It’s officially Speech and Hearing Month in Prince Albert, and the Prince Albert Elks and Prince Albert Royal Purple Elks want to get everyone talking about it.
The two groups held a flag raising ceremony at the Prince Albert Elks Hall to officially kick off the month. Angie Nelson, Honoured Royal Lady of the Prince Albert Royal Purple Elks, said supporting early learning detection and intervention programs are important to the Elks of Canada.
“Speech and Hearing Month is especially important because it involves the children,” Nelson said.“Our mandate for speech and hearing is for children under the age of 18…. We try and help them so that they have a better chance in life later. Hearing is especially important because if a child does not have hearing, they don’t really realize what is happening out in the world.”
Participating in the flag-raising were two people who have benefited from the Elks and Royal Purple.
Now 20-year-old Michael Pelechaty started in the program when he was one-year-old and has since aged out.
“It means a lot to me because without them I definitely wouldn’t have been where I am now,” Pelechaty said. “They have helped me all of the way through. They helped me get my first implant and even through the years they have helped me get a new smoke alarm that will vibrate my bed if there is a (fire). They even got me an alarm clock and they have always just been here to help support my family.
“Without them I wouldn’t be even close to where I am right now, they have made my life way easier,” he added.
Nelson said Pelechaty was one of the first recipients and has always been paying it forward by promoting the program and people in need of cochlear implants.
“He has been doing this for many years. He has been volunteering out in the community. Whenever he has a chance, he tries to come along and give us a helping hand,” Nelson said.
The program has also benefitted six-year-old Aria Gagne who has been part of the program since before she turned two years old. Her mother Ember Spitzak said the financial help has been a benefit.
“It’s meant that she has the money to go to all her appointments and I don’t have to worry about that aspect as much as getting her to the appointment. It just means a lot of days off,” she said.
Gagne has seen improvement in her life since she received her implants.
“The only thing is she knows how to ignore people, so if she does not want to talk to you or listen to you, she just takes her ears off. Sometimes I wish I could do it,” Spitzak said.
Overall, the program has benefitted Gagne and she is now learning sign language.
Nelson said the early learning and detection programs are important because most children with speech or hearing problems are not diagnosed at an early age. The two Prince Albert groups work in conjunction with the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon to help keep those efforts going.
According to an Elks and Royal Purple press release, one in six people has a speech, language or hearing disorder. Children are at risk of developing social, emotional, behavioural and possibly learning problems if these problems are not diagnosed earlier.
The release states that communication is a vital link between human beings since we gain much of our information about others and the world around us through our ears. It goes on to state that we need to ensure that all children have access to newborn screening and timely intervention services to enable them to live lives to their potential.
Newborn hearing screening is an essential first step in the strategy for identifying children with permanent hearing loss and should be the standard of care in Canada. Early intervention is critical for children identified with communication problems.
The Saskatchewan Elks solicit donations to help Saskatchewan residents with grants for medical needs, operate the Seniors Homes, and make significant contributions to the Sask. Pediatric Auditory Rehabilitation Centre (SPARC) in Saskatoon.
SPARC is an early detection, assessment, and (re)habilitation program for hearing impaired children in the Province. SPARC, the Children’s Hearing Centre, is located at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.
Another way to support the Elks is through their Trucks and Bucks Lottery, for more information visit trucksandbucks.ca.
For more information on Speech and Hearing Month contact the Prince Albert Elks and Royal Purple Elks or call the Elks of Canada toll free at 1-888-THE-ELKS (843-3557).