As we look back on 2020 at CEID (and throughout our world) we are certain to recall the tremendous disruptions and remarkable adaptations to what we had once believed to be our common way of life. At CEID we began the year with the excitement of celebrating 40 years of service to our community and a desire to reflect on where we have come and where will we go. Faced with an extraordinarily different kind of year, we have been reminded, as so many people and organizations have in 2020, of our roots and core values. Throughout shifts this year, we have relied on those hallmarks of CEID to guide us as we make decisions and determine actions. The strong commitment to meet individual needs, while using the strength of collaboration, and our firm belief in the value of connection for all people, grounded us, as it always has, to keep meeting needs as a team with our students, families and patients at the center of those determinations.
There is not just one hero at CEID, we are surrounded by them. Our students, patients and their families - these are the heroes at the heart of CEID. We are surrounded by an incredible caring community of professionals, friends, donors, sponsors and supporters who understand the value of a strong and early start. These groups have allowed CEID to build community and connection for 40 years. This caring community supports, advocates, adapts and meets varying needs every step of the way. With that bedrock to ground us, the future for CEID remains bright. We look toward a new era of service with increased collaboration and expanding access and impact.
Thank you for celebrating with us this year in honor of our 40th Anniversary. Your support, in all ways, sustains the continuation of our exemplary programs. Your investment in CEID ensures our future and the success for all of our students, patients and their families.
Just like every organization in California, in the country, and indeed in the world, CEID has never seen a year like 2020.
“I’ve been in the field for 39 years, without a doubt this has been the most unusual set of circumstances I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime,” said Speech and Language Therapist Carol Lettko.
But CEID has not let these difficult times hinder efforts to deliver life-altering care. With a focus on flexibility and teamwork, CEID started the 2020-2021 school year by welcoming students back for preschool, specialized therapies and childcare, with options for both in-person or distance learning.
Extensive new protocols are in place to minimize risk and promote staff and student safety. From temperature and symptom checks, to mask-wearing, to children each having their own personal art supplies, to seemingly endless handwashing & sanitizing, day-to-day life at CEID looks quite different these days.
One of the most difficult changes has been the need to keep students in separate pods with no cross interaction among the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Classrooms and Sunshine Classroom. CEID prides itself on inclusion with children in all classrooms interacting and learning together, and with parents and caregivers frequently visiting as active members of the community. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made this impossible. Classrooms remain separate and parents drop off their children without ever entering the Center.
“We had an open-door policy, so now literally closing the door has been really hard,” shares Sunshine Teacher Isabel Lee.
Despite these challenges, students, parents, and staff have stayed positive and open to changes. With every passing week, CEID is starting to feel familiar again. “I’ve been so impressed with the education team and how we’re supporting each other and supporting our families. Our staff has been super creative and really stepped up through problem solving,” said Program Director and Teacher Jessica Salaam.
In responding to differing needs of families and staff, CEID continues to provide distance learning and virtual services for families who prefer to stay home. Carol started conducting her speech and language therapy sessions entirely through tele-therapy in March and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
While working remotely has certainly presented challenges for therapists, it has not been without benefits. Because many families are at home together, Carol gets to work with entire families rather than just the individual students. CEID strives to help the “whole” child and the “whole” family so this has been a positive opportunity to adapt CEID’s mission even more fully.
“The opportunity to coach families on how to work on specific goals with their child and the
overall level of connection and collaboration with families has been amazing,” said Carol.
To make in-person programs possible, Isabel praises CEID’s steady leadership, specifically Executive Director Cindy Dickeson, in guiding the Center through its re-opening process. Isabel has been particularly impressed by Cindy and management’s ability to quickly become experts on a range of safety protocols from cleaning products, to public health orders, to air quality indexes.
“Cindy’s capacity to take these challenges and break them down and understand them from the inside out is truly commendable. I think an organization is only as strong as their leader and our leader is the strongest,” remarks Isabel.
Carol echoed the statement, expressing that watching CEID staff work in the face of adversity has been, “true teamwork at its best.”
As CEID entered the 2010s, our programs continued to flourish in our Berkeley Center and with the expansion of Audiology services in Oakland. After decades of visionary leadership, Co-Founder and Executive Director Jill Ellis retired in 2014, having skillfully guided the organization for 34 years. Thoughtful and thorough transition planning led by CEID’s Board of Directors included a search for new leadership. Director of Programs and Operations, Cindy Dickeson was selected to be the second Executive Director in CEID history, ushering in a new era for the Center marked by expansion of programs and increased community partnerships.
Within the culture at-large, the 2010s saw streaming giants Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO change how we consume television and movies by putting virtually all of their content directly online. Although it took litigation, people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing made sure they were considered in this change. In 2012, after a lawsuit by a Deaf customer, Netflix pledged to include closed captioning for all of its content. Today, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max include closed captioning in all of their content.
The decade brought faster mobile networks, as the release of the first iPad started tablet mania and the birth of new cultural icons-- “social media influencers.” The second half of the decade saw the rise of sociopolitical movements (the Women’s March, followed by the #MeToo movement) while longtime goals, like legalization of same sex marriage in the U.S., were met. Young and diverse leaders took center stage in new movements rounding out the decade.
In alignment with CEID’s decades of commitment to early identification of children who are D/HH and to strong early education services, CEID is proud to be a part of a new Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant awarded to NorCal Services for Deaf & Hard of Hearing. In partnership with agencies throughout the state, the grant provides increased access to services for young children who are D/HH and their families. Along with partner agencies, CEID will support families with resources and information as well as access to Deaf Coach (aka mentors who are D/HH) services. This work has received 4 years of funding because of aligned and determined efforts of regional agencies.
A primary goal of this project is to increase access to early intervention and support services for infants identified as D/HH to ensure age-appropriate language development. “By ensuring families are connected to early intervention and support services, this new statewide program is aligned with California’s law [SB210] that was passed in 2015 to address early language acquisition of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.” Said Sheri Farinha, CEO of NorCal and Principal Investigator of the HRSA grant. CEID is grateful to be collaborative partner to meet needs and ensure timely services for children and families.