Pearls Of Kindness. Pearls Of Hope.

By Zina Bronfman, a proud parent

August 2007.

“Your child did not pass the hearing test.”

Our world stopped.

Within hours of being born, our daughter, Pearl, had been diagnosed with moderate to severe bilateral hearing loss. Irreversible. Not even surgery could help. We were devastated.

Our shock was soon replaced by anxiety. “Where do we go? What do we do?”
Fear, confusion, anger…

Once the doctors assured us the diagnosis was correct, we realized all these negative emotions were not going to help our daughter. The only way forward was to work with all the right specialists.
Thankfully, the audiologist at LIJ Hospital gave us a name that has since become an inseparable part of our life – Strivright.
So we enrolled, in the faint hope that one day Pearl would start talking like a child without a hearing impairment.

From Darkness to Light

As our baby started the Strivright program, we were still in a very dark place. My husband and I felt guilty, angry and emotionally on guard. I also felt I had a duty to fight hard for my child because she needed extra help and would need it for the rest of her life.
Our fears were soon allayed.

After meeting the Strivright staff – therapists, special education teachers, audiologists, psychologists and others – our attitude changed dramatically.

I instantly knew I didn’t have to fight for my child to receive the treatment she needed.
Everyone was so friendly, compassionate and helpful. We were on the same team.

They all loved Pearl as if she were their own child. We had found an extended family that was willing to nurture our baby, work with her and watch her make progress while showering her with unconditional love throughout.

It was an amazing support system and we understood we had made the best possible decision for our precious baby.

Looking back, it was extremely important she had received professional help during her early formative years.

What Would We Do Without Our School?

The work they do at Strivright is simply phenomenal! This is a workplace with no gossip, no politics, no judgments… just warm people, a positive atmosphere and real live help!
“What would we do without our school?” became a common mantra at our family table.
We had simply developed a bond with Strivright, connected by the same goals and hopes for our daughter’s future.

But it wasn’t just educational help for Pearl. Strivright helped us overcome our emotional difficulties too. They offered us different programs where we could meet other parents to talk, connect and ease our pain. They also put us in contact with psychologists and with parents of older children with similar problems who told us the future would be a lot brighter than we imagined.

When we were worried about whether and how clearly Pearl would speak, the school encouraged us to observe speech therapy lessons and witness Pearl’s weekly progress. This boosted our confidence to no end. And through witnessing the speech therapists’ efforts and dedication, we were excited by the knowledge our daughter would talk.
I particularly remember a very poignant moment during our Early Intervention program meeting with the city representative. After we had tried to explain Pearl’s needs, our audiologist advocated for us so Pearl could continue to receive the amount of therapy she needed.

This is the level of “going the extra mile” dedication that is so normal at Strivright.

But it’s a lot more than that.

Strivright has given us priceless advice on how to handle our daughter’s behavior – how to channel her boundless energy into a more productive direction, how to help her focus so she can process more information, how to help her relax.

Many a time we had a tantrum on our hands because Pearl could not express herself verbally. We could not bring her to any parties because she would lose her patience very quickly and start misbehaving and disrupting events.

With lots of practice and therapy, Pearl now understands she can use speech instead of tears to explain what she would like to have or do. She has blossomed into a young lady who understands the importance of patience and composure and tries hard to practice it whenever she can. We proudly bring her along to functions and sit-down events where she exhibits exemplary behavior.

Now – almost five years on from that awful time in the hospital – Pearl is speaking in clear sentences, telling elaborate stories, asking for things clearly and politely and answering complex questions. She also sings, with clear lyrics and a recognizable melody… it’s enough to make your heart melt!

Nurturing the Seeds for the Future
Because of the values, routines and skills Pearl has learned during her time at Strivright, she has acquired a solid base for integrating into mainstream society and achieving her academic goals in the future.

We truly believe her progress is a reflection of the Strivright team’s talent, their amazing daily efforts, their outstanding work ethic and – most importantly – their devotion and determination to put the interests of these kids ahead of everything else.

This summer, Pearl will be graduating. A new journey is about to begin. Integration into a mainstream school.

Although we recognize no school is ever going to be the same as Strivright, it helps to know that Pearl has been groomed for this moment in the best possible way.
Without Strivright we would be facing a much harsher reality – a hearing impaired 5-year-old with perhaps slurred speech at best.
But now, thanks to “our school”, we are prepared and looking forward to every new challenge!

P.S. My husband and I were honored to be invited to the ribbon cutting ceremony for Strivright’s new building. We are so pleased they can now help many more families escape the shackles of fear and anxiety, welcoming them into a bright and joyful world of hope, achievement and genuine human kindness.

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