Christiana & Frank’s Story

My name is Christiana and I am hearing. My 2 year old son Frank is Deaf and we think that’s wonderful. Because of the support we’ve received from CEID, we know that Deaf children can be valued and respected as children capable of high achievement. CEID has helped our family build a bridge from the moment of airless panic that accompanied Frank’s first ABR results showing him to be profoundly Deaf to our current landscape where Frank has won the “Most Improved Language Skills” in the Rainforest Room – even though he’s not talking yet.

Born three months early, weighing 2 lbs, 8oz, Frank was the child we’d dreamed of but his entrance to the world was the stuff of nightmares. Separated while the doctors worked to stabilize each of us, I was unable to hold him until he was two weeks old… Frank failed every hearing screen given in the NICU. I wondered how a hearing parent was supposed to make the right decisions for a Deaf child. The next few weeks were a seesaw between the love I had for my beautiful son, the joy at having him home from the hospital, and a paralyzing fear of the future for my little one.

Enter Shawn-Renee, CEID’s Early Intervention Specialist/ Home Visitor (and more!). In Shawn-Renee’s visits, and the sharing of her own story, it became clear that the way forward was family involvement, social-emotional and community-based support, and information, education and skill development. Through funding provided by CEID’s generous donors, Shawn-Renee came once a week and not only provided support for Frank, but opened her heart to me. Guided by her mantra “This is a Marathon, not a Sprint,” I began to see that if I had love and patience and determination (just like with a typically developing child), Frank’s future was bright. Through Shawn-Renee and her home-visits, I was able to identify that the fears that woke me up at night were less about Frank but more about other people’s perceptions of Frank and how that could limit him before he even began.

From our first introductory visit to now, CEID has been exemplary. Frank’s medical issues were reviewed by the teachers and staff in a way that focused on the possibilities and protections needed for Frank, not his limitations. We are supported in our journey to embrace and celebrate all of Frank, as well as the bright possibilities of Frank’s future. With the support and tools we have found at CEID, I am confident in not only making decisions as a hearing parent for my Deaf child but in identifying areas (such as Frank’s ear reconstruction) where Frank’s input is needed. This is a world away from that moment of airless panic when Frank’s ABR results revealed not only his Deafness but my lack of tools to construct what every parents wants for their child – the very best start in life.

Looking back from the sunshine at CEID to that dark moment of Frank’s first diagnosis as Deaf makes me consider the holes that would exist if CEID were not the broad program it is today. If CEID was not there, I would not have real life examples of successful adult Deaf people from all walks of life, including those who use American Sign Language, as their primary language and those who do and do not use cochlear implants. I would not have a full understanding of the importance of the benefits of early language, including sign language, because no other school has a speech pathologist working in the pre-school setting as a staff member… But there is a CEID – and Frank’s future is unlimited. Thank you for helping CEID achieve their mission of providing comprehensive early education and support services for families with very young children who are deaf and hard of hearing.

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