Cara’s testimony at the Oct. 14 JCLCC Hearing



On Oct. 14, Cara testified virtually during the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children hearing. Read her passionate words on behalf of deaf & hard of hearing children in South Carolina below.

“Chair Bernstein and Members of the Children’s Committee, thank you for providing this opportunity to speak with you today:

9,232 children…

9,232 children in South Carolina are deaf or hard of hearing and are not identified and/or receiving appropriate interventions. This amounts to 1 in every 100 children in our state being deaf or hard of hearing - but not being identified. 

That’s enough children to fill approximately 128 school busses or 370 classrooms.

I’m Cara Smithwick with Beginnings SC and I’m here today to ask you to help us reach those children. 

First let me tell you a little bit about our organization. 

Beginnings SC is based in West Columbia and serves families statewide. We provide expert knowledge and individualized planning strategies for parents, professionals, & communities. 

Our goal is to promote successful outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Like this committee, our vision is that every South Carolina child reaches their full potential. 

We are focused on ensuring children who are deaf or hard of hearing have access to the needed services and supports.

But we cannot do it without your help. 

We need more opportunities for identification and access - where we can reach children of all ages (and families) for hearing screenings. 

Awareness and education are important because hearing loss is sometimes hard to detect, especially in young children. 

Potential signs of hearing loss include: delayed speech, unclear speech, difficulty following directions, the child responding with “huh,” and also turning up the volume on electronics.

Children of all ages - from birth to 18 - should be screened, especially if a parent has concerns. 

Testing is a simple process. However, there are often misunderstandings or barriers to testing. 

Sometimes parents aren’t aware that a child needs to be screened or may think that once they are screened at birth with a newborn hearing screening in the hospital, then they do not need to be screened again.

Additionally, families may not have access to a medical home or child care center where screenings often take place. 

Families who are isolated, have limited support or language barriers may face even more challenges getting their children screened. 

Three weeks ago, the World Health Organization released the first ever World Report on Hearing.  

The new report called for a 10 year investment for hearing screenings and early intervention which would produce a return of nearly $16 for each $1 invested. 

This report also calls for urgent and evidence-based policy action to prevent, identify and provide interventions for children. 

We have two asks of this committee: 

  1. There is a lack of awareness about hearing loss among South Carolina’s parents. Hearing loss affects 1 in 100 children in our state. We need your help to reach families in your districts and agencies with information about the need for early intervention. We need your help to reach families with critical information. We have provided information that can be used to share with your constituents, colleagues, and additional key audiences. 
  2. As you consider your legislative priorities for 2022, we ask the Committee to please work with organizations like Beginnings and the families we serve to create and/or find opportunities to advocate for deaf or hard of hearing state legislation and state agency policies and programs that support South Carolina's children and their families.