As a presenter I'm very grateful for Early Intervention to have asked us to present at this conference. "I'm All Ears" has already opened up so many opportunities and we had a blast even though the rather large sanctuary was quite intimidating...I'm used to smaller rooms but hey, I only shed a couple of tears, got my act together and finished without feeling like I made a fool of myself. We even sold a few books even though that wasn't what we were there to do (we aren't 'making' money off the book either, it's priced so we pay for printing/accountant/LAWYER-we get nothing and never have), we were speaking more on the therapy side of things this time, and hope to do it again at the one in November. Robert (who likes to steal my spotlight) was there as well and he was asked to present after us as a cochlear implant user and people loved him as usual.
Now, as a parent..........
You have no idea how much I loved going to this. I met some really great people. I met several that actually worked with Early Intervention (EI) directly and families as well. First I met my Facebook/blogger friend Lisa. She's a school teacher and has a little girl with cochlear implants and she also wrote their story on Bama Ears (click here). She is so adorable and she had really great questions and she worries about the same things I used to also. I wish my camera battery had not died and I would have more pictures. I love meeting people I communicate with via email/blog/FB in person, I was totally star struck!
Moving on to the lady that she brought with her....
I see this lady with big white hair, big blue eyes, I figure she's around 60-ish. I sit down beside her on the very edge of a frail bench I had nearly fallen off of earlier (it was a little off balance) but apparently I didn't learn my lesson the first time and the lady was nearly catapulted off the seat! I quickly and nervously redeem myself and politely sit all the way back careful not to crowd her personal space. She's dressed to impress, hair perfectly done, jewelry, she obviously is looking hot and wants to keep it that way! She tells me that she had her 50 yr class reunion a while back and a third of them were already 'gone'. I realize that maybe she's not 60? but then she turns around and tells me she dropped her keys down the elevator shaft this morning when she was leaving the gym!! As she spoke, I'm thinking "could you invite me to your house for dinner, I want to keep talking to you!!" She was amazing to talk to and then someone comes up and introduces their sister to her and notes her as "The Grandmother of Alabama's Early Intervention" and she's Betty Bell. Well, I've heard of the Bell Center (click here)
and I realize hey, this woman is a living Legend. Maybe I should have gotten an autograph but instead she asked for mine! (she had bought a book) and now I'm thinking "can you come home with me and stay a few days so I can pick your brain and hear all of your stories?" But I lost my nerve and I didn't ask her, maybe that would have been inappropriate...?
As a parent.....
I have to say, the opening act was this guy and his father playing music together and the 20 year old was singing his heart out as he sat in a chair and played his music. You could tell that every muscle in his body wanted to get out of that chair and perform a more active version of his songs but his bottom remained appropriately in the chair. As I sat, I'm thinking, dang Alabama's pretty darn cool to provide this entertainment for us as people are finding seats, meeting new and old friends and I suddenly realize that my feet and head are starting to groove with this music, they are really, I mean REALLY good. I sat next to Tamara (the other half of I'm All Ears) and she says, "I know him, he grew up w/my son." Now was she just showing off? Nah, she follows up with "I wonder how they got all those pictures, their house burned down!" I look up at the big screen (I had not noticed, my eyes were on the boy and his dad) and his story is up in pictures. I get chills. He's a special needs child. He has DiGeorge Syndrome. And at that moment, he was my child. Even though it wasn't hearing loss related, I watched in tears at some of those photos of him in hospitals, tubes running everywhere, surgery after surgery...but there he was, looking/acting like your "above average" young man, singing with so much passion that I suddenly realized that it was now my bottom I was having to keep in my seat. I saw a girl standing nearby (from a distance I though it was his girlfriend, turned out to be his mom! no joke) and I watched the slide show over and over until I reached a point that I had to focus back on the music or I was going to be full blown basket case and I had a presentation to give! Then as they finished their set and the dad was handed the mic, I watched this man talk with the most unbelievable pride I've ever seen! Again chills. He told of how severely dyslexic Todd (the son) is that he couldn't take the exit exams for high school. But Todd marched himself into the Principal's office and demanded he be given the test orally. How's that for self advocacy? He told of how a few years ago he was playing music w/his own friends and Todd picked up a harmonica....a few days later (no joke) he was up on stage for almost an hour w/a very well known Blues band and played for everyone at City Stages in Birmingham Alabama! That's how well he could just 'pick up' music. He couldn't read music if he tried but he could listen and play! A few years later he did the same thing with a guitar, and look at him now. He's a bright, twenty year old, with groupies and everything! Being a stay at home mom that never gets out, I had no idea how popular this guy was...again, I should have asked for an autograph but they bought my book instead! How flattering is that? I'm waiting on the mom to get her's finished. I could sit and write it here but I'll make you wait til it comes out, we hope she has it out by Spring (Ida, is that enough to get your butt writing, you now have a deadline!) Mom got up and spoke for the final ten minutes but this time, I was in awe. This woman spoke about her son's history, his journey, and where his is today with confidence I only wish I had. And she was speaking to everyone, a full house, not some small session I was having later. I wanted to meet her, I wanted to be her. I met her, and she assured me, I could be her. Thank you for this experience, I have memories to last me a lifetime, this was definitely a life changing event for me, I love Early Intervention !
here is a link to find out more and watch videos of this young man Todd Simpson and Mojo Child
http://www.toddsimpsonandmojochild.com/ his dad is the foxy white haired man (he gave me 5 bucks to say that!)
p.s. thanks to Cochlear for all the bags I won! they were a huge hit and people loved them and the resources found inside!