Meet Camden – our 2023 FHSR Champion Child!
Camden is an energetic, outgoing, and curious 3 ½ year old who loves reading, pretending, and going to school. He also happens to have hearing loss. If being pirate or a builder is up your alley, you would love to go on an adventure with Camden!
Camden’s hearing loss was diagnosed when he was 15 months old when he was not hitting developmental milestones for speech and language, thanks to an early intervention therapist’s recommendation that his hearing be checked. His mom, Megan says “No one was anticipating there being an issue, thank goodness we had him checked when we did.”
Megan and Brett took Camden to the Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital to have his hearing assessed, and his loss was identified. After going through the evaluation process, the Pediatric Audiologist fit Camden with hearing aids. “We were so lucky to have his hearing loss diagnosed before he got too far behind with speech,” insists Camden’s mom.
As fate would have it, Camden was enrolled in Early Childhood music enrichment classes at The Merit School of Music with teacher Sally Blandon. The Foundation created a strategic partnership with Merit in 2019 to provide a year of tuition-free early childhood and instrument classes for children living with hearing loss. Sally Blandon, lead Early Childhood Program Manager, had already played an instrumental role in assisting FHSR with establishing the program curriculum and training. So when Megan told her of Camden’s hearing loss, Sally knew just what to do. In fact, Sally was the first person outside of the immediate family Cam’s parents told about Camden’s hearing loss.
“I was honored that Megan shared the information with me. She expressed concern about Camden being able to access music like a typical hearing toddler. I assured her that not only would he be just fine, but there was also a foundation out there that creates and funds programs specifically for children with hearing loss. And that Merit was a partner! I guided her to the FHSR website (fhsr.org) and the scholarship application so Camden could take classes for free, thanks to FHSR’s Music To My Ears Scholarship program. Camden has been a Rockstar in music class.”
Megan and Brett committed to making music classes a regular part of their son’s life and are grateful for both Sally’s guidance and the MTME scholarship program. “The tuition-free classes are such a gift and so supportive of Cam’s speech and language development,” praises Megan.
Once they found FHSR, Cam and his parents became activate participants in our Community Outreach free family events, like Cheers for Ears. This year, FHSR hosted families at Ravinia for the Laurie Berkner Kids Concert, bringing together families of children with hearing loss and making it the highlight of the summer for the Foundation. Having attended both the 2022 and 2023 Cheers for Ears concerts, Megan raves, “We absolutely love that event and being able to meet and sit with other families that have also been impacted by hearing loss.” FHSR knows the importance of kids seeing other kids that have assistive hearing devices and the value of shared support between parents, so we are committed to keeping this event free to all families.
Meeting another life milestone, Camden started preschool this past fall, which can be an adjustment for all children, including children living with hearing loss, and a stressful change for their parents. One new challenge for any parent of a child with hearing loss is navigating the Individual Education Plan process as the child transitions out of Early Intervention and support services are taken over by the preschool. While his parents felt that their meeting was successful, they still had a few lingering questions with which they needed some support. Anna Tess, Education Coordinator for FHSR, was able to meet with the family to provide insight regarding best educational settings for Camden and how the school could meet his needs.
The Education Coordinator Program will be launching in January 2024 and is free to families of deaf and hard of hearing children in Illinois. Anna will be supporting families who have questions or concerns about their child’s educational setting while also providing teachers with best practices for educating a child with hearing loss. Megan and Brett share, “Cam is doing wonderful in school and surprised us (as he always does!) with adjusting so well! He is happy to go to school and seems to enjoy the classes, teachers, and his friends.” FHSR couldn’t be happier for Cam on this new adventure!
When asked about Cam’s future, his parents enthusiastically responded, “We envision his future to be full of as much opportunity and access to his wants and dreams as any other child! We do everything we can to create a language rich environment for Cam. Our goal has always been to give him in-depth exposure through early intervention and speech services because we understand just how important language is in enabling him to be a successful communicator.”
Both Megan and Brett know the worth of giving back and creating a community of families that have a shared experience with pediatric hearing loss. When asked what advice they would offer to parents of children newly identified with hearing loss, both Megan and Brett suggest, “We would advise that they lean into the community, immerse themselves within the events, and talk with the other families. Everyone’s story we’ve encountered is so different, but it is comforting to meet other families going through the same thing.”
FHSR works to create programs that support the whole child and their family, from education support to music programs to community events. We remain committed to keeping all our programs free of charge to deaf and hard of hearing children and their families so that each one can feel as supported and optimistic as Camden and his family feel.
FHSR is proud to be a part of Camden’s healthy hearing journey and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for this amazing little boy.
Let the adventure begin!