Columbia-based nonprofit provides language links for families of deaf children

Deaf and hard-of-hearing children across South Carolina are being given a voice by a Columbia-based nonprofit staffed with experts who connect parents with communication resources tailored to their child.

Beginnings SC was launched three years ago as the second organization of its kind in the country. The nonprofit spun out of Beginnings in North Carolina and provides resources for parents free of charge, organizes hearing screenings and offers educator training. About 70 families, 19 in Lexington and Richland counties, are involved with Beginnings SC.

Beginnings SC has applied to receive grant funding from the state but still is awaiting approval. An upcoming golf tournament will be the nonprofit’s primary source of funding in the meantime.

Co-founders Mary Reaves and Cara Senterfeit saw the need for Beginnings SC after working with deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults in the classroom and through the state Department of Mental Health’s Deaf Services. Knowing of no organization with specific hearing loss resources for parents and families, they “started one from scratch,” according to Reaves.

Mary Reaves and Cara Senterfeit celebrated membership with the Greater Lexington Chamber. Their nonprofit Beginnings SC serves about 30 families with deaf children in the Midlands region. (photo by Rachel Ham)

Mary Reaves and Cara Senterfeit celebrated membership with the Greater Lexington Chamber. Their nonprofit Beginnings SC serves about 30 families with deaf children in the Midlands region. (photo by Rachel Ham)

Services at Beginnings SC can be tailored for children from birth on up to 21 years old who are deaf or have hearing loss. Reaves said it’s important families reach out to them as soon as their child is diagnosed with hearing loss.

“Kids build their brains and vocabulary based on hearing or seeing language. Hearing loss blocks learning language in a typical way. It’s great when we are able to meet families, give them the information and connection to resources they need so their child is able to acquire language that meets their needs,” Senterfeit said.

Beginnings SC collaborates with public and private agencies to set up hearing screenings and to help parents find answers if their child is struggling developmentally or is having trouble communicating in school. In addition, Reaves and Senterfeit train educators, pediatricians and other professionals who interact with children in evidence-based communication methods.

Senterfeit said helping families bridge the communication gap and find the best way for their child to learn language brings her and Reaves the most joy.

“The best is when a parent says ‘Thanks! I don’t know how I could have done this without you’,” she said.

Anyone can be a part of the life-changing work at Beginnings SC. The nonprofit is holdings its annual Golf Classic on March 20 at Cobblestone Park Golf Club in Blythewood. Registration starts at 10:30 a.m. with a shotgun start at 11:45 a.m.

The deadline to sign up a team is Friday, and the cost to register a team is $400.

Parents interested in learning more about programs at Beginnings SC can visit the nonprofit’s homepage or call (803) 216-1171.

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