If you visit a preschool classroom in the suburb of a southern city, you will be greeted by an extraordinary little girl named Corlena wearing pink sparkly boots and a big grin. The chatty three-and-a-half year old will tell you all about her big brother, Cayden, her dog, Jessie, and her beloved Grandmama. She will also show you how her cochlear implants work. Corlena, who was born profoundly deaf, received her first hearing aids at just a few weeks old.
For Corlena, hearing loss is a minor detail in a full and vibrant life. For Corlena’s parents, Kalonda and Kori, it initially felt like a tragedy. A warm and protective father, Kori worried that he wouldn’t be able to shield Corlena from the challenges she might face. He worried that she would never hear birds chirping or that she wouldn’t be able to connect with his mother, Corlena’s Grandmama.
"SEEING HER RESPOND TO US FOR THE FIRST TIME WITH HEARING AIDS PUT THE LIFE BACK IN ME." —Kori, Corlena’s dad
But when they began pursuing a Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) outcome for their daughter, Kalonda and Kori realized their fears were unfounded. “When she received her first hearing aid, it was a level of relief that put the life back into me,” said Kori. “Seeing her respond to us for the first time was an overwhelming joy.” With the support of an excellent Early Interventionist and incorporating LSL activities into their daily routines, Corlena thrives in the hearing world.
Every day, Corlena spends time with her best friend, Grandmama. They love cooking together, taking Jessie to the park, playing board games, and swimming in the neighborhood pool. When energetic Corlena started trying to do backflips off the couch in the living room, Grandmama and Kalonda realized it was time to put her into gymnastics classes. Corlena took to gymnastics naturally and loves performing for the family.
Even as Corlena excels at school and activities, it’s the normal moments of family life that Kalonda and Kori cherish most, the moments they weren’t sure would be possible after her diagnosis. “I feel closest to Corlena on Saturday mornings when none of us has to work or go to school,” said Kori. “She wakes up on her own and comes in with a lot of love and gives me a big, strong hug. She tells me about her dreams and we have a sweet time talking together.” For Kalonda, their evening routine is her favorite time. “That’s our dance party time,” said Kalonda.“We get our music going and we dance away. She loves music and dance just like me. We’re having a full-blown party before bed. Sometimes Cayden gets involved, too. We love the same things and feel so connected over the music.”
"IT’S MY GREATEST JOY TO SEE HOW WELL SHE’S ADAPTED TO SCHOOL, HOW WELL SHE SPEAKS, HOW MUCH SHE ENJOYS LIFE." —Kalonda, Corlena’s mom
For parents of newly diagnosed children, Kalonda offers this advice: “Acknowledge the feelings, the panic, the fear, because those are all feelings you’re going to have. But also listen to all the resources and knowledge that are out there. You’re not going to know everything all at once. It’s a day-by-day journey. But it’s going to be ok.”