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RMHS Children’s Clinical Providers Advocate for Child’s Needs Others Didn’t See

Two-year-old Colfax is enjoying outdoor adventures more, thanks to his RMHS team, who helped diagnose his hearing loss and set him up for success.

When 2-year-old Colfax first came to Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS), his parents were most concerned with his gross motor skills. Soon, RMHS staff would help identify Colfax’s hearing loss, putting him on track to receive the medical care and therapy he would need to enjoy the toddler life.

Colfax was born prematurely and had several health challenges that his parents, Brandy and Damian, were navigating. During one of their many hospital visits in the first few months of his life, a staff member noticed that Colfax laid his head to one side, a sign that Colfax may have delays in his gross motor development. The staff member recommended Brandy and Damian contact RMHS.

Colfax was between 6 months and 7 months old when he first came to RMHS to be assessed by clinical staff. RMHS Occupational Therapist Cecile Claussen became one of his first therapists, and RMHS contracted with physical therapist Sharon Footlik to help Colfax with his head tilt and gross motor needs. Cecile and Sharon worked closely together with Colfax’s Service Coordinator Kathryn Moser to provide Colfax with the best services and support.

Through Colfax’s therapies, Sharon and Cecile noticed he was acting as if he had hearing issues – more specifically, fluid in his ears. He was struggling to hear even though he had previously passed hearing tests, and he was frustrated during therapy sessions, because he couldn’t figure out what Cecile and Sharon were asking him to do. He started receiving speech therapy to address the speech delays they noticed.

“He started to throw his head into extension and was looking up a lot,” Sharon said. “He also was not responding to his name.”

Brandy mentioned Sharon and Cecile’s concerns to Colfax’s pediatrician.

“His pediatrician was very adamant that Colfax could hear,” Sharon said. “It was all conflicting.”

The family trusted their doctor’s opinion, but Colfax’s therapists were persistent. They knew something wasn’t right. So with Cecile and Sharon’s recommendation, they took Colfax to an ear, nose and throat doctor. Sure enough, there was fluid in his ears.

Doctors gave Colfax vestibular tubes, which drained the fluid, and his mom immediately noticed a difference. He was a happier, healthier kid overall.

To determine whether Colfax had more than just fluid in his ears, he took and failed three sound booth tests, which suggested hearing loss. To be sure, Colfax took a special test called an Auditory Brainstem Response. This test is done while the patient is sedated with electrodes on his or her head to detect how the brain responds to sounds.

Colfax is happy now that his ears are no longer blocked by fluid. He explored Badlands National Park in South Dakota this past May with his family.

The test helped discover the root of Colfax’s ear problems – sensorineural hearing loss, a type of permanent hearing loss related to the inner ear. Thankfully, cochlear implants, a medical device that recreates the sense of sound, can improve Colfax’s access to sound and support his ability to speak oral languages. He will receive the implants later this year. Colfax will also receive audio verbal therapy, which helps him understand the sounds he will hear after he receives the implants.

Then, Colfax underwent an MRI, which revealed he has enlarged vestibular aqueducts. This means a part of his ear improperly developed, and the condition is associated with hearing loss.

With the causes of Colfax’s hearing loss diagnosed, the family began seeking care that best suits his needs. He is seeing his speech therapist more frequently and quickly learning verbal words. He’s also using sign language, which his clinical team started teaching him even before he was diagnosed with hearing loss.

“It’s a day-and-night difference,” Colfax’s Service Coordinator Kathryn said.

Kathryn connected the family to a deaf services coordinator named Robin Getz through the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind and a provider named Marcia Tabor, who works on Colfax's sign language and verbal skills.

Colfax has now learned more than 150 signs and 100 verbal words and is beginning to combine two words at a time. The family intends to raise him bilingually with American Sign Language and English, so they can maximize his access to language.

“We feel like it was thanks to Sharon and Cecile,” his mom Brandy said. “It’s just become so clear in retrospect.”

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