FROM THE HEART: Impact of Newborn Hearing Screening on Outcomes for Children and Families

By Dinah Beams

"I am so glad  I found out early. I can begin to do things to help my child so he won't be behind".  mother of a six week old with a mild-moderate hearing loss.

"I just want to learn everything 1 can to help my child.  I do not want to waste any time. "-mother of a six week old girl with a severe to profound hearing loss.

"At  first I was overwhelmed. I wanted to get as much information as possible as quickly as possible. Then I realized - I can do this.  I can keep hearing aids on my baby and I can learn Sign language." -mother of a seven month old girl with a severe to profound hearing loss.

"I was saddened to learn my child was deaf.  The first few weeks were tough. But now when I look at my son I see a beautiful healthy boy who happens to be deaf .  He is such a good baby - mother of a six month old deaf son.

"The difference in my two daughters is dramatic. Both have severe to profound hearing losses; the older daughter was not identified until she was two years and nine months, while the younger was identified through newborn hearing screening. Because of early identification, we are seeing our younger daughter do things that our older child could not do at the same age. Our older daughter is battling significant speech - language delays"

I wish we had found out sooner. I can not waste any more time - he is so behind already." -dad of a three year old boy who is hard of hearing.

Early identification of hearing loss is now defined as prior to six months of age. With the advent of new­born hearing screening programs in most states, chil­dren are being identified and entering intervention programs at a very young age. According to research, children who are identified early and receive appro­priate intervention have significantly better receptive language, expressive language, personal-social skills, and speech production than do children who are later identified and do not receive services during these critical early years.

Colorado has a system in place to assist parents during this crucial time. The Colorado Hearing Resource Coordinator  (CO-Hear) meets the family, provides information about communication options, program options, and services within the community. Parents can choose to be involved in the Colo­rado Home Intervention Program (CHIP). This program provides in-home family-centered early inter­vention in the communication system of the family's choice, thus meeting the unique needs of each child and family. The CHIP program is designed to en­courage and facilitate the child's development in the areas of language, speech, audition, and cognition by working with the parents

Universal newborn hearing screening has posi­tively impacted the lives of children and families on many levels. Although parents still grieve, they do not have to wonder how they "missed" their child's hearing loss, nor do they have to deal with the guilt involved with significant speech-language delays. The family and child are not operating from a deficit or delay model regarding language acquisition.  With tai­lored intervention programs and strategies the child can develop language and communication skills at an appropriate developmental pace. The child can benefit from hearing aid use during this critical period for language learning. Language and the ability to communicate impacts many other areas of life - the child's personal-social skills; later academic growth; and sense of self esteem. The stage has been set for positive growth through early identification and intervention.

Dinah Beams is the Hearing Resource Coordinator for the Denver Metro Area and a Senior Cconsultant for the Colorado Home Intervention Program, University of Colorado.

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