CCHAT Student Spotlight: Aspen Peters
There isn’t anything that Michael Peters wouldn’t do for his daughter Aspen. That’s why every morning, the pair travels from Calaveras County to CCHAT, a more than two-hour roundtrip, so that Aspen can benefit from the speech, listening and language services the program has to offer.
With this dedication, it is no surprise that 2-year-old Aspen is thriving on her hearing loss journey, one that came unexpectedly for Michael and his family.
Learning That Aspen is Deaf
Aspen’s hearing loss was discovered at birth. Initial tests at the hospital resulted in a more extensive diagnostic exam one month later. That was when the family learned the extent of Aspen’s hearing loss.
She was profoundly deaf.
“We were devastated for a while,” Michael remembers. “However, we were also informed of our options to help her be able to hear.”
Never one to sit idle when it comes to his daughter, Michael immediately began the process of securing cochlear implants for Aspen. At 10 months old, Aspen was in a class learning American Sign Language, as Michael was committed to giving her multiple modes of communication.
“Towards the end of the class, we were told about CCHAT,” Michael says. “We were blown away to hear there was a school that could help her learn to listen and speak.”
Aspen transitioned to CCHAT in 2021, joining the program’s toddler class with a goal of developing listening and spoken language skills.
The Immediate Impact of CCHAT
Dropping your child off at school can be hard initially for many parents, and this was magnified for Michael, who had reservations about leaving his young daughter in a new environment.
“At first, I was nervous because my baby was going to school for the first time,” Michael remembers. “When that feeling passed, I was overwhelmed with excitement for Aspen to experience this new step in her journey. When I dropped her off at first, she didn't want to go. But after about a week or so, she would wave goodbye and go running into class.”
Aspen’s love for CCHAT eased an emotional burden for Michael, and it also made the 100+ daily miles in the car well worth it.
“When Aspen started, she could say a few words at best,” Michael says. “With the support and team effort of the CCHAT staff, Aspen can speak in short sentences now. She helps the other students and has nearly caught her hearing age up to her actual age.”
Bringing Her Excitement to the Classroom
Aspen brings a joy to CCHAT that can be felt by anyone in her class and anyone within earshot. Her happy chatter, boisterous laughter and excited screams bring smiles to all who get to work with her.
“Aspen’s energy for learning is contagious,” says Michelle Harder, one of Aspen’s speech-language pathologists over the past year. “She makes everyone around her bump up the energy to try to match her endless zest!”
Aspen has found a natural home at CCHAT, as her love for art, story time, music and play fit hand-in-hand with many activities at the school. Michael is happy that Aspen gets to share her energy and enthusiasm with a CCHAT staff that he now considers “a part of our family.”
“Every single member of the CCHAT staff has been amazingly friendly, supportive and caring,” Michael says. “We can never express how happy we are to have found a place like CCHAT.”
Moving Forward with Confidence
With CCHAT as his support, Michael looks toward Aspen’s future with relief and excitement.
“Aspen is so full of life and energy that she is bound to experience all this life has to offer and more,” he says.
Seeing Aspen’s happiness and progress since enrolling at CCHAT has Michael feeling grateful for the opportunity to be involved with a program that exudes the same love for Aspen that he does.
“Aspen has grown exponentially from just a single school year there,” Michael says. “Sending my daughter to CCHAT was absolutely the best decision I could have ever made.”
Aspen is currently preparing for CCHAT’s 16th annual Bike 4 Fun event. Details to come to support her ride and help CCHAT generate essential funds to carry out its life-changing mission.