Joyce Tilling grew by leaps and bounds during her time at Ohio Valley Voices—a journey that culminated with her graduation from the program in May. Although her teachers will certainly miss having her in class, they look forward to seeing all that she accomplishes at Loveland Primary School in the fall. When asked what she’s most looking forward to at her new school, Joyce says she can’t wait to be in a big classroom because of all the new friends she’ll make.
Joyce’s family describes her as kind and patient—while knowing how to be silly, too. She loves to be a helper and to care for other people. “Joyce is one of the bravest and most determined kids I have ever met, with the most loving heart,” her mother, Emily Tilling, says. “When she started at Ohio Valley Voices, confidence was not one of her top traits. However, since being at OVV, her confidence has skyrocketed. I am so thrilled to see her believe in herself as much as we believe in her.”
In 2015, when Joyce was born, she failed her newborn hearing screening. She was not officially diagnosed with conductive hearing loss until she was almost three. Despite being heartbroken by the news, Joyce’s parents, Emily and Joshua Tilling, initially felt relieved; the doctors had recommended hearing aids, which gave them hope that Joyce would make progress in her speech and language skills.
Before Emily and Joshua learned about Ohio Valley Voices, they weren’t sure how to best approach speech therapy and schooling for Joyce. It wasn’t until they moved to Loveland that they discovered OVV by chance. While shopping at a store, Emily was approached by someone who noticed Joyce’s hearing aids. It turned out that the person was an OVV parent. The rest is history.
At the age of four, Joyce officially enrolled at Ohio Valley Voices, starting in the Discovery Center. She made a lot of wonderful memories during her time in the program, but her favorites are the Circus Show and themed dress-up days (especially Wacky Wednesday). She also loved Miss Katy’s dance parties.
Central to these memories is friendship. One of the highlights of Joyce’s final year at OVV was becoming good friends with Jayce Leeds in speech class. Joyce woke up sad on the first day of summer break because she already missed seeing her friends.
Joyce also formed unique relationships with OVV’s teachers and administrators, and none of these was more impactful than her connection to Katy Baron (or “Miss Katy”) in the Learning Center. According to Emily, Katy has a knack for highlighting each student’s strengths without making the others feel belittled. This helped Joyce and her classmates grow in confidence without fear of making a mistake.
“Katy was exactly the teacher Joyce needed at the end of her OVV journey,” Emily says. “Every time we went somewhere or did something special or fun, Joyce would ask me to send a picture to Katy so she could tell her about it the next day at school. Katy once told me that talking with Joyce was just like chatting with a friend, and I think Joyce felt the same way about Katy.” (You can read more about Katy in our July Newsletter Staff Spotlight by clicking here.)
Outside of school, Joyce enjoys doing crafts while pretending to make YouTube videos documenting her process. She recently became interested in theater and acting as well. Joyce is an avid learner in and out of school and has spent the last several months reading about different countries. She also loves playing outside, planting flowers, riding her scooter, and making fairy gardens with her little sister, Alice.
Joyce’s family have played an active role in supporting her oral language development at home. With guidance from OVV’s staff, they have learned how to gently correct mistakes in her speech, and they regularly read with her to help reinforce language skills. Joyce also plays a lot of language-rich make-believe games with her sister, including one they call “speech therapist.”
Joyce certainly loved being at OVV, but, as Emily explains, it wasn’t just a perfect fit for her daughter; it provided their whole family with tremendous support: “Having a child with hearing loss in a hearing world is less daunting to us because we know we have people in our corner who love and support us.”
The Tillings say their overall experience at Ohio Valley Voices has been amazing. “We know that because of her experiences at OVV, Joyce will thrive wherever she goes,” Emily says. “We also have more knowledge about how we can support her in her continued speech development. Ohio Valley Voices was exactly what we needed at exactly the right time.”
Emily wishes everyone knew about OVV because there are so many kids who could benefit from the program but don’t know that it exists. “Our local community has such a great resource in Ohio Valley Voices,” she says. “We need to spread the word about it, whether that’s by participating in events, sharing on social media, or talking to a stranger at the store. It could change someone’s life.”