Morgan and Katie

WE WOULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN

After staying up late studying, Morgan, Katie, and Josiah pile into the family car and make 2am burger runs to Sonic. On the way, they have the easy conversations that only close siblings can have. One minute they’re talking about spirituality and the next they’re cracking up over an inside joke. They’re typical teens in every way except that Katie and Morgan were born profoundly deaf.

Nothing had prepared Marissa and Glenn for the news that their baby, Morgan, was born deaf. Their 14-month-old, Josiah, had typical hearing. Everyone else in their extended family did, too. “The initial shock of the diagnosis made it seem like there was a big difference from our first child,” said Glenn, “but there’s not.” Marissa and Glenn became determined to give Morgan every opportunity that Josiah had.

"WE DIDN’T PARENT KATIE AND MORGAN ANY DIFFERENTLY BECAUSE THEY HAVE HEARING LOSS." —MARISSA, MOTHER

As Marissa considered the communication outcomes for her baby, she came across a video of a vivacious little girl named Julie. Like Morgan, Julie had been born profoundly deaf. Looking directly into the camera with confidence, Julie spoke fluently about her plans for the future. It was the first time that Marissa had seen anyone with profound hearing loss listen and speak. After seeing precocious Julie, Marissa and Glenn knew that Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) would help them make their dreams come true for Morgan.

But navigating the healthcare system and communicating with their insurance company to get cochlear implants for Morgan was not always easy. “A lot of times I was met with ‘no, we won’t do it,’” said Marissa. “I’ve always been taught to step back and be polite. But there were times when I had to get very direct and say, ‘I know this is what’s best for my child and if you won’t provide that, then I’m going to find someone who will.’” At 18 months old, Morgan received cochlear implants.

Morgan In Her RoomKATIE PLAYING TENNIS
"THEY’RE NORMAL KIDS. THEY’RE GOING TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD AND THEY’RE GOING TO DO WELL." —Glenn, Morgan and Katie’s dad

When Katie was born profoundly deaf three years later, Marissa and Glenn wanted her to be as independent as her older sister. Katie received cochlear implants at just 12 months. “The earlier you can get hearing aids and implants, the better,” said Marissa. “The difference between Morgan’s journey and Katie’s journey—those six months—is significant. They’ve both done really well, but Morgan has had to work a lot harder. Birth to age three are years you can’t get back—invaluable speech and language development happens during that time.”

Today, the close-knit family hardly thinks about hearing loss. They’re too busy. Morgan and Katie have full schedules of AP classes, sports practice, and extracurricular activities. They attend the same large suburban high school that Josiah did. Most of their classmates and teammates don’t even realize that they’re deaf.

"HEARING LOSS DOESN'T HAVE TO DEFINE YOUR FAMILY." —MARISSA, MOTHER
Morgan, who has become an accomplished athlete

The ambitious sisters push themselves and each other to achieve. In middle school, Morgan decided to compete on the speech team. The judges didn’t know she was deaf when they gave her first place. In the same way, Katie decided to try tennis even though no one in her family played the sport. After just a year of practice, she made the high school team. “I never felt like I couldn’t do anything because of my disability,” said Katie.

If they had to decide on a communication outcome for their daughters again, Marissa and Glenn would still choose LSL. For families with a child who’s recently been diagnosed, Glenn and Marissa have this advice: “Take a deep breath. Realize that there’s a lot of support and a lot of good opportunities out there. At the end of the day, this won’t define your child or your family.”