CCHAT Alumni Spotlight: Keira McEvilly
CCHAT’s goal is to ensure that hearing loss will not be a future roadblock for children who come through the program. We watch proudly as graduates go on to enjoy success both inside and outside of the classroom, excelling in social, athletic and other extracurricular activities.
Keira McEvilly is a shining example of what is possible for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Since graduating from CCHAT at age 4, Keira, now 10, has become an accomplished dancer, performing on some of the area’s biggest stages, and her determination makes her family believe that no dream is out of reach.
Keira’s Hearing Loss Diagnosis
Like many CCHAT families, the McEvillys were stunned to learn of Keira’s hearing loss. They suspected that Keira wasn’t hearing just before her first birthday and received the official diagnosis at 13 months of age.
“We were devastated,” Tanya, Keira’s mom, remembers. “We did not know what this meant for Keira and her future. We began researching all options.”
With resources received from the hospital, Tanya and her husband, Sean, discovered CCHAT. Listening and spoken language (LSL) was the goal for Keira, so the McEvillys enrolled her at CCHAT at 20 months old.
“We had no idea what their role would be in our lives,” Tanya says of CCHAT. “The staff was incredibly welcoming and supportive. It was clear they were passionate about the children and their success with learning.”
Initially fitted with hearing aids, Keira soon transitioned to cochlear implants, and despite some early reservations, progress soon became visible.
“At Keira’s first few speech therapy sessions with Lisa McWilliams, I was skeptical,” Tanya says. “She was only making noises with inhalation. Lisa was very encouraging and confident that, in no time, she would be speaking words. She was right. In three months, she was speaking 2-3 word phrases.”
Moving on to the Mainstream
Thanks to her hard work, her family’s commitment, and CCHAT’s comprehensive program, Keira enjoyed rapid growth in her LSL skills. By age 4, she was ready to transition to her neighborhood preschool and sit alongside her hearing peers.
The adjustment went smoothly for the entire family.
“CCHAT taught her to listen carefully, speak clearly and advocate for herself,” Tanya says. “She graduated from an IEP to a 504 (plan) within a year, as they could not justify the need for certain resources. She does struggle, at times, in loud environments, but her teachers are aware and supportive of her needs.”
Keira continues to enjoy success in the classroom. As a 9 year old, she tested into the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) Program while independently managing her hearing loss and hearing-assistive technology.
A Natural Performer
Now a 4th grader, Keira has found a number of hobbies, many of which involve a reliance on her sharp LSL skills. She loves to be on stage, both through dance and theater, with Tanya describing her as independent with a “goofy” side.
Keira’s passion for performing has led to her joining a competitive hip-hop dance team, and she and her teammates have appeared at Sacramento Kings basketball games, as well as Sacramento River Cats baseball games. She also is a budding actress, attending theater camps in the summer.
“We encourage her to reach for her dreams, no matter what the obstacles are,” Tanya says. “Thankfully, she is a very determined individual, which we know will serve her well.”
A Bright Future
With all of her success academically and socially, Keira is ready to embrace whatever comes next. Her family feels secure in knowing that Keira will get the most out of life, thanks in part to the foundation of skills she built at CCHAT as a toddler.
“Our hope for Keira is for her to do whatever her heart desires,” Tanya says. “Without CCHAT, we are not sure where she would be now.”
Read more success stories from CCHAT’s amazing alumni students by CLICKING HERE.