Abbott’s mom reaches out to others whose child has cochlear implant


Published: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 8:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 8:46 p.m.

“I was just mortified. There is absolutely no hearing loss in my family … and so this came as a complete shock to my husband and I,” Austin said.

Facts

What the sand bucket includes

Following are the tools included in the Happy HEARING Birthday gift buckets:
Happy Hearing Birthday Card from Abbott
Letter from Danielle
One page guide to free or low cost resources available to parents
2 Books—Brown Bear, Brown Bear & Old McDonald (both are excellent therapy books)
A bottle of bubbles (excellent therapy tool)
Learning to Listen therapy toys for ages 3 to 5
A set of learning to listen flashcards for parents/caregivers to use as reference
A journal for parents to record their child’s listening journey and progress
Checklist for parents to track words their child responds to, understands and eventually says
A bag of goldfish snack crackers & a juice box
To make donations, visit facebook.com/Abbottsadventures

Although she was told by doctors to wait to be sure of the diagnosis, Austin quickly sought out every possible option she could find to help her newborn.

Within six months, Austin was approved by her insurance to bring Abbott to the University of Florida’s Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences so he could receive his first cochlear implant, a hearing device for people who are profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.

The process was not easy for the family, especially since they are from Tallahassee and their area hospitals did not specialize in cochlear implants.

Her experience with her son led her to start the Let There Be Sound project where twice a year she will fill about 25 sand buckets with a one-page guide to free or low-cost resources available to parents, letters from Abbott and Austin, and teaching tools for parents to help their kids learn different sounds.

The first distribution date was Monday and the second will be in June 2014, each for the month Abbott’s implants were activated.

The tools included in the Happy HEARING Birthday gift buckets are “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” a bottle of bubbles, three to five therapy toys, a set of learning to listen flashcards for parents/caregivers to use as reference, and more.

The buckets will be donated to UF Health kids who receive cochlear implants as a way to help families deal with therapy and everything else that goes along with teaching their kids sounds.

“I remember them telling us when Abbott was first activated,” Austin said, “‘when the baby was activated his language is like an empty sand bucket, your job as parents is to fill his language sand bucket,’ and so I’ve always gone back to them telling us that ... and so the sand bucket was kind of symbolic for doing that.”

The toys included in the sand bucket are tools some speech language pathologists use during therapy with kids who are learning to identify sounds.

Austin used to drive down to Gainesville several times a month for Abbott’s therapy and doctor appointments and still does, but less frequently. Abbott is currently working with Nikki Riley, a speech language pathologist at Progressive Pediatric Developmental Center in Tallahassee, and most recently completed therapy with Brittany Lane from the University of Florida’s Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences.

Riley said the two books Austin is including are great learning tools because the repetition in each book helps children identify the object or animal. She said bubbles are motivating and interactive for kids because they help them learn the “pop” sound.

Riley said that the best advice she can give is early intervention, early protection and to interact with children and enjoy them because there is always a chance to offer language and sound lessons.

“Doing things like reading books, making cookies and doing things together, going to the park are all wonderful ways to incorporate language into their daily routines and activities,” she said.

Lane said one of her methods of teaching children with cochlear implants to identify sounds is by covering her mouth when speaking in order to allow the child to focus on only the sound.

She also said teaching the child to pay attention to what they are hearing is tough and she recommends parents to get as much support as they can by talking to other families that can give them advice.

Dr. Katherine Gray, UF Health audiologist, has been working with Abbott and Austin for a while.

Gray said parents need to be an advocate for their child because it’s important to follow up with any recommended testing for hearing loss to identify any issues early on.

“The fact that they’re doing this whole project to help other families is truly an inspiration,” Gray said. “Their donations are going to be a great help to families, children that are just starting this journey with the cochlear implant.”

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