As her mom Lisa chats with other parents nearby, Lily Cable splashes with several kids hovering around a playground wading pool.
Periodically, the little blonde girl brings cupfuls of water from a nearby fountain to keep the fun going.
Every cup helps, it seems.
Lisa says the two-year-old is a charismatic tot with an attitude – in a good way.
Lily is like any other kid, she says, even if the earrings she wears dangle from hearing aids.
This morning, she’s taking part in the annual Mingle and Play event at the BC Family Hearing Resource Society (BCFHRS) centre in Fleetwood.
There are about 60 youngsters splashing, running, climbing, jumping – basically being kids.
The event is a meet-and-greet for parents, caregivers and young clients at the largest agency in the province serving children from birth to age five who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Lily was diagnosed at the age of two months as hard of hearing, became a client at the BCFHRS at three months, and was wearing hearing aids at four months.
Early intervention is not unusual these days.
For several years now, B.C. hospitals have been doing hearing tests on all newborns.
Re-tests for early fails are done at two months, and if a diagnosis is made, BCFHRS clinicians use their expertise to help the kids with speech, language, communication, hearing development and treatment strategies.
Their programs include individual services to children and families, through the soundproof 8,000-square-foot centre – complete with two large classrooms and four therapy rooms – and outreach workers throughout the province.
About 250 children use the centre’s deaf and hard of hearing services – they include language, speech and auditory therapy, parent-to-parent support, sign language instruction, cochlear implant habilitation and educational materials.
The centre has a team of 20 staffers who perform hearing intervention, speech pathology, teaching of the deaf and hard of hearing and auditory verbal therapy.
Three support staff – all early childhood education workers, one of them a sign language teacher – are all either deaf or hard of hearing, notes BCFHRS executive director Noreen Simmons.
“The deaf staff uses only sign language to communicate.”
Photo: Deaf and hard-of-hearing kids and their caregivers participate in a mingle-and-play event at the BC Family Hearing Resource Society’s centre in Fleetwood.
BCFHRS also runs the Surrey Early Speech and Language Program (SESLP), which serves about 400 local kids and specializes in speech and language disorders – such as stuttering – that are not related to hearing loss.
Half of BCFHRS’s clients are from the Fraser Valley. The rest are the B.C. interior (17 per cent), Vancouver Coastal (15 per cent), Northern B.C. (nine per cent) and Vancouver (nine per cent).
The BCFHRS’ building has been the society’s headquarters for the last nine of its 29 years. It is funded by the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development as well as public donations, including major annual contributions by the Royal Purple of Canada, a group linked to The Elks.
The Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children, which donated $108,000 to the BCFHRS on Aug. 7, has states its purpose on The Royal Purple’s website: “To provide medical funding for children under the age of 19 and support programs addressing the needs of children with hearing and speech disorder.”
And these days, they’re getting helped younger than ever.
Compared with other kids diagnosed at the at age of three or four, early diagnosis “makes a world of difference,” says Lisa.
By the age of one, Lily had already caught up to her peers in speech and language with the therapy at the centre.
“If you were to put her in a group of kids her age, she’d speak the same as them,” she says, crediting the early adoption of hearing aids.
Lisa says having a child with a diagnosis of a hearing problem does not have to define who they are – especially when there’s help available.
“The other thing is when they get them this early, she doesn’t know any different,” she adds. “She’s not like a five-year-old who now has to try to put them on and feel different (from other kids). She’s always known them and loves having them in because she can hear us.
“She’s a perfectly normal kid, and that’s all you can ask for, right?”
For more information about the BC Family Hearing Resource Society, visit www.bcfamilyhearing.com, email email@example.com, or call 604-584-2827 (voice) or 604-584-9108 (TTY – text telephone).