Children are not a common sight inside the University of Texas recreational sports center, but children from ages 2 to 10 were eagerly running around the building on April 21. These children and their families were there to attend an annual event put on by the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association called Cochlear Implant Kid's Day.
The event, which was started several years ago, began as a carnival for hearing-impaired children but has expanded to feature important resources for parents seeking information about anything related to hearing, specifically cochlear implants (CIs).
“We started this event because we wanted to give back to the community,” said NSSLHA Vice President Tatum Fritz. “But over the years as we began to learn more about cochlear implants, we realized there is a lot of misinformation out there. We wanted to provide parents with an opportunity to talk to professionals and learn as much as they can about such a controversial issue.”
Approximately 20 families attended the event this year, which was staffed by 60 student volunteers. Activities included a face-in-the-hole photo booth, a beanbag toss, a cakewalk, a cookie decorating station, a puppet-making booth, Hula-Hoop contests, and a variety of games. Marcus Eddie, a local magician, performed magic tricks.
“My favorite part was the magician,” said 4-year-old Stanley. “He could always guess my card!” Seven-year-old Carlton said, “[The magician] was cool, but I liked the cakewalk. I won three times in a row, and I always got a chocolate cupcake.”
Representatives from several different organizations were present with literature and resources for parents, including Allison Cleland, AuD, the local clinical specialist for Cochlear, Laura Weiss from Easter Seals Central Texas, and Marcela Lizcano of Any Baby Can. “I think the information that is given out here is of the utmost importance,” said Judy Tan whose 2-year-old daughter has a CI. “We came to this event last year, and the information that we learned, not just from the professionals who were here but also from the other parents whose children have cochlear implants, helped us make the decision to have our daughter undergo the surgery.”
Students learned a lot, too. “Dr. Cleland spent a lot of time talking to us about cochlear implants and audiology in general,” said junior Sarah Quintanilla. “As a speech pathology major, she really opened my eyes to another aspect of this field and made me want to learn more about the potential of working with cochlear implant recipients in the future.”
Sign language interpreters were also present for children who were either more comfortable signing than speaking or who were deaf and had not yet received a CI. “I loved being able to practice my sign language with the kids who knew ASL,” said senior Sarah Wallace. “It was a great way to actually apply what I'm learning in the classroom, and it was nice to have the interpreters there when I didn't know how to say what I wanted to.”
Overall, the day was a great success. “Our twin boys, Matt and Cole, are CI recipients,” said Serena Cernosek. “It was so great to see them interacting with other kids who have cochlear implants. They had such a great time, and we can't wait to come back next year.”
NSSLHA members said they enjoyed the day as well and hope to expand the event in the future. A lot of hard work went into planning this event, and at the end of the day, it really paid off. Our goal was to provide a fun day for the kids while helping foster relationships between kids, parents, and professionals, and I would say we definitely accomplished that. I look forward to watching this event expand and touch the lives of more people in years to come.