The New Kid in School
During recess on a breezy autumn day in the Midwest, a fourth grader named Maggie runs with a football tucked under her arm. When a friend playfully tackles her, she collapses in laughter. Her cheerful confidence and athleticism make her the first pick when classmates choose teams. “I don’t think all that often about Maggie’s deafness,” said her mom, Neile. “But sometimes when I see her playing at recess, it kind of hits me of just how cool it is that she’s able to be at a mainstream school and have the relationships that she has despite her profound deafness.”
Maggie plays with one of her friends during recess.
When Maggie was diagnosed with hearing loss as a baby, her parents, Matt and Neile, didn’t know what the future would hold for their firstborn. In addition to having no experience with hearing loss, cochlear implants, or Listening and Spoken Language (LSL), they had never even seen a hearing aid up close. An active sports fan, Matt worried that Maggie wouldn’t be able to play sports or that he couldn’t explain to her what was happening at a baseball game. Neile wondered if Maggie would become close with her loud and talkative extended family. Both of them worried that they would need to learn another language, sign language, to communicate with their daughter.
"I WANTED MY CHILD TO BE ABLE TO HEAR. I WANTED MY CHILD TO BE ABLE TO SPEAK." —Matt, Maggie’s dad
“I remember learning that LSL would be a possibility for Maggie and not believing it at first,” said Neile. “I thought, ‘oh that must be an extreme case or one of the very lucky children diagnosed with profound deafness.’ But soon I learned that it was a very likely outcome for Maggie and that was extremely refreshing.”
"MAGGIE IS SUCH A SOCIAL BUTTERFLY. SHE NEVER STOPS TALKING." —Neile, Maggie’s mom
After Maggie received cochlear implants, her parents dedicated themselves to helping her learn to listen and speak, working closely with her LSL early interventionist and pediatric audiologist. “For me, finding out about LSL was comforting,” said Matt. “It was comforting to know that we had something we could actually work for and strive to achieve. There’s a clear process and if we take these steps, then Maggie could be just like any other kid.”
While Maggie was wrapping up third grade, she and her younger sister and brother, Claire and Hank, heard their parents say the dreaded words: “we’re moving.” Due to a work relocation, the family of five would soon leave their lives in Denver, Colorado for a new beginning in another state. Among the many decisions Neile and Matt had to make during the big family transition was which school their three children would attend.
Because Maggie's parents had chosen LSL for her as a baby, she could listen, speak and read on par with hearing friends and wouldn't require any special accommodations. This allowed them to make choices based upon what was best for all their children. They chose a tight-knit parochial school for all three of them.
On the first day of fourth grade at Maggie’s new school, her cochlear implants served as a conversation starter. Her new classmates asked her questions about how they worked and Maggie’s warmth and charisma shined as she explained. Since then, she has become an important part of the community, playing on the soccer team, practicing flute in the school band, and hosting karaoke parties for her new group of friends with typical hearing.
"THE FLUTE IS ONE OF THE HARDEST INSTRUMENTS. IT’S REALLY CHALLENGING, BUT I LOVE IT." —Maggie
Maggie’s family gathers for some backyard fun.
“My advice to parents new to hearing loss would be: take a deep breath,” said Matt. “Everything will be ok. Everyone’s going to tell you that and you’re not going to believe it, but it is true that there are things you can do if you want your child to speak and talk and do all the things that a kid with normal hearing can do. There are definitely options for you and you can actually make it happen.”