Constantly on the Move
I have been married to an Army man for over 15 years. We have three boys. Two of our boys, James and Tommy, are deaf and use cochlear implants. Since James was diagnosed, we have moved three times. He is now eight, in the third grade, and in his seventh school. We have learned to be very flexible, and worked hard to meet our children's medical and educational needs as best possible.
While James and Tommy both have the same medical diagnosis, Mondini's Dysplasia and Enlarged Vestibular Aqueducts due to Pendred Syndrome, their educational and communication needs are very unique. James is now fully mainstreamed in the third grade with the help of an FM system. When he was young, he only used sign language to communicate, but is now an oral student. Tommy, on the other hand, has some additional challenges. We have found that while he is slowly progressing in the oral realm, sign language has been wonderful as an augmentation to his communication. I'm not as concerned about a diagnosis for Tommy's delays, but more concerned that he learns how to better express himself, through oral and sign language.
It has been challenging enough to have two children with special needs, but even more difficult to constantly adjust to new educational systems. I like to say, "If it's out there, I've seen it." The army has been very supportive of our family's special needs. My children are enrolled in the Army's Exceptional Family Member Program, which has helped ensure their needs are known and would be met during my husband's military career. This has limited the number of places we could move, as many military posts are not near cochlear implant centers that would service my children's equipment.
The implant center locations are easy to identify and research. I have been more challenged when navigating different educational systems each time we've moved. James progressed very quickly from a signing-only to an oral-only classroom. Tommy needs a strong Total Communication program that stresses both signing and oral languages. We've had some very interesting IEP team meetings over the years!
I think our family has succeeded for several reasons:
I'm not sure what our military future holds. We could be stable for a couple years until retirement, or we could be asked to move in a couple of months. We are ready either way. I'm honestly not always 100% willing to put my family through the upheaval of moving, but I've made the best of every situation presented to us. Our family has grown strong through many changes in our army life. No matter where we are, I will continue to advocate for my children's needs as best I can.
Editor's note: Karin Markert lives with her family outside of Philadelphia . She is married to Jim, and they have three sons: James (8), Sean (6), and Tommy (4). She maintains a website documenting her sons' cochlear implant journey at: www.bionicboys.blogspot.com (names changed on the site). You can see other articles from Markert at: www.militarybratshome.com: "Listen to a Life of Silence", Liana Porter, Military Brats, Summer 2006, and "Love and Marriage, Army Style", Army Times, April 5, 2004.