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May 13, 2004

New center offers children better hearing, vision

From: Omaha World Herald - Omaha,NE,USA - May 13, 2004


Three-year-old Lydia Teeger-strom picks up a yellow car and draws it to her face.

"Ooooh," Coille Putman says through a small screen, so Lydia can't see her lips move.

The little girl tosses the yellow car into a bag. Putman, a speech language pathologist, and Lydia's mother, Lynette Teegerstrom, cheer and clap.

The exercise, a listening check of Lydia's cochlear implant, is repeated with several other objects and sounds.

Lydia has profound hearing loss and has had the implant since she was about 18 months old.

The new Lied Learning and Technology Center for Childhood Deafness and Vision Disorders, which officially opens today, is helping to bring additional services to children such as Lydia.

The Teegerstroms, from Cortland, Neb., come to the Boys Town National Research Hospital about every three months. Wednesday was their first trip to the Lied center, which is just south of the hospital.

The $9.3 million not-for-profit facility will be run privately but is closely affiliated with the Omaha hospital. The two are connected by a skywalk. About 30 Boys Town hospital staff workers and researchers are currently working at the center.

The goal is "really to develop and disseminate better methods of rehabilitation and education to children with hearing and vision problems and their families," said Dr. Patrick Brookhouser, president of the center and director of the hospital.

Although the hospital already offered some of these services, the Lied center will help establish a better connection between research and the people working with children, all in a larger space.

Brookhouser said getting the services to those in rural and underserved communities also will be important.

The center also will have an increased focus on cochlear implants via a clinic and research center, training facilities and labs studying hearing and vision development, as well as distance learning and family outreach through videoconferencing.

Rooms in the center are equipped to record children's sessions on videotape or DVD for later analysis by staff, parents and teachers. There also are areas that parents and staff can use to observe a child playing in the adjoining room.

Brookhouser said there is hope that eventually the center will be able to offer virtual in-home visits and offer advice without families and children having to travel.

During Lydia's recent session, Putman worked on repetition of sounds using a song and toys such as a bear, a sheep and an ice cream cone. Lydia, who had relied solely on sign language until getting her implant, nailed "eyes," "baaah" and "mmmmm." She had a bit of trouble with "moo" and instead said "boo."

Lynette Teegerstrom mentioned that her daughter can sing the "Ee, i, ee, i" in "Old McDonald Had a Farm" but never says the "o."

Putman said one of the things she tries to do during the sessions is offer ideas that parents can use at home to help their children develop better speech.

"One thing you can do," Putnam said, "is pause and then do the 'o.'"

©2004 Omaha World-Herald. All rights reserved.