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January 12, 2003

Hearing-impaired student wins school geography bee

From: Canton Repository, OH - 12 Jan 2003

By RACHEL WENGER Repository correspondent

NORTH CANTON -- Tim Botschner knows his geography.

When Tim’s classmates were stumped by the final question at Northwood School’s geography bee in December, he said he used common sense to respond correctly and to clinch first place in the contest.

The question: “What country did people flee from to Florida during the 1960s?”

“I knew that the answer was Cuba because it is the closest to Florida, so that is what I decided to guess,” the 11-year-old Northwood student said.

Tim beat out 19 other students during Northwood’s final round of the schoolwide geography bee. The competition tested students on their knowledge of world geography.

“We didn’t even know that he was participating in the bee,” said Tim’s mom, Dee Botschner. “He was very nonchalant about it, but that is the way he is with everything that he does. He just didn’t make a big deal about it.”

Nor does he make a big deal out of the extra difficulties he faces because of a serious hearing disability.

Tim’s modesty is no surprise to speech/language pathologist Chyme Burnham. Burnham has worked with Tim since the first grade, when she detected his hearing disability.

Though Tim is a hard-working and outgoing student — participating in Student Council and playing sports, including football and baseball — he has had to maintain a greater focus in order to achieve, Burnham said.

“He’s always been a soft-spoken little guy, but he has continued to become more self-confident,” Burnham said. “He’s never let his hearing handicap interfere with his life socially, emotionally or academically.”

Tim’s hearing started to decline when he was 3 years old, but the disability wasn’t discovered until Burnham tested him when he was a first-grader.

After thorough testing and a trip to an audiologist, Tim was diagnosed with a degenerative hearing loss. The handicap, which comes from inner-ear nerve damage, has progressively worsened and could continue to do so, Botschner said.

By the end of first grade, Tim had a wireless microphone that he used to listen to his teachers in class. While in second grade, he moved on to hearing aids in both ears, which he continues to use.

“We knew all along that there was a chance that he could go totally deaf at age 10, or that he may not at all,” Botschner said. “We have no way to know how fast the hearing loss will or will not progress.”

When the Botschners received the news of their son’s impairment, they decided not to make a big deal over it. Tim was treated just like his brother and sister, Botschner said.

She said, however, that she was worried about Tim’s being picked on or teased by classmates, but the opposite has happened.

“It’s really strange, or almost creepy, that no one has made a snide comment to Tim,” Botschner said. “But he has never acted self-conscious at all about this.”

In fact, Tim decided he wanted to sport a different look with his hearing aids.

When the Botschners made the trip to choose the hearing aids, Tim had already made up his mind that he didn’t want the standard neutral color. He wanted his hearing aids to stand out.

“I have one red and one gray hearing aid because I like Ohio State,” Tim said. “And everyone thinks that they are cool.”

The colored hearing aids and Tim’s obvious confidence in himself has sent the message to other students that he isn’t sheepish about his handicap, Botschner said. Tim said that none of his friends — or anyone, for that matter — has made mention of his impairment.

“We haven’t had a bad experience yet because there is nothing about Tim that says ‘that poor kid,’” Botschner said. “He has a very positive attitude.”

Tim’s enthusiasm spills over into every area of his life.

He is a quarterback and receiver for the football team and plays baseball and basketball. He also placed second in Northwood’s spelling bee last year, beating fourth- and fifth-graders during the contest.

“Tim is one of the most popular fifth-graders in his class and he has done nothing but grow in his ability to handle this handicap,” Burnham said.

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