“It was so good to see my Clarke family again! They are a big part of who I am and how well I do today.”
These words sprang from 12-year-old Kayleigh’s lips as she hopped in the car with her mom following a visit to her old school, Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech in Boston. The sixth-grader asked her mom to call Clarke to see if she could stop by for a surprise visit. Her former teacher of the deaf, Clare Gill, was thrilled to have Kayleigh return and meet with current students who appreciated seeing an older child with hearing aids.
Kayleigh’s parents Andrea and Michael learned their daughter had a hearing loss at birth when she failed the newborn hearing test. After more testing they learned she had a moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss. Kayleigh started at Clarke when she was just three months old in the Birth to Age Three Program. Clare first met Kayleigh when she was 18 months old. “We coached Andrea to create a language-rich environment at home. Before long, Kayleigh started in Clarke’s Preschool Program where she continued to develop her listening and spoken language skills,” remembers Clare. “She was an inquisitive and creative young student!” In fact, Kayleigh’s mom recalls her daughter giving her stuffed animals “listening checks” at home, as though they were students at Clarke too!
As an only child, Kayleigh felt a strong connection to her Clarke classmates and teachers. “Clarke gave Kayleigh a big family to look forward to seeing every day, and a place to be herself,” says Andrea. “We’ve stayed connected to Clarke through Mainstream Services. Kayleigh transitioned to her neighborhood school for first grade and continues to work with a teacher of the deaf for guidance and support.”
Today, Kayleigh is in the school choir and receives top marks in school. And she’s still holding on to the poster board project she created for career day as a third grader. It was an inspiring surprise for her Clarke teachers to learn that Kayleigh wants to be a teacher of the deaf when she grows up! “I want to be a teacher of the deaf at Clarke because I always felt welcomed. It was always somewhere I felt comfortable like I could be me. My friends and teachers understood me. I want to make other kids with hearing loss feel the same way and I want to be a teacher anyway so it just makes sense.”