Eight-year-old Nura is a tournament-level chess player who also loves to shoot baskets for hours on end. A future ornithologist, she recites the names of her favorite birds with the same zest as most kids do their favorite ice cream flavors. Listening to Nura sing the lyrics to one of her favorite pop songs, “Say what you want to say, and let the words fall out…” her mom, Ketty, can’t help but be amazed. Here’s why:
How did you discover Nura had a hearing loss?
Although Nura passed the newborn hearing screening, I noticed a lot of detachment in her first year. She wouldn’t look at me, respond to me or repeat sounds. Many clinicians failed to detect a hearing loss, but my work supervisor (a special educator) recommended an audiologist who finally diagnosed her with a bilateral moderate to severe hearing loss. We were shocked. Hearing loss didn’t run in my family and neither my husband nor I really knew anyone who was deaf. Despite working as an early intervention service coordinator for many years, I had never worked on a case involving hearing loss and I didn’t know where to find help or who to ask. I was thoroughly overwhelmed.
At what point did you find Clarke?
Not early enough, that’s for sure! Before we came to Clarke, most of the early intervention clinicians we worked with were focused almost exclusively on typical speech and language intervention. The only acknowledgement that Nura even had a hearing loss was the suggestion that we use sign language. It was only when she was being evaluated for a preschool placement that a psychologist suggested I meet the director of Clarke’s New York Preschool. Where was Nura developmentally, when she first came to Clarke? Nura had no language. Although she wore bilateral hearing aids, she could barely understand what you were telling her. She couldn’t follow directions or hold a real conversation. I couldn’t communicate with my daughter, and she couldn’t tell me what she needed. It was an incredibly difficult and frustrating time for all of us.
Why Clarke’s Preschool?
The teachers at Clarke taught Nura how to discover herself. At first glance, the preschool looked like a typical preschool classroom with circle-time, the weather, the calendar, art and music. But in reality, the teachers were using strategies designed to teach those children how to listen and talk throughout the entire day. Also, for me, there was a lot going on outside of the classroom to support parents. I always say that it was Clarke who taught me how to be my daughter’s mom because they taught me to trust myself.
How did Nura progress?
My daughter came to Clarke with no vocabulary, no way of clear communication. She was three at the time, and by the time she was three-and-a-half, she was a completely different person. She started using full sentences, following directions and interacting with her classmates. She would look directly into my eyes, and it was clear that she was not just using words, but was really understanding the emotional connection of who she was talking to. It was almost as though we were seeing each other for the first time.
Nura is an expressive, loving and precocious third-grader attending—alongside her typically hearing peers—a very challenging and demanding school, which she loves. She is one of the top students, loves her friends and she literally doesn’t stop talking! She sings in the choir, and music is a huge part of her life. She’s always singing, in the morning and through homework. Clarke always taught Nura that she was in charge. She really took that to heart; and so did I. After watching Clarke transform the lives of so many families—including my own—I knew I wanted to be a part of that. In 2011, I joined the Clarke family professionally, and today serve as Clarke New York’s early intervention service coordinator, which gives me great joy.
Read the full article about Nura and her family on pages 6 and 7 of the Spring 2015 issue of Clarke Speaks