Jacqueline de la Fe, a physical therapist, began losing her hearing about 10 years ago, a result of Ménière’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that also affects her balance. Now 50, she says she’s thrilled with her new hearing devices. “I can’t imagine what I would do without them,” she says.
Founded in 1936 as the League for the Hard of Hearing, the center changed its name in 1961 as it expanded its services by adding speech therapy. Over the years, it pioneered the countywide preschool hearing-speech screening program and also added occupational, physical and behavior therapy. The organization screens 2,300 Miami-Dade preschoolers in 70 day-care and preschools every year.
This is one of executive director Beatriz Leon’s favorite programs, one she hopes to expand.
“Too often these children aren’t identified until kindergarten, when they’re not doing well in school,” Leon says. “And by then so much time has been lost.” (With most of the pediatric patients the center sees, the child’s hearing loss is also accompanied by cognitive delays and physical impairments.)
At the preschool screenings, parents are given information for follow up appointments and therapy, if necessary. The services “are A to Z, and everyone is welcome. We’re not saying no to anybody. We want to service everyone who needs it,” Leon adds.
The work is hard, but the results rewarding.
“You cry sometimes when you see a child who’s worked and worked and worked, and he finally tells the parent, ‘I want juice,’ Leon says. Those kind of aha moments we get a lot here.”