State funding was approved this week for a longtime Akron Children’s Hospital program that provides early intervention services for babies with hearing loss or hearing impairment.

The $315,000 funding provides the yearly budget for Children’s program, which offers one-on-one visits as well as videochat sessions to families in 55 counties across the state, said Sandi Domoracki, project director and a Children’s audiologist with the Early Intervention Hearing Services in the hospital’s Family Child Learning Center.

The program works with the state’s Help Me Grow Early Intervention programs to provide specialized services to families with infants and toddlers (newborn to age 3) who are hearing-impaired.

The program has been in existence for 20 years, said Domoracki, and uses audiologists and speech pathologists to personally visit families of babies and children with hearing loss to help the child and family adjust.

Teaching the family skills is key to the children not having communication delays as they grow, she said.

“Giving them therapy once a week isn’t exactly magic. If we can work with the family, they can carry it through,” said Domoracki.

New within the last few years is the ability to offer video conference calls with families in 55 of Ohio’s counties through Children’s hospital, she said.

That really helps in rural communities that don’t have access to experts, she said.

Research has shown that if a specialized provider works with families of babies with hearing loss before the age of 6 months to teach better communication skills — such as line language — “the kids do really well and they can achieve their reading level at kindergarten,” said Domoracki.

In announcing the funding, Akron area Democrat and House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes said: “I am happy to see the state invest in its most precious resource: our children. These services will provide children and their families with the necessary resources to help prepare them for the future and alleviate some of the hardships that these families might face.”

Children’s has to re-apply for the grant and is thrilled the funding will continue, said Domoracki.

It makes a difference, she said.

“I have watched kids from the time they’re identified until they’ve graduated from high school,” she said.

 

Beacon Journal consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/topics/linfisher