In what has become an annual experience for the Utah State University football team select student-athletes will again visit children with hearing impairments in the <a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.soundbeginnings.usu.edu/”>Sound Beginnings program</a> in USU’s Center for Early Childhood Education.
Friday from 10:30 to 12:30 team members will be involved in activities with the children.
Sound Beginnings is an early education program providing home and center-based services to children with hearing loss whose families want their kids to learn to listen and talk.
“This event with the football team started about three years ago,” said Dr. Kristina Blaiser, Sound Beginnings Director. “Our program is one of the really unique programs in the country in that we have an early education program for children with hearing loss on a university campus.
“One of best experiences on a university campus is football and we wanted to instill that school spirit in our children and their families at an early age.
“It’s been great. Not only do the kids and their families get this opportunity to meet and play football with these players, but it’s really been fun to see the student-athletes be pretty astonished by what these kids with significant hearing loss can do. It’s been a great experience for everyone involved.”
Blaiser said it’s an experience the children anticipate for weeks, with a countdown chart in the halls with pictures of the football players, knowing that with each new day they are closer to the team arriving.
“We have about 40 students in the Sound Beginnings program, from birth to about six years of age. It is our hope that we can start seeing children and get them enrolled in early intervention as soon as possible.
“Now, with newborn hearing screening we can identify children within those first few months of life. We can start with providing services to them in the home and then they start coming to campus around 18 months.
“Our goal is to mainstream them into their neighborhood schools as soon as possible with the best skills possible. It’s been really successful; most of our kids are entering into kindergarten and first grade alongside their hearing peers.”
Dr. Blaiser said Friday will include a tailgating party the families sponsor. The athletes all sign posters for the kids. Then they will do warm-ups where they play with the kids and then sometimes there is a flag football scrimmage.