Somehow, I find myself writing these seven words: Grace is a senior in high school.

I look at the cover photo for this blog page, and it makes me smile to think that I saw her running with the same joyful abandon as in that picture several times this weekend - on Saturday at her field hockey tournament and on Sunday at her lacrosse game. But the thing is - this weekend she also attended one of her close friend’s 18th birthday party. And she drove herself there.

Nothing changes… everything changes…

She is doing all the things other high school seniors do - diligently studying as she slogs her way through her last round of ACTs and subject tests, thinking about colleges and college visits and essays and applications and interviews… She gets to enjoy her free periods at school and off-campus lunch. She is also doing some things most high school seniors aren’t.

Grace has been taking American Sign Language at school - but this year, it was cut (due to lack of funding, or no available instructor, or I don’t know what)… So she and a friend decided to start an ASL club instead, which they are running during lunch periods on Tuesdays. Sign language was Grace’s first language, but I learned it on the fly when she was a baby so that we’d have some way to communicate, and was never very fluent. Once she received her CIs, we kept signing but really focused on developing spoken language, so sign language became our back-up language - the perfect means of communicating at night when Grace’s processors are off, or when she’s swimming, or when she’s far away and we want to communicate without shouting at each other.

But while my signing has disintegrated into barely passable pigeon sign, hers has improved with all the classes she’s taken in high school. I always hoped she would find a way to maintain and build her signing abilities, so that she could communicate comfortably with those in the signing deaf community. More and more I feel that this is where she’s headed.

Grace is also doing an internship for her biomed program at school. She’s been in this program since she was a freshman. She had three years of really rigorous and daunting (to me, anyway) course work, and now she’s starting the capstone project that the fourth year students do. Grace decided she wanted to focus hers on the possible association between vestibular processing issues and cochlear implants. She wants to explore whether issues of imbalance and the kinds of migraines she herself has experienced since she was twelve years old are more prevalent in people with CIs than they are among non-implanted deaf people and hearing people.

She’ll be doing her internship hours at the River School, which was her second home from the time she was a baby through her graduation after third grade. Grace was flagged for motor and vestibular challenges by the Occupational Therapist who worked at the River School when she was 4 or 5, and went through many hours of OT there. Now, she’ll be shadowing the River School’s current OT twice a week, and conducting outside research on her own to explore the topic. For several hours a week, she’ll be working with kids who are a lot like she was when she was little, in the same building where she spent time in the OT gym building her core muscles, working on her handwriting, and improving her balance.

It feels really, really good to watch her walking this path - a remarkable set of circles she is boldly, brightly coming around on.