ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Like many moms, Andrea Szenderski waits for her baby to get home from school and off the bus. What you wouldn’t be able to see is what her daughter Jillian can't hear. Jillian is profoundly deaf. So how does she know how to respond to her mom's questions and requests? For the answer we have to go back more than three years
When we first met Jillian, her world was silent. In 2008, Dr. Peter Orobella installed her first cochlear implant at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. The cochlear is a device that acts like a bionic ear, stimulating auditory nerves with electrical impulses. We sat next to her as her audiologist activated the device, watching her react to her first sounds.
At first, Jillian wanted nothing to do with this new world, constantly pulling off her new ear. “It was hard for both of us," said her mother. "It would be every morning, her screaming and crying and me crying because I know how important these are and how every day is crucial."
But since the first implant worked, Andrea was convinced her daughter needed one in the other ear.
“Unfortunately, people who have hearing aides only, really can only get to a fourth grade reading level," said speech language pathologist Sarah Wilson. "You can't get very far in school with that reading level. Research has shown people with implants can go in regular classes, graduate from high school, go to college. So, the impact on education is humongous."
In pre-K classes at Cross Bayou Elementary School in Pinellas County, Jillian's teachers said she is now speaking in short sentences. Her speech -- unintelligible to most listeners seven months ago -- is now understandable to anyone.
Andrea's goal is to guide her into regular kindergarten. “She’s going to own the world one day. Here we see her getting on the bus and she'll probably be driving the bus next week. She's just that type of person. There are no limitations for her. I'm so proud of her."
For more information:
Cross Bayou Elementary School
6886 102nd ave
Pinellas Park, FL
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