Any way you pronounce it, ‘graduation’ is a big deal

“Graduation is a big deal, but for some students, it’s a hard word to say,” Carle Auditory Oral School (CAOS) Director Danielle Chalfant said.

“Since the children love talking about the upcoming special event, we need to find a way to help them say it clearly so their friends and family members can understand them,” she said.

“We’re working through it by breaking it up into parts that are more manageable, such as ‘grad’ ‘joo’ ‘aye’ and ‘shin,’ and then putting it back together into one whole word.”  

Children with normal hearing start learning how to make sounds and understand and use language through listening before they are even born. Children who are deaf and hard of hearing often miss those experiences until they get hearing aids or cochlear implants. 

According to Chalfant, “Some students get their hearing technology by the time they are a month or even a year old. But for varying reasons, others don’t gain good access to sound until they are 3 or even 5 years old. And the later they get access, the more catching up we need to do, and the more different learning strategies we use.

“We meet a family where they are and then take them as far as they can go.”

Thirty-two students will participate in the celebration of their accomplishments this year at the graduation ceremony at 10 a.m. June 27 at The Forum at Carle. Fifteen of the students, seven of whom are deaf and hard of hearing, will transition to new schools in the fall.

Twins Ezekiel (Zeke) and Elijah (Eli) Beyer will do just that. The boys will enter Mahomet schools in the fall and are anticipating three recesses.

“Our boys are now confident in their communication, speech and language skills. They expanded their vocabulary and are prepared to tackle any problems that children with hearing loss may experience in the larger, mainstream classroom,” their dad, Korbin, said.

The boys have progressed more than six years in speech and language milestones during their four years at CAOS—far more than parents Korbin and Marla Beyer imagined.

“It’s had to grasp how amazing this is unless you really understand the detailed checklists they’ve worked on and completed every single day,” Marla said.

The boys’ progress leading up to graduation has been steady. A team of parents, teachers, audiologists, surgeons and speech therapists collaborated. There were setbacks and tears.

“This chapter of their young lives is nearly done, but it’s packed full of rich memories, wonderful people, incredible blessings of communication and the anticipation,” Marla said.

Graduation also will include a new silent auction featuring the students’ artwork.

Zeke and Eli are preparing their speeches for graduation with a patriotic theme. They’ll don their best red, white and blue attire.

“The best part is waving the flags while we sing. And we get to take them home, too,” Zeke said.

Unlike many adults, even those with normal hearing, Zeke and Eli are fearless about speaking on stage.

“I’ve been practicing. Zero times today, but I’m ready!” Eli said.

They join their classmates in delivering great success stories, and those who attend should expect tears of joy.

“It’s all about me, but also saying thank you,” Zeke said.

The Beyer family will be there to cheer.

“For a parent of deaf children, the milestone of being able to read, write and communicate is one of the richest gifts possible and something that cannot ever be taken away. CAOS has made our dreams come true, and we can't wait to see what lies ahead,” grateful mom Marla said.

Carle Auditory Oral School is funded in part by generous donations to Carle Center for Philanthropy. Every year, charitable gifts provide operational support, making the school accessible to families in need and equipping classrooms with state-of-the-art equipment and supplies for children with hearing loss.