"Teaching Deaf Kids to Hear" May Sound Like an Exaggeration, But at the Auditory-Verbal Center, That's Exactly What They Do.
A few weeks ago, I heard about a truly amazing non-profit organization right here in Atlanta. The Auditory-Verbal Center works with children who are deaf or hearing impaired, and literally teaches them how to hear.
The Director at AVC, Debbie Brilling, started out as a client. When her daughter was about 18 months old, she was diagnosed as "profoundly deaf." A few months later, her son was born deaf as well.
So she enrolled both of her children at AVC, and spent years going to therapy sessions with them.
Once they completed the program, Debbie began volunteering there. Then she was invited to join their Board. Then she was made Director. She's been there for 16 years.
One of the surprising things about AVC is how few people know about it. Parents of deaf children often assume they'll have to learn sign language, and that their kids will live their entire lives in a silent world.
But the reality is much more amazing.
Today, deaf kids are getting cochlear implants at a very young age—just one or two months. Then they start weekly therapy sessions at AVC, learning to interpret the sounds they hear. And ultimately, how to communicate.
But the average parent doesn't know that's even possible.
"When you get the diagnosis, it's devastating," Debbie explains. "People think, how am I going to communicate with this child? Will they be able to hear music? Will they hear the birds out there? Will they be able to speak to Grandma and Grandpa?"
Shooting a Healthcare Video
To help AVC tell their story, I interviewed Debbie and her son Jonathan on camera, along with most of their therapists.
I was also able to film some of the kids and parents, during their sessions.
AVC is already working with hundreds of kids in Atlanta, helping them learn to hear. More importantly, they're teaching parents how to continue the therapy at home. That way, the kids achieve much more than would be possible in a single one-hour session a week.
So much has changed in the past few years. New technology, new learning, are making so much more possible.
Today, every child born in Georgia is tested for hearing loss the day they're born. Kids are getting into therapy earlier and earlier, and graduating from the program well before first grade. Sometimes as young as three years old.
Debbie summed it all up like this: "It's been a journey, but it's been an awesome journey."