Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fierce devotion helps overcome life challenges

This article was in the West Bloomfield Eccentric on Monday. It is amazing the amount of media coverage we have gotten. I hope you enjoy reading these articles.

Jordan Levin, now 32, was born three months premature and is profoundly deaf. He earned a business degree from Michigan State University and now works as a personal trainer and a motivational speaker. (Lawrence McKee | Staff Photographer)

By Sara Callender • ECCENTRIC STAFF WRITER • February 8, 2009

Life was a lesson for Jordan Levin.

"At meal time, we would say, 'Here's a fork. Here's meat. Meat is brown. It comes from a cow,'" Jordan's dad, Martin Levin, said. "It was the same kind of thing at the grocery store."

When Jordan was about 2 years old, he was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf - if an airplane was in the back yard, Jordan would barely hear it, Martin said. So Martin and his wife, Mollene, of West Bloomfield, took on the daunting task of teaching Jordan - now 32 - how to speak.

Martin shares their inspiring story in his new book, We Were Relentless.

"I would hope that the readers gain the understan

ding to never take no for an answer," Martin said. "There is a way to get there."

Jordan's life was an "adventure" from the very beginning. He was born three months early, weighing only 31 ounces, with hands the size of a man's fingernail. The Levins were told he wouldn't survive.

But after a series of risky operations, Jordan thrived. After 59 days on a ventilator and a total of four months in the hospital, Jordan finally came home.

"We knew he would be developmentally delayed because he was born so early," Mollene said. "But by the time he was 2, he had very limited language skills, not even baby babble, so we had him tested."

Martin Leven (left) wrote a book called 'We Were Relentless.' The book is about raising a hearing-impaired son, Jordan (right) and the trials and tribulations he and his wife Mollene fought went through. (Lawrence McKee | Staff Photographer)

The best option, doctors advised, would be to teach Jordan sign language, but the Levins weren't happy with that diagnosis. Instead, they researched auditory training, a method to teach Jordan to make the most of his hearing, how to identify sounds and to speak.

To teach him the "L" sound, for example, they put peanut butter on the roof of his mouth. For a "P," they put a candle in front of him to see if he could blow it out.

"We literally started from the ground up," Martin said. "We had to teach him every single sound. Hard doesn't even do it justice because he had never heard any of these sounds. Babies learn by imitating but he couldn't hear."

In order to see positive results, the Levins knew they had to commit 100 percent to the program. Although they were speaking at a 2-year-old level, Jordan entered a normal kindergarten when he was 5.

They met resistance, though, from some teachers who thought Jordan should be enrolled in a special education class.

Throughout elementary and a middle school, Mollene met with his teachers every day to see what was being taught. She would then go home and reteach it all to Jordan.

Jordan was involved in all classroom activities - Mollene transcribed a mock trial in middle school - and he even took one semester of Spanish in high school. The Levins were determined that Jordan would have a normal life in other ways, too.

He participated in every imaginable sport, like waterskiing, swimming, hockey and baseball. He would study in the back seat of the car on the way to games and go over lessons in between innings.

Jordan never felt like he was missing out on anything.

"I never thought my life was anything other than normal until I read the book," Jordan said. "I always did what I wanted, when I wanted, and they did all the worrying for me."

Jordan graduated from Andover High School and earned a business degree from Michigan State University. He currently works as a personal trainer and gives motivational speeches.

"Yeah, school was hard but school can be hard for kids who can hear," Jordan said. "I didn't blame things on the fact that I couldn't hear or use it as an excuse. Being positive will get you a long way."

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