1 year down and many more to go

1 year down and many more to go

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I often think that I am not entirely sure what I was thinking when I decided to open up a toyshop. I had no idea what it all entailed putting out toys into the market. Then I remind myself to think about my why? Why did I want to do this? What was the reason that I started Olipop Toyshop?

My motivation was to help other parents in a similar situation. Hearing parents of deaf or hard of hearing children that were so overwhelmed by the journey. Parents who had so many other decisions and appointments to keep and make. Parents who wanted to the best for their children and stay on top of the therapy at home. I also wanted to assist the therapists who work with our children who are deaf or hard hearing, like audiologists, speech language pathologists, teachers of the deaf and early interventionists. I wanted them to have a place that they can get all the tools they need in order to ensure a listening check was done and the child’s device worked and they had access to spoken language, all while making it fun.

So I had toys and puzzles were first made just for me and for Oli so that I could help him and I soon realized that many would be able to benefit from our products and so started Olipop Toyshop. What I didn’t realize in the beginning was how much I would learn in this year. I have learned about what is missing and needed for parents of deaf or hard of hearing children, specifically here in our home country of South Africa. Olipop Toyshop will always offer the tangible support in the form of toys and puzzles but I want offer and do more.

This year I want Olipop to grow and be able to provide support to parents of deaf and hard of hearing children in more ways. I would like Olipop to be a place that parents can come. It doesn’t matter where they are in the journey, just diagnosed, starting school or many years down the line starting their own families. No matter which language option they have chosen for their family, signed, spoken or a combination of both. I want to offer them support, comfort and most of all connection. There is really no reason that this journey has be done alone.

Stay tuned for some exciting news being announced on Friday.

Kwêla episode

Kwêla episode

In August, we were interviewed by Kwela, an Afrikaans TV show on Kyknet in South Africa. We were able to share Oli’s story and also how Olipop Toyshop came about. It aired on the 15th of October and now we are lucky enough to share the interview on our website.

My hope is that being able to share our story can bring more awareness to the deaf community, the importance of newborn screening and how incredible hearing technology is.

I also want to share that even when placed in a circumstance you may have never thought you would find yourself in, it’s all part of your journey and that journey is what you make of it.

Below the video you will find the Afrikaans and English transcripts.

Transcript – Afrikaans:

Die skok diagnose van hulle eersteling was onbewustelik die geboorte van ander ouers in dieselfde situasie se hoop. Deesdae vervaardig Bianka Wasserman baan breker speelgoed wat help met die terapie van kinders met gehoor gestremdheid. Hulle noem dit ‘Olipop Toyshop’. Therese het in Hopefield gaan kuier.

Musiek

Oliver is nie sommer ‘n gewone seuntjie nie. Hy is van die Here af gesmeek, en ‘n wonderwerk op meer as een manier. Toe hy dus op skaars 3 maande oud met ernstige gehoorverlies gediagnoseer word, was sy ouers, Bianka en Daniel Wasserman verpletter. Min het hulle geweet dat hulle wanhoop juis die teelaarde vir hoop is.

T: Bianka, jy en Daniel jou man, het lank gevat om swanger te word, julle het ‘n pad gestap.

B: Ja, ons het getrou en ek wou onmiddelik swanger raak so hy moes ‘n bietjie van, uhm,  wou ‘n bietjie wag. En dit was seker, ek wou amper sê ‘n jaar,  en toe het ons weggegaan Kruger wildtuin toe eintlik. En die een aand se hy net, “kom ons, kom ons los dit, en vat die pressure van ons af”, wil ek amper sê. En die volgende oggend het ek uitgevind ek was swanger.

T: Jy het ook nie ‘n maklike swangerskap en geboorte gehad nie?

B: Nee, ongelukkig nie. Uhm, so die swangerskap self, ek het verskriklik baie gebloei. Ek het wat hulle noem ‘n ‘threatened miscarriage’ gehad. En so ek was op bed rest van week 9 tot 16 basies. Na dit het dit alles eintlik baie goed gegaan. En op die einde, wou hy net nie uitkom nie. 21 ure later en 3 ure se probeer hom uit kry, is hy toe met ‘n noodkeiser gebore.

So hy het glad nie gehuil nie, ek onthou hulle het hom opgelig en hy het hierdie groot ogies gehad en net vir ons almal net so gekyk. En toe kon hy nie op sy eie asemhaal nie. So toe het hulle hom NICU toe gestuur en hy was net daar vir 36 uur net vir observation en toe is hy oraait.

T: En toe gebeur wat?

B: Alles is opgepak, hy was al in die karstoeltjie en toe ons uit die kamer uitstap toe stap ‘n audioloog in. Toe sê sy ek is hier vir die newborn screening. Toe se ek net vir haar ‘nee, nee, nee, ons gaan nie nou dit doen nie, ons kan dit later doen’.

T: Julle het genoeg gehad.

B: Ek wil nou huis toe gaan. Ek het nie eens geweet ek moet worry oor so iets nie.

T: Ja

B: Hy is nou hier en veilig. So, toe was daardie saadjie amper net so agter geplant.

T: Op 3 maande laat hulle Oliver se gehoor eindelik deeglik toets en haar ergste vrees word bewaarheid. Oliver is feitlik doof. Wat het hulle vir julle gesê, en wat het deur julle koppe gegaan?

D: The diagnosis we got was severe to profound hearing loss. It was heart-breaking, devastating that your, your idea, your mental image of, of this little boy and the life he is going to live is all of a sudden, is now looking very, very different.

T: Ek kan my dit nie indink nie. Wat het julle laat dink om dit te toets?

D: Oli was sleeping in Bianka’s arms, and the wind blew the door shut, it slammed and both Bianka and I startled with a fright. But Oli just slept.

B: Ek het tot vir hom gevra, “Ok, staan op en klap weer die deur toe”. En niks het gebeur nie. Dis toe het hy eintlik ‘n pot…

D: I grabbed 2 pots and went ‘bang, bang’ hitting two pots together, and he didn’t wake up.

T: You say severe hearing loss, wat beteken dit? Kon hy absoluut niks hoor nie?

D: He could hear very little in the right ear and basically nothing in the left ear. The option that were given to us was, that he may be a candidate for cochlear implants, but it’s, it’s way too early to tell because they’re not sure what has caused the hearing loss.

B: So, intussen kan ons gehoor apperate probeer en sien of dit vir hom enige toegang gee, en, uhm, dan net wag. So, toe hy 3 maande oud was het hy toe gehoor apperate gekry en ons was baie, baie bevoorreg in dat hy het toegang gekry.

T: En toe van daar af, die volgende stap, toe die kogleêre inplantings?

D: So, with the test they found that although he was hearing little bit with the hearing aids, it wasn’t sufficient for him to hear …

B: And to develop spoken language.

D: Correct. Yeah.

T: Goeie genade! En ook na die inplantings gedoen is, vat dit ‘n tyd lank voor dit aangeskakel kan word?

B: Yes

T: What is that process?

D: You have to wait for the scarring to heal, and uhm for the internal device to settle. And that was a month. Uhm, then we went to our audiologist, and we got the devices fitted. And that was switch on day.

Video: (knock, knock, knock on the table) Aaahhh!! Who is that?

B: Ek dink daai tyd met die gehoor apperate het definitief, het hy toegang gekry aan klank wat beteken het, ja, dit was nie dieselfde nie, maar sy brein en sy senuwees het oefening gekry. En so, hy het sy eerste woordjie gesê op 9 maande, en dit was mamma. En dit was nie noodwendig hy’t nie geweet dit was mama, ek nie, maar hy het ‘ma, ma, ma’ begin sê.

T: Is daar sekere klanke, is dit reg, wat kinders met gehoorgestremdhede moet aanleer?

B: Dis reg

T: Wat is dit?

B: Kinders met Kogleêre Inplantings, uhm, doen hulle sekere terapie, auditory verbal therapy. En deel van dit is om te leer oor die ling sounds. En die ling sounds is 6 klanke, want as jy toegang het aan daai klanke dan weet ons jy sal kan begin praat.

Video: Ahhhhhh, ahhhhh, ahhhh (Oliver playing with aeroplane and Bianka mimicking his sounds).

T: Spraak terapeute moedig ouers aan om speelgoed wat met hierdie klanke geassosieer word vir hul spruite aan te skaf.  Makliker gesê as gedaan! Bianka het gou besef dis makliker om ‘n naald in ‘n hooimied te soek. Sy besluit net daar om self ‘n plan te maak, en Olipop Toyshop pop op! Waaruit bestaan jou produk reeks want hier is nou ‘n hele paar goed hier voor ons?

B: So, wat ons gedoen het is om speelgoed te maak wat die jonger kinders kan gebruik en dan soos hulle ouer raak, dan kan hulle begin met die puzzles.

T: Ok, en elkeen van hierdie figuurtjies verteenwoordig ‘n klank?

B: Dis reg, ja.

T: Waar het jy aan die idee gekom daarvoor?

B: So die konsep self was al lankal daar met die spraak terapie wat Oli doen, so die auditory verbal therapy. Maar voorheen moes ouers uitgaan en ‘n vliegtuig koop, en ‘n roomys koop en ‘n trein en dan het jy nou al hierdie goed wat nie eintlik saam pas nie.

T: Mmm

B: Jy kan dan dit partykeer nie eens kry nie of die meeste van dit is uit plastiek gemaak en ons almal weet, ‘n kind van 6 maande oud gaan alles in hulle mond sit.

T: Hoe werk dit, wat verteenwoordig die figure?

B: Ons vat ‘n item en ons wil hê die klank moet ge-assosieer word met daai item.

T: Okay

B: So in die baba se geval is dit ‘shh’. So ek gaan ‘Shh’ (T: die baba doedoes…). En die babatjie het ‘n plat agtergrond, sy kan lê en ‘n kombersie oor hom sit en dan gaan ons ‘wake-up’ en dan kan hy weer opstaan.

T: Okay. So dis ‘Shh’ klank.

B: Dis die ‘Shh’ klank.

T: Wat is daai outjie?

B: Die trein hierso is ‘Oo’, so Choo-choo, so jy gaan ‘Oo-Oo’. As hulle nou baie jonk is gaan jy nou speel en jy gaan daai klank gebruik sodat as hulle ouer raak sal hulle onmiddelik weet wat die klank is.

T: En dis nou dieselfde met die legkaarte ook?

B: Presies dieselfde, daar het ons net 4 ekstras gekry Dis nou die Ling, Medel, Hewett Klanke wat by gekom het.

T: Maar waar begin jy, waar het jy hierdie goed laat maak?

B: Op die oomblik laat ek hulle oorsee maak. So, die speelgoed is in China gemaak en dan voer ek hulle in. En al die puzzles is eintlik hier in Hopefield gemaak. Daar is nie sulke speelgoed wat saam verkoop word wêreldwyd nie.

T: Dis ongelooflik, jy is die eerste een wat daaraan dink om dit alles om ‘n reeksie te maak.

B: En veilig te maak.

T: Ja!

B: So daar is een ander reeks van plastiek gemaak, maar niemand wil plastiek vir kinders van 6 maande oud gee nie.

T: Ja. En die naam is so oulik!

B: Oupa het altyd eintlik vir Oli ‘Olipop’ genoem. En jy kan mos nou sekerlik  sien op die logo, daardie krulhare!

T: Dis Oli!

B: Dis Oli.

Jenny: What sound is this making??

O: Sssssssss

J: That’s right! Good Job!

J: There’s the snake!!

B: What is that?

O: Ahhhh – (playing with aeroplane)

J & B: It’s an aeroplane!

T: Jenny, wat is die Carel du Toit Sentrum en wat behels jou werk daar?

J: Ons is ‘n skool en ‘n ‘early intervention centre’ in die Kaap. En dit is ‘n plek waar dowe kinders leer praat. We really are there to support the parents during this journey.

T: Vertel my van die reis, of die pad wat jy nou al met Oliver gestap het.

J: Van die begin af het hy baie vining al sy mylpale bereik in terme van gesproke taal. And that’s the power of starting early, not having to catch up a delay.

J to O: Uhhh, this one!!

O: Hahaha

J To O: Okay, can you put them in? Put that one in.

J: We want the child to be aware of sound, but we also want them to attach meaning to what they hear. And we want to be sure that they hear across the speech spectrum and that’s what you can do with these toys.

O: Bye train

B: Bye train

O: And my ice-cream.

J: Banana ice cream.

O: Banana

T: Helena, ons het so ‘n paar jaar gelede hier by jou kom kuier vir Simply Bee. So dit lyk my jy en jou dogter is altwee ewe vindingryk.

H: Bianka het ook saam met my Simply Bee begin jare terug, en dis vir my wonderlik om te sien hoe sy, wil amper sê dit wat met hulle gebeur het, wat baie harsteer was en wat nou so mooi uitgedraai het, maar dit is wonderlik om te sien hoe hy gevorder het, en hoe Bianka dit gevat het en absoluut verander het in iets so pragtig waar sy nou, oeh! Soveel, soveel ander kinders se lewens gaan kan verander.

Tamara: Ek is ‘n audioloog in privaat praktyk in die Paarl. En Bianka het uitgereik na my na die diagnose van Oliver na sy gehoorverlies. Die diagnose is elders gemaak in die Kaap, en sy wou gesels oor inplantering. As ek vandag na Oli kyk, maak dit my hart so bly, want dit is kogleêre inplantings, dis die wonderwerk van gehoor. So 3 uit ‘n 1000 kinders wat sonder risiko faktore gebore word het ‘n uitermatige gehoor verlies soos Oliver wat kogleêre inplantings benodig. En die grootste probleem op hierdie stadium is dat ons hulle te laat diagnoseer. Dis my belangrikste boodskap, as hier ‘n mamma is wat swanger is wat kyk na hierdie mooi storie, laat jou baba se gehoor so gou as moontlik na geboorte toets.

B to O: Good job! (video insert)

T: Watse tipe kind is Oli?

B: Hahaha

D: He’s a real little boy!

B: Ja

D: Ja, very energetic, full of life.

T: Dis iets wat mens nie gaan oorweeg tensy dit oor jou pad kom nie. Om te dink hoe ervaar mens die wêreld, as jy glad nie kan hoor nie? Wat is van die goed waaraan ‘n mens nie dink nie?

D: So that was one of the heart-breaking things that was running through my head the day we found out about his diagnosis, is that he will never hear me say I love you. He will never hear music. We’re fortunate, we’re blessed now that he can hear and, and he loves music.

B: Daar is niks wat hom gaan stop om te wees wie Oli Wasserman is nie, en dis vir my wonderlik.

T: Mens voel soms dat jou gebede nie beantwoord word nie, of nie soos jy gevra het nie, maar dalk sien ons nie die groter prentjie nie want na vandag besef ek, jy is miskien net die antwoord op iemand anders se gebed. Soos Bianka, met Olipop se Toyshop.

Transcript – English:

The shocking diagnosis of their firstborn was unwittingly the birth of hope for other parents in the same situation. Nowadays, Bianka Wasserman produces innovative toys that assist in the therapy of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. They call it the ‘Olipop Toyshop’. Therese visited Hopefield.

Music

Oliver isn’t just an ordinary little boy. He was prayed for, and is a miracle in more than one way. So when he was diagnosed with severe hearing loss at barely 3 months old, his parents, Bianka and Daniel Wasserman, were crushed. Little did they know that their despair was the breeding ground for hope.

T: Bianka, you and your husband Daniel took a long journey to conceive, you walked a path.

B: Yes, we got married and I wanted to get pregnant immediately. And it was probably about after a year of trying, we decided to put a pin in it. We went to Kruger National Park and the one evening there, Daniel said, “let’s leave it, and take the pressure off ourselves,” And the next morning I found out I was pregnant.

T: You also didn’t have an easy pregnancy and birth?

B: No, unfortunately not. So during the pregnancy itself, I bled terribly. I had what they call a ‘threatened miscarriage’. So I was on bed rest from week 9 to 16 basically. After that, everything actually went very well. And in the end, he just didn’t want to come out. 21 hours later and 3 hours of trying to get him out, he was born with an emergency caesarean section. He didn’t cry at all, I remember when they lifted him up to see him, he had these big eyes and just looked at all of us. He couldn’t breathe on his own. So they sent him to the NICU and he was there for only 36 hours just for observation and then he was okay.

T: And then what happened?

B: Everything was packed up, he was already in the car seat and when we stepped out of the room, an audiologist walked in. She said I’m here for the newborn screening. I just said to her ‘no, no, no, we’re not going to do that now, we can do it later.’

T: You had had enough.

B: I wanted to go home now. I didn’t even know I had to worry about something like that.

T: Yeah.

B: He is here now and safe. The worrying about his hearing seed was planted at that point.

T: At 3 months, they finally thoroughly tested Oliver’s hearing and her worst fear came true. Oliver is practically deaf. What did they tell you, and what went through your minds?

D: The diagnosis we got was severe to profound hearing loss. It was heartbreaking, devastating that your, your idea, your mental image of, of this little boy and the life he is going to live is all of a sudden, is now looking very, very different.

T: I can’t imagine. What made you decide to test it?

D: Oli was sleeping in Bianka’s arms, and the wind blew the door shut, it slammed and both Bianka and I startled with a fright. But Oli just slept.

B: I even asked him to stand up and slam the door shut again. And nothing happened.

D: I grabbed 2 pots and went ‘bang, bang’ hitting two pots together, and he didn’t wake up.

T: You say severe to profound hearing loss, what does that mean? Could he hear absolutely nothing?

D: He could hear very little in the right ear and basically nothing in the left ear. The option that was given to us was that he may be a candidate for cochlear implants, but it’s, it’s way too early to tell because they’re not sure what has caused the hearing loss.

B: So, in the meantime, we can try hearing aids and see if it gives him any access, and, um, then just wait. So when he was 3 months old, he got hearing aids and we were very, very fortunate that he got access.

T: And then from there, the next step, the cochlear implants?

D: So, with the test, they found that although he was hearing a little bit with the hearing aids, it wasn’t sufficient for him to hear…

B: And to develop spoken language.

D: Correct. Yeah.

T: Goodness! And even after the implants are done, it takes a while before it can be switched on?

B: Yes.

T: What is that process?

D: You have to wait for the scarring to heal, and um, for the internal device to settle. And that was a month. Um, then we went to our audiologist, and we got the devices fitted. And that was switch on day.

Video: (knock, knock, knock on the table) Aaahhh!! Who is that?

B: I think that time with the hearing aids definitely, he got access to sound which meant, yeah, it wasn’t the same, but his brain and his nerves got exercise. And so, he said his first little word at 9 months, and it was mamma. And it wasn’t necessarily that he had associated me with mama, but he started saying ‘ma, ma, ma’.

T: Are there certain sounds, is it true, that children with hearing impairments need to learn?

B: That’s correct.

T: What are they?

B: Children with Cochlear Implants, um, do certain therapy, auditory verbal therapy. And part of that is to learn about the ling sounds. And the ling sounds are 6 sounds, because if you have access to those sounds then we know you will be able develop spoken language.

Video: Ahhhhhh, ahhhhh, ahhhh (Oliver playing with an aeroplane and Bianka mimicking his sounds).

T: Speech therapists encourage parents to acquire toys associated with these sounds for their toddlers. Easier said than done! Bianka quickly realized it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack. She decided right then and there to make a plan herself, and Olipop Toyshop pops up! What does your product range consist of because there are quite a few things here in front of us now?

B: So, what we did was to make toys that younger children can use and then as they get older, they can start with the puzzles.

T: Okay, and each of these figures represents a sound?

B: That’s right, yes.

T: Where did you get the idea for that?

B: So the concept itself has long been there with the speech therapy that Oli does, auditory verbal therapy. But previously, parents had to go out and buy a plane, and an ice cream, and a train and then you have all these things that don’t actually go together.

T: Mmm

B: Sometimes you can’t even find it or most of it is made out of plastic and we all know, a 6-month-old is going to put everything in their mouth.

T: How does it work, what do the figures represent?

B: We take an item and we want the sound to be associated with that item.

T: Okay

B: So in the baby’s case it’s ‘shh’. So I’ll go ‘Shh’ (T: the baby coos…). And the baby has a flat back, he can lie down and a blanket over him and then we’ll go ‘wake-up’ and then he can stand up again.

T: Okay. So that’s the ‘Shh’ sound.

B: That’s the ‘Shh’ sound.

T: What’s that little one?

B: The train here is ‘Oo’, so Choo-choo, so you go ‘Oo-Oo’. If they are very young you will now play and use that sound so that as they get older they will immediately know what the sound is.

T: And it’s the same with the puzzles too?

B: Exactly the same, we just got 4 extra sounds. Those are the Ling, Medel, Hewett Sounds that were added.

T: But where do you start, where did you get these things made?

B: At the moment, I have them made overseas. So, the toys are made in China and then I import them. And all the puzzles are actually made here in Hopefield. There aren’t such toys sold worldwide.

T: It’s incredible, you’re the first one to think of making it all into a range.

B: And making it safe.

T: Yes!

B: So there’s another range made of plastic, but nobody wants to give plastic to 6-month-old children.

T: Yes. And the name is so cute!

B: Grandpa always called Oli ‘Olipop’. And you can surely see on the logo now, those curly hairs!

T: That’s Oli!

B: That’s Oli.

Jenny: What sound is this making??

O: Sssssssss

J: That’s right! Good Job!

J: There’s the snake!!

B: What is that?

O: Ahhhh – (playing with an aeroplane)

J & B: It’s an aeroplane!

T: Jenny, what is the Carel du Toit Centre and what does your work entail there?

J: We are a school and an early intervention centre in the Cape. And it’s a place where deaf children learn to speak. We really are there to support the parents during this journey.

T: Tell me about the journey, or the path you’ve walked with Oliver.

J: From the beginning, he reached all his milestones very quickly in terms of spoken language. And that’s the power of starting early, not having to catch up on a delay.

J to O: Uhhh, this one!!

O: Hahaha

J To O: Okay, can you put them in? Put that one in.

J: We want the child to be aware of sound, but we also want them to attach meaning to what they hear. And we want to be sure that they hear across the speech spectrum and that’s what you can do with these toys.

O: Bye train

B: Bye train

O: And my ice-cream.

J: Banana ice cream.

O: Banana

T: Helena, we visited you a few years ago for Simply Bee. So it seems you and your daughter are both equally resourceful.

H: Bianka also started Simply Bee with me years ago, and it’s wonderful for me to see how what happened to them, which was very difficult, has turned out so beautifully, but it’s wonderful to see how he has progressed, and how Bianka took it and absolutely turned it into something so beautiful where she now can change so many other children’s lives.

Tamara: I am an audiologist in private practice in Paarl. And Bianka reached out to me after Oliver’s diagnosis of his hearing loss. The diagnosis was made elsewhere in the Cape, and she wanted to talk about implantation. When I look at Oli today, it makes my heart so happy because it’s cochlear implants, it’s the miracle of hearing. So 3 out of 1000 children born without risk factors have extreme hearing loss like Oliver who needs cochlear implants. And the biggest problem at this stage is that we diagnose them too late. That’s my most important message, if there is a mom who is pregnant who is looking at this beautiful story, test your baby’s hearing as soon as possible after birth.

B to O: Good job! (video insert)

T: What type of child is Oli?

B: Hahaha

D: He’s a real little boy!

B: Yeah

D: Yeah, very energetic, full of life.

T: It’s something you won’t consider unless it comes across your path. To think about how you experience the world, if you can’t hear at all? What are some of the things you don’t think about?

D: So that was one of the heart-breaking things that was running through my head the day we found out about his diagnosis, is that he will never hear me say I love you. He will never hear music. We’re fortunate, we’re blessed now that he can hear and, and he loves music.

B: There is nothing that’s going to stop him from being who Oli Wasserman is, and that’s wonderful for me.

T: Sometimes you feel like your prayers aren’t answered, or not as you asked, but perhaps we don’t see the bigger picture because from today I realize, you might just be the answer to someone else’s prayer. Like Bianka, with Olipop’s Toyshop.

Upgrade Switch on DONE

Upgrade Switch on DONE

Listen to this article

Yesterday, Oli received his new cochlear implants, the N8’s. As I shared last week, I had a lot of apprehension about his upgrade appointment as Oli hadn’t been very excited about the idea of new cochlear implants. BUT…we were all incredibly surprised as it went so well.

Firstly, it was very exciting as Daniel also got to be at the appointment. We started with a booth test, which hasn’t been something that Oli loves but he was a star. We then went on to Leoni, Oli’s audiologist’s office and got things started. We started with his left ear, put on the new processor, connected it to the computer, programmed it and he immediately told us when he could hear us. No problem. Right side, was more less the same. Then when we were done, Oli asked for his old cochlear implants back. He wanted the cochlear implants with the Woody stickers on. We had chosen a new headband the night before but that wasn’t enough convincing. Then, thanks to Southern ENT, our Cochlear brand suppliers in South Africa, we got some cute little monster stickers for the N8’s. We put the stickers on with the new headband, but Oli still wasn’t convinced. Then out of one of the cochlear bags came another gift from Southern ENT, a stuffed animal, Lalela, the African Wilddog. With a bit of help and motivation from Almeri, Oli’s speech therapist and Dad, Oli tried the new head band and cochlear implants on Lelela. It was too big! Then Dad, tried them on and the headband was too small. Finally, Oli decided to try them on and…he wore them the whole day and put them on this morning, no problem.  Lalela was also at Oli’s side the rest of the day, in the car, at the movies and even went to sleep with him last night.

We decided to celebrate by going to watch a movie, Oli’s first in a movie theatre. Oli couldn’t get over the size of the tv and all the popcorn that he got to eat. His little flashing green lights were just adorable. The day had a lot of feels, realising how far we have come, and how incredible the technology is that has allowed Oli to enjoy his first movie and have access to sound on a daily basis. Our little Superhear-o’s journey continues and I am so excited to see what the next few years have in store for him and us as a family.

Time flies

Time flies

Time truly goes by so quickly…

Today we got the news that our medical aid finally paid for Oli’s bilateral upgrade. So on Monday next week, Oli will receive the Cochlear N8’s. How does Oli feel about it? Not so excited at the moment, he says he has cochlear implants and he likes them.

Daniel and I were chatting tonight and just can’t believe that the time has gone by so quickly. We remember when he was implanted and switched on and our audiologist spoke about an upgrade in 3 years. 3 years, that felt so far away and now here it is. I am certain that we will be saying the same thing 3 years from now when he is 7 and doing his next upgrade.

We recently took Oli for a myofunctional therapy consultation, the practitioner was incredible. A story I will share on another day. She asked Oli to please take off his shoes, hat and shirt as she needed to take photos of him. What happened next, was not something that Daniel and I expected. As he took off his hat, Oli turned to the practitioner and said,

“This is my coplear (cochlear) implant (pointing to it), this is the battery (pointing to the battery) and this is the sticky thing that sticks to my head and lets me hear (while pointing to the coil and magnet).”

We were completely blown away! Firstly, he had just met this woman, and although he can be friendly it doesn’t usually happen in the first five minutes. Secondly, as much as we talk about his cochlear implants he has never verbalised it like that. It seems he has truly comprehended what his cochlear implants do for him and is also able to relay that to someone else.

I am sharing this because at the beginning of our journey, we felt overwhelmed, emotional and scared and had now idea what the future held. We had no idea how Oli would communicate, no idea if he would like his cochlear implants, if he would be able to advocate for himself and no idea if he would just be a little boy. Not everyone is comfortable saying these things out loud, but it is what it is and valid as it is what we felt at the time.

Today, Oli communicates beautifully, verbally in both English and a little Afrikaans and he is also working on his South African Sign Language. He loves his cochlear implants, he does a great job of voicing not just his needs and wants, thoughts and feelings, but also has an explanation for everything, just like any other little boy his age.

Sharing and learning, from our journey

Sharing and learning, from our journey

Listen to this article

Sharing and learning, from our journey

by Bianka Wasserman

If you had asked me a couple of years ago, if I would be on television sharing personal information about our family, I would have laughed at you. Told you, you had the wrong person, but here we are.

Last night, Kwêla, an Afrikaans TV show in South Africa, aired an interview with us. We, my husband, Daniel and I shared a bit about our journey with Oliver and I got to share about how that led to the creation of Olipop Toyshop. We also had the privilege of having Oli’s speech therapist, audiologist and Ouma (grandmother) join us and say a few words.

I had no idea what the impact would be of doing this interview. On us, on family and friends, extended as well as immediate. Other parents of children that are deaf or hard of hearing or perhaps even another type of diagnosis. Professionals working within the field of hearing loss. Complete strangers that took the time to just send a message, email or Whatsapp and thank us for sharing our story.

It’s brought back a lot of emotions from the initial diagnosis, but also made us realize how far we have come. Hearing about Oli’s initial hearing loss as Daniel put it, “we were devastated.” We were also so ignorant and naive as we didn’t know anything about hearing loss. We didn’t know about the varying degrees of loss, the modes of communication, the hearing technologies available, the Deaf culture, nothing. Almost four years later, we don’t claim to know everything but we know our story and journey that we have walked. It has become rather apparent that there needs to be more awareness on hearing loss not just for other parents and families experiencing this BUT for all.

Reflections on the last month

Reflections on the last month

Olipop Superhear-o

This is the fourth September, the fourth Deaf Awareness month that we have celebrated and the third year that I am even aware of what this means.

This year has hit a lot harder and differently to the previous years. The first September and Deaf Awareness month Oli was 3 months post cochlear implant surgery. We were in thick of our therapy and just so excited. The second September, we were getting ready to immigrate to the U.S. During this time I became so much more aware of what Deaf Awareness actually meant. The resources that were available in the U.S. were astounding. Last September, we were back in South Africa and I was searching. For what, I wasn’t really sure, but it just felt like I, no we needed more.

This September, this Deaf Awareness month, I spent the month watching the most informative panel discussions that were hosted by the @Wits Centre for Deaf Studies. The topics covered from South African Sign Language, d/Deaf culture, deaf/blind information, Deaf advocacy, Deaf art and interviews of the most incredible people. Some of these people were Deaf, many used South African Sign Language, some used hearing technology and some used a combination. Then there were the hearing individuals working alongside and together with members of the Deaf community, it was so inspiring.

On Saturday, September 30, 2023, the Wits Centre for Deaf Studies hosted a fun day. We unfortunately couldn’t attend as Oli wasn’t feeling great but I will absolutely be there for the next one. This last month, I have realised that there is a whole community that I was not aware of present in South Africa, literally just down the road from us. A community that realises that there is no right or wrong way to navigate the journey of being hearing parents to a deaf child. A community that is willing to mentor us and guide us.

I would like to clarify that during our journey we have never been told by any professional, that has crossed our path that there is a right way or wrong way. Each one has worked within their frame of reference, within their expertise and for that we as a family are truly grateful. As Oli gets older, I have realised that I would like him to meet other Deaf community members. I want him to be exposed to people that are just like him, perhaps also cochlear implant users, hearing aid or BAHA users, South African Sign Language users, cued speech or perhaps a combination. I want him to see that he can grow up and do whatever he sets his heart and mind on, knowing that being Deaf is not something that should stand in his way, in fact, it just makes him more unique and a bonus extra superpower.