Four years ago, Nemi and Telia Rodgers rejoiced in the growing vocabulary of their one-year-old. They had fun helping L.J. discover how to say “Bye-Bye” and “Momma,” “Daddy” and “Granny.” He was doing great. Then, at about 13 months,
they noticed he wasn’t saying some of the words he knew. At 16 months, he stopped talking.
A doctor treated L.J. for an ear infection, but his speech did not return. Two months later, a hospital ABR test showed he had severe to profound hearing loss affecting both ears.
L.J. had hearing aids for five months, then received a cochlear implant before his second birthday. Once a week for a year, the Rodgers drove an hour from their Russellville, Arkansas home for an hour of speech therapy in Little Rock, but L.J. made little progress. The Rodgers realized he needed more, so they decided to visit St. Louis.
“We toured other schools, but when we visited CID, we fell in love,” Telia said. “CID showed us successful children and we were comforted to learn that our son could maybe go to a regular school.”
“CID had everything L.J. needed – educational expertise, speech therapy, audiology, occupational therapy – the full package,” Nemi said. “It was the middle of the school year, but they said they would take him as soon as we could get there.”
Nemi took immediate action, landing a new job while he was still in St. Louis. Telia went home and, with L.J.’s sister, Maya, and grandma, Yetta Edwards, began to pack. They found a house on the internet, loaded a rented truck and left their family and friends.
Snow and ice added two hours to the nine-hour trip to St. Louis. Yetta, who drove the truck while the others took the family car, later relocated too so she could witness her grandson’s progress. Like Nemi, Yetta left a well-paying job. “I didn’t want to hear L.J. talk just over the telephone,” she said.
According to Yetta, the sacrifices have been worth it. “Before L.J. came to CID, he could make sounds, but he didn’t say ‘boo,’” she said. “Within the first few months, L.J. was saying ‘Hello’ and ‘Daddy.’ That was just huge for us,” Telia said. “Now, every time he comes home from school, he says something different.