The Jurusik Family Experience
When we realized we were going to need to relocate our family in order to find the services for our daughter, we began touring various programs in the northeast, but when we visited SMSD we knew we had found our new home. SMSD stood out to us for several reasons. The first being that it gave us two program models to choose from. Listening and spoken language was our goal but we hated the idea of relocating for a program, only to find out it was not what was best for Kayleigh and having to make yet another change. With SMSD we did not have to worry, they could service her needs based on what mode of communication worked for her. We were thrilled when we learned Kayleigh would be in the EARS program but were even more at ease because we knew if listening and spoken language was not what was best, Kayleigh could almost seamlessly transition into their total communication setting.
We also loved that the program had small class sizes because we knew Kayleigh would get more one-on-one assistance and a program tailored to her needs. Kayleigh’s teacher and therapists developed relationships with Kayleigh that allowed them to push her to her full potential each and every day. Even with the demands of an intense program, she enjoys school very much and has pride in her accomplishments.
Another feature that made the EARS program stand out for us was the family involvement piece. In addition to the amazing work Kayleigh’s teachers did with her on a daily basis, our family was given the opportunity to come into the classroom weekly and work side by side with the EARS staff to observe best practices and work on developing routines that fit in our lives outside of school. This helped raise the bar for Kayleigh at home because we were essentially being guided and trained on what we should be expecting from her. Each week we were able to discuss her progress, ask questions, and work on skills that we could (and still do) use at home to continue her language development. Aside from including our immediate family, there are also many opportunities for grandparents and other family members to gain the same insight from the EARS team. Part of this weekly session was a Lunch and Learn series where we had the opportunity to sit down with the EARS team and the other parents to discuss various topics. It was wonderful to make those connections with other families who were on a similar journey.
Mainstreaming was also something very important to our family so we wanted a program that would be able to help us make that decision when the time came. Mainstreaming opportunities were provided on a weekly basis, both within the EARS classroom itself and outside of SMSD. Hearing peers were brought in each week and this allowed for great interactions with typical hearing peers in a controlled and ideal setting. Kayleigh also mainstreamed weekly in a nearby school. Her EARS teacher was with her throughout the day to not only help Kayleigh communicate and adapt to her surroundings, but she could then give us a clear picture of how Kayleigh was doing in that setting so that we could make an informed decision about mainstreaming.
The dedication and commitment the EARS team had for our daughter’s success is not something we could have known before making the decision to move but is more than we could have ever asked for. They constantly informed us of what they were working on in the classroom and therapy, as well as how Kayleigh was progressing towards her overall goals.
We chose to leave our jobs, home, family, friends, and move across the state so that Kayleigh could have the best education possible. We put all our trust in the EARS team and would do it all over again. They restored hope for us and we feel blessed to have found such a wonderful place for our daughter to learn and grow.
Brian & Jessica Jurusik
The proud Jurusik Family on Kayleigh's Graduation Day.
The Westfield Family Experience
March 27th 2014 was the day our son Evan was born, it was one of the happiest days of our lives and the next few months to follow were some of the hardest days of our lives. Within an 8 month period I had given birth to our son and subsequently found out he had bilateral moderate to severe hearing loss. It took us 8 months to test, diagnose and aid Evan. In those 8 months we had so many ups and downs it was like an emotional roller coaster. From the moment we left the hospital with only the information that he failed his newborn screening we stayed hopeful, after all, the nursing staff did tell us this was very common and it could just be fluid. The next three months was filled with searching for an audiologist who took our insurance and took pediatric patients, once we finally found one after several appointments and multiple testings later we had the answer; our son was diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss. After we received the diagnosis it was time to take the next step, finally he was aided at 8 months old.
We contacted Early Intervention (E.I.) and all the service options were made available, so we set up tours to see programs, including the EARS program at St. Mary's School for the Deaf (SMSD). It was abundantly clear to myself and my husband that the EARS program at SMSD was the choice for us.
From the first tour to his graduation day the EARS program at St. Mary’s has always focused on family involvement and helped us to feel a sense of security in our journey. The EARS program has an awesome support system that we are grateful for, our son has made tremendous strides in speech and language, he has embraced the EARS program and it has become his second family. SMSD has everything in one place from the teachers and therapists to the audiologists, they all know and care about the children and they always treat my son as if he is one of their own.
Today as we look back on all the difficulties and decisions we had to make through out the last few years it was never easy and we never had any certainty we were making the right ones, but with the support and eduction that we received from SMSD we can approach new challenges with inspiration and confidence. The EARS program at SMSD is a family unit in every sense of the word.
The proud Westfield Family on Evan's graduation day.
The Ahmedin Family Experience
Nile has been enrolled in St. Mary's EARS program since fall of 2016. We toured the school because one of his doctors recommended it to us multiple times. Initially we didn't give the school a second thought because we wanted our son in a spoken language program, and we didn't realize there were more options in the area. Once we toured the school, we questioned why we didn't come earlier.
Nile is our 2 year old son that has bilateral sensorineural as hearing loss. He has been aided since about 5 months of age. He also has multiple other medical issues, one being significant global developmental delays. The first time we looked at the school Nile was just about 22 months, and still not speaking a word, or "babbling." He also had not taken any steps for us yet. The other programs in the area would not accept Nile until he was walking. St. Mary's from the very beginning has been such an accommodating safe- place for our family. Nile was accepted into their program with open arms regardless of his other medical issues. They have done their best to tailor the environment to his specific needs, ensuring his safety at all times.
One of my favorite things about this program is the small class sizes. Nile is one of 4 children in his class which is perfect because he is able to receive the one-on-one attention that he needs. I also really love how this program allows for the family to be involved as much as possible. On Wednesdays, they have a lunch and learn where the parents and family members sit down with the staff to go over other questions or concerns anyone might have. It also gives the parents a chance to meet the other parents in the program and offer support to each other.
Nile also receives parent sessions each week, including a home visit. It is nice because the teacher can give tips on ways to help Nile develop language skills at home. If I have learned one thing from Nile and his hearing loss it would be how important it is to carry over everything he is learning at school/ from his therapists to home. This home visit really helps to make a plan individualized to Nile and the way he learns when he is in his natural environment.
Even though his father and I chose the EARS program for Nile, if, in the future It doesn't work out, he can always transition to the total communication program. From day one, this has always been a relief to know we wouldn't have to change to another program along the way if that's the route we needed to go.
We have so much growth to look forward to with Nile and we cannot wait to see what the future brings! We are so lucky to have come across such a wonderful program and group of teachers!
Hassan Ahmedin & Jessica Anna
The proud Ahmedin Family on Nile's graduation day.