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Program helps hearing-impaired children reach their potential

By Karen Nazor Hill with the Chattanooga Times Free Press
summarized by Alyssa Smith, staff writer

When she found out that her son Raymi was deaf, Lindsey Sheaffer quickly turned first to hearing aids and then to cochlear implants. Unfortunately, Raymi struggled with his cochlear implants. Then the family learned that Raymi’s school for children with hearing loss was closing. After some research, the family relocated from North Carolina to Chattanooga so Raymi could enroll in Achieve Learning Center.

Achieve Learning Center is a school for children with hearing and speech/language impairments. The school uses an inclusive learning approach where children of all abilities are mixed together in the classroom. Achieve Learning Center also introduced the Sheaffers to Tennessee Hands & Voices, a program that offers resources, networks, and information to families that is crucial to improving communication access and their children’s educational outcomes. According to Marty Dunagan, the director of Achieve Learning Center and an active member of Tennessee Hands & Voices, the program’s ultimate focus is to help deaf and hard-of-hearing children succeed. He also realizes that the program provides an opportunity for families to meet and interact.

Hands & Voices is a program that started in the 1980s in Colorado; it has since expanded to 32 states. The Chattanooga chapter of Hands & Voices was established in September of 2012. According to Melanie Bacon who helped organize the first Tennessee chapter, the “parent-driven piece” of Hands & Voices is what really sets the program apart. Sheaffer has acknowledged the tremendous support she has received from Hands & Voices as well as Achieve Learning Center. She says that both Dunagan and Hands & Voices have helped her family understand that they are all “going to be OK.”

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