Families in Crisis: The Anderson Family - Part 1

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Roger Marsh: The apostle Paul endured many hardships during his missionary journeys, but there was one problem however, that became so disruptive in his life that he prayed for relief. God did not grant that request, but, instead, responded with, "My grace is sufficient for you."

This is Family Talk, the broadcasting division of the James Dobson Family Institute. I'm Roger Marsh with your host, bestselling author and popular psychologist, Dr. James Dobson. Today, we're turning back the clock on a classic broadcast, featuring Dr. Dobson, alongside Roger and Darlene Anderson. The Andersons are an incredible couple who have withstood tremendous difficulties in their family. I don't want to give anything about their story, so let's get started. Here now is Dr. Dobson to introduce the Andersons and their story on this classic broadcast of Family Talk.

Dr. Dobson: Roger, you're a businessman-

Roger Anderson: Right.

Dr. Dobson: And you own a business. Is that right?

Roger Anderson: Yeah, a small business.

Dr. Dobson: Darlene, you're a full-time mom, a former school teacher, I understand.

Darlene Anderson: Yes.

Dr. Dobson: How many years did you teach school?

Darlene Anderson: I taught seven years, and then retired to-

Dr. Dobson: To raise children.

Darlene Anderson: ... to raise my family, yes.

Dr. Dobson: My wife, Shirley, did exactly the same thing, seven years of teaching, and then a full-time mom. You think you'll ever go back?

Darlene Anderson: Because I homeschool my oldest two, I really am still actively teaching so I enjoy that much more.

Dr. Dobson: How did you get into homeschooling?

Darlene Anderson: I think that-

Roger Anderson: We didn't like the alternative.

Darlene Anderson: I think just from the beginning, when my son was just a toddler, just thinking of what we could do with him at home and having been a teacher, I guess I just felt like I would like to share that experience with him.

Dr. Dobson: Has it been what you expected it to be? It's a lot of work, isn't it?

Darlene Anderson: Yes, yes it is. I was just talking to someone about this earlier today. There's never enough time to-

Dr. Dobson: I'll bet she's a fantastic teacher as well, I bet.

Roger Anderson: In between other kids and problems and things like that, yes.

Dr. Dobson: And the last thing, or the next thing that our listeners need to know about you, Darlene, is that you're going to have baby number seven. Well we want to walk through your personal story in this program and let people know where you've been and the portion of it that we're particularly interested in here started with the birth of your third child, Darren. Okay, pick it up there and tell us what you learned.

Darlene Anderson: Well, Darren came along, seemingly fine, like our other two, normal delivery and everything. But, just probably a few months after he was born, we noticed that there was something just slightly different with him. I guess an easy way to say it is he was like a rag doll, just very floppy, and didn't develop quite like the other two had developed and he was progressing, but very slowly. We talked about it back and forth and didn't want to take him right away, thinking maybe we're being a little paranoid and-

Roger Anderson: I'm the type of person that if it isn't broke, don't fix it, so I don't go running to the doctor for everything. So, I just thought, well he was just like, a little loose goose. With the other kids, I could sit them on my hand and carry them around just straight in front of my chest and wouldn't be a problem at all but him, he'd just go ... fall right over. We just, like I say, just thought it was just a difference in the child but it turned out to be something more than that.

Darlene Anderson: Yes, and we know now that it's a warning sign. We were starting to say things, I think not even consciously realizing, making observations that we ... just kind of storing them away like Roger would say, "He doesn't know my voice, he doesn't turn to me when I call him."

Roger Anderson: He doesn't listen to me.

Darlene Anderson: I remember telling someone, "This is not an auditory learner. I think he's visual or something." Finally it bothered me so much that he consented and we took him in and they did an evaluation of him but basically came back with, "Well he's a little on the slow side developmentally, but he's still within range."

Dr. Dobson: What age was he then?

Darlene Anderson: He was probably just about eight months by then, but one little test they had done there bothered me and when I went home, I decided I was going to try the same test and see if I could get any different results. That was, they had taken a little bell and tried to ring it next to his ear and he turned but I think he saw the bell and so I sat him in his high chair and gave him something to occupy himself with and stood behind and rang the little bell and when I noticed he didn't respond, I called Roger and showed him and he said, "Well you have you have something to really get his attention." So he got out a couple big pan lids-

Roger Anderson: Husbands do things in a big way.

Darlene Anderson: ... and crashed them together right behind him. When we saw that he was still playing with what we gave him, it was like ... we knew, right then. This answered all the questions, everything that we had thought and said came together right then. We didn't even have to really discuss it, in fact. Right away I got out the phone book and I looked up an audiologist and called and made an appointment to have him seen. Well, of course this was near the end of the week and I couldn't take him in until the first of the next week and so that was probably one of those long weekends of my life.

Dr. Dobson: We've all been there-

Darlene Anderson: Yes.

Dr. Dobson: ... over one thing or another.

Darlene Anderson: I think I questioned and answered all my-

Dr. Dobson: Your own questions.

Darlene Anderson: ... fears and everything that weekend and I don't think we ever said, "God why?" We always felt that this is the way God has made him, but, at the same time, I still grieved because I started thinking he'll never hear music, or the birds-

Dr. Dobson: Or your voice.

Darlene Anderson: ... or my voice say, "I love you." I went to church that Sunday and took him and I didn't want to tell anyone because I wanted to make sure that it wasn't just some silly idea we had. So, I went through the motions and everyone put him in the nursery with all the other children who were playing and it was a very difficult time for me then, to realize, I know there's something wrong and I can't really share with anyone.

Dr. Dobson: Then the next week you had it confirmed medically.

Darlene Anderson: Yes, the audiologist put him in a booth and did all kinds of sounds, of course, and we have no family history of deafness, so this was something totally new to us and we really knew nothing about it and the audiologist was, now we believe a poor choice, but we had no knowledge of audiologists either. He was scribbling on a paper and basically when he got finished he said, "I've confirmed this is right, your son is deaf. You'll probably want to do some more tests later on." It was basically all he told me and I noticed he had been writing on a paper and I said, "Well can I at least have a copy of what you're working on?" What it was, was an audiogram, which is a paper, it's like a graph. You have decibels, which are loudness, going vertically and frequencies going across and I took that home and tried to figure out what this paper said and at the bottom he wrote, "No response at 90 decibels." Which is fairly loud.

Dr. Dobson: Did he write the word, profoundly deaf?

Darlene Anderson: No, there was a key on it. What I did was I went home and called the library and I said, "Can you look up decibels and tell me what different sounds make how many decibels?" Of course we learned, we've learned a lot since then, but maybe 10 decibels it's like leaves rustling, then you get to down 120 decibels which is a jet airplane taking off, so you have everything in between and so 90 is pretty bad, you know when there's no response at all.

Dr. Dobson: If he didn't hear that, then he's not hearing.

Darlene Anderson: Right. So, we contacted him again, he said, "Your son is so deaf, he'll never learn to talk. Hearing aids will never help him, so I suggest you decide to start communicating with him through sign language."

Roger Anderson: We were fortunate, God worked in that he brought other people in. Now, she's going to get to that but whenever something like this happens, just don't take the first opinion that you get. You have to be an advocate for your kid. You have to go out there and do the research yourself because on this, we thought our only recourse was to go with doing sign language and I thought, "Man, I'm never going to learn sign language." When it comes to that sort of thing, I'm pretty slow.

Dr. Dobson: First Roger, tell me how this diagnosis hit you?

Roger Anderson: I've been a Christian ever since I was four years old and in the back of my mind, I've always tried to reference things in a Christian perspective. At the time, this all comes down to your frame of reference. What are the principles, what are the things that determine how you handle things? It really came down to the fact that God is sovereign and whatever is His plan, I have to go with that.

Dr. Dobson: Now that's a theological position and an understanding, but the pain was still there and it's in your eyes, in your voice right now.

Roger Anderson: Yes it is, it's not nearly so much with me as it is my wife. She responds to that so much more than I do, I guess it's because of the way I'm sewn together inside, but I remember when we first realized that it happened and we were at church on a Sunday morning and we sort of waited around for the pastor to get done with the bulk of the people and everything so we could let him know what had happened. Darlene was there and of course she wasn't doing well emotionally, but I just felt a lump in my throat about the thing, we told him he was deaf and in some ways, there's so little deafness out there, a lot of people don't even comprehend, or that ...

Dr. Dobson: No understanding.

Roger Anderson: They have zero understanding about it. They know it's a serious thing but they don't really understand all the ramifications of it. It's like, right now, it's very difficult to tell our son about how to be saved because there's so many concepts of Heaven, of eternal life, of sin, you're talking to a seven year old but you got to ... almost like you're communicating to a baby. In order to explain sin, you have to call it, "bad things," where with my other son that was four years old, or almost five when he was saved, it was very understandable, but we have to twist everything and frame it so that-

Dr. Dobson: You really had to learn to be the parents of a deaf child, didn't you? You don't automatically know how to do that.

Darlene Anderson: You have to learn to think for them sometimes and that's-

Roger Anderson: You have to think in a way that they can understand that you don't communicate with other people that way, because their frame of language is so limited. It's just very narrow, so you have to focus everything down into a real tight channel.

Dr. Dobson: You obviously then began exploring this problem medically and you found that the cause of the deafness was what?

Darlene Anderson: Well, it was determined that he has a form of what's called Mondini dysplasia and just to simplify it, it's where the cochlear, the little snail-shaped part of the ear that has all the little hair fibers in it, stops growing at a certain point and the normal cochlear has two and a half turns and his only had one and a half turn.

Dr. Dobson: This is a genetic ...

Darlene Anderson: It's a genetic ... at the time, in fact, we were told it was viral, that I probably had contracted something during my pregnancy and caused it. So even that, we had so much misinformation and things at first, but I had started, very aggressively, learning sign language. In fact, I had arranged that we would have a private tutor come to our home even and teach us and I was getting this all set up and Roger said, "I know this may be the way we have to go but I just don't feel this is right. He has to grow up in a speaking world, a hearing world and we want him to be able to be independent." Our philosophy-

Roger Anderson: So, he can go to McDonald's and order a hamburger and not try and make gestures to someone who can't communicate.

Dr. Dobson: Now, that's a very controversial point of view, isn't it?

Darlene Anderson: Yes it is. Very.

Roger Anderson: [crosstalk 00:12:38].

Dr. Dobson: There are very strong feelings about whether you teach sign language or English.

Darlene Anderson: Right.

Dr. Dobson: Or some other things.

Roger Anderson: Or auditory versions of it.

Darlene Anderson: ... So anyway I decided maybe I needed to do some more research. So I started writing and contacting people and ... well actually someone suggested I get a second opinion. We had him taken in and this audiologist did work more with an aural program and when she got done and showed me the audiogram, which by then I had learned a lot more about audiograms, was totally different from the first one. She had him charted that he had some low frequency hearing and I said, "Now, how do I know yours is right and this other one was wrong?" She said, "I believe that this is accurate. I really have faith that he tested well today and that this is where he is." She suggested we get him into hearing aids right away, which we did and by 15 months old he was able to say, "Moo," and, "Bow wow." And we became very aggressive and I educated myself as much I can, I read and worked extensively with him and he made very rapid progress then.

Roger Anderson: Well what's really tough is how do you test an eight month old? They can't respond, "Oh I heard that." They can't do that and so all the audiologist can do is look for eye movements when they hear a sound on their right or their left and so it's extremely difficult because they can really give you nothing other than a response of maybe a facial gesture, a turn of the head or a glint in the eye and that's all they can really use to test where they're at.

Dr. Dobson: So you can't do it with precision but you do get-

Darlene Anderson: Yes, it takes a very trained person.

Dr. Dobson: ... a diagnosis, you do know there's a hearing problem in most cases, don't you?

Darlene Anderson: Yeah.

Dr. Dobson: Now you all then were faced with a very important question about additional children.

Darlene Anderson: Well not at that point because we still had gone on the premise that it was viral and plus this had just happened-

Roger Anderson: No family history.

Darlene Anderson: ... no family history and in fact, when I was expecting my fourth child, late in the pregnancy, Roger was outside and he wanted to scare me and he lit off a fire cracker. He didn't realize that at that moment the baby was stirring and so I was patting my tummy and talking to the baby and then when he made this loud noise, I realized the baby didn't startle, which I had remembered my older two startling in the womb later in the pregnancy and I became concerned about that. So when I went to see my doctor a couple days later I told him about that and he said, "What a silly thing for you to think about." He said, "Don't you realize that was some crazy fluke with that pregnancy." He says, "I want you to get that out of your mind and don't even think about that again."

Dr. Dobson: He was trying to be kind to you [inaudible 00:15:33].

Darlene Anderson: I think so but-

Roger Anderson: Well there's an attitude out there, I don't want to say necessarily an attitude but deafness is so rare, pediatricians almost ... they don't test for it, there's nothing that they do that way and it's just so uncommon that they write it off.

Darlene Anderson: Anyway, that's when I began to do more research on genetics and I began learning some of the things that we know now, that everyone carries six to 10 bad genes and if you happen to mate with someone who is also carrying one of those bad genes, that the chances of the right combination is one in four, so basically we would have a 25% ... every child we'd have would have a 25% chance of having that happen.

Dr. Dobson: It's Mendelian recessive, which means that you both carry the gene for this deafness.

Darlene Anderson: Right. And so, when our little girl was born and we were at the hospital, I begged and pleaded for the doctors to test her. I just still had that uneasiness. And they wouldn't do it. They said, "Well you have to be scheduled ahead of time and it's too loud in the nursery," and this and that and I was quite frustrated but maybe I wasn't as much of an advocate and as bold as I am now and so I let it go and when we got home, I told him to get out the pots and pans again and as she was going to sleep just that first night, she was only two days old, he banged the pots and pans and she didn't respond.

Dr. Dobson: Respond. This is your daughter named ...

Darlene Anderson: Britney.

Roger Anderson: Britney.

Dr. Dobson: Britney.

Darlene Anderson: Once you leave the hospital, then you have to go through all kinds of things to have tests done and things like that so she was actually six weeks old before we were able to get an auditory brainstem response test done, which is pretty objective, to let them know if there's hearing or not.

Roger Anderson: Bear test, they call it.

Darlene Anderson: Then when we went to the audiologist, she had tested Britney at three weeks, because I asked her and she wasn't really sure, but then she realized that Britney was far worse than Darren and also at the same time, Darren had stopped doing well. He had plateaued and he wouldn't learn anymore and we couldn't understand. Britney got hearing aids at nine weeks. My audiologist tested Darren again then and found he had lost all of that low frequency hearing he had so then now we had two children in a very profound state of hearing and then ... you know, progress went much slower then.

Dr. Dobson: Yeah. Now we come to that question of additional children.

Darlene Anderson: We knew at that point that if we had any more children that this definitely could happen again. We only had ... we had two and two and I think we were really very optimistic during our fifth pregnancy because we thought-

Dr. Dobson: Chances were 75%, yeah.

Roger Anderson: Right.

Darlene Anderson: Yeah, that's what I said, "We have 75% chance of this child hearing."

Dr. Dobson: Roger, did your friends support the idea of additional children?

Roger Anderson: We've had very few friends support the idea of additional children. God has for you, I think, a core of people, not the bulk of Christians in your church, but there's a few core people that God brings you to help you through these things. I wish it was better. I wish that the whole church rallied around you. But, there are a few people that God brings in to help you through this.

Dr. Dobson: And there were a few that got you through it.

Roger Anderson: There was a few and they would come at Darlene with, "Why doesn't Roger have an operation?" Or, "How come you're having more kids when they could be handicapped?" Things like this that really- you know, you're struggling enough as it is. You don't need that, you need encouragement, you need to be exhorted.

Dr. Dobson: What is particularly painful about that is that there's an implication behind a statement like that, that a child with a disability should not be born. That he or she is less of a human being, and that comes through in a moment like that.

Roger Anderson: Well, there's something bigger out there and this is one of the things that I have a problem with about the attitude of the people in our country, is that they've lost the idea that there's something bigger than ourselves out there, that God has things in mind that He really would like us to keep our hands off of. And it's a terrible thing to hear about babies being aborted when they're most of the way out of the womb and everything like this, it stabs in your heart when you know that Darren, with his defect, and Britney with hers, they're just as valuable as any normal kid out there. God says in Genesis, I forget who he was talking to, he says, "Who has made man's ear?" God takes full credit for my child's defect. He doesn't apologize for it one bit.

Dr. Dobson: And He can use it for good.

Roger Anderson: He certainly has.

Dr. Dobson: So you decided to go ahead and have another child.

Darlene Anderson: Yes, it was, I think, a little more difficult for me because I knew that if it happened again, how much work it is. There's a lot of work raising them and working with them and so I probably struggled with that, just making the decision to go ahead, but when I look back now, and I guess I would say that had we made the decision to stop because of what might happen, we would have robbed ourselves of so many joys.

Dr. Dobson: Yeah, you wouldn't know those other kids.

Darlene Anderson: And they're a lot of work, but they're precious children.

Dr. Dobson: The third child was also born deaf.

Darlene Anderson: Yes.

Roger Anderson: Well it was actually the fifth child.

Darlene Anderson: The third deaf child, our fifth child.

Dr. Dobson: Yeah, and a fourth one.

Darlene Anderson: Yes.

Roger Anderson: And a sixth, yes.

Darlene Anderson: Our sixth child then was born deaf.

Dr. Dobson: So you have four hard of hearing children. Are all of them profoundly deaf?

Darlene Anderson: Yes, they are. Because of this defect, two of our other children, Darren and Britney both lost hearing. They can lose hearing at any time and so she is starting out where Darren started out but because we fitted her for molds at two days old and she began wearing hearing aids at eight days old, she is doing really quite well.

Dr. Dobson: How are the children doing now? First of all, what are their ages now?

Darlene Anderson: Darren is seven, Britney four, Bethany is two and Alison is one.

Dr. Dobson: And one on the way.

Darlene Anderson: Yes.

Dr. Dobson: Before we go any further, talk about where God is in this for you. Obviously you prayed about those other three children after the first child was born deaf. What did He say to you and what are your conclusions about where He is?

Roger Anderson: I don't think God doesn't make sense. I think God makes perfect sense, but this world is so distorted by sin and it's under a curse. The ground is cursed that we get our food from and it really appears that God doesn't, because we look at it and I think we want to say, "What did I do to deserve this?" I think we look at it from that perspective but I don't-

Dr. Dobson: You understand that is the implication of the title, When God Doesn't Make Sense - to us?

Roger Anderson: Sure and I understand that.

Dr. Dobson: He makes perfect sense.

Roger Anderson: Absolutely.

Dr. Dobson: He always makes perfect sense, it just doesn't make sense to us.

Roger Anderson: This world is not what it's supposed to be. This world was created to be something far different than what it is today and we suffer in the light of that, we have defects, we have imperfections, we die. It's something that isn't supposed to be this way but because we're in this world, we have to deal with it and I think emotionally, we come up with those feelings about, why doesn't God make sense?

Roger Marsh: Well we hate to interrupt this incredible story but we are out of time for today's broadcast so be sure to come back again tomorrow to hear the conclusion of Roger and Darlene Anderson's riveting conversation with Dr. James Dobson, here on Family Talk. Did you know that you can listen to Dr. Dobson every day on your Amazon Alexa? This device allows you to stay up to date on our latest broadcasts, to receive encouragement for your family. After you enable the Family Talk skill on your account, simply say, "Alexa, play today's broadcast of Family Talk." It's that easy. Visit drjamesdobson.org/alexa for step by step instructions to play Family Talk on your Amazon Alexa.

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