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Rainbow Project: MELISSA KVITKO

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July 1, 2016 by Polarn O. Pyret

After going through a smooth pregnancy and birth, Melissas little baby Sonya Rose did not pass the hearing test at the hospital and was declared deaf. Sonya has had cochlear implants since 7 months and is now learning both English and Russian! 

MELISSA KVITKO (@mmkvitko)

When/How did you discover Sonya Rose had a hearing disability?
Like most babies, Sonya was screened for hearing loss a day after her birth. My pregnancy and her birth had gone very smoothly, but I still dreaded the hearing screen as my husband and I are both carriers of Connexin 26 – a non-syndromic hearing loss gene. This meant that there was a 25 percent chance that Sonya would have hearing loss. Still, I figured the odds were in our favor, so when the nurse informed us that Sonya had not passed, I was devastated. While we knew Sonya had hearing loss, we didn’t know the degree of the loss until eleven days later when we went to an audiologist to have a more sophisticated hearing test done. We learned then that Sonya had failed the test, indicating that she is deaf.   

Did you learn sign language?
When the audiologist informed us that Sonya was deaf, she gave us several options. First, we could learn sign language and to have Sonya learn it too. Alternatively, we could go the “oral auditory” route, meaning that Sonya would be fitted for hearing aids initially and later, cochlear implants, and with intense speech therapy, she would learn to speak and hear just like a hearing child. We decided to go the second route. No one in our family knows ASL, and I wanted more than anything for Sonya to be part of the world I knew. Sonya was fitted for hearing aids when she was a month old, and she received bilateral cochlear implants at seven months. I think it would be wonderful if Sonya one day learned ASL, but for the time being, English and Russian are priority. 

Do her friends know how to sign? 
Four days a week, I take Sonya to the Center for Hearing and Communication, where she receives individual and group speech therapy. The other babies in her group therapy wear either hearing aids or cochlear implants. They are learning how to speak and listen. 

Is/will Sonya Rose attend a regular school? 
That is the goal! Next year, Sonya will be in a mainstream twos program at Habonim Nursery School. 

What are Sonya’s favorite activities?
Sonya loves to go down the big slide at Mariners’ Playground in Central Park. She loves to read and play with her doll house. Above all, she loves to watch and talk about Peppa Pig. 

What is Sonya Rose favorite hearing aid color? 
For the time being, the processors (which fit behind her ears) are beige and her coils (which attach to her head) are brown. Sonya can always choose brighter colors later. She dresses them up with adorable crochet headbands and bandanas that are designed for cochlear implants (Rubybands on Etsy).


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