Kids Together center develops love of learning

Isabella Fernandez and Jordan Novak sign “horse” during a lesson at Kids Together in Oviedo.

Disabilities aren’t easy to cope with. Whether it be an adult or a child, the emotions and struggles that accompany the loss of a sense are not anything short of traumatic. But as times get tough, it’s places like Kids Together Child Development Center that make the transition smoother, said Katie Dagenais.

Being the mother of a hearing impaired child, Dagenais knows the difficulties in finding good care for her daughter, Jocelyn.

Jocelyn was first diagnosed with a hearing problem when she was two days old during a hearing test at Winnie Palmer Hospital. Several tests later, it was determined that little Jocelyn had a permanent, genetic hearing loss that would leave her deaf for the rest of her life.

Knowing that this would be an obstacle, Dagenais and her husband, Todd, set to work right away trying to discover the best way to care for Jocelyn. Knowing that she would have to return to work at some point, it was an immediate goal for Dagenais to find a school for Jocelyn to attend.

After some research, the couple found Kids Together Child Development Center. Although the school had never dealt with a deaf child before, owner Karla Ingrassia said Jocelyn’s disability wouldn’t get in the way of her education. Adapting to the new student in her school, Ingrassia set out to integrate sign language into her classrooms and find new and innovative ways to cater to the little girl.

This was just the beginning of a new world of curriculum Ingrassia would incorporate into the Kids Together school. From that point, sign language students from the University of Central Florida School of Communications Disorders were brought in to teach the language to teachers and students. From infants in the nursery to preschool-aged students, sign language became a permanent fixture in the education children received at Kids Together, Ingrassia said.

After a valiant effort to integrate the sign language program into the classrooms, the staff at Kids Together were recently the 2011 recipients of the Honors of the Association Award from the Florida Educators Deaf/Hard of Hearing Individuals. The award is presented each year to an educational organization that exhibits an impressive commitment to meeting the needs of deaf and hard of hearing children.

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