think having to keep building new peer groups is challenging because if you’re with a group of friends who have known you since you were little, they just understand that they can’t talk behind you or they just get it when you say, huh, and what a lot. They just understand it. And I think just building new peer groups I think is just extra challenging when you’re also hard of hearing and I think my husband being gone a lot has been challenging on everybody in so many different ways. I write a lot about the military life too and I tell the truth about it. Finally, I figured after 20 something years I’m allowed to tell the truth that it’s not like the videos you see the viral videos. We had one of daddy coming home. It’s like what happens next? That’s, so I think the kids have had to endure a very unique relationship. Having a dad that’s home, away, home, away, but we’re still figuring it out but they’re very resilient kids.

Tatum:

One thing that we also like talk about on the show a lot is self advocacy skills. Do you think they’ve had to learn maybe those skills like faster than another peer would because having to advocate with new teachers and new peers with the moving so often?

Valli:

Yeah, probably. I’ve always been one who’s very, very involved with our team. I mean they become friends like family to us. And so the kids are involved in that process too. They’re always like, why do you have to talk so much? Because we have a relationship with teachers, with our IEP teams, I think it’s just collaborative and my kids have just witnessed me modeling that. I’m not afraid to tell their coach that they couldn’t hear you calling out the play. I’m fine with reminding people and my kids, they’re annoyed by it. But I think it’s also sinking in to them that this is something that we just have to do because people forget. And so I think they’re slowly but surely learning for themselves. And I think with teenagers we cannot expect them to draw attention to themselves in a group setting because that’s just horrifying for a typical teen, let alone one who’s hard of hearing. So my son had a particular incident where his basketball coach was talking to the team in a huddle and he missed the instructions and then kind of got called out for not answering correctly. I witnessed the whole thing and I’m like, it’s because he didn’t hear you. And so when we were riding home in the car, I’m like, why didn’t you say anything? He’s like, I’m not gonna say anything. It’s fine. No, you have to remind him. You couldn’t hear the instructions is why you didn’t answer correctly. He’s like, Oh mom, you just don’t understand. But then he emailed the coach.

Tatum:

That’s a great way to do it.

Wendy:

So sticking on the coach and teacher subject for a minute. I did a lot of reading on your website and they loved that you had all of these different blog posts for teachers and coaches. It sounds like the experience you just mentioned was one inspiration for that, but why do you think that you choose to write specifically advice to teachers and coaches and what kind of advice do you give?

Valli :

Thank you for asking that chapter’s in my ebook, I included that. I think because what I’ve learned is at least through our experiences, teachers and coaches want to empower and help our kids. They don’t want them to ever feel left out or excluded. And so I wanted to empower our coaches and our teachers. I mean, I think it’s two completely different things because in the educational setting there’s like mandatory access and accommodations and then coaching. I mean I just would watch and I would realize the coach just doesn’t know and this might be the first child they’ve ever interacted with that has a hearing loss and I felt like by creating that, I think my teacher one’s now a nine page document. It’s a letter my kids and I wrote together to my teacher that personalizes it, but then it gives concrete things they can do and then it also says, when you do this, I can’t do this, like covering your mouth or it makes them situationally be able to think in a different way. My son, by the way, third year Chinese student is that crazy? Deaf kid learning Chinese, but his Chinese teacher, she’s like, “I just realized sometimes I lecture, I turn to the board and he can’t see me.” She’s like, I need to stop doing that. I said, thank you. I love that she caught herself. Teachers tell me it makes them better teachers. And my coaches, my daughter had an amazing basketball coach that he felt so strongly about making sure he could effectively communicate with her that he decided he was implementing these strategies for the whole team. And he’s like, it makes me a better coach. All kids need this. So I think it’s just educating. I don’t get mad about it. There’s different ways people feel about it and some get bitter and mad, but I just get it that people, we have family members that still sometimes whisper and soft talk around my kids and I’m like, are you kidding me? You know, they can hear you. And they forget. So how can we expect, you know, somebody who only has an hour a couple of times a week with our kids to remember every second. So that’s why I created those.

Wendy:

Yeah, they’re wonderful resources. They’re really great. What haven’t we asked you about being in the military and how that has shaped your journey as a parent?

Valli:

Like I said, we’ve been pretty fortunate with our care, but I think what I hear from some military families who don’t know how to navigate the system, haven’t always been able to get the services they need. It’s not really an area I can go into too much helping them with because it’s so complex, but for me it’s been you can’t take no for an answer and I guess that’s probably for most parents dealing with insurance or whatever, I just don’t accept, no, I figure out a way and my husband and I are just both wired that way, so I think we understand that our kids are fortunate that they were born to people who have resources, who are determined and whatever it’s going to take, we’re going to make it happen. For example, when we did realize how important continuity of care was when it came to our audiologist, she’s so amazing. She started working with the kids when they were two and one and we then decided wherever we were stationed, we were going to fly back to California for her to do our kids cochlear implant mappings and we paid, it was out of our pocket, but we were fortunate enough that we were able to do that. Not every family can do that, but we just felt that strongly that this was one area that was so important to us that we were going to do it. It was pretty big, not sacrifice, but every three months to be flying cross country is not a small thing. So.

Tatum:

That’s incredible.

Wendy:

Something that kind of came up in my mind when you were talking about your husband being gone a lot, you know, on deployment that sort of left you as the teacher of all things including language and you said you narrated everything, but how else do you feel like you learned how to to build your children’s language when it was kind of all on you?

Valli:

I think I’m only now coming to realize how much I had on my shoulders. It’s the cumulative of parenting alone a lot. It doesn’t mean I’m not proud of my husband and grateful that he’s willing to serve. And I mean we’re crazy proud of him, but it’s also, I think I finally felt empowered to say this is also been hard to carry the load and when he is home he’s present and he’s helpful and he’s onboard with doing everything we need to do. But I think just having that sole responsibility was a lot. So I think military spouses are often afraid of saying it’s hard. We’re afraid we’re going to be judged or why does this one look like she’s got it all together while I’m over here struggling not being able to find childcare. That was a really hard thing for us when we would live different places is not having someone who I could trust other than family, like be with my kids, cause it was asking a lot by the way, they’re going to have to keep their devices on and you’re going to have to watch them every second because they’re going to keep pulling them off. And I was not willing to leave them and come home and find out that their hearing aid sat up on the counter the whole time. I mean, maybe I was a little too crazy, but I was just that serious about wanting them to not miss anything. So that was a tricky part I forgot about that is finding childcare.

Tatum:

You said he’s been deployed. How many times since they were born? What’s been the longest deployment? The shortest deployment?

Valli:

Well, they don’t even count as deployment if they’re not six months, so we would not want to add up the less than six months. He’s been on a very high tempo course, which has allowed him to end up later in his career doing really cool jobs that he’s dreamed of doing. So it was like those things, the pay off was, now he’s gotten to do things he dreamt about as a little boy. So you’ll have to look back and find out what was the reason for all that? Well, it allowed him to get to this place, but his last deployment was his longest. It was nine months and that’s when my son became a teenager. And so I would say out of all of them, that was to me the hardest one. Even harder than when they were babies and toddlers because of knowing how important, I mean when you know when they’re little mom is still their person, but when your son’s turning into a teenager and he was playing his first season of tackle football, my husband deployed the week before they put on pads, so he was there for the first week of practice and then they put on pads and dad deploys and so mom’s the ones sitting there going, I don’t know how we’re going to get through this, but we did. And there’s the resiliency again. Right? I think our kids have proved to themselves they can get through a lot.

Wendy:

Yeah, they sound amazing. It’s interesting that you say that some of the teenage issues are harder to navigate. Even then when kids are little, we take them and I work in early intervention, so we see that struggle first hand. I’m the mom of young kids. So I’m in it and it doesn’t seem like it could get any harder than this. But it’s interesting to hear that teenage years have different challenges. What do you think some of those are for you and and for your kids now that they’re teenagers?

Valli:

Well, let me rephrase this. For us, the younger years were so hard in so many ways. It’s so much easier now in so many ways. And that’s why I think I am in awe of the teenage years because there was so much more worry and stress when they were little. And now I know my kids are going to be okay. So I think personally I have that they’re going to be fine. I know it, I wholeheartedly know they’re going to thrive. But with deployment we used to be able to sugar coat the inherent danger of deployment. Well now my kids are smart. They know that Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria or wherever he is, we can’t lie and say it’s safe. It’s not. We need to respect them more than trying to pretend that there’s no inherent danger. So I think that is dealing with the big feelings that you can’t just distract and you have to let them go through the feelings. And plus, you know, becoming a teenager with the hormones and testosterone and all the changes. It’s just a hard stage. So my son, I think he tried to challenge me some like, well you’re not my dad. And I decided I can’t be mom and dad. I can’t. He had amazing coaches and family friends and male figures around him kind of holding his hand through it and he wants, we got into the groove. He did all right. But also their self awareness is higher. So I think they’re just starting to realize that there’s something different about them. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I haven’t seen it as a bad thing for them, but I think they’re just more self aware. So we’ll see.

Wendy:

That’s really interesting.

Valli:

I will tell you, because I am such a seasoned military wife, I forget all the nuances of military life that are so different. It seems so normal to us, but I understand it is very out of the ordinary. You know, I have friends who are like, I can’t believe my husband’s been gone for a week and we’re like anything less than a month. We barely say bye to my husband. Like he’s like, hello. We’re like, Hey, it’s only been a week. Like that is just a jaded view of the world. But I think we have like coping mechanisms and one of them is we just keep rolling. We get in our routine and my kids and I were like a little tripod. We work really well as a little unit and so that’s one thing that’s challenging is him reintegrating into the family. You know, that’s a unique challenge for military kids is having a relationship with the parent. And that never changes. But kids are all about here and now and so we have our routine and now all of a sudden this guy’s here again trying to tell me what to do. And you know, he feels like he has a responsibility to parent. But then, especially my daughter, she’s like, “who does he think he is?” He’s like, “I’m your father. “Well you know she’s got the feelings. Well you haven’t been here. And so they have to figure out how to just make it work and it takes time.

Tatum:

Yeah. My stepdad for three years in my teenage years, he lived in a different state and like commuted. He’s in the military, but he was actually retired when he did this, but one weekend he was in town and I was like, “when are you going back home?” And he’s like, “This is my home.” But yeah, I definitely understand when he moved back home permanently, it was a big shift. I only went through that shift one time. But to do it again and again, I could definitely see how that’s challenging.

Valli:

I guess you could see it as challenging or you could see you get pretty good at it. So sometimes I think people whose spouses leave sporadically is harder than kind of, we get into our routine. So once the whole initial stage of the pre deployment and then the early deployment, once that’s over, we kind of get in a routine. So I think that sometimes it’s easier than the back and forth, back and forth. Like, I see some friends whose spouses live in another state and commute. And I like that to me almost looks harder than just being gone. There’s no easy way to parent and there’s no easy way to have a family. And so we just try to make it work as best we can. And you guys have made me think of something in a different way of, we haven’t really seen how it’s all going to unfold with what kind of effect this life has on our kids. Some people say being a military kid makes you better at meeting new people and trying new things. I’m like, well, that’s not necessarily true for every kid. So you just don’t know how each kid is going to respond. But I think at the end of the day we’re just trying to raise good humans.

Tatum:

Yeah, I like that. You kind of mentioned that at the beginning, not about military life, but about hearing loss and how every family’s story is unique and every child is unique.

Valli:

Absolutely. And the sooner you realize that the better because you have a child and this is not what we were expecting and you have to come to terms with they are who they were designed to be. It’s not really what we imagined and I don’t think any kid ever is what you imagine. So I think we kinda got over that, that this isn’t what we expected and just this is what it is and it’s shaping who they are. And I think in a good way.

Wendy:

Well I think to us as professionals, that’s really excellent advice is just to always keep that in our mind. How every family, every child, even two children in the same family are so different and unique. So thank you for teaching us that and helping us remember that. Is there any other advice that you’d like to share with our listeners and with us?

Valli:

I think if you can view your children’s hearing loss as an opportunity to educate and spread awareness and understanding for others, it’s going to be a much smoother ride. Then feeling like everybody’s out to get you and your kids. Because I feel people in general are good and people in general want to do the right thing, but they don’t always know how. So when I say people have said and done very hurtful things in retrospect, I look back and I realized they just didn’t know what to say. So here, I’m going to write about what you can say to hopefully educate somebody on what they could say other than this. That would be helpful. I mean, even my own family has learned by reading my blog. You know, my sister read a piece that I wrote. I publish it pretty regularly because it really resonates with people. But saying “never mind” to a Deaf or hard of hearing person is so hurtful. And my sister who loves my kids and I love and she said, I am so sorry. When they were little. I used to just say, “never mind,” I forget it because it wasn’t important and I had no idea how that probably made them feel. She’s like, “I just wasn’t patient and it wasn’t that they weren’t listening. They literally couldn’t hear me.” And I said, but the thing is, you know better, you’re doing better. So that’s all that I can hope for. I think that, and also for parents, ask for help and accept it. There’s so many resources. Don’t feel like you have to do it alone and people might not know how to help. So give them things they can do to help. That’s a big piece of advice cause I wasn’t good at accepting help early on and it would’ve made my life a lot easier.

Tatum:

That’s great advice. Thanks for joining us today. This has been really interesting. I learned some new things about the military that I definitely didn’t know.

Valli:

Thanks for having me, you guys. I really appreciate it. Oh, one thing I would also say advice, you know your child best. Trust your gut and intuition every time it’s right. So get as much information from people you trust experts. But at the end of the day, you know your child best. And that I’ve never questioned our decisions we’ve made because nobody knew my kid better than I did. And then you can rest assured that you did the best you could with the information you had and not feel bad about it. Cause I see parents feeling guilt and it just breaks my heart. It’s like you did the best you could. So as long as you love and advocate for your child, they’re going to be fine.

Tatum:

So we know you’re online, you have your website, where can our listeners reach you?

Valli:

So all my handles on social media are “My Battle Call” and then my website’s, mybattlecall.com

Tatum:

Okay. Um, we’ll also put that in our show notes.

Valli:

Yeah. So our children’s book, it’s called “Now hear, this Harper soars with her magic ears.” Hopefully by the time this airs, the, hopefully that’ll be available.

Tatum:

Yeah, because did you say it was going to be February?

Valli:

Yeah, we’re shooting for a late January, early February release.

Tatum:

That’s also when we’re shooting to release this episode. So we’ll probably coincide. Yeah, and we’ll keep you updated on that too.

Wendy:

And all of your eBooks are available on your website.

Valli:

They are.

Wendy:

Those are really great resources and all of the blogs are really awesome and helpful and people can find you on Facebook through the website as well, correct? Yep.

Tatum:

So thank you for joining us for another episode of all ears at child’s voice. Be sure to join us for our next episode, rerelease episodes once a month.

Wendy:

If you’d like to reach out to us, you can find us on Twitter and Instagram. I’m at Wendy Dieter’s SLP and you can find Tatum at Tatum, Fritz SLP.

Tatum:

You can also email us at podcast at child’s voice.org and you can find episode show notes and archived episodes on child’s voices website at child’s voice.org/podcast.

Wendy:

And if you’re interested in learning more about Child’s Voice, Child’s Voices is on Facebook, as well as Twitter and Instagram with the handle at Child’s underscore Voice. No apostrophe. We’ll see you next time. Bye bye.

 

Melissa:

Thanks for tuning in. We hope you enjoyed this episode. Stay tuned for our next episode where Wendy and Tatum interview, psychotherapist, Jessica Dallman, on building resilience in children with hearing loss and their families. That will be released March 11th. We’ll see you then.

CV Students: BYE, THANKS FOR LISTENING!