NCELSSP-HI Newsletter

Fall 2019

North Carolina Early Learning Sensory Support Program For Children With Hearing Impairments

NC Department of Public Instruction

Exceptional Children Division

Sensory Support and Assistive Technology Section

RUTH ANNE EVERETT, Lead Program Administrator

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how to make a referral

Contact Mandy Hice, BS, ITFS
Social Worker II and Intake Coordinator


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Table of Contents

Cute Corner

ELSSP Opening Convocation

HITCH-UP Discovery Place Sunday FUNday

Book Reading With Little Learners: Using Audition First

Resources and Opportunities for Families

Where Are They Now?

Staff Spotlight

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Cute Corner

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Opening Convocation

by Donna Snipes

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The North Carolina Early Learning Sensory Support Program began our new year at the Annual Convocation Meeting at the DoubleTree by Hilton Raleigh Crabtree Valley on August 13,14. Upon arrival, all things were off to a great start with a warm cookie welcome from the hotel!

Our joint meeting began with Sherry Thomas, Director, Exceptional Children Division, Sherri Vernelson, Section Chief, Sensory Support and Assistive Technology and Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin, Deputy Superintendent of District Support graciously welcoming us to our new home in the Exceptional Children Division. We also had a chance to meet Stacey Sloane, our new Administrative Associate. Welcome Stacey!

Ganelle Sutton, author of Cool Breeze and Double Dutch and mother of five, presented a motivational keynote speech that we will look back on often. Dottie Snyder and Amy Campbell provided us with new and clarifying information on the Deaf-Blind Project and Census. Tanya Bass, Program Supervisor for the NC Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities Cultural and Community Health Initiatives shared with us information on Implicit Bias.

After our group picture and lunch, Bethany and Ruth Anne recognized those teachers who had reached various milestones in their teaching career from 5 years to 35 years! Congratulations to those teachers!

Neena Malosky shared with the group about “Maternal Mental Health,” making us all aware of the various facets of this mental health issue. She shared her personal experience and provided us with research, real life anecdotes, and resources that we will be able to use to help the families we serve.

Mandy Hice, Social Worker and Intake Coordinator, in a very creative way, presented “Reporting Suspected Abuse and Neglect.” Where does the red folder go?

On day two of the convocation, the VI and HI teams met in separate rooms to cover information specific to our needs. The VI team worked on Expanded Core Curriculum with Robbin Clark. The HI team met to look at Long Range Planning presented by Andrea Cagle, Preston Collins and Sharon Moore. Valerie Best later guided us in getting to know our own personalities and how to effectively interact with others through her presentation “Understanding Our Personalities and How We Interact.” Chris Czajkowski wrapped up the day on a positive note with her presentation, “Positivity and Mindset: Taking Control of Your Life.”

It was another great opportunity for professional growth and fellowship with our colleagues!

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HITCH-UP Discovery Place Sunday FUNday

Co-authored by Roxanne Dearman and Jenni Campagna

HITCH-UP Charlotte (Hearing Impaired Toddlers and Children have Unlimited Potential) hosted Sunday FUNday on August 25 at Discovery Place Kids in Huntersville, NC. It was my first time to attend the event as a teacher with Early Learning Sensory Support and to go to Discovery Place Kids as well. What a fun place it was! The facility was open that morning for two hours just for children with hearing loss and their families. It was great seeing the little ones having fun and exploring all of the wonderful age appropriate centers while the adults were able to interact and chit chat with others in their similar boots. It was a record turn out with 38 families having registered as attending that day.

There was a lot of great feedback from those who were present. Here are some of the things they had to say:

~Nancy said that her child was excited to play with the other kids but she thought that she actually got more out of it by talking to others. She added that talking to the vendors was amazing.

~Kristen reported that her daughter looks forward to events where she has friends around like her. She and her daughter have developed some strong and, hopefully, long lasting friendships in this journey.

~Amanda commented that this event last year really opened her eyes more and helped her to catch her son’s hearing loss (second child with a loss). She says that it is so nice to have connections with other families who are in similar situations that become huge resources.

~Lisa says that her son loves to attend events held by HITCH-UP where he is not a minority but where everyone has “special ears”. Her son thinks it is cool that only people who have cochlear implants, hearing aids, etc., or related to one, can get into the museum free. So it takes his “disadvantage” and turns it into an “advantage”. Lisa also likes being able to talk with parents that are further along on the journey to help simplify what to expect from our children at different ages.

Sign up for HITCHUP Charlotte on Facebook and watch for upcoming events and meetings!

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Book Reading with Little Learners: Using Audition First

Authors: Roxanne Falls and Elizabeth Hopkins

Audition First is a strategy to help promote literacy development for babies and toddlers with hearing loss. What is Audition First? This means that before showing an object or picture, the caregiver says the object’s name or sound it makes and then presents the corresponding item. (Hear with the ear before see with the eyes). This strategy helps children to notice and remember the words read or said to them.

When reading familiar books (or when you sneak a peek to the next page!), the caregiver can say the sound of the next pictured item before turning the page to see it. An example of some books where this can easily be done is Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr., Dream Snow by Eric Carle, The Pigeon Loves Things That Go! by Mo Willems or Karen Katz’s, Zoom, Zoom, Baby!

Examples of caregivers presenting the object’s sound prior to showing the pictures to the children:

Mom: “What's next? Oh, the snails that go up, up, up.”

Mom turns the page.

Sister: Up, up, up! (As she points to each snail going up the page.)

Mom (speaking in Spanish): “Listen! I hear hop, hop, hop. Let’s turn to page to see what animal it is!”

Mom assists child in turning the page.

Mom: “It’s a bunny! It says, hop, hop, hop!”

Child: Smiles

Another way to carry out audition first is to use lift-the-flap books which automatically hides the picture for the caregiver. Caregiver can say the sound of the pictured object or its name and then have the child lift the flap. Karen Katz makes many lift the flaps books as does Ginger Swift with her Chunky board books. Or, as suggested by the website, caregivers can make their own lift-the-flap books by adding square sticky-notes to several of the pages. Try to get the child to imitate the sound or name of the object/action once it is uncovered. “Lift the flap” can be a common phrase that a child learns while interacting with books. Try varying the “lift the flap” phrase with “turn the page”, “you say it” and “pat the (object name).”

Example of a caregiver making her own Lift-the-Flap book:

Mom: “Where's the dog that says wuff, wuff? Listen. wuff wuff! Open it!”

(Mom helps child lift the flap.)

Mom: “There's the dog. Wuff! Wuff!

Consistent auditory input from a caregiver during story time is the very beginning of literacy development which leads to the child’s ability to read independently in the future.

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Resources and Opportunities for Families

HITCH-UP Parent Support Groups

These parent lead support groups provide support to parents of children with hearing loss.

Charlotte HITCH-UP


(Guilford County/Greensboro Area)

Triangle Area HITCH-UP

(Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill Area)

Facebook Page:

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Where are they now?


Submitted by her mother, Susan

Heidi entered our home and lives December 30, 2015. Our homebirth midwife gave us information for hearing screenings, and I put it aside while soaking up newborn snuggles. At 10 days old, realizing she didn’t startle to noise prompted us to expedite that hearing test! I cried one evening prior to the test, mourning my expectations of her future, and then I was given the grace to celebrate Heidi and marvel in her uniqueness. After initial screening, a definitive test at 7 weeks confirmed Heidi’s profound deafness. We met with an ENT who gave us information about cochlear implants, and we then had several months to consider implants, before she turned 1. (We tried hearing aids, without benefit.)

During that wait, we knew one thing we could do! Learn to sign! We had opportunity NOW to focus on her strengths, so we enrolled in signing classes, and met with Deaf adults to hear their stories. We learned to treasure language over speech alone, and we are grateful for that early way to communicate with Heidi. But we longed to give Heidi speech, to ease her way in our own circles and in her world. After much consideration, Heidi was implanted at 14 months old. Would it help her hear?

YES! We have been blown away by how well Heidi has responded to sound and speech! Her interplay with sound and sign has been a delight. As her signing would improve, her speech vocabulary would follow, and she never seemed “held back” by incorporating sign with her listening. Quite the opposite. She chatters to me, using spoken sentences, and will sign to me if I don’t understand her. Her ability to “code switch” and use every communication mode in her power is a testament to her determination.

She is a fireball of a 3 ½ year old now, and determined to keep up with her three older siblings! Her ability to understand speech in noisy rooms, her attempts at imitating songs, her lengthy emerging sentences, and her attempts to imitate everything she hears are a beautiful thing to observe. She’s out to prove to the world that her BRAIN was born wired to hear, even if her EARS were not.

Raising a deaf child has been a new experience, and I needed someone who would come alongside us, support our choice to sign with Heidi, but give us balanced information about sound options. Valerie Best was our fabulous weekly parent support through ELSSP, and became like a grandmother to our kids. Heidi adored her, and her supportive and encouraging personality gave me tools to maximize Heidi’s language development. We are grateful for the role that ELSSP played in helping Heidi to soar!

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Welcome Stacey Sloane!

Stacey is our new Administrative Assistant and her first day was August 5. Stacey's office is in Raleigh at the Department of Public Instruction-Exceptional Children Division. We are so happy Stacey is with ELSSP. She is helping our program in many ways.

Pictured below from left to right, Sherri Vernelson, Section Chief, Sensory Support and Assistive Technology Section, Ruth Anne Everett, Stacey Sloane and Bethany Mayo

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Newsletter Committee

Chris Czajkowski

Donna Snipes


Roxanne Falls

Jenni Campagna

Elizabeth Hopkins