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Country Kids with Cochlear Implants

With a blog name like "Country Kids with Cochlear Implants," it"s no surprise that the Blakely family lives ten miles from the nearest gas station. They are the third generation of Blakelys to live in the farmhouse built by the hands of Gage"s and Brook"s paternal great-grandparents. The positive of rural Alabama living includes the self-sufficiency common to country homes that includes growing and preserving food. The negatives of living away from the city include the limited opportunities to connect with the Deaf community and the fear of her children not hearing dangerous animals, such as rattlesnakes or coyotes.

Gage, now aged 13, was born with a profound hearing loss and began wearing hearing aids at 4 months of age. He would eventually be diagnosed with Goldenhar Syndrome. As she realized Gage was constantly plagued by illness and his speech was delayed, Blakely walked away from her full-time job, something she never expected to do, in order to devote her time to bettering her son"s odds of increasing his ability to communicate with the world.

Brooklyn, now 10-years-old, was diagnosed as deaf at 9 months of age and was wearing hearing aids a month later. Both children eventually received cochlear implants. Gage first received a CI at 3 and a half, but an incurable infection would cause it to be removed when he was 7. A year later, he would have bilateral implants. Brooklyn had her first implant at 2 and half and her second at age 3.

From the beginning the Blakelys chose an oral approach. At one point, sign language was introduced with Gage, but he refused it in favor of lip reading and speaking. Both children began AVT (auditory verbal therapy) early on, which rapidly increased their speech ability. AVT was so successful that their mother notes that "Gage [got] a check mark today for excessive talking" and Brooklyn "has a lot to say (all the time, even in her sleep!!)." Both kids are mainstreamed and are active in church activities.

Blakely began the blog in 2007 to "showcase everything, the joys, the heartache, the triumphs and failures (aka, real life) of country living with 'city ears'" It is filled with humor and heart wrenching descriptions of what they"ve learned along the way. IEPs, swimming with CIs, fundraising for CIs, "hearing in the dark," as well as ordinary issues that most families will deal with all share space on the blog. Blakely shares that feeling of panic a parent feels when their child is diagnosed with a "disability" among other typical reactions to the curve balls deafness throws at a family. She also shares how the faith of her family provides the strength to face the challenges and to recognize the blessings.

In her May 10, 2014 blog posts, Val Blakely, relays a conversation with her 13-year-old son, Gage. He said they only had two kids "because you didn't want any more deaf kids. We're a lot of trouble and you didn't want to have to do all that again." Val"s response couldn"t have echoed more clearly what so many other parents of deaf kids feel.

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