Speaking up

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 12, 2010 - 6:53 PM

Rhonda Sivarajah heard the call when her son appeared to progress slowly. Now the Anoka County commissioner is an advocate for the hearing impaired.

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inrealityJan. 12, 10 9:47 PM

I'm all for helping children but why does the state have a Newborn Hearing Advisory Committee? I think that tells you all you need to know when it comes to how large our government has become. Let the doctors & hospitals & professional healthcare workers deal with this stuff and keep the government out of it. Nothing stopping individuals or private entities from forming as many advisory panels as they want. I wish the best for all people with hearing problems. Thankfully there have been many great breakthroughs in this area over the last decades. How many of those breakthroughs were due to the government? Just curious.

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ciavmomJan. 13, 10 7:34 AM

Your comment shows your lack of knowledge about the effects of hearing loss on children and on society. The first 3 years of life are critical for language learning. Without newborn hearing screening, children born with hearing loss were not identified until age 18 months to 3 years. When a profound hearing loss is identified at such a late age, significant services are needed not just medically but educationally in order to address the child's language delay and subsequent difficulties in school. This costs society greatly in years of special education. If, on the other hand, babies are identified with hearing loss at birth, they can receive hearing aids or cochlear implants as infants and enter preschool or kindergarten with no language deficits. Did you know that the average unemployment in ordinary times, ie not even in today's economy, among the deaf who communicate with sign language is 24% This is a much greater cost to society than running a two minute test on a newborn. If, on the other hand, hearing impaired children are identified as babies and receive intervention allowing them to hear and speak, the story is a totally different one.

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patrick845wJan. 13, 10 8:23 AM

not a big government story and I respect Rhonda and her family for sharing it. It touched my heart and made me recall when my children needed help. I thought not of the cost or what committments or sacrifices I had to make. Only that if I couldn't help my baby, my life would be empty. I agree government is out of control but I will fight that battle a different day. Pat Walker

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kmflesnerJan. 13, 10 2:12 PM

I appreciated the information on how a lack of diagnosis can cost society in the long run, but also agree that this does not have to be a government committee that spearheads this, the health and general community could also provide this service, education and information. And as for the deaf who communicatw with sign language and their employment rate being only 24%, this tells me there needs to be more education and acceptance of the deaf community. This reminds me of when my son with a disability was young and would get picked on...the school's response was to get my son to learn how to deal with it rather than teaching the bullying kids to not bully! Let's start at the right end of the spectrum...not to turn the deaf community into a hearing community as much as possible but to educate the hearing community to wholly accept the deaf community!

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ciavmomJan. 13, 10 3:14 PM

Accepting the deaf community is one thing. Opting for the deaf culture sign language route for a child born deaf today is another. Cochlear implants have enabled deaf children to hear and speak very well and to function independently without interpreters in the hearing world. I have two daughters who are examples of what is possible for children born deaf today, and, as young adults, they are very grateful to have been raised hearing and speaking and not in the deaf culture. Deafness is a disability and, as such, it costs society. There are those with disabilities who need society's support. However, to knowingly make the choice today to raise a deaf child without access to hearing and spoken language when it is readily available and then to expect society to provide interpreters when these children are adults is irresponsible and unacceptable.

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jen29jen29Jan. 17, 1011:26 AM

When deaf hard of hearing children do not fit into deaf culture they need early intervention for speech and language pathology on a daily basis. Most places offer 30 minute to 45 minute sessions one time or two per week. If your child is significantly delayed and two or three years old, you are in grave danger of needing Special Education services for some time and potentially through grade 12 and into adulthood. It cost tax payers less if parents of deaf hard of hearing children are made aware of deafness at any level. Why should a generally fully functional person/child be labeled disabled and paid for that label by SSD or SSI benefits for a lifetime simply becuase they were not afforded an opportunity of intensive speech and language therapy for a few years early in life?? How about giving such children the language they crave and need instead? Especially when the cost of doing so ends in a 2-5 years of early childhood expense for services at places like Northern Voices. My child is a Northern Voices Alumni, and I have tremendous respect for Rhonda Sivarajah and her family. Anyone claiming big government on this matter is simply under-informed or ignorant about early childhood intervention (speech and language pathology/therapy), deafness and hearing loss. My child is able to learn in Spanish daily at a language immersion elementary school as a result of auditory training and speech and launguage therapy received from 2.5 yrs old through 5 years old. Both the deaf and hearing communities need to educate themselves more about the benefit of early childhood intervention with respect to hearing loss or deafness. Hearing loss is not anything to be ashamed of, and there should also be no shame in never learning ASL and being hearing impaired. I am a hearing impaired adult and I do not know ASL. I think it would be beneficial to learn ASL; however, I think more beneficial to learn Spanish. The job market is requiring multiligual candidates to fill numbers of jobs and ASL is not typically a language requirement for these jobs. In being realistic, in order to ensure our hearing impaired and deaf children are economically self sustaining as adults, they need to be given oral/verbal language skills early in life (before 3 years old if possible, and certianly before 5 years old).

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mwinny37Jan. 22, 10 9:29 PM

The above comments all serve to perpetuate many common misperceptions, such as: 1. All deaf babies are candidates for CIs 2. There are no risks or side-effects with CIs 3. All parents want CIs for their deaf child 4. CIs are a cure-all and restore hearing to normal 5. Deafness is a disability These simply are not true. However, there IS a group of people that will love, teach and support your deaf child because he or she is one of them. Or is having a representative from the deaf community on a Hearing Advisory Panel too "radical" an idea?

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mncapitolgirFeb. 19, 1010:50 PM

I am happy that she is very supportive mother. I have met her once and she mentioned that she have a son who is deaf. We need more elected official like Rhonda to adovcate for Deaf community.

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