Jan 2019 Omaha World-Herald

Fletcher Beard was born deaf. Diagnosed at 3 months old, his parents quickly got past their grief and were ready to take action. “I remember those feelings of despair, but now I chuckle,” said Fletcher’s dad, Aaron Beard. “You just figure it out.” Beard and his wife, Angie, started researching programs and treatments for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. They were thrilled to learn there was a cutting-edge facility only a few miles from their Omaha home: Boys Town National Research Hospital’s Center for Childhood Deafness, Language and Learning. “They are the best in the country and then you find out how nice they are,” Beard said. “They are not only the best and the brightest; every single person we have come across is the complete package.”

Boys Town National Research Hospital is internationally recognised for its research and services for children with hearing loss, developmental language disorders and communication problems. The doctors, audiologists and staff are experts in cochlear implant surgery; education for the deaf and hard of hearing; counselling for children and families; and other services that change the way kids with communication disorders are cared for from birth to adulthood. The goal of the Center is to combine clinical services, innovative research and national outreach focused on language, communication development and early interventions to support children and their families.

“When you are able to participate with a team of people who serve families and children, and offer them the best education and clinical services that are all based on evidence and research-driven practices – it’s the best gift you can give to families,” said Cathy Carotta, the Center’s associate director and director of educational, clinical and outreach services.

Fletcher BeardFletcher Beard had cochlear implant surgery when he was 10 months old and again right before his first birthday. Now age 4, the boy can hear when he is wearing the implants. 

Fletcher Beard had cochlear implant surgery when he was 10 months old and again right before his first birthday. Now age 4, the boy can hear when he is wearing the implants. Said his dad: “He hears as well as I do when they are in. I can whisper to him across the room, and he’ll turn around and say, ‘What?’ ” While learning that a newborn is deaf or hard of hearing can be difficult for parents, Beard said, the support, services and friendship provided by the Center can help them move forward. Inspired – and wanting to do everything he could to help his son – Beard enrolled in the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s speech and language pathology program. Beard will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in May 2019. He previously served as a research assistant in the Center’s Language, Learning and Memory research lab, working closely with families and children like his on learning, comprehending and remembering language. “It doesn’t have to be devastating, and it’s the not the end of the world,” Beard said. “It’s just the start of an entirely different path.”

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