SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Children learn to listen, and listen to learn, in the Savannah Speech and Hearing Center’s Sound Start Program.
"Children are being identified earlier and earlier with hearing loss,’’ said Beth McIntosh, Executive Director of the Speech and Hearing Center. “They need intervention early and intensive to be able to learn to listen and speak and understand.’’
Many parents of deaf children choose Sound Start as a path to communication and beyond.
"It’s called an auditory oral program,’’ McIntosh said. “We don’t use sign language. They learn to speak and listen and understand what they hear.’’
"We develop social skills, academic skills, the language and the vocabulary,’’ added Sound Start Program Director, Tracy Edenfield. “We also develop pre-reading, which is so important for a child identified with deafness.’’
What often begins with families hearing "mama'' for the first time leads to hearing impaired children attending mainstream schools as early as Kindergarten.
"We’ve had more than 20 graduates of the program, and all of them have gone into regular education,’’ McIntosh said. “They don’t just do okay; they really excel, and that’s our goal, that’s what we want to do.’’
“Our mission is to give that hope and that future, and that they will be very productive citizens in our community and just soar,” Edenfield said.
Sound Start utilizes hearing aids and other technologies, as well as student volunteer teachers from Georgia Southern, but it is the WTOC Community Champions at the Speech and Hearing program that have been making a difference in young lives since 2007.
"Ninety-five percent of children born deaf are born to hearing parents, so they want them to learn the language that they use,’’ McIntosh said. “Being able to communicate is our most human characteristic, so this is a hearing world, and people need to be able to communicate in a hearing world.’’
The Sound Start Program is taught on the Calvary Day School campus, but is operated by the nearby Savannah Speech and Hearing Center.