Kay’s Story Continues By Nancy Rose

At the young age of 13 I became a certified babysitter and started babysitting my 2 littlecousins; the newest additions to a family of already 4 kids. Two years later, a 3rdbeautiful baby girl was born, Kay.  Everything seemed normal until about month 6 when her parents and doctorsnoticed her slower-than-normal development. To our surprise, we discovered that she was Deaf.

My Aunt and Uncle were in shock and denial for quite some time. What an unexpected obstacle for a child! At 2 years old, Kay had a Cochlearimplant. She had a head cast for a few days and had to re-learn how to walk.  We would take walks around the neighborhood and go to the pool in the summers, which she enjoyed. It broke my heart knowing that this beautiful girl would struggle so much to communicate. Preferences, desires, requests, and needs all had to be guessed. I quickly became passionate to learn sign languagefor Kay’s sake, who I loved so much, and also as an example to the other kids since I had a unique role to help with the family as a caretaker several days a week.

Fortunately for me, Sycamore High School offered American Sign Language as a language for credit.I loved ASL class and found myself using it all the time! It just came naturally to me.  Eventually,my 3 younger sisters and Kay’s 2 eldest sistersjoined me and through our passion and enthusiasm, we worked to encourage the youngest kids and parents to keep learning.In fact,one of the oldest sisters is now getting her masters, studying Speech and Language Pathology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

I continued my ASL education through Xavier University for 3 years and became fluent, loving the extracurricular events through the Deaf community and school.  I even met a nice Deaf guy who I dated for a few weeks.  He was super fun and funny and it was a great experience!

Kay is now 14 years old and has learned some sign through her school and other kids. Her parents have tried to learn the basics, as well as home signs and names that have been developed over time. However, in a fast paced family of 9 children, 8 of which are hearing, Kay still has trouble communicating with others. Some of these issues are due to her partial autism, which was diagnosed years ago. She is still distant and can lay on a couch or carpet for hours just looking at her hands or off to the side. In spite of the obstacles, I KNOW she is much smarter than she gets credit for and can’t help but wonder how different her life might be under other financial circumstances or with the proper attention and care in addition to her family’s love.

I have watched the constant battle fought by my aunt and uncle with the school systems, public and private and aids with her unique situation to provide for her emotional and educational growth as best as they can. Meanwhile, time passes so quickly and Kay is another year old… This is not acceptable! The non-deaf community needs to stop and listen to the needs of this precious group of people!!

I have a dream to create an educational institution that is staffed with people like me who have a love and passion for children and the Deaf community. People who believe that there should exist an opportunity for every child to develop and be equipped to reach their full potential. There will be plenty of aids, an option for boarding, first class facilities and technology, and the financial support to not have to turn away any family or child in need. One child at a time, a difference can be made to help their development and education; and positivelyimpact his/her life and the life of the family. That is my vision.

Although I feel like so much has been out of my control with Kay and that she has lost out on some years, I see a bright future for her.  I know she is a winner inside and there will be a day when she can share her own story and impact people. Until then, I will continue to spread awareness about this need for a group of people to be heard until something changes. Who knows, maybe Kay will be the keynote speaker at Kay Institute one day.

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