For many families, Ohio Valley Voices is the lifeline they need after their child has been diagnosed deaf or hard of hearing. Through OVV, the Dressman family learned how to navigate the complexities of communication, education, and personal development, especially during the early years of their son Jack’s life.
Jack Dressman was diagnosed profoundly deaf in both ears at one month old. When infants are identified with hearing loss, the primary concern is often their language and social-emotional development. Jack’s parents, Amanda and Gary, accepted the diagnosis and immediately began researching options for their son.
“We knew we would figure out a way for Jack to get all the necessary intervention and instruction he needed to succeed,” Amanda states. The family’s research extended beyond Dayton, Ohio, where Jack was born. “We learned about OVV from an acquaintance of one of our family members. Sara Wolf had a son, Matthew, who attended the school, so we contacted them to learn more.”
“As soon as we toured the campus and met Maria and Molly, we knew there was no other place on this planet better suited for Jack,” Amanda adds. Children attending OVV are encouraged to learn and grow within a caring community of teachers, parents, and other children. Jack enrolled in OVV at four months old. His best friend is Logan Turk, but Jack loves all his classmates, according to his mom.
“Jack is currently enrolled in the Learning Center with his phenomenal teachers, Ms. Kari Weinheimer and Ms. Sarah Frazier. They are the quintessential kindergarten teachers you would want your child to have. Both of them are considered members of our extended family,” Amanda says. In addition to learning the alphabet and numbers, Jack receives speech therapy. “I think his speech sounds are beautiful. No one would even know he is deaf by listening to him speak,” Amanda adds.
Kari Weinheimer has Jack for most of his school day. “The attention to detail and the amount of work she puts into teaching Jack everything he needs to learn has been absolutely mind-blowing,” Amanda says. “Ms. Kari uses a variety of teaching methods to appeal to the different ways Jack learns. He is not a traditional student, and Ms. Kari goes above and beyond to really push Jack to do more than what we ever thought he was capable of doing.”
Jack is a social butterfly. He loves to be with his friends at OVV and enjoys creating art, imaginative play, and conquering new skills. For him, Ms. Kari has the best art projects.
Jack has two more years at Ohio Valley Voices. His parents are currently undecided about where he will mainstream. “We hope he will be able to join his older brothers, Liam (10) and Luke (9), at Incarnation Catholic School in Dayton,” Amanda says.
Jack is a very imaginative child who adores his brothers. Amanda thinks Jack learns so much from watching, listening, and playing with his older brothers. “Jack is literally a ball of energy!” Amanda laughs. “Jack loves playing outside. He has an incredible imagination and loves riding his bike and playing with matchbox cars.”
“He is so incredibly sweet and thoughtful and very intuitive with regard to others emotions and well-being. He loves to make everyone laugh and is really tenderhearted,” remarks Amanda. “Jack is also incredibly stubborn. He knows what he wants and likes, and no one changes his mind once it’s made up!”
Amanda believes early intervention as well as collaboration with physicians, speech therapists, counselors, and teachers are allowing Jack to reach his full potential. “Ohio Valley Voices has been one of the biggest blessings in our life. We cannot imagine what life would be like for Jack if we did not have OVV guiding him, and us, on this journey,” says Amanda.
“Everything OVV does for its students has so much thought and dedication behind it. They figure out ways to meet and even go beyond what each individual child needs to be their best self. They are absolutely remarkable at what they do. I know my family, and most importantly Jack, would be absolutely lost without them, especially in those first few critical years.”
When asked how others can support OVV’s mission, Amanda emphasizes the importance of spreading the word by sharing stories like Jack’s. “We need to remind others that being deaf affects so many people, and that without early intervention kids would not have the same chance at learning and understanding spoken language, reading and writing, and becoming active members of society.”
Amanda encourages everyone to sign up for a tour too. “Visit Ohio Valley Voices and see the good they do and the lives they change. Talk with Maria and hear the passion in her voice as she describes OVV and the huge commitment required to run the program. Volunteer and support their efforts. It is a no-brainer and such a rewarding experience,” Amanda attests. “There will never be a time in my life that I will forget what they have done to help Jack be successful and overcome so many hurdles. My family is forever indebted to OVV.”