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Hearing camp for kids helps parents as well

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Marcell Polk, 11, Mariah Polk, 9, Adrian Rodriguez, 9, study the weather cycle with Mingqi April Hang and Tela Palmer at an interactive activity station during the Growing in the Garden retreat for families with hearing loss at St. James United Methodist Church on Saturday, June 25, 2016. (Abbey Mercando/The Daily Reflector)

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Beth Velliquette

Sunday, June 26, 2016

While their children learned about precipitation and threw bean bags in a corn hole game designed to increase language skills, the parents of about 45 hearing impaired children shared their stories with each other at a special one-day hearing rehabilitation camp.

Some of the parents shed tears as they talked about challenges their children have faced, including bullying and feeling out of place at school.

The camp, which developed out of the ECU’s Communications Sciences and Disorders program, was held at St. James Methodist Church on Saturday, and about 45 children from infants to 18-year-olds and their parents participated.

Emily Brewer, a clinical instructor in the program, helped create the camp, during which graduate students ran the various stations.

The goal is to promote support for parents whose children have hearing loss, provide opportunities for children and teenagers with hearing loss to meet other people their own age who are experiencing the same things, and to give the graduate students the opportunity to work with the parents and children, Brewer said.

Ninety-five percent of children with hearing loss are born to hearing parents, so the parents have to learn about hearing loss, communication techniques and the types of technology that will best help their children, as well as deal with some of the emotions they feel about having a child with hearing loss, according to Brewer.

Meeting and talking with other parents is one of the most important parts of the camp, according to Ben and Rasheda Council, whose son, Noah, was born with some hearing loss.

“He can hear but he can’t hear high frequencies,” Ben Council said. “We didn’t find out until he was about 4.”

“He could hear the train before I did, but he couldn’t pronounce his words,” Council said. “Then we got the hearing aids and everything just turned.”

That didn’t mean the family’s problems were over, and that is why the camp is so important, Rasheda Council said.

Their audiologist tested and fixed the hearing problem but didn’t connect them with any resources. 

“We weren’t told about the services,” she said.

At the camp, they met other parents, exchanged ideas and thoughts and found out about people, places and services that would help their children.

When Ben Council mentioned he had heard about Camp Woodbine in Raleigh at the ECU camp last year, another parent at his table asked about the camp, which is a one-day retreat in Raleigh for hearing impaired children and their parents.

The other parent was happy to hear about it and vowed to check it out, adding that her daughter hadn’t been around many other children with hearing loss before today.

Outside the lecture hall, others met and talked to each other in the hallway when they stepped outside to get a cup of coffee or a snack.

Three mothers talked about their high school-aged children. When they were younger, there seemed to be plenty of services for their children, but once they got to high school, it seemed they were on their own, they said.

One mother talked about her son being bullied by other kids at school. Another spoke about her son’s desire not to wear the external parts of his cochlear implant any more because it made him feel different than the rest of the kids at his school.

Parents who have already been through those stages with their children were able to offer helpful advice. 

“We definitely found that parents really need and seek out the support of other people who have made this same journey,” Brewer said.

Meanwhile, the children were grouped according to age, and they went to different classrooms in the church, where graduate students had set up displays, games or demonstrations. 

One game designed to improve language skills was a corn hole game that had pictures of items associated with gardening. When a bean bag landed near one of the pictures, the child then had to use that word in a sentence.

For example, when a girl threw a bean bag that landed near a picture of some roots, the child said, “A tree grows roots.”

“There’s a mix of children here today,” said Deb Culbertson, a clinical professor of audiology at ECU. “Some have hearing aids. Some having hearing aids on one ear and a cochlear implant on the other ear, and some of the children come in and are signing.”

This year, ECU partnered with Beginnings for Parents of Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, a nonprofit group that helps parents and families understand hearing loss and the needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. For more information about Beginnings, go to http://ncbegin.org.

 

Contact Beth Velliquette at bvelliquette@reflector.com and 252-329-9566.

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