The day we left the hospital with our daughter Karsen, was filled with joy and worry. Our perfect little girl had failed all three of her newborn hearing screens. While we waited for our first BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response Test) about a month later - we counted fingers and toes and the number of diapers a day like all parents, but we also counted each and every time she didn’t react to a loud noise like those coming from her 3-year old brother.
That first test came back indicating Karsen had normal hearing. But at 18 months she still wasn’t talking and when Grandpa called for her quietly while walking behind her up our driveway, she didn’t turn around. Our friends told us not to worry, the second child always talks later. Daycare said, don’t worry, she is following instructions. But after traditional speech therapy did not yield results - we repeated the BAER. Deep down we weren’t surprised, Karsen had moderate to moderately severe hearing loss in both ears. Suddenly, we were faced with a multitude of decisions. Would we learn sign language or would Karsen be able to speak? What type of technology was available for kids with hearing loss? Most importantly- what would this mean for Karsen for the rest of her life?
It was at this point when Listen and Talk entered our lives. Listen and Talk is a Seattle-based non-profit organization that provides programs for deaf and hard of hearing children so that they can reach their full language and learning potential. Their vision is that no child is limited by hearing loss. Their birth to 3-year old program focused on listening and spoken language and the pre-school was designed to help not only Karsen, but also my husband and I as we learned what we needed to support Karsen.
Their programs steer the course for children, like Karsen, to move into mainstream schools and to compete and succeed side-by-side with their classmates who have hearing. And that is just what she is doing today in second grade. Scoring goals at her soccer games, excelling at reading and math and of course - recess! She is even participating in the school’s drama production. For our family, Listen and Talk’s IMPACT will be felt for a lifetime. We are grateful to Elliot Young for sharing our story and supporting the children at Listen and Talk through their #EYImpact program.
Jenn Swaim and Myron Friesen