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September 20, 2004

Families thankful to hear kids having fun

From: Denver Post, CO - Sep 20, 2004

By Erin Cox
Denver Post Staff Writer

Highlands Ranch - Sam Allen and Eiler Schiotz climbed over rocks, net in hand, their faces inches from the water as they searched for crawfish Sunday in Redstone Park. The two "profoundly deaf" 7-year-olds chatted back and forth in perfectly clear, perfectly enunciated speech.

"I caught it, I caught it," Sam said, then he inspected his net. "But it's dead."

Eiler resumed the hunt and rushed back to the water.

The pair looked like a couple of typical boys on Sunday afternoon, except for the conspicuous aids that wrap around their ears and magnetic transmitters stuck to the back of their heads.

Eiler and Sam played Sunday at a Listen Foundation picnic that brought together hearing-impaired kids from across metro Denver who share a therapy designed to eliminate the dependence on sign language.

Both lost their hearing as toddlers after meningitis infections struck - no more than a week apart.

The world is virtually silent without their cochlear implants. The external transmitters magnetically attach to an implant inside their heads and send electrical impulses deep into their inner ears, connecting the boys with a world of sounds.

The concept of implants is not new, nor is the therapy that teaches the boys how to learn speech. But advances in technology have cut down on the time it takes for kids to learn to speak, said therapist Nancy Guerrero.

"The ability for him to be able to interact with the greater world, it gets me choked up," said Lyn Schiotz, Eiler's mom.

This year, Sam calmed his father's greatest fear: that he would be behind all the other children.

"It's giving him a chance to be like other kids," Doug Allen said. "Now, he's in first grade and totally mainstream."

The Englewood-based Listen Foundation helps 75 families bring a "mainstream" life to their children, a life without the intervention of sign language or an interpreter, through parent groups, therapy and financial aid.

Therapy for this "auditory-verbal method," runs about $5,000 a year. The foundation helps cover anywhere from 25 percent of the cost to the entire bill.

Even with the advances, sometimes Sam likes the silence. Some mornings he waits a few hours before putting on his aid and hearing again.

"It's almost the same as turning a bright light on in the middle of the night," Doug Allen said. "But he loves it. He loves having it."

In the midst of his crawfish hunt, Sam heard his father's voice from 10 feet away, looked up and flashed a toothless grin.

Staff writer Erin Cox can be reached at 303-820-1474 or .

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