A strong signal
story by Nick Gonzales
The innate need for humans to communicate – to network, develop relationships, grow and succeed – turns life into signals moving from senders to receivers.
Communication breakdowns – differences in language, misunderstanding or lack of volume – can bring that life to a halt.
Heidi Givens works to fix the signal when it doesn’t get to the receivers.
She helps children “deaf” and hard of hearing throughout Owensboro and Daviess County schools. She teaches reading, writing, hearing techniques and speech, 30 minutes at a time with 10 students and up to eight students in one day.
Her nomadic and hectic schedule never causes a disconnect from the work.
“I don’t have OCD, but I have an obsessive personality,” Heidi says. “I hate seeing an unmet need and not doing anything about it. Part of it might just be my Northeastern mentality.”
One of the unmet needs Heidi meets is Noah Hancock, a Daviess County High School junior. He recently got cochlear implants and is learning to hear. Before, he communicated through sign language. His dedication to school and communication learning led him to the National Honors Society, and he meets with Heidi before school starts.
Heidi also helps Taylor Palmer, a Daviess County eighth-grader, with “functional” reading, things most take for granted and as simple as road signs.
Heidi sees Carly Roby, a blind and deaf 3-year-old, twice a week to help develop her “pre-linguistic” communication. Givens cradles Carly in her arms and fans her face, stopping in intervals and awaiting a response, such as a smile, tears or Carly trying to touch Heidi’s hand.
And Heidi keeps lines of communication open with parents.
“All my parents, they have my cell phone number,” Heidi says. “They call me at five in the morning or at nine at night if they need something. I had a parent call me yesterday who had a really hard time explaining something to their child who is completely deaf and uses sign language. After school yesterday, I had to drive to their house to facilitate communication between mom and son.”
She keeps the signal strong.