CASTLE Center offers help to children with hearing problems
Posted May 23, 2013
Durham, N.C. — Eleven-year-old Parker Shoun loves music and dancing, but before he got cochlear implants in his ears, he couldn't hear the notes.
Born in January 2002, Parker didn't pass a newborn hearing test, so his parents took him to an audiologist. The audiologist said Parker's hearing was fine, but his parents knew better.
"Imagine a 2-year-old with no language," said Parker's mother, Holly Shoun. "He was really difficult to keep in a chair and have a lesson with."
When hearing aids and special teaching didn't help, his parents took him to the Carolyn J. Brown Center for the Acquisition of Spoken Language Through Listening Enrichment (CASTLE), part of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Director Hannah Eskridge said Parker's audiologist was not experienced enough in pediatrics. CASTLE, she said, specializes in hearing aids, FM technology and cochlear implants.
Parker was fitted for his first implant at age 3, followed by daily therapy at the center, which includes helping children use their new ability to hear to learn to speak.
It's the only program of its kind in North Carolina, and many families travel hours to get the help they need.
"I know some of the other students were coming from Winston-Salem, Wilmington, driving every day," said Michael Shoun, Parker's father.
But a new CASTLE program called REACH allows the center's experts to connect with families through a computer screen.
"Now we can work with so many more families and so many more professionals without ever leaving the CASTLE Center," Eskridge said.
Summer Allison said REACH has been a huge help for her family.
"It's very important for us," she said. "We live in western North Carolina, and we just don't have access to auditory verbal therapists."
Her 1-year-old daughter, Olivia, received hearing aids at 3 months and should have no speech delays when she begins kindergarten.
Parker is keeping up with his peers in fourth grade, but his late diagnosis, implantation and speech therapy are evident in his speech. Parker says he's fine with that.
"I'm like the only one (in my class) with cochlear implants, so I feel special," he said.