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LOFT Showed Her She Could Pursue Her Dream

From LOFT to LSLS, Laney’s dream of being an auditory-verbal therapist has come full circle.

Laney Anderson’s dream of being an auditory-verbal therapist has come full circle. In June, she will start work at the Auditory Verbal Center in Macon, GA, a satellite location of the Atlanta office where she received auditory-verbal therapy (AVT) when she was younger.

This career path has been made possible because she attended AG Bell’s Leadership Opportunities for Teens (LOFT) in 2015. Prior to LOFT, pursuing a career as an auditory-verbal therapist always lingered in the back of her head, but she felt she wasn’t smart enough.

LOFT Was Life Changing

“Once I got to LOFT, I met mentors who also had cochlear implants and/or hearing aids,” Laney said. “What inspired me to rethink going the AVT route was meeting one of the mentors who was an audiologist with cochlear implants, Stacey Lim. She talked about how she loved her job as an audiologist being a cochlear implant candidate herself.”

Laney almost didn’t even go to LOFT. It was out of her comfort zone and meant traveling far from home. Despite her nervousness, she didn’t know anyone her age with a cochlear implant and wanted to meet others like her.

“Once I got to the camp, I remember all my nerves went away once I saw all the other LOFTees’ cochlear implants and hearing aids,” Laney recalled. “The LOFT camp was one of the most amazing experiences in my life since I got to meet other people like me, explore Washington, DC, and engage in different activities to work on teamwork, build self-esteem, and grow confidence. My LOFTees and I have a Facebook Messenger group message where we all keep up with each other. We always talk about getting back together again one day!”

Hearing Loss Journey

Laney with her AVT therapist, Mary Ann Costin; CI surgeon, Dr. Wendell Todd; and audiologist, Jolie Fainberg

Laney’s journey began when she was born profoundly deaf. As it happens, the hospital was an early adopter of newborn hearing screenings. When she failed the test, the doctors told her parents not to be concerned because it was a new test and they were still trying to figure out how to best run it. They told her parents to come back in three months. But when Laney failed the test again, the doctors said the same thing – come back in three months. At six months, when Laney failed the test a third time, her parents knew something wasn’t right. They started searching for a way to best help Laney.

At 19 months old, Laney received a cochlear implant on her right side. She received a left-side cochlear implant at 8 years old.

While the only thing Laney really remembers about her therapy is playing with a lot of different toys and having her mother participate in sessions, she is forever thankful that her parents were brave enough to jump into something new and choose AVT. “I would not be where I am now if they had not made that choice,” she said. “They chose this therapy since my whole family is hearing and wanted me to be able to listen and talk with my family members, which I love to do and I am forever thankful I can listen and hear all their voices.”

Finding Her Passion

Laney almost went down another career path. Her starting major at Valdosta State University was deaf education. The summer after her freshman year, she had lunch with her auditory-verbal therapist, Mary Ann Costin, to catch up. Costin told her to look into speech-language pathology (SLP) because she always believed Laney was meant to become a therapist like her. Laney studied up on what SLP was and realized Costin was right. As soon as she returned to school, she changed her major. Once she started the SLP program in her junior year, she knew she was in the right field. Taking the audiology class cemented it.

“Not only did Mary Ann teach me how to listen and speak, she also is my mentor as I become an auditory-verbal therapist,” Laney said. “I can never thank her enough for what she has done for me and my family.”

After finishing up her clinical fellowship, Laney is getting married and moving to Macon. She is pursuing certification as a Listening and Spoken Language Therapist through the AG Bell Academy, which is the highest professional standard in the AVT field. The certification process takes three to five years, involves collaboration with a mentor, and requires the passing of a rigorous certification exam. While her fellowship is in her hometown of LaGrange, GA, there is a low population of people who are deaf and hard of hearing so she won’t be able to obtain enough hours for certification there. That is why she and her soon-to-be husband are moving to Macon. She will work at the Auditory Verbal Center there; it is a satellite location of the Atlanta, GA office, where she went as a child. “It is a full circle moment,” she said.

Laney is beyond excited for this next chapter. “Striving to become an auditory-verbal therapist is important to me since I see how far I’ve come in life with the foundational skills that auditory-verbal therapy provided me to listen and speak,” she said. “I want to encourage other families and children with cochlear implants that they can achieve anything in life and to not let their hearing differences get in the way of achieving their goals in life.”

EN LOFT APRENDIÓ QUE PODÍA PERSEGUIR SU SUEÑO

Por Lisa A. Goldstein

El sueño de Laney Anderson de llegar a ser terapeuta auditivo-verbal pronto se hará realidad. En junio empezará a trabajar en el Auditory Verbal Center de Macon (Georgia), un centro satélite de la oficina de Atlanta donde recibió terapia auditivo-verbal (TAV) cuando era una niña.

Esta trayectoria profesional es posible gracias a su asistencia en 2015 al programa LOFT (Oportunidades de liderazgo para adolescentes) de AG Bell. Antes del LOFT, la profesión de terapeuta auditivo-verbal siempre le había rondaba la cabeza, pero no se sentía suficientemente capaz.

LOFT le cambió la vida

«Cuando llegué al LOFT, conocí a mentores que también utilizaban implantes cocleares y audífonos», explica Laney. «Fue Stacey Lim, una mentora que era audióloga y utilizaba implantes cocleares, la que me hizo considerar seriamente seguir el camino de la TAV. Hablaba de lo mucho que le gustaba su trabajo como audióloga y de que había sido candidata a recibir implantes cocleares».

Laney estuvo a punto de no asistir al LOFT, ya que le obligaría a salir de su zona de confort y debería, además, realizar un viaje largo. Aunque sentía cierto nerviosismo, lo cierto es que no conocía a personas de su edad con un implante coclear y estaba deseando conocerlas.

«Una vez que llegué al campamento, recuerdo que todos mis nervios desaparecieron al ver que el resto de los participantes del LOFT llevaban implantes cocleares y audífonos», recuerda Laney. «El campamento LOFT fue una de las experiencias más impactantes de mi vida, ya que pude conocer a otras personas de mi edad, visitar Washington, DC, y participar en diferentes actividades destinadas a trabajar en equipo, fomentar la autoestima y la confianza personal. Mis compañeros del LOFT y yo tenemos un grupo de Facebook Messenger en el que nos mantenemos al día. Siempre hablamos de volver a reunirnos algún día».

El itinerario de la pérdida auditiva

Laney con su terapeuta de TAV, Mary Ann Costin; el cirujano de IC, Dr. Wendell Todd; y la audióloga, Jolie Fainberg

El itinerario de Laney comenzó cuando vino al mundo con una sordera profunda. El hospital en cuestión había sido uno de los primeros en adoptar el cribado auditivo neonatal. Tras no superar este cribado, los médicos aconsejaron a sus padres que no se preocuparan porque era una prueba nueva y todavía estaban estudiando la mejor manera de realizarla. Les dijeron que regresaran en tres meses. Transcurrido este tiempo, Laney tampoco superó la prueba y los médicos les dijeron lo mismo, que regresaran en tres meses. A los seis meses, cuando Laney no superó la prueba por tercera vez, sus padres tomaron conciencia de que algo no iba bien y empezaron a buscar la mejor manera de ayudar a su hija.

A la edad de 19 meses, Laney recibió un implante coclear en el lado derecho. El implante del lado izquierdo lo recibiría a los ocho años.

Si bien lo único que Laney recuerda realmente de la terapia es haber jugado con un montón de juguetes diferentes y que su madre participaba en las sesiones, siempre estará agradecida de que sus padres fueran lo suficientemente valientes como para lanzarse a algo nuevo y se decantaran por la TAV. «No estaría donde estoy ahora si no hubieran tomado esta decisión», asegura. «Eligieron esta terapia porque toda mi familia tiene una audición normal y querían que yo les pudiera escuchar y hablar con ellos, algo que me encanta hacer y estaré eternamente agradecida de poder escuchar y oír sus voces».

La búsqueda de una carrera apasionante

Laney estuvo a punto de seguir otra carrera. Empezó estudiando educación para personas con sordera en la Valdosta State University. El verano después de su primer curso, quedó para almorzar y charlar con Mary Ann Costin, su terapeuta auditivo-verbal. Esta le aconsejó que tuviera en cuenta la posibilidad de estudiar patología del habla-lenguaje (SLP, por sus siglas en inglés), porque siempre pensó que estaba en el camino de Laney convertirse también en terapeuta. Laney conoció los fundamentos de la SLP y se dio cuenta de que Mary Ann tenía razón. Tan pronto como regresó a la universidad, cambió de especialidad. Cuando empezó el programa de SLP en su tercer curso, supo que estaba en el campo adecuado y con la asistencia a las clases de audiología estuvo totalmente segura.

«Mary Ann no solo me enseñó a escuchar y hablar, sino que también es mi mentora en el proceso de convertirme en terapeuta auditivo-verbal», señala Laney. «Nunca podré agradecerle lo suficiente lo que ha hecho por mí y mi familia».

Después de finalizar su beca clínica, Laney tiene intención de casarse y regresar a Macon. Se encuentra en el proceso de obtener la certificación como terapeuta de Escucha y Lenguaje Hablado a través de la AG Bell Academy, que es el nivel profesional más alto en el campo. El proceso de certificación dura de tres a cinco años, implica la colaboración con un mentor y requiere la superación de un riguroso examen de certificación. Aunque su beca está asignada en su ciudad natal de LaGrange, Georgia, en esta población son pocas las personas con sordera e hipoacusia, por lo que no podría obtener suficientes horas para la certificación y este es el motivo de que ella y su futuro esposo se trasladen a Macon. Allí trabajará en el Auditory-Verbal Center, un centro satélite de la oficina de Atlanta (Georgia), donde acudió de niña. «Es el momento de cerrar el círculo», asegura.

Laney está entusiasmada con este nuevo capítulo de su vida. «Esforzarme para convertirme en terapeuta auditivo-verbal es importante para mí, ya que soy consciente de lo lejos que he llegado en la vida con las habilidades fundamentales que me proporcionó la terapia auditivo-verbal para escuchar y hablar», añade. «Quiero trasmitir a otras familias y niños con implantes cocleares que pueden conseguir lo que se propongan y que no permitan que sus diferencias auditivas les impidan alcanzar sus objetivos en la vida».

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