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Letters to the editor

October 20, 2004

Thanks for stories on special families


To the editor:

Thank you for the feature about the Fotta family and their experiences with the cochlear implant. My 6-year-old daughter has severe physical handicaps and a form of hearing loss called auditory neuropathy.

Four years ago we were informed by the state of Maryland that after the age of 5, she would no longer receive services from the Maryland School for the Deaf. She could not hear or understand language, but the state did not consider her deaf. We were forced to mainstream her into Washington County schools.

During a check up with her audiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he suggested trying a cochlear implant. He was not certain it would work, but wanted to try. My daughter was only the fourth patient at Johns Hopkins and 13th in the country with auditory neuropathy to receive the implant. After a long surgery, longer recovery and many, many prayers, the implant was a success. A year and a half later, she is saying her first words and following simple spoken directions.

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Our experience with the deaf community for the most part is positive, but sadly many in the community are still anti-implant. For years as a hearing family, we have used and studied ASL. Unfortunately, because of my daughter's physical handicaps, she cannot sign or use a communication board. Until recently, she could only smile or cry to communicate with us. The cochlear implant to us is more than a blessing: It truly is a miracle.

Mrs. Fotta mentioned the public's reaction at seeing her son's implant. Unfortunately, it is a pain that all parents feel when they are blessed with a special angel in their family. I have learned to counter those reactions by inviting the people, and children especially, to meet my daughter and ask questions. I have found that very young children like simple explanations such as "God made her and God loves her like he loves you."

I also allow many of the children to push her wheelchair around, which my daughter loves. For the most part, people do not intend to be rude- they are just curious and nervous at the same time. They do not realize that as they are staring, pretending not to stare, hushing kids, etc., they are being rude. Please continue to feature articles in your paper about special families. The more information the public has about disabilities, the more opportunities our families and our children have to make friends.

Rachael E. Hazell
Fairplay




Ask for assessments


To the editor:

In November 2001, the local board of education put in motion a recommendation to change kindergarten regulations in accordance with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). This proposal meant an eventual cutoff date for kindergartners not 5 years old prior to Sept. 1. The phase-in for this new regulation began in the 2003-04 school year and continues each school year with the cutoff date rescinded one month each year. By the 2007-08 school year, any child who is not 5 years old by Sept. 1 will have to wait until the following school year to enter kindergarten.

In addition, the pre-kindergartner is also affected by this change. They must be 4 years old by Sept. 1 to enter prekindergartner in the year 2007-08 (the same rescission plan applies here).

According to Washington County school Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan, this information was made known to the public in MSDE publications (only school personnel receive this bulletin) in school newsletters (only people with children already attending school receive this newsletter), and in the local newspaper.

The new regulation allows that 4-year-old children may be admitted to kindergarten upon their parents' or guardians' request, if the school determines them to show capability for early admission. This means that the local school board, as stated by the MSDE, is able to offer an assessment-type test to children whose parents think they are ready to enter or will turn 5 before Dec. 31. The local school board has decided not to offer this option to the parents and children in Washington County.

I urge all parents of children who are affected by the implementation of this regulation to contact the school board. If you feel an assessment test should be offered when requested, let your voices be heard.

Beth Weber
Clear Spring




City course in poor shape


To the editor:

The management of the Greens at Hamilton Run (formerly the Hagerstown Municipal Golf Course), is "out-of-bounds," and the golfers are being assessed the "penalty strokes."

The new irrigation system has not worked properly from the get-go and frequently leaks. It would appear the city got "soaked" on this deal.

Cart paths have haphazardly and intrusively been placed around the course, frequently leading to nowhere.

The golf ball starter tubes, which have been used for decades to control the order of play, have been inexplicably cut down to the ground. (Somebody probably didn't know what purpose they served).

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