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January 31, 2004

Can My Baby Hear?: Part 1

From: KUAM-TV - Jan 31, 2004

by Fredalynn Mortera Hecita, KUAM News

The earlier a child receives intervention for hearing loss, the better the outcome such as speech and development, academic achievement and social skills. The Pediatric Evaluation and Developmental Services Center at the University of Guam is providing hearing loss services and family support to help your child grow and develop when assistance is necessary.

Hearing loss is the number one disability in the nation. When children are not identified and do not receive early intervention, healthcare and public education dollars increase, along with the frustration experienced by parents and children struggling who lack the proper language skills to perform well academically and socially. But more importantly, infants and children diagnosed with hearing loss later in life and fail to receive assistance will be delayed in speech or language development.

The Guam Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program recommends that all newborns be screened for hearing loss by one month of age and with appropriate intervention services by six months of age. GEHDI support staff Vicky Ritter says in the event an infant or child is diagnosed with hearing loss the program is set up to provide assistance for both the parent and the child such as diagnostic services and family support called parent-to-parent meetings every two months.

"And that is like, it's strictly for parents with children who have hearing losses to get together and draw support from each other to share resources, to share tips just anything to make it easier for their parent to deal with their child with hearing loss," Rittner says.

Ritter says GEHDI's services are free, and the program pays for the audiologist examinations and the necessary services. "And then early intervention takes from there and they assign one person to monitor the child and run a whole bunch of tests you know, developmental, you know everything and then they monitor the child and make sure all the services the child needs is being provided whether it's speech therapy, ocul-therapy, you know developmental tests whatever they make sure that's all done," she says.

GEDHI teacher Ashley Duenas says once a child is diagnosed they're referred to the GEDHI system where a program will be implemented to provide the proper learning tools and therapy. "What that means is if a child is eligible I mean what happens we get the intake from GEDHI and within 10 days we contact the family and we do further evaluations and if the child is found to be eligible for the program we provide an individualized family service plan, which is the plan that a team, a teacher of speech therapist and there's just a wide amount of professional that are involved with the team and we come up with a plan that will determine the services that the child is eligible for," she says.

Duenas says the earlier children are diagnosed the more treatment they'll receive and hopefully the more preventative things can be done so that when they get older they are a little bit more typical. If your child has three or more ear infections or you suspect a hearing or speech problem if further testing is recommended.

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