Swinging in the School Year! 2019 Sound Beginnings Back to School BBQ

A Sound Beginnings student hitting a piñata

Mix a mouth-watering BBQ and horseback riding with face painting, s’mores and a piñata and there’s a winning combination every year for Sound Beginnings families to gather with graduate students and professionals from Utah State University. The annual event fondly beckons alumni families from the program’s earliest years and teens tower over former preschool teachers with a laugh that demonstrates a deeper voice. That voice isn’t taken for granted; it came from hard work and through management of hearing technology. Since 2007, Sound Beginnings has proudly served children who are deaf and hard of hearing to learn to listen and talk.

“Sound Beginnings is like family, so this event feels like a family reunion to us every year.” Becky Cornelius, the mother of a former Sound Beginnings preschooler now turned teen shared her reasons why they return year after year to the annual Back to School BBQ. They’ve enjoyed renewing their warm ties over the decade with the program’s families and service providers. When discussing her son’s continual progress in mainstreamed educational settings, she readily affirmed, “He wouldn’t be where he is today without Sound Beginnings. It was truly a foundation for success. He can interact and socialize and communicate with people easily because Sound Beginnings taught him how to hear, how to learn, and how to speak.” She continued, “The methodology is so well-organized and effective that I would like to mimic it with other situations and challenges. You take things step by step and hit each developmental milestone and when [the children] need support, work through it and drill it and make it fun all at the same time.”

A Sound Beginnings student petting a horse

A Sound Beginnings Alumni student reaches to touch the horse she is about to ride.

Bumping shoulders at the BBQ were also community newcomers. Katie Hanks recently moved into Cache Valley and enrolled her preschool daughter, Hannah, into the Sound Beginnings program this Fall. She excitedly reported that her initial experiences with Sound Beginnings have been impressive and warm. “I tell people all the time how wonderful this program is,” she glowed. “We immediately feel welcome and feel like this is where we’re supposed to be. It’s so good to feel like we’re part of a big group of people who also have children with hearing loss.” Commenting on the program’s specialized professionals and graduate students, Hanks admired, “Everyone we have come across from Sound Beginnings are outstanding. It’s a fun environment with people who sincerely care about her. Everybody there really loves what they’re doing.” Hanks appreciated the opportunity to talk with graduate students and staff at the event so she could make a personal connection with those who would be serving her family this year. She laughed when sharing that their family is already looking forward to the program’s next community event, the annual Sound Beginnings football party.

Graduate students greeting Sound Beginnings families

Graduate students greeted Sound Beginnings families, forming a warm bond with those they will be serving this school year.

Sound Beginnings students eating barbeque

In their previous community, Hanks recalled, people used to frequently stop her in the store as they noticed her children’s hearing aids. Other parents, unaware of resources for their own children who were deaf or hard of hearing, would often ask her where they needed to go to support their children in learning spoken language. “In other places,” she lamented, “you don’t always know where to go to get the support children need.” Hanks was fortunate in receiving great services in her previous community from a professional who had received her specialized educational training at Utah State University as part of the Listening and Spoken Language Graduate Studies program. When the Hanks family considered a move to Cache Valley, that professional pointed them towards Sound Beginnings. Hanks determined that when her family moved, it needed to be to a place where there were strong resources to support her children’s continued acquisition of spoken language. Coming to Cache Valley, she said, “it was a huge bonus to know that Sound Beginnings would be here to serve her family.”

Click here to learn more about Sound Beginnings or the Listening and Spoken Language Graduate Studies at Utah State University.

Sound Beginnings students and their families playing a game

The Sound Beginnings BBQ brought fun for the entire family.

A Sound Beginnings student riding a horse that Karl White is guiding

Karl White, one of the founders of Sound Beginnings, hosted the event and graciously provided horses for the children to enjoy at his home.