NC ELSSP-HI Newsletter

Summer 2016

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

NC Department of Public Instruction - Office of Early Learning


Each child will be honored, respected, and empowered to achieve success in school and life.

Vision Statement-Office of Early Learning

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Hot Off The Press......

ELSSP-HI has just learned that we have 4 teams who have been invited to present at the NC Department of Public Instruction 66th Conference on Exceptional Children on November 9-10, 2016.

Chris Czajkowski and Neena Malosky will be presenting

“Increasing Executive Functioning Skills in Children with Hearing Loss”

Lucia Sumner and Patty Dischinger will be presenting

"Deafblindness - What Teachers and Service Providers Need to Know"

Lucia Sumner and former co-worker Dr. Wendy Wieber will present

"A Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Delivery System in the Early Intervention Arena, Including Traditional Games and Songs"

Preston Collins and Kristen Steele will be presenting

"Implementing Reflective Questioning and Feedback to Encourage Parent Participation"

Way to go teams!

Highways and byways

Driving the Roads of North Carolina

As we go about our job of traveling from home to home, we are on the road everyday for miles and miles. In the month of May we drove a total of 43,880 miles! Not all is bad, for along the way we get to see the beautiful sights like the sun rising on an early morning trip, flowers growing in the dirt and double rainbows on a rainy day. Be careful out there and take time to enjoy the beauty of North Carolina!


Cute Corner
Something to Think About
North Carolina AG Bell Pilot Cap Grant
CARE Project Latino Retreat
Miles for Wellness Challenge 13
Bill Parker Sertoma Club's Walk for Hearing Health

Camp Cheerio
Staff Development and Save the Dates

The CARE Project Family Retreat
Family Resources
Summer Birthdays
Student Spotlight
Where Are They Now?
Director's Spotlight

Cute Corner


"When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another." Helen Keller

Something to think about

"It’s important to understand—and we talk about this in the speech perception segments—it’s important to understand that there is speech information throughout the speech banana. If you have an audiogram—either an unaided or, even worse—an aided audiogram, that is not at the top of the speech banana, it means that the child is going to be missing a lot of information. So what we have here is what we’d like to call the “speech string bean.” We want kids to be hearing in the string bean because that means they’re going to be hearing about 90% of what was said. If they’re hearing at the bottom of the banana, they’re only going to hear 10% of what is said. So, for kids with hearing loss, if the family has chosen listening and spoken language, our goal is to have them hear at the top of the string bean." -Jane Madell, PhD

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North Carolina AG Bell Pilot Cap Grant

Submitted by Beth Whitfield

The NC chapter of the AG Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has completely funded a Pilot Cap project for the NC Early Learning Sensory Support Program for Children With Hearing Impairments (otherwise known as “ELSSP-HI”). The purpose of this project is to help children in the ELSSP-HI program reach full-time use of hearing technology by providing pilot caps for any family who cannot afford to get one on their own.

Pilot caps offer one of the most child-proof options for keeping little hands from removing devices or from devices just falling off. Other options are much more easily removed by children and often leave parents frustrated. A couple of parents have shared their personal experiences.

April 15, 2016

Our daughter Alaina was diagnosed with bilateral severe/profound sensorineural hearing loss when she was six weeks old. When she was 3 months old we received her first pair of hearing aids which we eagerly began using all of her waking hours. Because of the severity of her hearing loss she required large, powerful hearing aids. The first month of use Alaina did not pay much attention but once she started having more control of her hands the first objects she reached for was her hearing aids. It was also around this time that Alaina started rolling, starting solids, and generally getting messy! Our wonderful teacher recommended that we use pilot caps as a way to help Alaina keep the hearing aids on and protect them from her curious little fingers. Once Alaina started wearing the pilot caps we were able to focus on providing lots of auditory input and stimulation while not worrying about the hearing aids falling out, being knocked out, becoming covered in baby food, etc. Alaina wore the pilot caps every day until her cochlear implant surgery and still wears the caps over her cochlear implant processors occasionally. Seeing Alaina's amazing progress with learning to listen to, locate, and produce sounds would not have been possible without the consistent use of hearing aids afforded to her by the pilot caps. For the amount time, money and effort expended in the assistive technology and therapy required for children with hearing loss, the pilot caps are a small, yet necessary, ingredient to successful outcomes.

Toni Miguel, mother of Alaina (1 year)

April 21, 2016

Pilot caps have been a life saver with helping us keep our daughter’s cochlear implant magnet on. They also help keep it in place and I don’t have to worry as much at the possibility of losing it. I have recommended them to so many parents that have had trouble keeping their child’s hearing devices on.

Staci Westbrooks, mother of Laken (2 years, 4 months)

The teachers and parents of ELSSP-HI program are extremely grateful to NC AGBell and its members for helping us make a difference in the lives of children and families!

CARE Project Latino Retreat

(Campamento Caracol - Retiro para familias latinas con ninos sordos o con perdida auditiva. / Camp Caracol- Latino retreat for families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing)

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Johnnie Sexton and Lucia Sumner at Camp Caracol

Submitted by Lucia Sumner

This year the CARE Project (created by humanitarian extraordinaire Johnnie Sexton) and The Children's Cochlear Implant Center at UNC with the help of Hannah Eskridge, NCFI/Barnhardt Director, joined forces with BEGINNINGS for the third CARE Project Latino Retreat for families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The retreat took place the last weekend in April at Camp Rockfish, a beautiful peaceful place away from the distractions of everyday life.
10 families spent three days and two nights enjoying family activities such as rock climbing, hay rides, archery, and nature walks. All meals were provided at no cost to the families.

The retreat was planned in a way that parents had time to attend presentations ranging

from their emotional journey of having a child with hearing loss to educational issues to information regarding hearing loss and advocacy. Time was provided for parents to meet in groups with 2 mentor families as moderators, in a safe , supportive environment to vent, talk, learn from each other, and to build relationships with other parents. All this took place while the children were engaged in age appropriate activities with volunteers.

At the end of each day, parents and children were free to mingle, build relationships, create a Facebook support group page, and simply enjoy nature while eating s'mores and drinking hot beverages.

Many families described the experience as magical and life changing. As a member of the planning committee and now child care program director as well as volunteer, I can say without a doubt that this year we had the best retreat ever.

Miles for Wellness Challenge 13, March 28-May 22, 2016

Submitted by Emily Reeves and Ruth Anne Everett

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The Miles for Wellness Challenge, Challenge 13: “Trail of the Hidden Jewels” was sponsored by the NC Office of State Human Resources. The purpose of the challenge was to urge state employees to increase their level of daily physical activity and provide support for their efforts. The challenge members were encouraged to be mindful of their physical activity as they “moved” towards a healthier, more active lifestyle. Challenge members were encouraged to increase their daily activity above their current daily movement. Physical activity was calculated in step totals, and each individual was asked to reach a goal of 10,000 steps, or the equivalent of 5 miles, every day.

The theme for this challenge, “Trail of the Hidden Jewels”, provided a virtual trail to walk and was commemorative of the 100th Anniversary of the National Parks Service founded in August 1816. The virtual trail started outside of Wilmington. Each team’s progress along the trail was updated every two weeks throughout the challenge.

The Miles for Wellness Team Challenge 13 had a record number of teams participating. There were two teams from the Early Learning Sensory Support Program for Children with Hearing Impairments. The “Early Learning HI Steppers” included: Ruth Anne Everett, Team Captain, Preston Collins, Roxanne Dearman, Jenni Campagna, Neena Malosky, Stacie Polk, Kristen Steele, Cindy Tedder, and Anna Ownbey. The “Walkie-Talkies” included: Emily Reeves, Team Captain, Valerie Best, Chris Czajkowski, Jen Dunn, Alison McKown, Gilbert Medina, Emily Orman, Wanda Pendergrass, Donna Snipes, and Mary Lou Wright. The Early Learning HI Steppers accumulated 2,566 total miles and 5,133,139 total steps, and the “Walkie-Talkies” accumulated 2,434 total miles and 4,868,020 total steps.

Each team did a great job in completing this challenge!

The Miles for Wellness Challenge was a motivating and healthy activity that offered the opportunity for persons with a wide range of physical abilities and fitness levels to participate. Teams quickly realized how much we can sit in this job—behind our desks, in our cars, on the floor with families—so we encouraged one another to park further away from our destination, take a 10 minute break to walk around the block, to take the stairs, or even to use the desk-side walking video! Another Miles for Wellness Challenge will be offered in the fall 2016.

Bill Parker Sertoma Club’s “Celebrate Sound, Don’t Walk in Silence” Fund and Awareness Raising Walk for Hearing Health

Submitted by Neena Malosky

The Bill Parker Sertoma’s Club Celebrate Sound Walk was a huge success. The Early Learning Sensory Support-HI program raised $480 dollars and were the second largest contributor. Teachers all over NC supported the cause by participating in the walk, becoming virtual walkers, donating and sharing the information with the families they serve. The funds went to provide scholarships for Camp SERTOMA to send children who are deaf or hard of hearing to a 1-week camp. This camp is unique in that it is a place where children with hearing loss, and their siblings, can join in a structured camping adventure. To learn more about Camp SERTOMA, please visit

Thank you so much for everyone who supported the Celebrate Sound Walk for Hearing Health! We had a great time for a wonderful cause!

Spring Camp Cheerio Experience

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Submitted by Nancy Collado

Camp Cheerio was held in Roaring Gap, NC on April 13-15. Nancy Collado, Spanish interpreter and Meg Locklear, teacher of the deaf volunteer annually. Their time along with many other volunteers allow the camp to be a huge success every year. The theme of the camp this year was Star Wars and it made for a fun filled weekend that was enjoyed by everyone in attendance! Parents and families attended educational sessions such as cued speech classes, advocacy training, technology updates and presentations on issues of raising a child who is deaf or hard of hearing. The guest speakers were Wendy Petricoff, Carol Flexer and Amber Kimball. The children were placed in age appropriate classes where they participated in activities such as arts & crafts, games, movies, hiking, canoeing, bouncy houses, rock climbing, archery, a hillside waterslide and more. In the evenings the families enjoyed an ice cream social and a dance with a band. Many families said it was an unforgettable weekend. Friendships were formed to support and encourage one another. If you have never been, Nancy and Meg recommend that you go in the future. They say it will be an experience you will remember for many years to come and the views are unbelievable!

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Staff Development and Save the Dates

News & Resources from UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute Information:

NEW RESEARCH: Children’s Vocabulary and Language Complexity Facilitates the Development of Executive Function
New findings suggest that children’s early gains in vocabulary are linked to emerging EF abilities.

NEW RESOURCES: FPG Provides Early Learning Activities & Visual Supports to Teach Toddlers with Autism New Skills & Routines
"Family Implemented TEACCH for Toddlers" is collaborative parent education and support model designed to help families better understand and engage with their toddler with autism spectrum disorder.

July 11 - New teacher, Sara Gibson, begins

July 26/27 - UNC-Greensboro

Cottage Acquisition Scales for Listening Language and Speech

August 10/11 - Opening Meeting - DPI Raleigh

Resources and Opportunities for Families

There are two CARE Project Family Retreats left for this year! Please see the information below. Families that have gone have thoroughly enjoyed their time there.

The CARE Project Family Retreat - Oct. 14-16 at Rockfish Camp & Retreat Center, Parkton, NC. Please contact Kim at or go on their website Deadline is August 15, 2016.

The CARE Project Family Retreat - November 4-6 at Bald Head Island, NC. Please contact Kim ad or go on their website Deadline is September 1, 2016.

Summer Birthdays

Student Spotlight - Kendrick

Submitted by Roxanne Dearman, teacher

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Kendrick is a one year old who was referred to our program at 2 months of age after being born 4 weeks early and spending 3 weeks in the NICU. He was diagnosed with mild to moderately severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss when he was 2 months old and was fitted with hearing aids soon after. He wears them most of his waking hours and seems to enjoy listening to Mom sing songs and is starting to imitate some motions with them such as lifting his foot up and down to “step your feet” and raising his hand to “shout hooray!”. He also likes reading books, interacting with pop up toys, eating mashed potatoes and is beginning to like bath time better! Mom wants him to learn to talk and is using sign language as a support. He says and signs "Daddy" and signs “milk” when he is hungry. He has other developmental delays and receives feeding therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Mom says he is silly and almost always smiling. His smile cheers us all as we cheer him on!

Where Are They Now?


Submitted by Mia's mother, Hannah

Mia is 5 years old and lives with her parents and twin brother in Pembroke, North Carolina. Mia was born with a congenital deformity called microtia. Microtia is underdevelopment of the external ear and in Mia’s case she has bilateral (both ears) microtia.

Soon after birth, we were scheduled to see an ENT at UNC-Chapel Hill Neuroscience Hospital to get information and help about our child who had “no ears”. After the visit with the ENT, we were scheduled to see an audiologist to do some hearing test to find that Mia has a moderate/severe conductive hearing loss. Mia was always watching your lips and seemed interested in what you would say or sing to her. At 3 months old, Mia was fitted with a BAHA (bone anchoring hearing device) and soon after began with Early Intervention Services. Our experience with Early Intervention was great. Mia began the services with a teacher for the hearing impaired and by the time she was 6 months old she was saying, “Da Da”, which thrilled her father’s heart. She improved so much with early intervention along with speech and physical therapies. Mia still has an issue with articulation, but it does not stop her from singing and talking.

I began researching microtia from the time she was diagnosed and how I was going to correct her ears; because I knew there would be a day when Mia would request earrings (and she has). Once locating a surgeon out in California, I knew she was the one for the reconstruction. After attending a weekend conference, in which Dr. Sheryl Lewin was a presenter, my husband and I decided that this was the best option for Mia. Dr. Lewin uses MedPor, which is a structure that uses your body’s own tissue to create an ear. My husband and I contacted Dr. Lewin’s office, filled out the paperwork, acquired a surgery date, and talked with the doctor about any concerns we had. Mia’s reconstructive ear surgery was performed on April 7, 2016 and took approximately 10 hours to complete. A week later we got to see Dr. Lewin’s beautiful ear she had created for Mia, it was AMAZING! Mia loves to look at her new ear in the mirror and she is excited about going back to California to get her second ear and receive her sparkling earrings this fall.

*Note: Mia's mom would be happy to talk to anyone to answer questions or provide additional information. Contact your child's teacher. She can get you in touch with Hannah.

Director's Spotlight

Submitted by Ruth Anne Everett

This month's spotlight is on Kristen Steele.

Kristen has been working with our program since October 2010. She became interested in speech pathology & communication disorders at a young age as her father was born with a cleft palate, cleft lip, and was partially blind. His mother contracted measles while she was pregnant with him. As a result her father had to undergo many surgeries and a lot of speech therapy in his early years. But you would never know it if you met him! She describes him as one of the most intelligent, determined, and successful people she knows.

That early interest in speech and communication disorders should have been enough to follow the path of high school graduation, college, and so on, but the drive to follow in her great grandfather, grandfather, father, mother, and sister’s footsteps came first. She is the fourth generation in her family to serve in the United States Army. She served as a light wheel vehicle diesel mechanic from 1996-2003. She was stationed at Fort Bragg, NC and jumped out of perfectly good airplanes while in the 82nd Airborne Division. Kristen was one of the first females to ever serve alongside males in a combat engineer unit, the 307th Engineer Battalion. She re-enlisted for another term and relocated to Fort Richardson, Alaska. It was in Alaska that she was married and had her daughter, Adriana. After 6 years of service, she decided to finish her term and devote time to her family.

She felt fortunate to be able to spend the first 2 years at home with her daughter, but was also drawn to another adventure. She returned to school, beginning at CPCC in Charlotte earning her Early Childhood associates degree. She moved back to her home town of Alton, IL (near St. Louis) and began coursework towards her BS at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, IL.

While in undergrad at SIUE, she had an assignment in an Aural Rehab class that took her to Central Institute for the Deaf (CID). Up to that point she had little experience with deaf or hard of hearing individuals, but was amazed with what she saw at this school. Faced with a decision on whether to continue on in Speech Pathology or pursue Deaf Education, she weighed in on the area in which she was most passionate. The answer became clear as she studied under a team of audiologists, teachers of the deaf, and families who participated in a study that followed from their child’s early identified hearing loss diagnosis to in-home intervention and onto the observation of the child’s cochlear implant surgery. She earned her undergraduate degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Southern Illinois University that spring following the completion of the Aural Rehab project. Upon graduation, she and 11 others were selected and earned a full scholarship to attend Washington University School of Medicine Program in Audiology and Communication Sciences graduate program.

Since joining ELSSP-HI (formerly known as another long name) she has enjoyed working with her colleagues on several special interests. For the last few years, she and Preston Collins have worked on learning more about routines based intervention, using coaching as interaction style with parents, and presenting their work at staff meetings/webinars, CDSAs they serve, the North Carolina Exceptional Children’s Conference (2013, 2014, 2015, & 2016) and the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI)-2014 Poster Presentation. She and Preston have created tools-Embedding Speech, Listening, Language, and Cognition into Daily Routines (ESLLCs) and the ‘House’ handout to help teachers explain routine based intervention to the families they serve. Kristen also attended two trainings offered by the Family, Infant, and Preschool Program (FIPP)-“Coaching in Early Intervention” and “Master Coach” Certification. The Master Coach certification will be complete June 30, 2016. Future plans include training staff on coaching practices, using video technology to consult and coach teachers from a distance, and informal mentoring for those interested in learning more.

Outside of coaching and teaching, Kristen enjoys living in Davidson, NC on Lake Norman. In her spare time, she offers in- home personal training and has a love for running, hiking, strength training and yoga. Her daughter, Adriana, will turn 15 in August and just completed her first year of high school. They plan on taking a few trips to the beach together this summer.

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Newsletter Committee

Chris Czajkowski
Jen Dunn
Donna Snipes

Vison Statement-Office of Early Learning