One Family’s Journey:
Silver Lining


By Chastity DiFrancesco,
PA Hands & Voices Board Member

silver lining
Chloe and Ada enjoy a beautiful day

On the day after the birth of my fourth child, Ada Estelle, the nurse said, “Your child has not passed the newborn hearing screen and we recommend you make a follow up appointment with an audiologist as soon as possible.” Over the next few days I would also learn that my daughter has congenital hypothyroidism, spend a few nights in the NICU, and realize that the nurse was right. It wasn’t a mistake; not fluid in the ears, faulty equipment, or small ear canals. My child could not hear me. I bought a book and started teaching myself ASL in the NICU.  At four weeks old, Ada was identified with bilateral moderate sensorineural hearing loss.

I could fill a book with all of the positive effects this has had on my family and fill another with the negative experiences we have had. Our lives changed. We didn’t just have little pink dresses and hair bows; we had little pink hearing aids and a lot of appointments to keep.  We had a new way of everyday living. I admit I felt overwhelmed at first but never have I felt upset. This is who my daughter is and I wouldn’t change anything about her. I did worry about how this would play out for my older children, Chloe (age 17), Connie (12) and Benjamin (9). They have all been so loving and simply wonderful with their baby sister. I found an unexpected treasure in this whole experience watching my oldest daughter with her new baby sister. 

Chloe has always been very compassionate and caring. She has a soft heart. I had worried at times that she wouldn’t find her way, her path in life, ­until Ada arrived.  She has been very involved with Ada.  She participates when the physical therapist or teacher of the Deaf is here for early intervention sessions. She goes to playgroup with us where all of the children have hearing loss. She goes to audiology appointments with us.  She doesn’t just sit there observing; she is getting involved.  She asks questions, wants to see how the equipment works and interacts with the other children. She has even been mistaken for an employee at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.  She added ASL as an elective course her junior year of high school, and is teaching her friends to sign. 

She is now a senior and looking at colleges. A couple of years ago she had said she wanted to be a dental hygienist; a good career with decent hours and pay and job security.  Now she is looking at careers more in line with what she has observed while being with her sister. Top on her list are deaf education/early childhood education and occupational therapy. She now knows she wants to be around young children and help them achieve all that they can. 

As a mother, I just could not be more proud.  She wants to be one of the people who have become so important to and part of our family.  To see her make another child laugh or smile makes me feel certain she is headed in the right direction. Chloe is now spending her free time at the local preschool with children who have special needs as part of her senior project for graduation. She is gaining so much more than just a grade in that classroom. My favorite moment was the day that she came home, bursting with excitement. She had taught a little boy to sign “cracker.” This is my silver lining.

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