Donate Now to Help Students Like Archer

 In Special Appeals

Imagine for a moment being a toddler who is deaf, at the start of your language development, and suddenly everyone is wearing a mask. You can’t see anyone’s mouth enunciating words, and those words are muffled when you do hear them. This is the reality Tucker Maxon students who are deaf faced when the pandemic struck. However, thanks to Tucker Maxon, our deaf and hard of hearing children have been able to continue their learning and development. I’d like to share a story of one of those kids with you.
Jessica Nicoli had a normal pregnancy. She and her husband had no family history of deafness, so it was a big surprise when baby Archer did not pass his newborn hearing screening. Doctors assured her it might just be amniotic fluid in his ear canal, but a later recheck revealed his hearing was compromised in both ears. When he was just 3 months old, Archer was fitted with bilateral hearing aids.

Will you help us help children like Archer?

Archer started preschool at Tucker when he was almost 3. Right away he made an impression, pulling the fire alarm twice (once during the Spring Concert, when everyone had to be evacuated!). Linda Goodwin, Archer’s Teacher of the Deaf, remembers that, when he started at Tucker Maxon, he had no listening or spoken-language skills, and he had no auditory memory of what he was learning from day to day. He was a very active little boy who was frustrated because he had no way to express himself. Even getting a baseline hearing test for him was challenging, since Archer wouldn’t let anyone touch his ears. His language development wasn’t typical for a child wearing hearing aids.

When Archer wasn’t acquiring language as fast as his team expected, his preschool teacher Nicole Lee and Speech Language Pathologist Jessica Rapier thought perhaps it might be due to maturity. His mom Jessica worried it might be ADHD. Our audiologist Lindsay Schlobohm suggested an ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response) test. As she suspected, the results indicated his hearing loss was more profound than previously reported, and was progressive. This made him a candidate for bilateral cochlear implants (CI).

Archer had his cochlear implant surgery this past June, when he was 4 years old. Because of his age, he could understand what was happening, and being at Tucker Maxon gave him a context for the surgery. His parents could explain to him that he was getting CIs, just like his friends at school.
For the first weeks after the surgery, Archer was living in a world without sound. This worried his parents, who were trying to keep their active little boy safe. Archer’s CI processor was activated at school after two weeks, and incrementally made louder. Since surgery, his stories have been getting longer, and he is using more filler words like “and so.” His words are a lot clearer, and he has fewer moments of frustration. We can see when he is trying to have a conversation and that he understands the 2-way nature of communication. He is starting to write his name, and has started to respond to music.

Over the summer after his surgery, Linda Goodwin came to work with Archer one- on-one at the school. Linda says she’s never seen a child adapt so quickly, speaking 3-word sentences soon after his surgery. Archer is now able to pay attention during circle time and in art and music classes. Archer wasn’t interested in books before, but now he gets excited when Linda reads him books that feature characters with implants. He is proud of his implants, understands how important they are, and wants to take care of them.

Archer needs visual cues to know when someone is talking to him. At Tucker, we use clear face masks so students can see teachers’ faces and mouths when they are talking. We use remote microphones and other technologies to enable students who are deaf to hear their teacher’s voice directly in their ear.

Archer’s mom appreciates how all the services Archer needs are under one roof at Tucker, especially when there were problems with his equipment. When Archer finally said “mommy” for the first time at age 3, it made Jessica cry.

Archer’s family knows how important it is for him to be in an immersion program like Tucker with typically-hearing kids. Archer has peers who are deaf and hearing, and this normalizes Archer’s experience of deafness. His parents want Archer to advocate for himself. They realize now is the time to help him catch up. His personality has emerged more since his surgery – he is an extremely curious, loving little boy with a mischievous side. Our audiologist reports how exciting it is to watch Archer learn new words and come into his own voice. The sky’s the limit for Archer now that he is hearing and talking!

Can you please make a gift today to support Tucker Maxon’s work with children like Archer who are deaf and hard of hearing?

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