15 and First Hearing Aids-New Diagnosis and a Mom’s Story

One of Beginnings SC’s Board members, Missy, has been Deaf since birth.  She and her husband, who is also Deaf, use American Sign Language as their primary mode of communication, as do their two children.  In November 2016, their oldest child begins to request an evaluation of his hearing because he was pretty sure he had a hearing loss, but wasn’t sure how much.  Watch Missy as she gives an account of the past few months and where everyone is now.  

Captions are available, but below is also the transcript that Missy wrote herself. 

Hi, Everyone.
I hate being videoed but this is pretty important. I feel I need to share with you all than to text or email to each one of you individually.
We both want to tell you about Patrick, our 15-year-old son. He himself is fine; don’t worry–he’s fine.
Last early Fall, Patrick mentioned that he was missing sounds and words. Jeff and I brushed it off because we all had just had a fun dialogue about deaf schools, mischief going-ons, etc., then Patrick brought up his remark. So we didn’t take it seriously. 
Later on, Patrick and I went shopping (rare!) for clothes. In between, he admitted again, “Remember I mentioned about not hearing some words, background noises?” Me: “Yes; what about it?” He: “Remember in 7th grade,” (he’s now in 10th grade) “close to summertime, the teacher had a tuning fork that vibrates?” Me: “Yes.” P: “I failed it. Myself and one other student.” Me: “Ooohhh…okay…That’s okay…?” P: “I think my hearing has downgraded.” Me: “Ooohh…” Then we got back to shopping, looking around, etc. But that comment stuck in the back of my mind.
This recent November, Patrick firmly told us that “My hearing has deteriorated. I have a hearing loss. I want a hearing test.” I was a bit taken aback and looked back to his previous remarks about the tuning fork, and other incidents. Jeff and I looked at each other and agreed. We both apologized to Patrick, saying, “We are sorry for initially not taking you seriously last Fall but we now see that you mean it. Can you give us other examples?” He rattled off some other examples. 
I exclaimed, “You mean, it’s been happening since 7th grade!?!?” P: “No–It initially started towards the end of 7th grade, around Springtime. Very mild, nothing big. Same in 8th grade, minimal. Last year in 9th grade, it became more noticeable. This recent Fall (of 2016), definitely noticeable enough.” Patrick mentioned that when he went to the movie theater with his girlfriend, he did not really enjoy the movies much because he kept on missing words, background noises. He preferred to go to a home to watch movies with captions/subtitles so that he could get the full movie plot experience. I asked, “You mean, you depend on the captions all along? But you have always read the captions while listening since you were 4 years old.” P: “Yes, but I thought it was normal to have a little hearing loss because I have deaf parents.” 
After that comment, I felt kinda lousy. 🙁 We never noticed it…because he was heavily involved in Band, attending practice each day during the Summertime. When he arrived home, he was always excitedly telling us what he learned. He would say, “Oh, it was so hot outside!! Rough practice!! But I loved it!” Then would proceed to tell us about new notes, such as B flat, treble, etc. Jeff and I have difficulty understanding Band terms but because he was enthusiastic, we enjoyed listening to him. So it was “obvious” to us that he had no challenges with hearing things.
P: “But I noticed that since Fall of 2016, it has gotten worse. I want to know how much of a loss I have.” Me: “Gee, you already diagnosed yourself?? But…Okay, I will call.” I called and after straightening it out a little bit with the insurance situation, the appointment was set.
Last Wednesday was his first audiology appointment. It was just the two of us. On the way, of course I got a little lost (which is nothing new). Found the place, parked. I still felt, “Psshhh…Hearing loss? Nah…” We went in then both of us explained to the audiologist about his suspicions. Then it was time for his hearing test in the triangular-shaped booth. Remember back in the old days, we had to wear those heavy and thick earphones?? And press the hand-held button?? Nowadays, the equipment is different. The earphone band is thin, earphone smaller and lighter, and the button–Not sure about the button. Whatever. 
I moved my chair so that I could see the computer monitor as to where those “O”s and “X”s would go on the dB scale. “0 dB” is excellent–means you are a hearing person. “10 dB” is a very minimal loss. “20 dB” is when hearing loss is considered a definite mild. Then the other numbers go all the way down on the scale. As for myself, I’m “quadruply” deaf–deaf four times over. (I exaggerated this sign.) I’m on the very last line. You know the EKG with the heartbeat indicators going up and down? Straight line means it’s flatlined. My degree of deafness is the same as that flatline. In Jeff’s case, his mother had German measles while she was pregnant with him. As a result, Jeff does not count. (smile) He has NO deaf or hard of hearing family members on either side of his family. Same with my families–NO deaf nor hard of hearing family members on either side. Just me as the only one and born deaf as well due to unknown reasons. Since I’m the only one, I guess I’m “special.”
When the test began, I saw the audiologist turn some knobs for variations in frequency such as loud, low, soft, high, etc. Luckily, I was able to keep a poker face because that’s when I got my first shock. I remained cool and would not look at Patrick. I peered around the post to quickly check on him and he was fine. Then I went back to looking at the developing audiogram. “WTH!” The “O”s started popping up lower and lower on the audiogram…then went back up a little. It seemed like his dB was in the 30s. When the test was completed, the three of us sat near together.
The audiologist wrote down some info. She said, “Yes, Patrick does have a hearing loss. His range is 25 to 35 dB. He needs a hearing aid.” Then she proceeded to talk about the four different hearing aids. “This one is too weak for you. You need either this one or that one. I suggest you pick either one of those. The other one is extra fancy with all the bells and whistles. You do not need that one. Again, you can’t have the weaker one.”
When Patrick was born, he had a hearing test, which is standard nationwide for newborns to be tested within 24 hours of birth. He did fail it…because he had too much fluid in his ears. The doctor said, “Just bring him home and when he recuperates from his cold-like symptoms, bring him back here for a re-test.” So after a week or two, I brought him back. They did struggle with his hearing for a few minutes…but then he was able to pass it. He was not deaf.
You know how most deaf people, when they find out their baby is deaf, they’re thrilled? They feel happy, know how to raise their deaf kid, go to a deaf school, feel a commonality, being involved in the deaf community, etc.? After giving birth to two hearing kids, it’s still easy though. It’s fine they’re hearing and of course, I love them! Since both kids were diagnosed “hearing,” I did not have to think of planning changes in their future.
The audiologist resumed talking then I stopped her, saying, “Whoa, I’m stunned…I need time to process this info.” I looked at Patrick and he was just smiling. He said, “I knew. I didn’t know the dB loss, though. But I just knew. Boy, I’m ready for hearing aids!!” I looked at him and exclaimed, “You’re fine?? You don’t feel grief, bothered, think “shit…” nothing?” P: “No. I have known for a while so I’ve been preparing myself. I actually have a plan written up so that when I find out that I do have a hearing loss, I will change around some areas. An example is Band–I do need to talk with the director on how to accommodate this new change.” I just looked at him, surprised. He is fine; he’s prepared. I kept asking him at different times, “You seriously okay?” P: “Yes.” “MOM!! I’m FINE!!!! Don’t worry! Everything will be fine!!” HE was the one reassuring ME; not the other way around! Interesting!
The audiologist left the room to give us time to discuss a bit more. We were her last patients for the day anyway. After some more discussion, I started to feel okay. We called the audiologist back and thanked her. She resumed discussion and wrote down “I suggest that he get 2 BTEs (Behind-The-Ear) hearing aids.” I interrupted her, “Two?? Not one??” She advised that 1 would not work as well, he’d need 2. I was thinking maybe she was trying to con me for more commission $$, so I asked her, “Why?” She: “For balanced hearing and both ears show the same degree of 25 – 35 dB loss.”
I recall that 40 dB…or 45 dB…I think 45 dB, yes, 45 dB is considered “moderate” hearing loss. “Moderate” at 45 dB is kinda the point where hearing loss starts becoming pretty significant. Patrick is already at 35…so I felt shocked once again. But okay. So we all resumed discussion and provided feedback. It was very good and we learned quite a bit. I asked a LOT of questions and finally showed that I’m involved–to “make up” for our lack of attending to his earlier comments. I asked Patrick if he had any further questions, then presented “What if” examples, which resulted in more worthy feedback. After all was discussed, Patrick and I left the office to my SUV. I was still thinking about what all was diagnosed, learned, said.
I turned to Patrick and said, “So, going forward, I’ll be introducing you as my ‘hard of hearing son’.” Smiled. “I know you are the same person; just need to tweak some stuff.” P: “Yea. I’m really excited about getting new aids!!” (Tomorrow, Wednesday 2/15.) I’m doing this vlog on Monday night, after midnight now. We got in the SUV and he gets out his phone and is excitedly texting. I keep looking at him while driving. Told him, “Let’s go out to eat. You pick the restaurant.” We sat at the restaurant and had a LONNNGGGG talk about everything relating to his hearing loss such as swimming, and a whole list of other stuff.
I did caution Patrick to expect that some of his friends might find excuses to avoid talking to him. I do think his friends will be fine, though, as they’re good friends but gave him a heads up because “You never know.” If that does happen, “Don’t take it personally. That means they were not good friends in the first place. There are millions of potential friends out there. Don’t worry.” We continued our discussion. He is fine. 
I did, however, ask Jeff to take Patrick to his hearing aids appointment to be fitted, etc. Since first finding out that he does have a hearing loss that is significant enough to warrant hearing aids, I have been feeling stunned and thinking, thinking, thinking about this. I am okay, okay. However…I believe that reality will hit me when I see him actually wearing two REAL hearing aids. I think I–ironically–will be sad. Because I knew he’d be hearing “forever.” Same with my daughter, Alex, hearing “forever.” But now…it is possible that Alex could be next. Who knows.
Oh, I also asked the audiologist that I noticed you took pictures inside both of his ears as well other inspections; did the insides look normal, does he need surgery, other? She responded, “No; both of the insides of his ears are normal. There are no malformations, improperly developments. Everything’s normal.” She looked at me and asked, “What about you; do you know why you are…?” I responded, “No; don’t know why I’m deaf.”
Growing up, I never cared to know the reason as to why I’m deaf. My deafness has always been with me since birth; it’s a part of me. I did not need to know nor investigate “Why am I deaf?” A couple of years ago, I did think, “Hmm…Wonder why…” Now after seeing that Patrick is bona fide hard of hearing, that puzzles me. Maybe Alex would be next. Then I thought, “Wait a minute…I wanna know why now!!” So I told the audiologist, “I’d like to know why I’m deaf/Patrick’s hard of hearing.” The audiologist mentioned that their office has a geneticist in the same building downstairs. “Perfect!!” I thought. She asked me if I was interested? I gave her a definite “Yes.” They will test Patrick first then me. Patrick and I have an appointment to discuss with the geneticist next Monday on February 20 on expectations, what will be involved in the testing, blood drawn, CT scan, whatever, I don’t know. After this consultation, the actual testing will occur about 3 months later since there is a long waiting list. I told her, “Yes, please put us down for that.” She went downstairs to set up the appointment so Patrick and I talked about that. I am now very curious if they can find out the reason for my deafness and Patrick’s hearing loss. If it is really from me, that would be interesting. I’m still surprised at all this.
I just wanted to let you all know that Patrick is hard of hearing. If you call him and are puzzled as to why he’s ignoring you, he’s not–he just can’t hear you. 
I explained to Patrick that once he gets his hearing aids, he will be almost like a hearing person again. If I wear hearing aids, however, I will not be almost like a hearing person since my situation is completely different. I’m too deaf like…a dead dinosaur. You, however, have the opportunity to be near-like hearing status. You might need an interpreter for a speech in a large audience, other situations similar to that. We will help you as we know what to do. smile. That’s your advantage.
Patrick kept saying, “I’m fine. I’m cool with this. It’s cool to be hard of hearing. BAM!” I just looked at him and chuckled. “Okay.” Then smiled. 
Just FYI.


6 IEP Tips for Professionals


  1. Language builds on language.
    • 80-90% of what a 5 year old knows going into kindergarten is learned incidentally – that means without thinking, without trying, the brain is listening and hearing and building language.  Kids with a hearing loss don’t have the luxury of that easy acquisition  
  2. Be patient.
    • Remember that every parent comes to the table wanting to be the best parent they can, to do their best; they may not be the best expert on their child’s educational needs but they want to be, so be patient.
  3. If you’ve met one child with hearing loss, you’ve met one child with hearing loss.
    • The impact of hearing loss on development is dependent on age, home environment, services, technology, etc… Every child is unique and requires an open mind to consider what their needs are.
    • Write the Individualized Education Plan for that one child, not “this is what we do in this district.”
    • Aspects of IDEA that we apply to other SpEd kids may look different to student with a hearing loss. For example, LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) applies to language, too. Is the student’s language level within 1-2 years of their peers? If not, they probably don’t have access to the curriculum or interactions with their peers.
  4. It goes a long way to intentionally create a relationship with a child’s parent.  
    • The IEP team for a child who is deaf or hard of hearing is usually large, so ask the parent(s) to come sit next to you so they feel they have a personal supporter in the room.
  5. If your district has a DHH consultant, call them and ask questions! Find out what they can teach you.
  6. Remember “adverse affect” for students who are DHH.  Have you included/assessed:
    • communication needs and the child’s and family’s preferred mode of communication?
    • linguistic needs?
    • severity of hearing loss and potential for using residual hearing?
    • academic level?
    • social, emotional, and cultural needs including opportunities for peer interactions and communication?


5 IEP Tips for Parents

  1. Organize and bring your child’s paperwork with you.
    • The most important ones to bring are:
      • your child’s current IEP
      • new audiological reports
      • new evaluation reports
    • Take paper to use to write notes during the meeting.
    • The Beginnings parent notebook is a great organizing tool!
  2. For the meeting, think of your main goal(s) – try not to have more than 3. It tends to “muddy the waters” if there are too many issues.
    • Make yourself a script if you need to – read it if you get nervous!
    • If you are nervous that the meeting is going to get rough, bring a friend or your Beginnings Parent Education Specialist to help you stay calm, focused, and to help take notes.
  3. Go into the meeting with the mindset that everyone is there because they are there for your child and want to do best… but, even though they are the professionals, you are still the one that knows the child the best – and a crucial part of the team.
    • When it is your turn to talk, thank someone. You can thank someone for the hard work with your child, something one of the team members reported on, etc.
  4. If you don’t understand the vocabulary they are using, ask! There’s only so much IDEA, LRE, FBA ,PLOP, ABR, and CBM you can take!
  5. Don’t leave the meeting without a copy of the IEP, even if they say it is “all messy and I’ll clean it up tomorrow.” Just say, “Give me a copy of the messy one, and I’ll throw it away when I get the clean one.”


6 Ways Reading with Your Child Benefits Your Child’s Health and Yours

  1. Reading Decreases Stress Levels

Believe it or not, reading for at least 6 minutes reduces your stress levels by a whopping 69%.


  1. Reading Increases Empathetic Reasoning

Fiction has been found to develop greater empathetic reasoning in readers than nonfiction, so make sure you’re getting a good balance! Reading also helps children relate well to others and better process their own emotions.


  1. Reading Decreases Mental Decline and Increases Brain Pathways

Reading regularly can keep you sharper longer—by up to 32%! Reading regularly also provides great cognitive stimulation for your child, helping to strengthen the pathways and connections their brain builds, providing them with early language skills.


  1. Reading Increases Memory Retention

Reading actually utilizes different parts of your brain than does watching tv or listening to music, and the parts of your brain that are used when reading are actually in charge of keeping memories in-tact. Reading has even been found to help prevent Alzheimer’s!


  1. Reading Increases Quality of Sleep

Staring at computer or phone screens before going to sleep and make it harder for your brain to switch off. Getting in a standard routine of reading a book better helps your brain switch off, allowing you to get much better shut-eye!


  1. Reading Increases Parent-Child Bonding

This is a wonderful pro for both you and your child. When you read with your child, you are sharing a special moment with them. They’ll come to associate books and reading with special times with you. Reading is a great way to develop a relationship and bond with your child, while you both obtain 5 great health benefits!


Enjoy a good book with your child tonight and reap all of the wonderful benefits for them, and yourself!



The Anatomy of a Home Visit


It’s Monday and I have a home visit with a new family this week.  A new 6-year-old boy, “Shawn,” who is starting to show signs of struggling to learn to read.  This will be the Initial Home Visit, and it begins before my actual appointment time with the family.  Here’s a summary.

Beginnings SC received a referral from a pediatric audiologist.  That referral has information about the family, the child, the type and degree of hearing loss, and a signature from a parent to indicate that they know we will be contacting them.  With the referral is also this young man’s audiogram.  After the referral and audiogram are received, one of us calls the parent on the referral and gets more information.  We have a form that is used to ask the parents about the resources they have, the resources they know they need to have but have been unable to obtain, and those resources that the family may not know are available.  My first step is to read the information gathered through this call and then also look at the audiological report(s).  It is a great day when we get the narrative information as well–today I am in luck!  I have a nice history to start my questions when I arrive at the home.

Then comes more prep.  All families will get our Parent Manual img_0989 that is a fantastic resource developed by our parent organization, Beginnings in NC.  I still remember talking to Mary several years ago about creating our own manual for families; that stopped short when we first read the Beginnings Parent Manual.  It contains so much beginning information about having a child with a hearing loss, all presented in a format that is tailored for parents and is accurate and unbiased.  Unbiased is extremely important to us because every single family is different, and parents must go on their personal “journey.”  The argument over how to deliver language, ASL or Spoken Language, has existed for over 100 years, but the most important part is the end result–language and communication.  Families need to know ALL of the unbiased information about language and ways to communicate so they can start down the path to developing language and building communication and so decisions can be made.  That’s what we bring.  We also have a Pathways to Language and Communication DVD that demonstrates real families that are using ASL or Listening and Spoken Language, or both!  All of this information is NEW for families–the DVD lets families see what all of this really looks like.  There is also more information that is gathered as part of the education for the family.  Again, there are some standard things we always bring, but much is chosen based on what we have learned about the family to date. See more specifics below.

So since this is the first time I will meet this family, I am going to pack the basic information about screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-8-27-35-amhearing loss including the anatomy of the ear and how one hears, our teaching audiogram, information about IDEA and how that relates to children who are deaf or hard of hearing, hearing and listening in the typical classroom (because this child doesn’t use sign language that I know of–but I will ask), IEP-specific resources, many release forms so we can have communication with the other providers in Shawn’s life, and so on. I also pack a 2” three-ring binder with our Parent Notebook files printed and ready so I can guide the family towards collecting and organizing Shawn’s paperwork.  It’s an important first step to feeling “in control” when the resources are collected and easily accessed.  This notebook is supposed to go with the family to all meetings and appointments and brings lots of “evidence” to team discussions.

So when I get to Shawn’s house, I am welcomed inside and I tell Mom about Beginnings SC and what we do.  I tell her about my background as a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students for 16 years until that day when I realized parents don’t know what they don’t know. Parents bring home a new, sweet baby from the hospital, not a newborn and an audiology degree!  I tell her about the moment that I realized I had to do something different, and that I could better teach children by teaching their parents.

Then I ask Mom to tell me about Shawn…when he was born, the circumstances of his birth, did he pass the NBHS (newborn hearing screening), and when she started noticing that Shawn seemed to be acting differently. Shawn passed the NBHS, but around 2 years of age, Mom noticed a change.  Shawn was an early talker and then the words sounded different.  Mom took Shawn to his pediatrician who referred the family to an audiologist.  Shawn and his family live in a tiny town in SC–about 45 minutes outside ofCharleston.  Eventually, Shawn was diagnosed with late-onset childhood hearing loss; a hearing loss thaimg_0990t happened after birth.  I talk to Mom about how that felt when she heard that diagnosis, and how that impacted her and the family.  I reassure Mom that she did everything right–that hearing loss is not something most people consider when they are going through the list of “what could be causing this?” I praise Mom for trusting her “mom gut” and acting on that feeling of something not being quite right.  And I reassure her that even though she doesn’t have an audiological degree (and doesn’t need one) that Beginnings will be with her until Shawn is 22 and we will face the challenges together.  I am then the coach…the tutor.  I give Mom the “5 Steps to becoming Your Child’s Best Advocate” handout and talk through the first two items so Mom can already know she is competent.  The third item says for the parent to learn everything possible about IDEA, the disability, etc. and so we begin.  I pull out the diagram of the ear and talk about sound, and how it works in the ear and the types of hearing loss. I talk about Shawn’s hearing loss specifically and what part of the ear is affected. I move to an audiogram and talk about Shawn’s audiogram. Mom has been to nearly 10 audiology appointments since Shawn was diagnosed and the staff have been great about explaining it, but even after Mom started to accept the diagnosis, Shawn was there squirming and it was hard to process.  After we spend as much time on the audiogram as Mom needs, we start to have a conversation about how language is learned.  That sounds like a strange topic but most people don’t think about it!  Ninety percent of what a child knows as they enter kindergarten is learned just by their brain hearing conversations and language being used around them.

Shawn is now half way through 1st grade and is struggling.  I tell Mom that he was born with the ability to hear and that “planted the garden” in the parts of his brain that works with auditory skills and with language.  And when he lost his hearing after that high fever, the amount of stuff he could learn just by listening reduced quite a bit and that is probably the reason he is struggling now.  A lot of what I cover is based on Shawn’s family’s needs…what they know, the questions they ask, the gaps in the paperwork. We talk about the current school setting and how Shawn calls himself stupid so very often.  I help her reframe that so she can help Shawn see it is not his brain, but his ears and we have a plan to support him so he doesn’t feel stupid anymore.  Then I start to help mom reframe so she can begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I will provide her with a template of a letter for the school, requesting a meeting to discuss Shawn and the recent evaluation he received from the team at the nearby hospital that shows a 1 ½ year gap between his chronological age and the age-equivalent scores of his language testing.  We will meet again to discuss that meeting later–I’ve started to feel that Mom received enough information today.  I give the Beginnings’ Parent Manual, “Understand Your Child’s Hearing Loss” to Mom and ask her to start reading Chapter 1 on grief and I explain the Parent Notebook and the materials I brought for that.  Before I leave, I write down the things I need to do, like follow up with the audiologist and find out the names of community speech language pathologists near their town so Shawn can get additional language exposure. Then we talk about Mom’s goals.  She is going to call the school and find out who is in charge of special meetings, and start reading 2 books to him each night before bed.  I write those on the Family Goals Sheet, giving her a copy for her fridge, and keeping a copy for me.

Hearing loss is complicated.  It can be overwhelming. It is LOTS of information.  Equipping a child for a successful adulthood is a daunting task; adding a hearing loss to that makes one feel like giving up.  Setting attainable goals start to let the family see that it IS do-able, and I will be there helping them learn the tools they need for this new journey.  Lao Tzu says “A journey of 1000 miles begins with just one step.”  Beginnings makes sure the families know that this journey won’t have to be taken alone.



Small Computers and Curious Children


Cara and I never thought we would be performing hearing screenings for children when setting out to start a program for parent education, but getting into the process has been fun, energizing, and eye-opening. With the help of some amazing volunteers, I have performed almost two thousand (yes, you read that right!) screenings since September of 2015.

Some of the things I have learned are highlighted below.

fosters-oae-screening-4bMy arrival to a center for the first time is always one that elicits feelings of excitement and nervous anticipation – unsure of how the children will engage and if staff will be displeased by my coming into their classroom and disrupting their typical day’s’ activities. But as soon as I step into the first room and sit on the floor with my box of supplies, I no longer have any uncertainty how it is going to go. The children quickly gather around and ask questions about my big box, or ask my name, or they try to sit in my lap, or show me their favorite toys. I have always had a way with children and most have fosters-oae-screening-6almost always taken to me quickly, and I am thankful that skill continues to prove true. In each classroom I take a few minutes to greet the teachers and children and find a place on the floor or a table that is comfy both for myself and for the children. I ask their names and hold their toys; sometimes I read a quick book or roll a car around on the floor. Then I open my box and bring out my “special computer that plays the *strangest* music!” and they all look on wide-eyed. I continue to be surprised by even the smallest children who watch and listen and excitedly sit and wait for their turn. Many try to sit in my lap repeatedly while I am screening their friends – they just can’t wait for their turn! My love of children and the vivacious and curious three I have at home have helped me develop the skill of helping/talking to one while having others all around! “The more the merrier,” I often tell the teachers as they try to corral the curious onlookers awaiting their turn. The excitement usually means I will have great luck in screening all of the children in a class.

Because the process is so quick and easy (as you can see below in the video) I can completefosters-oae-screening-21 a classroom of about 15 children in less than 30 minutes. I test one ear at a time and ask questions like, “Do you hear the birds? Does it sound like they are playing a piano?! Have you ever seen such a thing?!?” They giggle at the idea of such absurdity and then invite their friends to go next. Inevitably, there are children who are unsure and, at times, afraid, but I always encourage them to come look and help me push the buttons. Almost every time, they will ask for a turn and sit quietly while I check each ear. They give me a proud high-five and agree when I tell them how brave they were. The staff are so helpful and encouraging, as well. I have yet to fosters-oae-screening-1be greeted with anything other than excitement and warmth from almost every single staff person in all the centers I have visited. They ask brilliant questions and then help me explain the answers to the children who are watching. They are curious about the technology and ask why I got into the business of screening children for hearing loss. They are nearly always astounded when I tell them we estimate 10,000 children in SC schools have hearing loss but aren’t identified. They often stand with mouths agape and then say, “We are so thankful you are here!” Every single teacher has had at least one student they have wondered or worried about. They have, at times, had their fears confirmed and at other times, been given reassurance. But every time, they have been offered information and ideas, resources and/or encouragement.

Screening the sleeping children may be my favorite time. Not only do I have the opportunity to soak in their peaceful, fosters-oae-screening-16bworryless sleep, which is calming and comforting to anyone, but I also get to show teachers how quick and easy the process is. For all the teachers who welcome me into their busy, active classrooms, there are just as many who give a kind, but doubtful side-glance when I come into their finally-quiet nap room with a big box and clipboard. Once I assure them my goal is to NOT wake anyone, and I am successful with the first, their confidence in my plan is renewed and they help me move from place to fosters-oae-screening-19bplace; often even turning a sleeping head or patting a slightly-stirring back if need be.

While performing hearing screenings was not what we envisioned, we have referred more than 250 children on to their Pediatrician or an Audiologist to receive more information about serious issues that could have or were preventing their access to language. We know that language is fundamental to growth, development, success, and happiness and we know that the work we have done to identify children in South Carolina who may have remained invisible is invaluable. So while we didn’t set out to sit on floors with small computers and curious children, we sure are glad we’ve had the chance. And we can’t wait to tell you all the amazing stories we see and hear in the process. Thank you for helping us continue to make it visible.