CCHAT Student Spotlight: Kate
Thao Do calls her daughter Kate “sunshine in human form,” and anyone who knows the CCHAT kindergartener would probably agree. Kate is a happy, social, confident 5 year old who loves to sing, dance and bring joy to those around her.
For Thao, who spent many sleepless nights worrying about her daughter’s future, it is still hard to believe just how far Kate has come.
A Crushing Diagnosis
Living in San Jose in 2017, Thao and her husband, already parents to a son, welcomed Kate into the world. A failure of Kate’s newborn hearing screening was explained away as possibly being excess fluid in the ear canal.
“We were hoping it would clear after a month or two, but that was not the case,” Thao remembered.
At four months old, Kate received a diagnosis that would devastate her family: sensorineural hearing loss.
“All my hopes and dreams for Kate were shattered by those three words,” Thao said. “I could not stop the tears every time I thought about how she would never be able to hear my voice, and I would never be able to hear hers.”
Thao was terrified of what was to come and spent many months “feeling sorry for myself and for my helpless daughter.” Kate was soon enrolled in an early start program which included visits from a speech therapist and teacher of the deaf.
Thao was unsure of the communication path Kate would gravitate toward. To prepare, she began taking American Sign Language classes but wondered often if spoken language was an option for Kate.
“I felt lost because I didn’t know what would be best for her,” Thao said. “I was so thankful she was able to and wanted to be a part of the speaking world.”
Always searching for the best services for Kate, Thao turned to her computer to bring her answers.
“I browsed the web for resources and programs I could afford to help support her, and there it was: CCHAT Center!” Thao said. “When I read about CCHAT, I knew it was the answer to my prayers, the glimmer of hope that I was so desperately searching for.”
Uprooting for Kate
Thao toured CCHAT with Kate in 2019 and immediately felt at home. She was overjoyed to see Kate interacting with other children and feeling comfortable within minutes of entering CCHAT’s doors.
“I have always wanted her to have a community that welcomed and supported her,” Thao said. “It made me so happy to see Kate with children with similar hearing loss and wearing similar devices. CCHAT checked off all my boxes and at that very moment, I knew Kate had to be a part of this amazing program.”
Moving away from the only home her family had ever known in the Bay Area may have seemed daunting, but for Thao, it was the only option. Thao and her husband relocated to Elk Grove, and Kate began attending CCHAT in July 2020.
The family initially received services through CCHAT’s distance learning program during the pandemic, but in October 2020, CCHAT reopened its campus and welcomed Kate officially.
Thao noticed growth almost immediately.
“When Kate started CCHAT, her dad, brother and I were the only ones who could really understand her. She had a hard time expressing herself and articulating speech sounds,” Thao said. “I love that Kate received thirty minutes of speech each day. I truly feel that it has made such a huge difference in her ability to communicate effectively. Kate has opened up so much now that she can speak clearly.”
“A Happy, Social, Confident Little Girl!”
Thao watched with joy and amazement as Kate’s confidence skyrocketed. Every day, Kate came home talking about her new friends and instructors at CCHAT. She would teach her family songs that she had learned at school and wasn’t afraid to speak up if she needed help from those around her.
“I couldn’t believe she was the same girl I was worried about,” Thao said.
Now nearly three years into her CCHAT career, Kate is well-known on campus for her contagious smile, joyful attitude and cheery voice. She is enrolled in gymnastics, hip-hop dance and ballet classes, and she is a singing machine who loves listening to BTS.
“CCHAT has provided a safe and inviting environment that has allowed Kate to freely express and be herself,” Thao said. “She has never felt embarrassed or less than anyone because of her hearing loss, and I have CCHAT to thank for that.”
Remembering her initial fears, Thao is grateful for the head start CCHAT has given Kate. Her dreams for Kate’s future are no longer clouded with uncertainty.
“I hope Kate will continue to be happy, confident, outspoken, fearless and proud of who she is,” Thao said. “All of the invaluable skills she has acquired at CCHAT will not only help her be successful in school but also in this hearing and speaking world that she chose to be a part of.”