Wednesday Nov 16, 2022
Wednesday Nov 16, 2022
Wednesday Nov 16, 2022
This is a LIVE replay of A Trauma Survivor Thriver's Podcast which aired Wednesday, November 16th, 2022 at 1130am ET on Fireside Chat.
Today’s guest is Michelle Wagner. A children’s book author and advocate for families with special needs children. The main character in her book series, Mickey, is Michelle’s real life 14-year-old son who was born with hearing loss in both ears and wears Cochlear Implants to aid him in his hearing journey.
Michelle has dedicated her life to making sure Mickey has the best medical care and resources. She assists families as they work together through the different approaches to raising a special needs child.
Lorilee Binstock 00:01:57
Welcome. I'm Lorilee Binstock, and this is A Trauma Survivor Thriver’s Podcast.
Thank you so much for joining me live on Fire side chat where you can be a part of the conversation as my virtual audience. I am your host, Lorilee Binstock. Everyone has an opportunity to ask me or our guest questions by requesting the hop on stage,
but we do ask that everyone be respectful. I will try to get you as soon as possible.
Today's guest is Michelle Wagner, children's book author and advocate for families with special needs children, the main character in her book series Mickey on the move, Mickey,
is Michelle's real life fourteen year old son who was born with hearing loss in both ears and Where cochlear
implants to aid him in his hearing journey.
Michelle has dedicated her life to making sure Mickey has the best medical care and resources, and she insists families
as they work together through the different approaches to facing a special needs child,
Michelle, thank you so much for joining me today.
Michelle M Wagner 00:03:16
Thank you for having me, Laurie.
Lorilee Binstock 00:03:19
Well, you know,
I think this is amazing. You know, you we we kind of compensated briefly...
Through email, but you know, you talked about, I didn't realize it, but Mickey was adopted,
and you didn't know at the time during the adoption
There was any hearing loss.
Could you talk a little bit about that process
And when you discovered,
had some hearing loss.
Michelle M Wagner 00:03:53
He so we decided my husband
at time and I decided to adapt,
and I had had
cousin in Ohio had just adapted it to
from Russia, actually,
we decided to
do the same. We had enough resources, and I researched and met other parents
that went through a bay area here where we live
and then also
you know, with resources to help guide us through the entire process. It was long about a year and a half. And
when they finally
found Mikey for us and an orphan in Tomorrow,
who's was about sixteen months old,
and we had to take three trips to Russia to visit him,
and he was so sweet and smiley,
we made a connection with him.
And they had just mentioned that he had ear infections, and it was twenty below zero in cold.
Lorilee Binstock 00:05:03
Michelle M Wagner 00:05:04
that might have been, you know, a significant factor, and he was also born premature.
And once we...
Once the adoption process
was finished, and we brought him back to California,
we shortly there thereafter realized
that he was not hearing,
and we took him to an ear nose and throat specialist.
to a special hospital Ucsf,
where an cardiologist
in a special team met with us, And they said he was
profoundly deaf in both ears.
So he had no hearing,
and they asked if we wanted a
hearing and speaking trials
assigning child, and then we would take the, you know, take it from there. And so we decided to give him every opportunity possible.
we he was able to get bilateral
implants, so that was implant in both ears, and it was a very
intense operation and time in our lives, and we had a way
you know, to be approved, and then to get the operation and recovery was a couple months,
then he was implanted and
his processors were activated,
and he was
three years old at that time.
And now he is fourteen, and he has thriving,
Lorilee Binstock 00:06:31
Michelle M Wagner 00:06:32
playing sports, and,
you know, we still do speech lessons every day, but the whole entire journey has been extremely rewarding.
Lorilee Binstock 00:06:42
Oh, that's so amazing to hear.
You know, being being a parent
without having a child with special needs is is challenging.
Does it like for you through the the whole process and and and raising a child
now he's fourteen with in thriving, which is incredible.
What would you how would you describe
a special needs child?
Michelle M Wagner 00:07:10
Aside... Aside from being, you know, rewarding, I think it was actually
and something that
required me really stepping up
to the plate and
doing the best that I could
you know, they say god doesn't give you anything you can't handle
Lorilee Binstock 00:07:33
Michelle M Wagner 00:07:34
shortly after we adapted him.
My his dad and I separated,
and we went through a pretty lengthy divorce while we were going through the whole
you know, it had its challenges
I at that time,
you know, I decided to do whatever I needed on my end.
To be the best mom that I could and take this
gift and challenge on
you know, it's the best of my ability.
you know, every everything
now when I look back,
all all everything that we have gone through and are still continuing to go through
I think, me us both, you know, more
Mickey as actually a an extremely empathetic
He really cares for others.
He likes helping others,
it's it's been, very rewarding.
Lorilee Binstock 00:08:42
So you wrote a book series
Mickey on the move.
Based on your son.
What brought that on?
Michelle M Wagner 00:08:54
Well, I am I'm a realtor now. And I've been in a business design business, although
Lorilee Binstock 00:08:57
Michelle M Wagner 00:09:00
you know, right at a high school, I went to college for teaching and
that paid off. But, you know, it's actually
the Covid, you know,
What hope it gave to us
Maybe right the book. I... Mickey and I were living with
you know, we were,
you know, pretty much on lockdown like everybody else.
I had had people suggest, you know, I write, you know, other authors, and I always wanted to bring more awareness.
To cochlear implants. I coached every sport, Mickey was on,
Lorilee Binstock 00:09:36
Michelle M Wagner 00:09:40
you know, baseball Soccer,
and has been you know, an advocate without realizing it really what I was doing was just being his mom
you know, being working from home,
you know, doing more things at home with Mickey to sort of homeschool him and educate him here.
you know, we weren't really interacting with the outside world. We got chickens
Lorilee Binstock 00:10:06
Michelle M Wagner 00:10:06
plant bigger garden and
I just really wanted to bring awareness,
and it... You know, I just took a shot of it. And
the first book really ended up kicking off, and that was mickey on the move,
and it did... So. Wow,
You know, let's just by many people that I do a series,
you know, it took some time, but
I... This like a book came out and it's one a bunch of awards already. And really when and has done is
educate everybody, and I donate to schools
because, you know, we should celebrate
all our unique differences
and the things that make us all special.
And the only way we can really do that is through education.
Lorilee Binstock 00:10:52
A hundred percent. I think that that is such a beautiful
way, especially during Covid and you took during this difficult period,
you you just took
to raise awareness
about your son,
and and I just absolutely love that. It's just it's
it's so heartwarming for me when I think about it.
And you know, what was it like for for Mickey?
In school growing up with
these cochlear and implants.
Michelle M Wagner 00:11:37
It was... I mean, he knows really nothing else.
Like, you know, I like I said, he's just... He's received so much love and something that I always like to really emphasize on
adults and children alike,
you know, all we all really need is is love
Lorilee Binstock 00:11:57
Michelle M Wagner 00:11:58
you know, a little enthusiasm as
I... You know, Making and I did as much as we could.
I'm grateful for the all the time I was able to spend in the classrooms,
You know, he did not attend a typical classroom,
you know, as most children do
until he was
in the fourth grade, and it was here where we live
in the next block.
Which also that inspired my book
because he was able to ride his bike to school when we when we first began, he was at special school.
It was in San Francisco,
and it was a special day class
for children that were just implanted
was a preschool,
and, you know, they really emphasized on speech, and then
that was an hour in a half from our house.
It And then he eventually
got into a school, which was forty five minutes away.
It town called Santa Rosa
there, who's also in a special day class with other kids with cochlear implants.
Some of them had some other disabilities
And we just
you know, went
jumped both heat into everything.
I encourage him to try everything possible
you know, play every sport. We had very long days with a, you know, forty... With basically two hours of driving, and then we would do
you know, speech after school, We've had a wonderful speech therapist
here in our term. Her name is also Michelle.
Lorilee Binstock 00:13:32
Michelle M Wagner 00:13:33
She's become part of our family.
you know, even now that High school, he is
still seeing her because,
you know, we
just... You know, I... Like I said, like, from the very beginning, both his dad and I wanted to make sure he was able
to access every opportunity possible.
Lorilee Binstock 00:13:58
any challenges that he face.
Michelle M Wagner 00:14:11
Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of frustration
and there was when he was younger,
not wanting to keep the cochlear and implants earn,
for those people that
don't really know much about cochlear
implants, First of all, it's one of the great advances of modern
That that's her true. For Know, they're they're truly
Lorilee Binstock 00:14:32
Michelle M Wagner 00:14:34
from hearing aids.
And and they just... They directly
electrically stimulate the acoustic nerve.
So he has something on the inside of his head, and then on the outside, he wears ten of mini of emitting computer
and stuff with a magnet that attaches to his head. And as anyone can imagine, you know, sometimes kids have a hard time wanting to wear sunscreen or a hat
and making had these magnets on his head,
you know, that sometimes they wanted to rip off. He rather, you know, he would throw off or
you know, in the beginning, there were times I think he had headaches
from then when he was first and planted.
Lorilee Binstock 00:15:19
Michelle M Wagner 00:15:20
you know, with the speech barrier and learning language at an older age.
It was really hard for him to explain what he was wearing on his head.
to other children and to other parents. And that really
that really inspired me to write the books
And even, you know, when we're traveling,
when I first wrote the book, mickey kind of used the books of a business card.
Lorilee Binstock 00:15:47
Michelle M Wagner 00:15:48
There's a picture of the implant
and what the cochlear looks like. And what's on the inside of his head along with what goes on the outside of his head.
But there... You know, there were the challenges were just trying to explain why
he is quote him unquote different.
Lorilee Binstock 00:16:05
What was his reaction when you published the book?
Did you ask him for a permission to write it in the first place?
Michelle M Wagner 00:16:10
Yeah. I yeah You know, I mentioned it to him and he loves books. He especially looked like books. He's very visual.
Lorilee Binstock 00:16:14
Michelle M Wagner 00:16:21
And, you know, I just said, I'm gonna write a book
i book about you and book about your cochlear implants so he knew
And then the day, you know, we would,
you know, once I
work for the publisher and got the print
you know, version just like, on my computer or Pdf, I would print it out. We colored it together.
And and then once we receive the card copy of the book, he could not believe it. And I mean, he was just telling everybody. He was,
Lorilee Binstock 00:16:46
Michelle M Wagner 00:16:50
you know, the best little salesman.
Lorilee Binstock 00:16:53
Michelle M Wagner 00:16:55
I he he was just wrote. And then when the second one came out, he was even more thrilled.
And, you know, he is so proud of it, proud about it. He's proud of where he is today, how far he's come
and, you know, all of our our joint achievements.
Lorilee Binstock 00:17:14
So you you did talk about him in sports.
Has there... Has there been any challenges
with with with sports or anything?
Or... It's like anything. It's just a learning curve.
Michelle M Wagner 00:17:30
Yes. Well, no. There...
It had its own set of challenges
up until about three years ago, as cochlear implants there is no way to swim or do any type of water sports with them on.
Lorilee Binstock 00:17:43
Michelle M Wagner 00:17:45
And in the second vocal making began move, farming,
I touch on that because now they have developed,
like, aqua calculator leaders,
and it's... You know, you just... You have to
put all these extra devices in waterproof onto cochlear implant.
And making now has had definitely,
you know, adapted to
doing this on his own. But as you can imagine, a young child needs help getting dressed,
And so Mickey always, you know, needed help with with everything. So in the beginning, he
he loves to swim and
he was just... He couldn't hear anything while he was swimming.
So I would teach either other children
swimming with him.
Or when we did swimming lessons as much signing as I could
just... To in order for him to be able to interact
and understand with the other kids
what was going on
and things like that
as far as wearing a magnet and a processor on your head, you can imagine when you're running around, it just falls off.
Lorilee Binstock 00:18:53
Michelle M Wagner 00:18:54
And so wait... You know, just talking to other parents
that's why I'm always happy to talk to other parents who have children with cochlear player implants.
Some... Another parent had told me about buying wig tape
And because it's like double white tape and just using it on the back of the cochlear so that it sticks to his head.
Lorilee Binstock 00:19:09
Have you tried it? Has it worth?
Michelle M Wagner 00:19:17
Oh, we've been doing it since I found out about it. So since was probably four years old,
we've been doing that
because it works better than actually
connecting like a string that it attaches to his clothes to do it.
and then as started playing like baseball soccer, all of that,
I found special helmets when he was playing,
like, little league,
and they actually have an extra space inside the helmet.
for like, so the cochlear
cochlear implant and the outside has room. But none of this happened overnight. None of this was easy. You know, I meant this is twelve years later. And when I look back now,
Lorilee Binstock 00:19:55
Michelle M Wagner 00:20:00
you know, it seems
that we were able to go through that and
be here where we are today because
there was a lot of
you know, very
hard challenging times. And,
you know, I tried to have a positive outlook on everything and
I think my positive attitude
snug on Mickey,
Lorilee Binstock 00:20:24
Michelle M Wagner 00:20:24
he that... And he doesn't
you rarely will see him too frustrated.
you know, my patience
You know, I I mean, it was is what I wanted you. I always wanted to be a mom,
Lorilee Binstock 00:20:41
Michelle M Wagner 00:20:41
you know, I never imagined getting divorced. Shortly after
finally becoming a arm, especially after, you know, going through a long adapt process.
And it was a hard time for me as well. And
and actually, ten and a half years sober now
Lorilee Binstock 00:21:00
Michelle M Wagner 00:21:00
because I chose
to the the healthiest lifestyle said so that I could have,
you know, really
a lot of clarity with each day, and I could give mickey my all because, like, you know, that was what he deserved and,
you know, thinking now
what might have happened to if he stayed in that door... You know, orphan engine russia.
I just really...
I put him first
you know, I... It's...
You know, I had a lot of support through community and family
of everything. And
I think the best way to, you know, gain support is to be open and to share and I shared
everything that I was feeling and going through and,
you know, through that today
you know, I don't think that there's anything that comes
our way that we can't try and take on.
Lorilee Binstock 00:22:03
And you said
You've been sober for ten years.
Michelle M Wagner 00:22:11
Lorilee Binstock 00:22:13
Did you have a support system around you to help get you
Michelle M Wagner 00:22:20
Definitely. The same support so done that making and I have had through, you know,
you know, you know, not being typical in his
I say lucky now that I was able to go to a program
rehabilitation program here in the Bay area
so that I could totally take on
and, you know, what both processes were kind of
always, you know, I'm person that when I don't know something or when I don't understand something and when Mickey was implanted, we registered
in the John Tracy clinic, which was Southern California,
and it was kind of to teach a parent and child how to live together in a successful way
with with, you know, hearing impairment.
And all the challenges at my, and we did that right away when he was two and a half,
and it was intense and it was for,
Lorilee Binstock 00:23:27
Michelle M Wagner 00:23:30
you know, three weeks. We lived in these dorm with other kids with that were nearly cochlear
had cochlear implants, and it really gave me the ground basis
for how to how for... For how, you know, me and make you were gonna function
in our home. You know, he needed to be quiet. He couldn't go to restaurants.
You know, loud situations were difficult in me
than being able to go
to really learn about addiction and how I could live a healthier lifestyle
helped me, you know, and we embrace both of them and
till this day, we still
what we learn from there. You know, I take what I learned from both
John Tracy Clinic, and
Alt, which is the has
place I went to for addiction.
And those are those are a part of our life every single day.
Lorilee Binstock 00:24:27
You know, as mothers, a lot of us mothers, were we're like, oh, we'll just... We'll have a drink and, you know, sometimes
It gets too much.
But when did you realize that you
needed to get help?
Michelle M Wagner 00:24:48
Well, the thing is I I like didn't even think I had a problem
in Denial, and then I was realizing that I was
sort of drowning my sorrows about divorce,
you know, probably,
the whole adoption process in itself was very intense
you know, the trips to Russia
and then seeing all those children, you know, it was a lot to handle at the the time. And, you know, I think...
Lorilee Binstock 00:25:17
Michelle M Wagner 00:25:20
You know, drowning my sorrows with a big part of it and, you know, family members,
like suggesting that I, you know, stopped drinking and I said, no. That's that's fun. And
finally, I just...
They got to be
too much, and I, you know, was dependent
on it and
you know, I knew I couldn't do it on my own. I knew I needed to help,
then I wasn't gonna
be able to stop on my own and
you know and, like, just like with
finding a place like the John Tracy Clinic for him to go to. My family members help find one of the best places I could go to
because time was of the essence.
Lorilee Binstock 00:26:12
Michelle M Wagner 00:26:13
Mickey was nearly implanted.
I went right when my divorce was finalize.
And it's one of the best gifts I've ever given myself
to this day.
that I've met through through that here in a local town in just
everybody worldwide, you know, I've spoken
you know, at all kinds of seminars and differently have clinics and
huge participate in meetings and advocates for that as well.
And I'm very open about it. And, you know, because of that, I think I've been able to help a lot of people
with that as well.
Lorilee Binstock 00:26:52
I mean, just listening to you, I feel like there's so many people who are just going to
Yeah. Me too.
Me too. And and maybe just from you just saying that they'll say maybe I should get some help. So I think
what you're doing for yourself, what you're doing for Mickey is just incredible.
you know, going back to what you were talking about,
you know, Mickey playing baseball,
you know, my daughter, she plays baseball. And on her team, there's a boy who
who is deaf. So he's he does fine language. He doesn't wear implants.
Just the sweetest kid. And, you know,
when I think about myself growing up, I feel like that wouldn't have
been a thing. Like, everyone loves this kid, and everyone supports this. Kid everyone's rooting for this kid, and I feel like
so many people do that because there's so much awareness about,
And how we should celebrate everyone's differences, and I think that your book does exactly that. And I think,
you know, I I I feel... I'm... I'm sure you give yourself enough credit for. But I really don't know if you do because I think it's such a beautiful thing for
for other kids to be able to be like, oh, this is this is normal. Just... This is this is...
We we wanna celebrate
and, you know,
makes me cheer up because I think it's just so sweet. So I feel like what you're doing and in writing this book and creating awareness, not only around your own situation,
Michelle M Wagner 00:28:24
Lorilee Binstock 00:28:32
but Mickey as well.
And I think that's for a trauma survivor driver's podcast And that's that's kind of
the whole premise is to,
you know, whether it's little t traumas or big traumas,
showing that people can be resilient and, you know, you said earlier about your
your attitude, your positive attitude and how that rubbed off A hundred percent of believer that that positive energy gets transferred
because even I notice it with my children when I'm in a bad mood and I'm being negative.
My kids are not happy, and they're also negative.
Michelle M Wagner 00:29:13
Lorilee Binstock 00:29:15
Right. It's it's... And and And so making... And also making that change that you did and and going to get sober.
And being sober for ten years, I mean,
he i I'm not sure if he knows exactly what has happened, but he can feel that he can feel that
Michelle M Wagner 00:29:35
Right. And I I I agree and you know, he doesn't. It's hard for him to understand because he
you know, with his premature birth and things has have a lot of cognitive delays also. So it's
it's not like you know, the only challenge we have and his hearing loss,
You know, And he's just learning now how to read and
you know, it's... We have,
you know, it's it's... You know,
it's, you know, still long road ahead.
you know, now, you know, a topic lately that's
come up and
you know, I've taken,
like, fully on
because I'm I'm grateful that like using so me as a best friend and this so the worthy of me and you know, it's me you choose us to talk to about puberty,
Lorilee Binstock 00:30:21
Oh, that's wonderful.
Michelle M Wagner 00:30:27
and all this, you know, And it's, of course, he's older than most children moved publicly
be interested in it and stuff. But, you know, I I kinda of a... As a, you know, mom master dad or a step dead being the one he wants to top too,
asked other parents in Sent because this is this is my first time, you know, talking to about going through puberty with a fourteen year old boy and all the questions that come with him, and I've had so many people.
So openly share with you know, what they have used
and techniques in books and, you know, I always open,
you know, to suggestions, and it's really helped us
was that at the moment?
Lorilee Binstock 00:31:11
What is your biggest tip or suggestion for parents
with special needs children.
Michelle M Wagner 00:31:20
just love it, you know, I always go back to
you know, a resilient
you know, is a great model for every resilient
and a parent that gives it there all and never gives up
you know, is just
you, and very,
you know, a part of that child's life is the best thing that
truly that you could do,
but a positive attitude
and just being able to be open and engaging
and, you know, always they're always there for them.
Lorilee Binstock 00:32:07
Michelle M Wagner 00:32:07
Is is is all a child's needs, and it's
the same for adults similar for for adults. I mean, everybody needs,
you know, a friend, a hug
you know, we're we are all social animals,
You know, I think I I have done everything up until this point, and we'll continue to use that to allow Mickey to feel in every social situation.
Lorilee Binstock 00:32:35
Are there more books in the series to come?
Michelle M Wagner 00:32:38
Right now, I am working
and book number three,
and there there will be an of sports. And as I mentioned about the special helmets and things like that and you know, there's been a football player.
Lorilee Binstock 00:32:45
Michelle M Wagner 00:32:54
He used to play for the
that had cochlear implants, and that's how they made the special helmets where that whole thing came from and how I was able to source
a helmet with a space or a cochlear implant
when he was playing little league.
Lorilee Binstock 00:33:06
Michelle M Wagner 00:33:08
And another author of children's books, and she does...
She writes books about each football team, and she's the cheerleader of the book.
You know, I met her. I'm from Chicago. She's in Pennsylvania, but we've connected, and
she inspired me and
you know, encouraged me to start writing.
you know, she hasn't said a look at about the forty writers.
so we are gonna also call great a book together aside from the members three from Move.
Lorilee Binstock 00:33:42
Wow. So you're busy.
Michelle M Wagner 00:33:45
Lorilee Binstock 00:33:47
Did you ever imagine
the success of the series.
Michelle M Wagner 00:33:51
No. That is for her. I never thought I would have to run so many prints of it. I never imagined it would win so many awards
Lorilee Binstock 00:33:52
Michelle M Wagner 00:34:01
But really, the thing that warms my heart the most is how much
Mickey loves it, how proud he is of it.
Lorilee Binstock 00:34:07
Michelle M Wagner 00:34:07
And how schools
actually now worldwide,
not just in the United States are really taking it as part of their curriculum.
Lorilee Binstock 00:34:17
Oh, that is incredible.
That is amazing.
You must be so proud.
Michelle M Wagner 00:34:23
I I am. I... Yeah.
Lorilee Binstock 00:34:26
Michelle M Wagner 00:34:26
And we police. But, yes, ma'am.
Lorilee Binstock 00:34:29
Wow. Well is there anything else that you'd like to add?
Michelle M Wagner 00:34:35
I think that just... You know,
we we can all do the unimaginable
if we put our hearts into it and
we could all,
you know, get be very supportive to the friends and family and children around us.
And, you know,
know. But nobody or
can do things on their own. It's not afraid to ask for how and that's something I really modeled for Mickey,
you know, and in my sobriety,
you know, asking for help,
in learning more about cochlear
influence asking for help.
I always keep my door literally open.
And I'm willing to help
Lorilee Binstock 00:35:17
Suppose. Thank you, Michelle for joining me today. I really appreciate having you here and just learning
more about what you've done in your story. I think it's beautiful.
absolutely wonderful. So thank you so much.
Michelle M Wagner 00:35:33
Thank you, Lorilee. It's been a pleasure.
Lorilee Binstock 00:35:36
Well, that was Michelle Wagner, children's book author and advocate for families with special needs children for more info on Michelle. You can click on that scrolling fortune cookie right there on your screen, and that will send you to her website where you can purchase her book
Michelle has contributed to July issue of authentic insider you can catch that issue by going to my website from survivor drivers.
Thrive dot com. That's trauma
thrive dot com.
November issue is out now. And if you haven't already
subscribe to my emails list to get authentic insight our magazine in your inbox monthly.
Thank you so much for joining me today.
We will be taking a break for the holidays, but we will be back in January
With an awesome lineup up of guests. So please follow me on Instagram and all of my social media platforms to see what's happening in the meantime.
You've been listening to A Trauma Survivor Thriver’s Podcast on Fireside. I'm Lorilee Binstock, have a safe and healthy holiday season.