I’m pleased to submit this report regarding the current work of Partners in Hearing. In short, we are fulfilling our Mission of helping children who are deaf and who are able to benefit from cochlear implantation. There is no shortage of work to be done, but I am pleased with our accomplishments and achievements.
Our Accomplishments.We presently support three very promising programs with cash grants to three highly prestigious NY based institutions:
1. At Westchester Medical Center’s Cochlear Implant Center,our multi-year grant supports its innovative teletherapy program. It is up and running and going well. We are improving the lives of four children in the pediatric cochlear implant group by providing them with speech and hearing therapy via telecommunication and video conferencing that they would not otherwise receive. Patients enrolled in the program receive parent-directed weekly speech therapy services via video conference. The speech pathologist directs the therapy from her office computer via a HIPAA-compliant video link to the family at home on their personal computer.
For families who lack access to a WiFi/video enabled tablet, a tablet is provided by the program. The program went through rigid HIPAA compliance assessment and approval and was ultimately developed under the umbrella of the Telehealth department of WMCHealth.
While the program as designed focuses on 4 children, the program is scalable and with increased support from donors, expanding coverage is something to be considered by our Board.
2. Our grant in support of the Bridging the Gap program at Clarke School for Hearing and Speechassists children who are “late” identified as being deaf. “Late” in this context relates to children after age 3 years. The extra focus is needed for 2 reasons: First, because our brains’ ability to process sound and develop speech diminishes substantially after age 3 and secondly, the Early Prevention program ends at age 3.
At Clarke, because of the Partners in Hearing grant, eight families, all of whom with children who meet the criteria outlined within the grant agreement, have benefited from the funds provided. These families do not have the advantage of Clarke Early Intervention services because their child’s hearing loss was not discovered until toddlerhood. As a consequence of not receiving services in infancy, each child has experienced delays in achieving their speech and language milestones. We help bridge their language gap by supporting parent based therapy with Speech and Language Pathologists and/or Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The New York based program is headed by Meredith Berger, Director of the NYC school.
3. At New York Mt Sinai’s NY Eye and Ear Infirmary, our program is designed to assist caregivers in dealing with children who have or will soon have implants by having in person meetings with a professional social worker. The need for social distancing negates in person social gatherings so we’ve adjusted that program to be on line – via telecommunications, video, Zoom, Skype etc. In doing so we can actually reach more caregivers. It is run by Dr. George Wanna MD, Site Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology at NYEE in conjunction with the efforts of Bryan Hujsak, the Administrative Director at the Ear Institute.
The participating families benefit from peer support and parent education about topics like how to keep the child’s hearing equipment on, understanding audiology needs, managing a child’s anxiety about social stigma or actual bullying, managing parental stress and grief and loss, etc. Subject to the impact of the COVID outbreak, we expect the program will be fully operational in Q3. It is within our Mission and our IRS Narrative to support the caregivers; doing so helps the child at home. By all accounts this program is certainly a positive step.
Lastly, one thing surfaced during our recent due diligence call with NYEE: The population of lower Manhattan where NYEE is located serves a population speaking a number of native languages other than English -- Spanish and Mandarin to name just two. Our Board has discussed the possibility of adding a bilingual social worker into the mix to better serve that diverse population.
Looking to the Future. We optimistically look towards the future. We’ve seen that the advent of 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 The issue is readily understood but the solution is not yet clear. There are face masks with full shields or clear fronts over the mouth but these are expensive and difficult to come by. While these masks surface sporadically on various websites, we are thinking about being pro-active on this one. At the very least this means finding the source of and acquiring product, perhaps even engineering an improved one, and seeing that it gets to places to do good. Nothing more to report at this time other than to say we have it in mind.
Fundraising. On the fundraising side, in addition to the generosity of so many friends, we have submitted our first grant request to a public charitable foundation and were successful. We’re proud to be recognized as being credible and innovative and effective in not only identifying need but in effectively identifying the solution and being able to distribute resources as and to the extent we are able to do so. We hope to do more grant writing in the coming year or so.
Michael G. Tannenbaum,
President May 20, 2020
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