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February 3, 2006

Parent group provides education, support, friendship

From: Muscatine Journal, IA - Feb 3, 2006

By Cynthia Beaudette of the Muscatine Journal

MUSCATINE, Iowa - Connie Czerwiec and Michelle Hutton know how bewildered and concerned parents may feel shortly after learning their child has a hearing loss.

They also have learned that a strong support system and solid information can replace uncertainty with confidence.

Czerwiec has two children who were diagnosed with incurable hearing impairments at ages 2 and 5.

“When you hear your child has a hearing loss for the first time, it is hard to think of the right questions to ask the doctor,” said Czerwiec, vice president of the Muscatine County Parents’ Association for the Hearing Impaired, MCPAHI. “I have found out over time that the parent group is always willing to answer my questions or find out the answer for me.”

A long history

Since 1972, the MCPAHI has provided friendship, education and technological support for area families who have children with hearing impairments.

According to MCPAHI literature, the group was established by Dodi and Bill Hoben and Don and Shirley Calvert, who had children with hearing loss. It is the only organization in Muscatine County dedicated to assisting the hearing impaired and their families.

The nonprofit organization is supported by a membership of parents, professionals and other people who are deaf or hard of hearing as well as people who do not have a hearing loss.

Knowledge is power

Czerwiec said the parent group benefited her family with KIP, which means, Knowledge Is Power.

“That is one of the first things my family learned when we found out about our children’s hearing losses,” said Czerwiec. “The more you know about the hearing loss, the better you can help your child grow and learn.”

Michelle Hutton, president of the group, began learning more about the impact hearing impairment has on families after her newborn son, Joshua, was diagnosed with hearing loss in1999.

Hutton, who has two older sons, said she and her husband were concerned and saddened when they first discovered their son would need to deal with hearing loss. Since then, their involvement with the MCPAHI and the Mississippi Valley Area Education Agency (AEA) 9 office, has empowered their family with knowledge.

Joshua’s hearing loss is moderate but permanent and doctors haven’t determined cause. Hutton sought early intervention through the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency (AEA) 9 office in Muscatine and joined the MCPAHI.

The MCPAHI serves families who are living in the same areas as those served by the local AEA office, which includes Muscatine, Bennett, Wilton, Durant, Columbus Junction, West Liberty and Louisa-Muscatine school districts.

“We’re lucky to have this group within our AEA,” said Marcy Beisiegel-Clausen, an AEA consultant. “The group also provides families with a nice chance to meet one another and have fun.”

Hutton said the MCPAHI is fortunate to have the AEA. She said one example of the AEA staff members’ dedication of the group was demonstrated in 2000 when they conducted free sign-language classes for families who needed that education. The classes are no longer in session now that the families have learned sign language.

Hearing from experts

Hutton said teachers in the Muscatine Community School District who work with children who have hearing impairment are part of the MCPAHI. These teachers and other professionals conduct programs twice a year to help parents and care givers learn more about assisting children with a hearing loss.

One important concept Hutton said she and other parents learned at a recent presentation involved incidental learning.

People who can hear learn about their environment and society through hearing casual conversation and spontaneous reactions. This is one way people understand the use of slang and other references used in different eras or by different groups of people.

“Children with hearing impairment don’t hear that,” said Hutton.

Six months ago, the group learned about cochlear implants.

These small electronic devices that are surgically placed inside the head and provide a sense of sound by directly stimulating undamaged nerve fibers in the inner ear.

Small children and adults are candidates for cochlear implants and several of the children in the MCPAHI group already have them, Hutton said.

Financial assistance

The United Way provides funding that the group uses to help families afford hearing aids, which can cost $5,000 a pair. Members also receive two sets of ear molds a year. In order to ensure a good fit for their hearing aids, children need to have molds made of their ears each year to measure for hearing aids.

Czerwiec said the MCPAHI also provides partial funding for a variety of assistive technology devices.

“My family received partial funding for the cost of the hearing aids that our child has to wear,” said Czerwiec. “Some of the other items the parent group supplies are dry aid kits and hearing-aid cleaning tools.”

The group also conducts fund-raisers such as bake sales and 5K runs and has received donations from individual residents and Muscatine Charities.

The parent group meets the second Tuesday of every month that school is in session for both business and social activities.

Contact Cynthia Beaudette at: 563-263-2331 Ext. 323


What: The Muscatine County Parents’ Association for the Hearing Impaired

When: The group meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month for meetings and activities.

Where: Hillcrest Baptist Church, 1613 Bidwell Road.

Who: Anyone with a child who has been diagnosed with a hearing impairment is welcome to join. The group also invites people who work with and are interested in helping people with hearing impairment.

Services: Providing increased opportunities for communication assistive devices, independence, productivity, information, self-advocacy, coordination, integration, collaboration and technology.

Membership dues: $10 to participate in club activities and annual fund-raiser; $25 for nonactive memberships for people unable to actively support the group but want to access some of the organization’s benefits for their children.


Michelle Hutton, president

Muscatine County Parents Association for the Hearing Impaired

Phone: 264-0740

Laura Cooley, audiologist

Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency Area 9

Where: 1422 Houser St.

Phone: 263-8476

Hours: 7 a.m.n4:30 p.m.

© 2006, Muscatine Journal, Muscatine, IA A Lee Enterprises subsidiary