Patti RasmussenThe SignalPauline HarteRichard RiouxTim WhyteLeon Worden

Help for the hearing-impaired child

Patti Rasmussen · October 25, 1997

Fourteen-year-old Nick is an eighth grader at Arroyo Seco Junior High. He is carrying a 4.0 grade point average. He also carries a microphone in his backpack, something he needs to ensure that his GPA stays that high. Nick is hard of hearing and the microphone is part of an auditory trainer he gives to each teacher to be able to hear what they are saying in class.

Michael, a third grade student at Old Orchard School, also carries an auditory trainer. Lee, a first grader at the same school uses an "Easy Listener." And at Newhall Elementary, a Sound Field system allows the teacher to amplify her voice through a speaker, which not only helps the hearing impaired child, but all children in the classroom.

These students are just a few who are under the care of Bobbi Welton, an itinerant teacher for the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Hired by the County to start the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, Welton has been servicing all the school districts in the Santa Clarita Valley and Castaic for over 21 years.

Welton's interest in working with deaf children began while volunteering at a summer camp for handicapped children. Upon entering Texas Tech, she majored in special education with emphasis on the deaf-oral program. "I really believe in total communication -- signing, speech and auditory training," said Welton. "Children need the opportunity to try everything, and with help from their parents and specialists, they are able to choose what's best for them."

Welton travels from school to school to assist and monitor the children who have been identified with a hearing loss by an audiologist. She trains teachers and support staff on how to use the special equipment these students require. She believes that the ability to keep the hearing impaired student in their neighborhood school is very important because it enables them to interact with their friends.

Welton explains, "This handicap is very misunderstood. It is not visible. With long hair, you can't even see the hearing aids. But when they do something inappropriate, because they did not hear what was said, kids think they're strange. These are bright kids; they can do almost anything they want if given the help and opportunity."

Welton and her fellow teachers -- Leslie Gilbright, Hildi Ernsberger and Belinda Hulien -- keep tabs on students as young as three and as old as 21 years of age. The Early Start Infant and Toddler Program connects with handicapped children from newborn through pre-school. Erica Henson, program coordinator, invites parents to stop by at the new location at Canyon Springs School, 19059 Vicci Street, Room 27, Canyon Country on Tuesday, October 28 for their Open House from 2 until 7 p.m. For more information, please call Henson at (805) 299-4498.

As for Michael and Lee, they received their new batteries and continue with their education at their neighborhood school. Lee, the first grader, continues to learn his favorite coping skill -- lip reading. "We have to listen and watch the person talking," Lee says. "I get the trick. We have to follow directions. I'm good at this."

As Welton travels from school to school, singing along to music from her favorite off-hours activity -- the COC "Voices of the Canyons" -- she keeps her pager with her all times to handle any emergency. If you would like more information regarding this program, please call Bobbi Welton at (805) 250-4928.

For years I have heard of these hearing impaired children from my friend Sharon Evans. She was hired 26 years ago as Bobbi Welton's assistant. She passed away unexpectedly last spring. I never knew how attached she was to these children until I watched them at her funeral. They were her extended family and I could see that she would be leaving a empty spot in their hearts.

The Evans family continues to go through yet another tragedy with the recent loss of Amy, Sharon's daughter-in-law. To Jim (my special friend) and Rick and his boys, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you at this tremendously sad and emotional time in your lives.

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On Monday, October 27 at 7 p.m., Valencia High School will be hosting a Candidates Night for those individuals running for the William S. Hart Union High School Board of Trustees. James Foster and Helmers PTA are collaborating on a Candidates Night for the Saugus Union School District starting at 7:45 p.m. Please plan to attend these forums as the election is right around the corner. Remember, "A little knowledge goes a long way." For more information contact Valencia High at (805) 294-1188 or James Foster Elementary at (805) 297-8840. I'll see you there.

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Patti Rasmussen's commentaries appear in The Signal on Saturdays.

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