My name is Jodi Kaplan and I have been involved with AHA for about 12 years.
I recently joined the Board of Directors and have co chaired the Rock N Bowl fundraising event for the past two years. I am very proud to finally have the time to give back to AHA by fundraising, volunteering with programs and sharing my knowledge and experiences with others.
My son was diagnosed with a receptive and expressive language processing disorder 18 years ago. We could not understand why, at 1 ½ years of age, he did not turn when we called him, why certain sounds bothered him and why he was always cranky. Autism was mentioned a few times, but our son was not diagnosed with autism at that time. By first grade our son had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disability – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) and now with high functioning autism.
As educated parents, my husband I tried to do whatever we could for our son. We sent him to a special schoolfrom the time he was 22 months old where he received special education services, occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy 2-3 times per week each for 3 ½ years. He also received private speech therapy as well as private occupational therapy for many years.
Our son progressed and entered public school in kindergarten.Fortunately for us, AHA and Pat Schissel were involved in our school district when advances in the education of children with autism were being introduced into mainstream schools. Pat brought a well know psychologist to our district who implemented a social skills program for autistic children that started in 3rd grade. Although not officially labeled as autistic, our son received the benefit of this fabulous pilot program. I became involved as a member of AHA at that time.
I started going to every AHA conference I could go to. Our family participated in the walk for NAAR year after year. We made friends thought AHA and we continued to learn. I always wanted to be more involved with AHA, but with 3 children and a full time job, my time was limited.
I had enrolled at Adelphi University in their School of Education and earned an M.S. in Deaf Education in 2001, while my son was in elementary school. I have been a teacher at the Lexington School for the Deaf for 11 years, 4 of which were in the Infant Toddler Program and 7 years as a teacher in the preschool. I am conversant in American Sign Language and have extensive knowledge of cochlear implants, digital hearing aids, FM systems, and the impact of hearing loss on spoken language development. I have since become certified in Special Education as well.
I began teaching in the Parent Infant Toddler Program at the Lexington School in 2001 and worked with families who had children under the age of three. While in the Infant/Toddler program I helped parents determine the best mode of communication for their deaf child and their family. I taught them how to communicate with theirbaby;whether to use sign language or oral language. I also taught them to use the amplification systems they had. I loved this job. I was counseling families with newly diagnosed children and helping many get through the initial grieving process. I was a natural;understanding, and having been through the infant toddler stage just a few years before.
During my 11 years as a teacher in a school for the deaf, I have had many different types of students.They are all deaf or hard of hearing. Most have hearing parents who have little or no experience with deafness. Most of my studentshave comorbid disorders in addition to a hearing loss including autism, ADD, ADHD, seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, juvenile diabetes, CHARGE syndrome and Cytomegalovirus. Many have cognitive and physical difficulties that cause developmental delays. Most of my students come from immigrant families where the primary language in the home is not English.
The education and support that I received through AHA has molded me into a confident parent,teacher, and advocate. I am very happy that I now have the time to give back to AHA in a formal way. I look forward to participating on the Board and in programs that we offer. I look forward to raising money for AHA to keep our organization strong and viable.