Children with Cochlear Implants Come Together at Callier Camp

  • Approximately 50 children attended the Cochlear Implant Summer Listening Camp, which marked its 20th year this summer. It is sponsored by the Callier Center for Communication Disorders.

Ten years ago, Benji Purcel received a cochlear implant that changed his life — taking him from profoundly deaf to fully functional in nearly every activity. This summer, as he has since he was 3 years old, Benji joined other children who have cochlear implants at a camp sponsored by UT Dallas’ Callier Center for Communication Disorders

Benji, 11, said he rarely sees other people with cochlear implants

“But when you are at this camp, it’s very cool to know that everyone here goes through the same challenges that you do,” he said. “I think it’s really cool to meet up with them and be friends with them.” 

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 38,000 children in the United States have been fitted with a cochlear implant.  A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that helps provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. The implant consists of an external component that sits behind the ear and an internal component that is surgically placed under the skin that includes an electrode array, which goes down into the inner ear and stimulates the auditory nerve. 

Cochlear Implant Summer
Listening Camp

Each summer, through the generous support of the Crystal Charity Ball, the UT Dallas Callier Center coordinates a fun-filled summer camp for children ages 4-11 who have cochlear implants. For more information, click here.

The cochlear implant program at the Callier Center partners with UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Health to provide the best care possible for children with cochlear implants and families seeking cochlear implantation for their children. 

Approximately 50 children attended the Callier camp, which marked its 20th year this summer. As the children participate in various camp activities, graduate students from the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences provide listening and speech-language therapy. 

“All of our activities are geared toward developing the child’s spoken language and their listening skills,” said Melissa Sweeney, head of speech/language pathology and manager of the cochlear implant program at the Callier Center. 

“Whether it’s dancing to music or playing on the obstacle course, the goal is to always work on those skills,” she said. 

And while five days is not a long period of time, Sweeney said the campers usually make progress at the camp. 

“We definitely see some improvements in interactions and socialization with the group,” she said. 

Tiffany Savage, whose 4-year-old daughter Esther attended the camp for the first time this year, said she saw improved speech from her after just the first day. 

“In the ride home in the car, she was talking in sentences and saying words that I’ve not heard her put all together before,” Savage said. 

Hannah Calhoun attended one of Callier’s first cochlear implant camps as a child. This year, the UT Austin senior served as a volunteer counselor, hoping to offer advice and encouragement to campers and parents. 

“I went through it, too, so I get to be kind of a role model and give (the campers) hope that they can continue on to college and have victories and speak well,” Calhoun said. “It’s a really good thing to be able to meet campers similar to you.” 

Savage said the connection with other campers, as well as with parents, was inspiring. 

“To be able to be part of this, and for me to connect with other moms and dads that have kids a little bit older than Esther, to hear what their journey is, and to be able to connect with them to see what we have in store for us has been great for our entire family,” she said. 

“Esther sees it as a great, fun camp. But I see that she is learning a ton of stuff.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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