STEM Summer Camp Teaches Hearing Impaired, Non-Hearing Impaired Children to Learn Together

'She’s thinking about what she can do, not about what her body is unable to do,' mom says of her 8-year-old daughter who attended the camp

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A North Texas university hosted a summer camp in hopes of bringing together children with different hearing and speech capabilities.

Texas Woman’s University in Denton hosted a four-day camp this week for children between the ages of 5 and 12. The children were taught STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- concepts using LEGO building blocks.

The group included children who are deaf, those who are hard of hearing and those who are not hearing impaired.

Chad Smith is with TWU’s Deaf Education program.

“The deaf and the hearing kiddos that are here can recognize that folks with hearing differences are just like them. They can have fun together,” said Chad Smith with TWU’s Deaf Education program. “The kids love it. Some of the kids are familiar with LEGO already. They have done some building and creating already. Some of the kiddos have absolutely no experience other than what they’ve seen on TV or daycare or at home with a sibling.”

Luz Varela’s 8-year-old daughter Ava was one of the 12 children who participated in the summer camp at TWU. Varela said her daughter lost her hearing at a young age and currently uses a cochlear implant. The small electronic device electrically stimulates the cochlear nerve, which is the nerve for hearing.

Ava’s audiologist suggested the camp, Varela said.

“When I first heard about the camp, I really wasn’t all that excited,” she recalled. “It wasn’t until Ava came home raving about it. She just wouldn’t stop talking about it. She actually said, ‘Gosh I wish it would last longer.' I thought to myself, ‘Hmm there’s really something here.’”

The camp has given her daughter confidence in her capabilities and newfound curiosity in STEM, she said.

“I think this will help my daughter in the long run, not just today. It’s planted a seed in her head that I don’t think will ever be taken away,” she said. “I don’t think she’s thinking about how she’s different. I think she’s thinking about what she can do, not about what her body is unable to do.”

According to TWU officials, the camp is also beneficial for the counselors who assist. They’re students within the university’s deaf and hearing impaired program. Jesse Gonzalez served as a counselor this week. He has aspirations of becoming a nurse one day, Gonzalez said.

“I see myself maybe encountering people with certain disabilities, like hard of hearing or deaf individuals,” he said. “Being able to communicate with them will be able to help expand the amount of help I can give out to people.”

For more information on TWU’s summer camps, click here.

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