"GIVING THE GIFT OF SPEECH:"
A LETTER FROM MARIA
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
If you’re reading this, your child has likely been diagnosed deaf or hearing impaired. No doubt you are scared, confused, and, above all, seeking answers. With over thirty-five years of experience in deaf education, I understand the struggle you face. I have met hundreds of parents like you who are determined to secure a bright future for their child, and I have worked hard to provide each of them with the resources they need to do just that. However, my knowledge is based on more than professional expertise—for I too am the parent of a child who is deaf.
I was initially inspired to enter the field of deaf education as a student, first earning my bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders, then my master’s in Audiology. In 1986, I joined the Peace Corp and was sent overseas to Ecuador. There, while helping local community members build a school, I met a rural family whose two-year-old daughter, Lorena, was deaf. Lorena and I soon became inseparable. Recognizing that they were ill-equipped to meet their daughter’s unique developmental needs, the family asked me to adopt her. Without hesitating, I agreed. Thus, at the age of 26, with Lorena in tow, I flew back to the United States to embark on my new life as a single mother of a child who was deaf.
Just a few years later, in 1999, I was recruited by three Cincinnati families—the Burns, Gartners, and Murphys—whose children were deaf and hearing impaired and had received cochlear implants. United by a profound commitment to their children, the families raised funds and sought the advice of experts to establish a school where children like theirs could learn to listen and speak. They named it Ohio Valley Oral School and asked me to be its Executive Director. Under the mentorship of Jean Moog, a pioneer in oral education, I began working with the founding families to build the fledgling program from the ground up.
Since then, Ohio Valley Voices—or, as we like to call it, OVV—has expanded beyond what any of the original founders could have imagined. In total, 229 children have graduated from our program and gone on to enter mainstream schools. An astounding 83% have attended college including prestigious institutions like MIT, Harvard and UPenn.
OVV produces these unmatched outcomes by offering personalized intervention in a language-enriched environment. Knowing the majority of learning happens at home, we also equip parents and caregivers to play an active role in their child’s speaking journey. This approach has made OVV one of the best programs of its kind in the country. Indeed, families have relocated from across the US and around the world to benefit from our outstanding curriculum and services. Upon arriving, they find that OVV is built on more than cutting-edge science—it’s built on love.
OVV is dedicated to helping families like yours unlock their child’s full potential. So, no matter how scared and uncertain you feel right now, please know there is hope. Reach out, schedule a tour, and come witness firsthand the miracles that happen every day at Ohio Valley Voices. Together, we can give your child the gift of speech!
Maria Sentelik MS
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