Rosalind's story features a family new to Canada. English is not their home language, and the story is about the family was involved early with language services.
Our second child was born only two months after we immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong. Rosalind was born premature, in the middle of a prairie snowstorm.
We were of course concerned about how her early arrival would affect her future progress. Rosalind was diagnosed with a severe to profound hearing loss when she was 8 months old, as well as some delay in her motor skill development.
We were devastated by the diagnosis of our baby’s hearing loss. We were worried that she would not be able to learn language, would not be able to speak, and worst of all, would not be able to communicate with us. The only thing I could relate to at that time was the sadness and frustration a friend had shared with me when she tried to mainstream her son who had a severe hearing loss into the regular school system in Hong Kong.
We were determined to help our daughter develop her communication and language skills so that she would have the same opportunities as her hearing peers in getting a good education and meaningful employment in the future.
We enrolled Rosalind into an early intervention program right away, and we were very pleased with the family-centered intervention program that we chose. We got a lot of support from the interventionists as well as from the parent group and other resources (books and videos) they provided. An Infant Development Program (IDP) worker visited our home once a month to help Rosalind develop her fine motor skills. Rosalind also attended regular physiotherapy sessions at the hospital for the first few years of her life.
Rosalind was first fitted for hearing aids shortly after her diagnosis. When she was 3 years old, she completely lost the rest of her hearing; and after much thought we opted for a cochlear implant. Now her cochlear implants are just a part of her that we sometimes don’t even notice.
While English is not our first language, we decided that it would be best for Rosalind to have a solid foundation in English because she would be growing up in an English-speaking country. So we spoke to her in English at home. In order to expose her to English as it is spoken by native speakers, I would take her to playgroups and gym classes at our neighbourhood community centre, and the weekly storytimes at the library. After the storytime, I would borrow the storybook and read it to her again at home, pointing to the pictures while I spoke and signed the words to her. Today, she loves to read and always has her nose in a book.
Athough initially upset by the diagnosis, our extended family has been very supportive of Rosalind and of our family’s decisions. Rosalind is very close to her older brother Casey, despite the almost 4 year age gap between them. Casey would often join into the language games that Rosalind’s interventionists used to encourage her to practice her listening and speaking. Rosalind also credits much of her interest in reading to the novels and poems that Casey has given her over the years.
Rosalind is now a university graduate, with a BA degree from UBC in English Literature, and she has a steady job at a non-profit organization where she interned as a co-op student. Always fascinated by the language and the complex history of Hong Kong, she spent nearly a year there as an exchange student and then as a co-op intern at a law firm. She is endlessly cheerful, open-minded, and eager to meet whatever opportunities await her around the next bend in the road.