With a background in deaf education, Dr. Joey Davies said at every school she taught at in her career, she noticed most of the students were not on level or expected to be on level by other teachers.
“It’s sad that no one thought that these kids had any big future, and no one was telling these kids that they can be a doctor or that they can do whatever you want to be,” Davies said. “Everything was just kind of like, well just do enough to get by. And if they struggled, most people just dismissed them because they are deaf.”
When Davies moved back to Houston, she founded Davies Institute for Speech and Hearing so families and parents would have access to resources on deaf education and raising hearing-impaired children.
The DISH program offers early education, language development and pediatric therapy services under one roof.
“We opened in June after I pulled one of my friends, Julie Westfall, who specializes in special education. I handle the clinic side, and she handles the school side and curriculum,” Davies said. “We've been loving it ever since, and neither one of us has any regrets so far.”
Prospective students and parents can arrange a tour of the school and clinic, located at 777 S. Fry Road, Ste. 105, Katy.
“We’ll give parents a tour of our school and tuition for our school also covers that child's clinical aspects,” Davies said. “Every student that comes to the school automatically gets speech and OT and audiology services. That way their parents don’t have to settle for trips to different therapies and offices.”
According to Davies, the primary years are when children develop their language the most, making them even more crucial.
“The sooner you can diagnose a hearing loss and the sooner you can expose your child to language, the better they end up doing and the quicker they can catch up in school. If you don't diagnose it until 4 or 5, you've missed those primary language development years. Most of those kids end up having a harder time in school, struggle with reading, and socializing,” she said. “Most kids who are deaf or hard of hearing typically graduate high school on an eighth-grade reading level. It makes it really hard for them to go into a career or even college. Only 40 percent of high school graduates who are deaf actually matriculate into college or advance degrees, and only about 20 percent of those students actually graduate.”
According to Davies, people make the mistake of assuming that deaf and hard of hearing children will accomplish less than their hearing peers.
“The best cast scenario is to get them caught up by the time they go into kindergarten, which is what our goal is. We focus on getting children early diagnosed, and aided or implanted with cochlear implants so that they have access to sound, and they have access to their primary language,” Davies said.
Westfall agreed, and said their school, which is year-round, uses a curriculum that is very language-based called Frog Street.
“It's a wonderful curriculum specifically for kids who need that language development,” Westfall said. “Once they are in school we get them immediately evaluated for speech and OT services. We are working with their families to educate them on the importance of early intervention as well as advocacy.”
DISH believes student success is not only dependent on the child’s abilities, but on family involvement throughout the education process.
“The other thing that we really focus on is parent advocacy and parent counseling,” she said. “Oftentimes when parents find out that their child has a hearing loss, there's almost like a grieving period, because suddenly you think, ‘My kid is different, my kid’s not normal.’ They don't know what to do with that information.”
Assisting parents with meetings, teaching them what to expect about hearing loss, and explaining their legal rights in the education system are some of the services staff provide to parents.
Parents and children are known by name at DISH, which is an extremely family-oriented school.
“We keep our parents very involved. They are required to do certain things like volunteering in the classroom and observing their child because we want them to know what their kid is doing in class,” Davies said. “Parents and children are known by name at DISH, because we are so family-oriented.We call it our little ‘DISH family’ and are very comfortable with one another, and we want our parents and our students to be comfortable with us, too,” Westfall added.
To learn more about Davies Institute for Speech & Hearing, visit their website or call 281-717-4884 for more information.
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