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Summer camp for kids with hearing impairment makes lifelong impact

The cochlear implant camp, organized by UT Dallas, has been held for almost 30 years.

PARKER, Texas — On a ranch in Parker, there’s a kids camp that looks just like any typical summer camp. Except, kids who come there have one remarkable thing in common.

“The kids are the same as me,” said 12-year-old Uzair Qureshi. “They know what I’ve been through.”

“That’s one of the biggest things I’ve got from this camp is lifelong friends,” said former camper Cooper Harris.

Every kid at this camp was born deaf. They can all hear, however, with the help of a cochlear implant.

For almost 30 years this cochlear implant camp, for kids age four to 11, has brought the kids together at Cross Creek Ranch to help improve their listening and speaking skills.

Due to the pandemic, this summer was the first time in three years the kids have been able to attend the camp.

Harris came to the camp as a kid. He’s now a senior at Texas A&M and says camp was invaluable. That’s why he now volunteers.

“It’s important to me, so I want to make it important to the kids who are coming here as well,” he said.

Especially kids who are still wrestling with their disability.

“I didn’t really wanna look like this,” 5-year-old Brody Butts said about his cochlear implant. “But God made everyone however they have to look like.”

Most of the campers say they’re used to being treated differently, but not here.

“They just treat you as normal,” Qureshi said.

Professionals and grad students from UT Dallas design the curriculum and lead the camp. They build therapy into every activity.

By the end of the week, kids leave camp more capable than ever of reaching their goals.

“Goals that their parents probably would’ve told you in the beginning that wasn’t even possible for them,” said UT Dallas Director of Clinical Speech and Language Pathology Melissa Sweeney. “So it really makes a significant difference.”

Sometimes, the difference is almost instant.

Butts, who was attending his first camp, was excited to be around other kids with an implant like his.

“It looks cool and I like having people like me,” he said.

“Knowing that there was other people like me definitely made it easier to go through life and just made so many great memories and that definitely changed my life,” added Harris.

What more can you say?

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