A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hearing Is Believing

(Above: Teacher Kim Burke Giusti leads her a kids in Circle Time, during which they sing and sign.)
On April 23, volunteers from XOMA Corporation, a biotech company based in West Berkeley, will get together with Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley at XOMA's headquarters to build and paint a specially designed playhouse for the children at the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness, aka CEID.
It'll replace CEID's old playhouse, which has seen better days. (Part of it has to be held together with duck tape.)
And it'll have a lot of cool features that the old one lacks. It's wood instead of plastic; it's charming instead of cheesy; and, best of all, it'll be accessible to kids in wheelchairs or walkers.
XOMA and Habitot gave CEID's executive director, Cindy Dickeson, the choice about how it should be painted, and she requested a garden design to go with CEID's vegetable garden.
The paint should be dry by 2:30 p.m., then the playhouse will be disassembled into its component parts – sides, doors, windows, roof and trim - and driven to CEID a few blocks away. Then they'll be put together again in the CEID courtyard, right next to the vegetable garden.
"This has been on our wish list for some time," says Dickeson. "And the timing couldn't be better, coming as it does on our 35th anniversary."
CEID was founded in 1980, based on a simple but crucial insight: The first five years of life are the formative years, in every sense of the word.
Most kids don't start reading until they're five, so before that they have to get their information through their ears.
But what if you're deaf? While the other kids are soaking up all that vital data, you're not. If something isn't done, you'll be playing catch-up for the rest of your life.
So it's crucial to identify hearing loss in babies and start dealing with it ASAP, whether it's teaching them sign language or lip reading, or fitting them with hearing aids or cochlear implants, or a combination.
And while you're doing that, you also have to find another way to get that crucial information into their little brains.
That's what CEID does. Every year, its early intervention and education programs serve more than 50 kids and their families. And every year, its audiology screening program helps more than 1,000 families from 23 different counties spot their babies' hearing problems at the earliest possible moment.
How important are these programs? Deaf or hard of hearing kids who don't get them typically never get to read above a third grade level. But kids who do get these programs can read just as well as anyone else.
How can you tell if your own baby has a hearing problem? Trust your instincts.
"If a parent has a gut instinct that something is wrong, they're probably right," says Dickeson. "Some doctors might say, 'Oh, they'll grow out of it.' But they won't."
Call CEID at 510-848-4800 and make an appointment for an audiology test. Don't worry if you're on Medi-Cal; CEID will accept it, one of the few organizations of its kind that will.
CEID operates on an extremely tight budget, but they get a lot of bang for each buck. If you want to contribute to this very worthy organization, visit www.ceid.org or send a tax-deductible check to CEID, 1035 Grayson Street, Berkeley CA 94710.

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