But they depend on us.
This was the first of many thoughts that raced through my head when I learned late last December that HEAR Wisconsin would not be awarded a contract with Milwaukee County to provide Birth to Three early education and therapy services to children who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing and their families. It was the end of a thirty-year relationship.
Milwaukee County’s decision to reduce the number of local service providers from seven to four and refer all babies with hearing loss to generalists, instead of the experts at HEAR Wisconsin, was devastating. Reactions from parents were overwhelmingly against this development.
Milwaukee County suggested that the remaining four providers subcontract with HEAR Wisconsin, but there is little incentive for them to do so, which leaves families on shaky ground. Ultimately, 99 percent chose to stay with us – they left the County’s entitlement program to continue services with our speech-language pathologists, auditory-verbal therapists, and teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing at HEAR Wisconsin. Why?
We are the experts.
At HEAR Wisconsin, we view hearing loss as a neuro-developmental emergency. Hearing is not about the ears, it’s about getting language to the child’s brain. We learn language with our brain; the ears are one doorway - the eyes another. An early intervention provider must know how to educate and coach the parents on how to make language and communication accessible to the child -- how to get language and communication through one or both doorways to the child’s brain.
HEAR Wisconsin staff have the expertise and knowledge to do this. Our therapies are cutting edge and in line with best practices. It’s what we do.
Our staff provides critical, unique and individualized services – they are specialists in their field. Sending these babies to generalists is a grave disservice with potential disastrous, long-term effects.
The Price is High
The estimated lifetime cost to society is $1,000,000 per child in special education and accommodation costs. However, when hearing loss is identified early and intervention takes place during the first years of life, it is possible to dramatically improve a child’s language and related development, and in this way reduce future costs of additional educational resources.
We are disappointed by Milwaukee County’s decision to terminate our long-standing partnership. We are also gravely concerned about the future of babies being newly diagnosed with hearing loss.
Creating Equal Access
People – babies, children, adults,
and seniors – who are deaf or hard of hearing can often be found on the periphery, not first and foremost in the minds of business owners, educators, even government agencies. Full accessibility to everything the world has to offer is an inherent right.
HEAR Wisconsin is the first step in that process. We are the irrefutable best resource – it’s been our mission for almost a century. HEAR Wisconsin is in the process of regrouping and reorganizing, while still not turning any families away. We will forge on ensuring the very best start for some of our community’s most vulnerable