Beginnings SC

Cara Senterfeit, executive director for Beginnings For Parents of Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, with Ah’yania Suber, one of the children helped by the nonprofit organization. Provided

COLUMBIA — When a child is diagnosed with hearing loss, parents aren't often aware of the options available to their family.

That's why Cara Senterfeit, executive director with Beginnings For Parents of Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, started a nonprofit in 2012 to give families those options.

Senterfeit said when doctors diagnose hearing loss in children, they focus on medical side of things.

"That’s what doctors do," she said. "They fix things. The ear is broken, so it needs to be fixed."

But Senterfeit said there are more things that need to be considered. People who are deaf and hard of hearing, by the nature of their disability, are cut off from other people, she said. That's why over the years they have formed groups to support each other — and that's how American Sign Language was created.

"Those groups give communication, social interaction. But most of the kids are born to hearing parents," she said. "It's very hard for a person who hasn’t experienced that to put themselves in a culture and get that perspective. So we go into the homes and talk to the families about (medical options and cultural options) and what is right for their child and where their family lives."

To date, Senterfeit and Mary Reaves, director of programs, have worked with about 125 families who have children as young as infants who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Senterfeit said she hopes to continue to grow the West Columbia-based organization, which is why Beginnings launched the Making it Visible campaign to raise money for the nonprofit and help more families. Making it Visible refers to the fact that being deaf or hard of hearing is not something that people typically can tell by looking at someone.

"The funds raised will be directly paying for part-time education specialists," she said.

In addition to helping parents advocate for their children in schools, they also walk parents through learning that their child will have to live with a disability.

"It’s a loss," she said. "And its OK to be sad and angry and let's talk about that. And then let's get going because we’re here with you until your child is 22."

To donate to Beginnings SC, visit www.makingitvisible.org.

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.

Maya T. Prabhu covers the Statehouse from Columbia. She previously covered city government and other topics in South Carolina and Maryland. Maya has a bachelors in English from Spelman College and a masters in journalism from the University of Maryland.