For 22 years, the Callier Center from the University of Texas at Dallas has facilitated a “listening” summer camp for 4- to 11-year-old deaf children with cochlear implants.
The implant has two important pieces. One part of the hearing device is inserted inside of the child’s ear while the other part sits behind the ear. The two pieces are magnetically connected.
“The cochlear implant technology is amazing and it advances all the time,’ said Melissa Sweeney who is the head of Speech Pathology at the University of Texas at Dallas. “It allows them to hear the softest sounds and all of the sounds of speech that’s needed for a child to develop a spoken language.”
Sweeney added that many children that use the implant are likely the only ones at their schools or on their sports teams.
“Sometime they may feel isolated because they don’t know other children with cochlear implants, but here the children have a sense of support and this environment builds up their confidence,” she said.
Forty to 45 kids register each year for the camp held the Cross Creek Ranch in Allen. Activities including fishing, arts and crafts and rock-wall climbing. Sweeney said they have specific reasons for those activities.
"We may be working with them on words that are associated with the rock-wall or saying new sentences with their friends," she said. "Good language skills are important for children learning to read, and we know that learning to read is really important to academic success. A lot of what we do is focused on their future success."
Many of the campers decide to come back and work as counselors. Isabelle Pruitt, 15, is a camper turned counselor. She started going to the camp when she was 3-years-old after receiving her cochlear implant.
“I love camp. This is my deaf family,” she said. “We can bring the deaf community together, make friends and people who are just like you get to experience something together.”