For three years starting in 2019, we have been funding a pilot tele-therapy program in conjunction with the Cochlear Implant Center of the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla NY. We expect to reach those children with cochlear implants who, because of economics or geography, are unable to visit the needed therapists at their offices. This is not about "convenience" but rather about obtaining therapy this way or not at all. Think about a two parent working family, for example, or a child who lives far from the therapist. This innovative program brings the therapist to the child by way of computer tablets and telecommunication software. It has been successful elsewhere and we are sure that under the guidance and supervision of Katrina Stidham, MD, at WMC, it will successful in this region.
We supply toys to represent each sound to help early listeners connect important sounds to specific toys. In this regard, The Ling Six Sound Test was created by Dr. Daniel Ling (a foremost authority on the teaching of speech to children who are profoundly deaf) as a quick method to ensure that a child’s hearing technology (such as a cochlear implant) is functioning properly. It’s a low tech but effective way to know if a child is currently able to hear the spectrum of sounds (pitch and loudness) in the English language, which is critical for language and academic learning. It is an essential adjunct to the teletherapy program we support.
Special Mace Masks with Partial Clear Fronts . Wide spread face mask usage is adding yet another challenge for children who are deaf because they are not able to see the face of the speaker to speech read or gain visual cues. We have recently purchased and distributed to several major institutions a specially designed face mask with a clear front over the mouth to address this issue. We are thinking about being pro-active on this one, perhaps even engineering an improved mask and seeing that it gets to places to do good. It's a great start!
Clarke School for Hearing and Speech is a well known school in NYC for teaching children who are hearing impaired, including those profoundly deaf with cochlear implants. Consistent with our Mission, we support a program that provides extra care to "late identified" (meaning post age 3) children having been or needing cochlear implantation. Late identification presents a serious neurological challenge so these children need extra attention to catch up to their peers. And COVID has inhibited hospital visits and as a result late ID will likely be on the rise. We are addressing that reality. Through Clarke, we also supply caregivers with information and and guidance to help the child at home. Home based support is critical - from reading, playing and speaking. And if some extra equipment is needed, it will be on hand at the School. It all leads to the child's success in the mainstream. For more about the school, see http://www.clarkeschools.org
Post implantation, while direct and professional speech and hearing therapy with the child is obviously essential, experience shows that support of the caregiver (the parent and her siblings) through adult peer interaction and professional support improves the life of the child. In short, we supplement professional therapy by helping the caregiver understand the challenges faced to create and enhance home support to improve the success rate of the deaf child in the mainstream. We recognize the impact of a child’s hearing loss on the whole family system – PIH seeks to address that impact through this exciting new initiative at NYEE. And today, because of the pandemic and the need to social distance, tele communication is more important that ever. This program is consistent with that reality and will continue safe interaction among caregivers.
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