- Associated Press - Saturday, June 27, 2015

BRIMFIELD, Ill. (AP) - They fell into the routine early on in the life of their first-born child; two books at bedtime, every night, no excuse to skip.

Sawyer Drury was almost 3 before Clint and Sarah Drury learned with certainty that their daughter never heard a word they read.

“We read to her religiously every night. When the doctors figured it out that she had hearing loss we were like, oh man, we somewhat wasted three years,” Clint Drury said this week, able to laugh, a little, knowing how well everything turned out. “Our only regret was we didn’t figure it out earlier.”

Sawyer Drury, who is 7, was born with a hearing impairment known as Mondini malformation, the incomplete development of the cochlea in her ears, which causes hearing loss. It is also a condition that in many cases can be corrected, or mitigated, with hearing aids. Sawyer was fitted with hearing aids at age 3½, half her life ago. And while no one but her knows exactly the quality of the sounds that she receives - and they are the only sounds she has ever known, the sounds that followed the silence - she’s determined to not let her hearing loss limit her in any way.

She has a motto: “My aids are not an excuse, they are my story.”

Remember, she’s 7.

Oh, and so far she’s raised almost $5,000 for the Hearing Loss Association of America’s “Walk 4 Hearing” 3-mile walk Saturday in Milwaukee. It’s the most raised this year by an individual in the United States. The walks at sites across the country are to raise money for national programs to assist the hearing impaired and locally for scholarships, assistance in funding for hearing aids and more.

“I’m walking for people who have hearing loss. And I think I already raised $5,000, and I’m going to go take the walk on May 30th, and I don’t know what my mom’s going to do yet, if we’re going to go on May 28th or stay and go on May 30th,” Sawyer said.

Teachers and staff raised $650 of the total by paying for the right to wear jeans to school on a recent Friday.

“That just shows what an awesome job we all think you are doing. We’re all so proud of you,” said Sarah Moon, the speech pathologist at Brimfield Elementary School, where Sawyer is in first grade. She spoke to Sawyer following a brief therapy session where they worked on “s” words and Sawyer did a dramatic and moving reading from “Strawberry Shortcake Goes to the Beach.”

Said Sawyer: “The teachers paid money to wear jeans one Friday, and Mrs. Moon gave me a big check. A BIG check. I took it home and hanged-ed it up in my room.”

Then they got down to business.

Sawyer flipped through a bunch of line drawings, each one depicting a challenging word to give voice to. Her interaction with her speech pathologist was evidence of the familiar and friendly relationship they’ve established after three years of therapy.

Moon, her teachers and her softball and soccer coaches speak to Sawyer with a microphone, their voices amplified and picked up by an FM signal that is received directly into Sawyer’s hearing aids. Another trick, Sawyer uses a drinking straw to help her tell if her “s” sounds are sufficiently “crispy,” a term Moon uses to describe the desired sound.

“Pancake?” Sawyer said.

“No,” Moon said.


“Yes, what do you like better, pancakes or steak?”

“I like steaks.”

“Do you? Give me a crispier ‘s.’”


“Good. Push your tongue forward.”


“Next one.”

“Stump. My dad just cut down three trees.”

“He did?”

“Walnut trees. We just couldn’t cut down a few branches on the front yard trees. So he cut them down.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Stop sign.”

“It is a stop sign, yeah.”


The next picture was unfamiliar.

“What goes in the corner when you mail something,” Moon said.

“I don’t know,” Sawyer said.

“I know because everybody emails now!”


“Close, it sticks on like a sticker.”

“I don’t know what it’s called.”



“Yeah, use your straw.”

“Hisssssssss. Ssssstamp.”

“There, that’s better.”


“Have you ever been stung?”

“When I was 3. I was outside and a bee came over and stung me.

“Ahhhh, that’s no fun.”

After therapy, Sawyer returned to Christy Cahill’s first-grade classroom, across the hallway from the speech office. Her classmates gathered on a rug in the corner of the room for a pre-arranged presentation of “Like Glasses For My Ears” a book she wrote with her mother describing the process of being fitted for hearing aids.

“I don’t hear as good as you guys,” Sawyer began.

Afterward she took questions and answered five or six, all different variations of whether being fitted for hearing aids was in any way painful. It was not, Sawyer assured them. It mostly just tickled.

It was an impressive performance for a kid with hearing loss interacting inside a chatty first-grade classroom.

“She’s amazing,” Cahill said.

“Language learning is harder for (kids with hearing loss) because they have to filter out noise - meaningful sound, unmeaningful sound. So in the classroom (Sawyer) has to filter out the noise of paper rustling, pencil tapping. Meaningful sound, teacher talking; unmeaningful sound, the girl next to me tapping me to see what I want to play at recess. There’s a lot going on in a little first-grade classroom.”

Processing sound is more difficult for children with hearing loss.

“It’s exhausting, I mean she fell asleep on the bus last week, it was just A DAY for her, she got on the bus and was out like a light,” Moon said. “It is HARD and you can’t see it. We have a student here who is in a wheelchair. You can see him coming down the hall and when he’s flying through the hall and you’re like ‘Whoa, slow it down or you’re going to take me out.’ Or when he’s struggling to get around somebody in the hallway to get to the drinking fountain you can accommodate that because you can see that. But with Sawyer, you can’t see it, and she’s confident enough that you wouldn’t know it to look at her.”

Sawyer gets giddy when she talks about the Milwaukee walk.

“We started off with our goal of $500. We were just planning on hitting up family and friends, we weren’t sure,” Clint Drury said. “We thought that was an acceptable level. In two days we were over the $500 and then it . “

“It just exploded,” Sarah Drury finished the sentence. “She memorized a minute-long video asking for donations. We worked up a couple of sentences, then we finished a paragraph, then once she tackled that, we got it all.”

The video has been sprinkled on all sorts of websites and donations have been pouring in from all over.

Seated in pint-sized plastic-molded chairs around the pint-sized speech therapy table last week in the office at the end of the hallway in Brimfield Elementary School, parents and pathologist were asked what limitations Sawyer might face as she grows older.

Silence, followed by more silence as they worked the question over in their minds. Finally, Clint Drury spoke up.

“Well, I guess if she went to a water park she’d need to have water-proof hearing aids,” he said.

That sounds pretty manageable.


Source: (Peoria) Journal-Star, https://bit.ly/1KTLEqP


Information from: Journal Star, https://pjstar.com

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