This article originally appeared in Kirkland Living Magazine.
Caroline Cooley is a bright and articulate young adult that is eager to take on the world. A basketball player, Caroline was featured as an athlete of the month in Kirkland Living Magazine three years ago. On the surface, Caroline appears as a typical, thriving ninth-grader from the Kirkland area. If one gets to know her more, one will learn that she actually overcame many challenges to get to where she is today.
Caroline is hard of hearing and she relies on hearing technology to communicate through listening and spoken language. When diagnosed as hard of hearing at her newborn hearing screening, Caroline’s family was concerned as to how their daughter would complete daily tasks independently. Her mother, Amy, said, “When learning that Caroline had hearing loss, I wondered how she would complete simple things like ordering food or a cup of coffee on her own.” After doing some research, the Cooley Family decided to teach Caroline to communicate through listening and spoken language at Listen and Talk, a specialized listening and spoken language program for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Caroline and her family participated in Listen and Talk’s Birth to Three and Blended Classroom programs. “Attending a program where kids were like me was very special,” said Caroline. Her early start in services, the family-focused infant/toddler services and the specially designed preschool environment optimized the impact of her hearing technology and created the foundation for her learning. During this time, Caroline’s communication abilities excelled rapidly. “We had a lot of friends with children that were the same age as Caroline,” said her mother, Amy. “Caroline was talking more than all the kids her age at 14 months. That is a huge testament to the work she completed at Listen and Talk.”
A social teenager, Caroline has many friends that she loves to spend time within the Kirkland area, particularly at the Kirkland Marina! She is also still in touch with her friends from the Listen and Talk community. In general, Caroline does not need to put in extra effort to communicate with others. “I’ve always lived this way,” she says. “If I have access to the technology that helps me hear, then I will do okay.” Caroline currently has a cochlear implant in one ear, and a hearing aid in the other.
Occasionally, there are obstacles that Caroline works to overcome. “Today, online school is sometimes difficult because I rely on captions and I need to ensure that they are working. It’s hard to pay attention in class when I cannot understand what people are saying.” Caroline also mentioned how she sometimes works harder to understand others who are wearing masks to stay safe during the pandemic. “Sometimes someone who is deaf has to guess what someone is saying to them but we eventually work through it in the end.”
Caroline hopes to go to college and pursue a career where she can socialize with people and help others just like her mother and father who work in the medical field. She wants to continue playing basketball in high school and, at some point, she hopes to travel the world to see new places and learn about different cultures.
When looking back at all her achievements and what she has accomplished thus far in her life, she gives credit to Listen and Talk, her parents and herself. “If my parents didn’t find Listen and Talk, I would not be speaking as clearly as I do now. But I also know that if I don’t try as hard as I do, my life would be very different.”