Seven-year-old Danny was diagnosed with a bilateral mild to moderate hearing loss when he was four and a half years old. His family struggled to find local support and turned to Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech (Clarke). Despite living over 110 miles away, Danny’s family knew that Clarke’s site in Jacksonville was where he needed to be to learn to listen and talk.
Danny travels every week—from New Smyrna Beach to Jacksonville—and stays with his grandma to participate in Clarke’s Early Elementary Program. His mom, Alexandria, explains, “One of the hardest parts of Danny’s listening and spoken language journey is packing his suitcase for him to be in Jacksonville for most of the week. But, within the first week of Danny attending Clarke we could hear and see improvement in Danny’s spoken language. It makes all the hard work worth it.”
Clarke Florida annually serves more than 200 students and their families—like Danny’s family—from birth to age 7 through early intervention, preschool/kindergarten, mainstream and speech and language services. Students use cochlear implants and hearing aids to help access sound. Clarke’s goal is to prepare children to succeed in classrooms alongside their peers with typical hearing.
During Danny’s two years receiving services at Clarke, he accomplished major strides and made a lasting impression. “Danny has improved so much,” notes Alexandria. “He was almost non-verbal and unintelligible when he started at Clarke. Clarke has given him a voice and now he talks and sings all the time.”
To celebrate his many accomplishments, Danny’s parents agreed to get a service dog for him once he graduated from Clarke and no longer had to travel for on-site services. Service dogs can help create a friendly, non-threatening atmosphere for school-age children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Danny will graduate from Clarke’s Early Elementary Program this June and attend second grade at his local elementary school in the fall. He is the proud new owner of Rex, a golden doodle therapy dog.
“Danny is one of many children with hearing loss who will be attending neighborhood schools with their hearing peers this fall. This is a trend that continues to grow with the advent of newborn hearing screenings, early intervention services and developing technology,” explains Alisa Demico, director of Clarke Florida. “It’s been a joy to see him come so far. I’m confident he has a bright future ahead filled with academic and social success.”
Danny’s family is eager for him to continue his academic journey at his local elementary school in New Smyrna Beach, Fl.