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Fewer parents of kids with hearing/visual impairments signing up for programs

Posted at 11:01 PM, Sep 15, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind has seen a decrease in enrollment in the Baby Watch Early Childhood Intervention program during the pandemic. They are encouraging all families who have children who are hearing or vision impaired to reach out.

Baby Watch is part of the Utah Department of Health.

"We're here and we're ready to help," said Susan Patten, associate superintendent for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. "We're wanting that opportunity, so please give us that opportunity."

Deborah Painter's daughter Emory was born with vision impairments.

"She was born, and I just started recognizing that she was having a few delays that my other children didn't have," Painter said.

For children with hearing or vision impairments, early childhood intervention is key for development.

"It's critical," Patten said. "Not only for the child from birth through three, but also for the family."

The school says through the pandemic, they have seen a decrease in families utilizing their services.

"Our thinking is that parents are so concerned with what's going on, and trying to keep their child healthy," Patten said. "Maybe we're missing some of those developmental milestones."

Their Baby Watch Early Intervention program provides families with service coordination, speech therapy and developmental services among many other things.

For Shanda Miller's twins, who were born prematurely and with hearing and vision loss, the program has made all the difference.

"Both of them had retinopathy prematurity, and my son also had hearing loss," Miller said. "It has honestly been life changing. We obviously didn't expect to be thrown into this world of intensive medical needs."

Painter said the program has helped her in ways she would not have thought of on her own.

"They would come and give me workable solutions to help," she said. "They just come up with some interesting activities that I don't think I would have normally thought of on my own."

Patten said families with children who have are hearing or vision impaired can tend to feel isolated. She wants to ensure that all families who need the help know that the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind is here to help them.