Spotlight Saturday: Shannon Svikhart, Gateway Parent  - Hearing and Speech Agency

Spotlight Saturday: Shannon Svikhart, Gateway Parent

What drew you to HASA originally?  We were coming out of the "hospital haze" of my daughter's first 3 years of life in which her health was fragile and tenuous. The hospital had sheltered us in a cocoon that was intent on saving her life, improving her outcomes, and accepting her differences. We thought life on the "outside" would be similar. It was not. There are many good programs that can help medically fragile children, and we enrolled her in many of them. But with her delays, she needed more comprehensive, intensive services every day. Her special life was now in our hands. We were intent on giving her every chance for her to grow and "catch up" on what she'd missed out on developmentally. Her speech and language development was most impacted by a trach and ventilator. 

We learned what an IEP was and that she'd need one. Special education and all the acronyms it encompasses, was a whole new world to us. And where do novices turn? Google, of course. After I found HASA, then the Gateway school, online, I quickly found myself on the phone with Jill Berie who patiently schooled me on all things special ed. Only to realize later that this kind person was the Educational Director. Gateway's emphasis on total communication was just what was needed.

Ask any parent of a special education student, the struggle to get our kids in a safe, academically challenging and accepting school, is often a messy, expensive, and heart wrenching task. No cocoon here, especially if you do not have the means to afford the help.

Many stressful months later, we found our daughter's second home in the Gateway School. From day one at 3 years old, speaking just a few words, we knew this was the place for her. We hoped it would be life changing. We grew to love the focus on play, something sorely missing from her early struggles. Soon, friendships were made and seeing daily hugs from her pals made our days. I now hear her saying pretty typical things like, “I love my girlfriends so much mommy. They are adorable.” She texts her grandmother in complete sentences. After four years, each day gets better than the last. It’s turned her life around. The hospital saved her life and Gateway is giving her a life that is happy day in and day out.   

What is your favorite memory with HASA? My favorite memories are events when we celebrate as a community. Watching kids jump in the moon bounce or ride ponies at "Spring Fling" or seeing everyone celebrating at the Fall Festival, these are the days that I wish more people could see. It shatters some stereotypes when you see not so typical kids having a blast being kids. I also love to see the progress kids make over the years as they take the stage and have so much fun with music, song and movement at one of the many performances.

What's the one thing you want people to know about HASA? That it’s a little gem in this city – I realize a lot of people aren’t fully aware of all that it offers.

What are three words to describe HASA? Nurturing, beautiful, accepting

What have you gained from being affiliated with HASA? From my affiliation with HASA, I’ve seen a non-profit organization up close that is really well run and full of amazing, generous, self-sacrificing people that spend their lives trying to help others.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us. I’ve flirted with and would like to commit to being a vegetarian, but like my daughter, I’m addicted to my husband’s barbeque.

Hearing and Speech AgencyHarry and Jeanette Weinberg Building 5900 Metro Drive Baltimore, MD 21215 410.318.6780