Saturday, October 12, 2013

Joey McIntyre's interview with the Hear the World Foundation

Joey was recently interviewed by Hear the World Foundation and they asked him about how his son Rhys is doing lately and more. 

Just to kick things off, you are on tour with Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees right now. What has that been like? 

It's been amazing. Having groups like Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees, who haven't been together in 10 years, is exciting and fresh. Playing for different fan bases and bringing people together keeps it exciting.  We've been back together now for five years, so it’s not a reunion any more.  We love to perform and we're having a blast doing it. 

I know that you've spoken with Hear the World in the past and since you've last spoken with us, you've had another baby, a little girl.  Your son Rhys is the one that has hearing loss. Does he wear a hearing aid or does he have a cochlear implant?

He wears hearing aids.  I think you could argue that he is a candidate for cochlear implants, on paper.  But we decided to go with hearing aids and we've been fortunate to have some great people helping us.  We've had an amazing audio verbal therapist that we really trust and he goes to every week.  He's talking like any three and a half year old kid.  His older brother and his younger sister are very precocious; they were born that way, very talkative at a young age.  I think he's benefited from that. 

Can you tell us a little bit more about his speech development?  I know three and a half is a pretty crucial time for that.

If your goal is for him to be speaking like kids his age, I think he's in the upper percentile of performance for severe hearing loss. I think he has a gift for wanting to learn. Some people were just born not wanting to repeat words, but he really makes the effort and enjoys repeating. He loves to learn and he doesn't have an attachment to failure. Our therapist that we work with does tests periodically and he is performing at a four year old level.

You mentioned your speech therapist and it sounds like you really like her.  Can you tell me a little bit about your experience with her?

She is very direct but a great advocate for the child. When you're trying to figure out what's best for your kid, it’s easy to feel intimidated. It’s easy to just listen to doctors but they have an opinion about certain things. Being able to take the time and figure everything out on your own is what's important.  Certainly our therapist has a point of view and opinion but she works with tons of kids that have cochlear implants and some that have hearing aids.  So it’s not that she's pushing one way or the other, but it's based on what she's hearing and the child’s needs.

Talking a little bit about music.  Obviously that's a huge part of your life and I'm just wondering if your son is into music?  Does he have any music that he really enjoys and listens to?

He does. My other kids like to sing and dance and he likes to sing and dance, but he can sit at the piano and just play and really enjoy it.  He hits the keys to make his own music. 

I know you're familiar with Hear the World.  Are there any other groups out there that you go to for support or research or just groups that maybe your son belongs to?

We did early on here.  In those first two weeks, we spoke with a family, who had a five year old, they didn't know until she was six months old that she was profoundly deaf.  She got the cochlear implants and they love them. That was the first ray of hope for us. We learned that if you do want your child to be able to hear, that there are lots of different ways for that to happen. 

Do you have any advice for parents out there that have a child with hearing loss?

There are a lot of families that have children with hearing loss and thanks to the Internet, there is access to lots of information.  Just hearing different opinions and knowing that there's hope and support in the community is huge.

As parents, we don't want to change our kid. We love our kids and believe that they were born the way they were because it was meant to be. It is important to have patience and ironically, you've got to listen.  You have to listen to everything.  You have to be able to listen to what you agree with and what you don't agree with and then you have to listen to your child and try to make the decision that's best for them. It's not easy and it’s tough to talk about because I had the resources, living in the city and having the ability to get in front of the right people. I know that not every family has that and that might influence their decision. 

But the reality is, it doesn't matter what your child is hearing necessarily.  It's just that you're there for them and you love them and have as much patience with the situation as possible.  Sometimes it feels like you have to make a decision right away and maybe waiting a little bit longer for more information might help you.  You might not change your mind, but at least you know in the long run that you spent a little bit more extra time making the decision. 

Well that was a really great way to end this interview.  Thank you, Joey, so much for taking the time.  We really appreciate it and again, I know that you're really busy right now so I appreciate you taking the time in sharing your family story.

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