The Silver Lining
Dec 20, 2020 | by Nancy Newbrough
Nine years ago on Christmas Eve, our family arrived home from China with our newest member – an almost four-year-old, profoundly deaf son we had just adopted. Because of severe language deprivation, he was quite delayed in communication skills. The years since have been full of therapies and tutoring for him to acquire some ability in reading, writing, and communicating with sign or written language. I have felt there never was enough time to work on all the gaps in his learning. Though he has really built his sign language skills, reading and writing continue to be a huge struggle.
In 4th grade, he transitioned into all mainstream classes with a sign language interpreter. A very bright boy, he began excelling in math and science. But we knew junior high was coming when he would face many new hurdles. We worried about the intense curriculum, his lack of friends, and deficient language skills. He would encounter hundreds of new students not accustomed to kids who use sign language -- and many classes to manage, lunchroom madness, and acclimating to a new interpreter!
In mid-March when the COVID crisis began, he was in the home stretch of 5th grade. Suddenly the “learn from home” mode arrived, bringing so many obstacles and stressors. I felt under a lot of pressure to make it work. Remote learning with deaf children proved incredibly challenging. (We had subsequently adopted a younger deaf daughter also). Even with incredible technology, the barriers to success were overwhelming. Every morning I was filled with dread, always wearing a hat so I literally could not pull out all my hair.
God had prepared me -- I had been subbing in Deaf Ed for two years, had learned some techniques from experts and acquired some worksheets. I also researched and found supplemental resources.
Even into the summer, we worked every day, focusing on language skills, reading fluency and comprehension, conversations, sentence structure, vocabulary, and spelling. Though not an education major, I created some activities for them – while wondering if all the effort would prove beneficial. I did not want to waste the time we had been given. Nor did I see the time as a gift -- in that moment.
In August, the new school year began online with the same remote barriers to education. Those were some of the hardest days we experienced! I asked about pulling the children out to homeschool for a time, but eventually re-enrolling with all the re-evaluations necessary would be a very lengthy process.
Disbelief dawned on September 8 -- the kids were going to school … in person! (I had not even purchased school supplies, believing it would keep getting postponed.) My kids were ready to be around their peers and friends who sign. I was more than ready for a break from passwords, devices, assignments, and all-day online classrooms.
The worries about junior high still lurked. Would kids make fun of our son? Would he struggle in classes? How would he make friends?
Once again, God provided! An elementary education student at UT (who is deaf and uses sign language) was assigned a project to work with a language-deprived student. She found our family and meets with our son weekly via Zoom on language strategies using science topics he loves. And a former math teacher and a former interpreter are working with him on math.
Also, some more deaf kids moved into our area. There are now five 6th grade boys who know sign language and are becoming close -- like siblings! They eat lunch together in a small classroom, eliminating lunchroom madness!
A recent school conference brought great reports. I was excited to learn our son’s reading comprehension improved several levels over the months we worked together. His 5th grade math and science teachers had encouraged him to try advanced math and science in 6th grade. Just a few years ago, I would never have imagined him in general education classes -- not to mention advanced classes! He currently has a 99 in math and an 89 in science.
Our son is thriving, making friends, and building his language skills. He and his new interpreter hit it off immediately, not needing any adjustment time. A hearing boy has approached a teacher about how he can be our son’s friend. His team of teachers and case managers who are helping him succeed are incredible! Our thanks overflows!
We have pleaded with God countless times for help. I can look back and see God’s faithfulness, even in the hard times, directing our journey. Just when we were feeling down or after our son plateaued, God would provide just the right person to give expertise, encourage us, or help him. The dark cloud of having to manage online schooling for two deaf children has brought the silver lining that both advanced significantly in their language comprehension!
God’s Word repeatedly, clearly states that He is deeply concerned for orphans. Adoption has given me a clearer picture of God’s unconditional love for us – especially that if we believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, as our personal Savior and Lord of our lives, God eternally adopts us as His children. (Galatians 4:4-7). That love beyond all measure was lavished on our world through the gift of Christ’s birth.
…“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived what God has prepared
for those who love him”…
1 Corinthians 2:9