My sister’s story

March 29th, 2008 by | Tags: , | 27 Comments »

Jessica asked me to post her story on my blog that she originally wrote for school. Before you read her story and start throwing in criticism, let me explain – Jessica’s only in sixth grade, and she has NO background in the deaf community except for what she saw on my blog a few months ago, and she has very little knowledge of the CI controversy.

Jessica and I are eight years apart, which is a huge gap in our age and time. When I first received my CI, not only was I one of the first 200 children in the US to receive one, but also there was a huge controversy among both professionals and the deaf ASL community. By the time Jessica was born, more professionals accepted CIs, and she was the youngest child in the U.S. to receive her CI at the time when she received her first one. When I was growing up, I saw my mother clearly as a serious advocate for CIs as she wrote articles for a cochlear implant magazine, was a board member of the Auditory-Verbal Center, and plus, she taught me to be an advocate from a young age since I was the Better Hearing and Speech Month poster child in 1994 and a panelist at a few CI conventions. My mother “stepped down” her advocating about the time when Jessica started elementary school, and thus, she never really got to see my mother advocating nor to experience advocating like me. Even though my mom no longer writes articles for a cochlear implant magazine nor is a board member of the Auditory-Verbal Center, she’s still a serious advocate by being part of the CICircle and other CI listservs, and, of course, a regular commenter on deaf and CI related blogs, and she still helps out at the Auditory-Verbal Center occasionally with advocacy issues.

When Jessica is older, if she decides to join my advocating, she’ll learn about what my mother went through when she got me a CI, hear about our experiences with advocacy, and not to worry, I will be sure to educate her about the misconceptions of the deaf ASL community and what I learned from the deaf ASL community in the past few months. For now, I just have to let her have fun and be a cute little girl. Right now, the only way she understands the life of being completely deaf is when she removes her external CI processors, and she sees that as limiting. While many people consider me as one of the first successful pediatric CI users, Jessica’s the beginning generation of typical CI users. Here’s her story:

Hi, my name is Jessica Chaikof. In many ways I am a regular 6th grade girl. However, there is one different thing about me. I am deaf. But I don’t use ASL (American Sign Language). I have cochlear implants that help me speak and hear. If this technology didn’t exist I would not be here at High Meadows and I would be using ASL. This is my story.

I was born on February 9, 1995 at 11:30 am. I was given some tests to see if I could hear. This test is given to many new babies when they are born. I failed that test. That meant I was deaf.

My mom wanted to give me an implant as soon as possible, not when I was 2. At the time the rules were that children could get an implant at age 2 or over. My mom did not want to wait like she did with my sister, Rachel, until I was 2. Rachel did not receive her implant until she was two and so she had more to catch up.

When I was 14 months old, we flew to New York. Why did we fly to New York? There was a Cochlear Implant Center there. That was where my sister got her surgery. While we were there, my mom asked the doctor when he would implant me. My mom hoped for 18 months, but the answer she received was even better. She was told that I could get my cochlear implant at 15 months! She was so happy that she almost fell off the chair. Even though I was little, I think that if I had been able to talk and express how I felt, I would have been happy and excited.

Next month we flew back to New York. I was only 15 months old at the time. My surgery was in May, 1996. At the time, I was the youngest child in the country to get a cochlear implant. I had a cochlear implant for my left ear. But now children can receive a cochlear implant as young as 6 months old.

As soon as I got a cochlear implant, I started working with Mary Ann Costin at the AVCA (Auditory-Verbal Center of Atlanta). She taught me how to speak. When I was 6 years old, I graduated from the AVCA. After working with Mary Ann Costin for four and half years, I no longer needed intensive speech and language therapy.

I attended High Meadows School beginning in preschool through 1st grade. Then I left High Meadows School in 2004 when I was entering 2nd grade. I went to River Eves Elementary School so that I could receive more resource help during my school day.

That year, my sister Rachel got a second CI (cochlear implant). My mom wanted me to get a cochlear implant for my right ear also. So in May 2004, I got surgery for a second implant for my right ear.

I went to River Eves for 3 years. When I was in 4th grade I left the school and returned to High Meadows. My mom pulled me out of River Eves for many reasons. One reason was that there was too much competition at River Eves and we wanted the hands-on curriculum at High Meadows. I was glad to be back at High Meadows.

Now, 2 years later, I am back at High Meadows and I am happy to be at such a fantastic school where I can get such a good education. A good education is very important for me to be able to pursue my dreams and, without my Cochlear Implant, I would not be here because everyone here can hear and speak. I have many dreams and goals in life.

When I am 17 or 18 years old, I want to be a High Meadows camp counselor. Then, in my 20s or early 30s, I want to be a High Meadows teacher. I watch how one of my favorite Middle Years teachers explains things to the class and I want to be like that. My grandparents were also teachers, so there is a history of educators in my family. I know how important it is to have a good teacher.

After that, at 30 to 47, I would like to be a vet. I love all animals, big ones and little ones. I love dogs, cats, and horses. I rescued a cat and he lives with me now. It is important for animals to have someone to take care of them in a loving way when they are sick or hurt.

Finally, at 48 I would like to run for President of United States. It would have to be after my brother is President because we don’t want to run against each other. I have learned so much about politics from my brother, and he taught me so much about why it is important to be active in politics. There are many things I can do even at my age. I can learn about the issues and join groups like “Kids for Obama.” I can talk about politics to others and teach them why I think a certain candidate would be good for the country. My cochlear implants will make it much easier for me to do any of these wonderful jobs that I want to do.



March 29, 2008 at 10:28 pm

“without my Cochlear Implant, I would not be here because everyone here can hear and speak.”

Rachel, do you agree with this statement?


March 29, 2008 at 10:41 pm

Hey Rox..I definitely do not agree with this statement. I have met so many deaf people who dont have CIs who have lead full and productive lives. I am just concerned that the general public will get this misconception about CIs giving deaf people a life as if we never had a life before. This will just take us backwards instead of moving us forward about deafness and ASL.


March 29, 2008 at 10:50 pm

:) Cute! Big aspirations for a little girl, but, hey! It can be done!

Rox, have you ever thought out that this is all Jessica ever knows? she knows nothing else other than the life she has now and she’s happy! So, why are you nit picking? Leave it alone.


March 29, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Please read my statement thoroughly that I wrote before reading her story.

I clearly stated: “Right now, the only way she understands the life of being completely deaf is when she removes her external CI processors, and she sees that as limiting.”

I also clearly said that my mother and I have to let Jessica enjoy her life now. If she questions us about the deaf culture and the deaf community, we’ll speak to her about it then and make sure that she understands the misconceptions. So far, Jessica has not yet expressed her interest in learning about the deaf community. Right now, she’s more concerned about her involvement in Girls Scouts, her friends at school, her love for her cute little cat, reading news about politics, and etc.


March 29, 2008 at 10:57 pm

Thank you for your understanding, CANDY.

March 29, 2008 at 11:26 pm

Well if she’s a Girl Scout, likes cats and Obama, she can’t be all that bad. :-) I was a Girl Scout leader for eight years. We have a lot in common already. Sounds like she has big plans for her life.


March 30, 2008 at 12:12 am

Don’t you realize this is a kid sharing her experience? Please don’t pour rain on her, but let her enjoy her growing up.

Rachel, Jessica sounds like a cool kid. She has nice ambitions, too :)

March 30, 2008 at 1:21 am

I think its fantastic that your sister is daring to dream big!!! Sounds like she has some wonderful goals to work towards, and I wish her the best in all her endeavors.

Karen Mayes

March 30, 2008 at 6:00 am

Awww… sounds like a cool girl with all ambitions! Wonderful to read her piece. We could use more vets to take care of animals. Also, we need more vets to take care of endangered animals.


March 30, 2008 at 8:56 am

Nice article…she sounds like a sweet & ambitious girl. My daughter wanted to be a geologist and then a vet. At the age of 40, she has been working as a teacher of deaf/hh children, ASL interpreter, advocate and many more. Guess her dreams have changed through the years.

I do hope that you, as her family, will also educate her that there are deaf people, those without cochlear implants or hearing aids are also successful people and have the same ambitions. We are no different even though we do not communicate the same way. By educating your sister you would be doing her justice so she can see all of us (deaf, hearing, hard of hearing, blind, physically challenged, white, black, asians, mexicans, etc.) are all created equal. Some of us are lead into different paths and some succeed and others do not for various reasons. I am sure with your guidance, she’ll succeed, no matter what.

March 30, 2008 at 9:44 am

Jessica’s comment, “without my Cochlear Implant, I would not be here because everyone here can hear and speak.” is absolutely accurate for her school. Remember that she wrote it about her specific school and not about life in the hearing world in general. Her school is a regular mainstream private school, not a public school. If she needed more than her portable soundfield system in order to be able to understand the teachers and other students, the school wouldn’t work for her because there is no funding for an interpreter. Even the soundfield system is something that the public school system refused to pay for because she is in a private school. Her school was nice enough to order it for us so that we got the school discount, but we had to reimburse them for it. While I know that you will find plenty of deaf children who need ASL interpreters in mainstream public school classrooms, I’d be very surprised to find too many in mainstream private schools because of the funding issue.

March 30, 2008 at 9:46 am

Jessica for President 2033! GO JESSICA GO!

The best part of this article is the fact that Jessica seems to be enjoying her life – with her cochlear implant. Good for her!

Rachel, cool beans for allowing Jessica to experience her life – on her own terms.

Jessica in ’33!



March 30, 2008 at 9:50 am



After recalibrating my computer’s calculator, namely me, I have realized I have erred.

Jessica Chaikof for President 2043!




Karen Mayes

March 30, 2008 at 11:36 am

In 2033, I’d be, what, 68 years old??? Agggghhhh… can’t see myself at that age with Melissa as a vibrant 40ish lady!


March 30, 2008 at 12:17 pm

My apologies… I can see how my comment was perceived as being nitpicky, although it was not my intention. Jessica wrote a beautiful story. I am curious to know if Rachel agrees with the statement that Jessica made in the story or not. That is all.

Jean Boutcher

March 30, 2008 at 7:29 pm

President of the USA? Way to go, Jessica! :-D You and I have something in common. Politics is one of my passions. Talk into making your brother let you run for president first; otherwise, Americans would not be happy about the presidential dynasty. Americans have learned the lesson from the Bush Dynasty (Bush 41 and Bush 43).

Bonne chance!


March 30, 2008 at 7:45 pm

sw33tz! see? deafness iz so limit and tot4lly sucks im0, l3ts k1ll d34f c0mmun1ty!!!! w3 d0nt need th4t, f0rtunat3ly, deafness iz g0in to di3 0ut l8r :D go j3ss1ca!! *claps*claps* im pr0ud 0f h3r!!


March 30, 2008 at 8:29 pm

How cute…she has a good role model.


April 2, 2008 at 8:58 am

her story is so amazing! jessica may have many friends. i think all deaf children should have a ci. (=


May 13, 2008 at 12:51 pm

Congratulations to Jessica! May her happiness and passion lead her to success, as well as a supportive and educated family. =)

Nicola, it seems pretty shallow of you to say that ALL deaf children should have a CI.


May 29, 2008 at 11:40 pm

HI i am Tori i dont know u but i go to river eves i am 10 and i am in 4th grade going in to 5th grade and my fourth grade teacher was mrs.bauman my third grade teacher was mrs. njie my 2nd grade teacher was ms. adish who now has cancer my 1st grade teacher was ms. wyatt. if u want to know any thing about the school i could tell u. and i bet my teachers would be happy to know what u are doing now. oh and do u rember what teachers u had?


July 2, 2008 at 2:27 am

Hi! Tori,
I do remember all of my teachers. I had Mrs. Harvell, Miss Hungerford, and Mrs. Bauman. It looks like Mrs.Bauman is the only teacher we both had. You can tell her I said hi. I don’t know your other teachers.


August 19, 2008 at 4:34 pm

well i am now in fifth grade and miss bauman has retired soo..do you rember mister sparks? ms. hungferd teaches 3rd grade and i now have miss vose who teaches 5th!


October 8, 2008 at 9:33 pm

I do remember Mr.Sparks. Very well. I hope you like 5th grade.


August 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Good for you the implant helps you so much.
shel scared of losing her deaf culture via deaf getting implants. Well, if deaf culture didn’t have the attitude like oh don’t talk to us til you learn sign language attitude (in general) then it wouldn’t be going away so fast. How else can anyone practice if many using ASL have that attitute from my own experience.
Also, a guy with ci wished me dead and some even ignoring me on same list due to the fact my cochlear implant team refuses to implant me and they think I’m just not wanting one .
So bad attitudes in both cultures I have experienced . But we must never cease to grow up and improve cultures with better technology and ASL as no doubt some medically cannot receive those cochlear implants.


January 27, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I have a question I have a assignment for one class and is about people with cochlear implants or people that work with them. I have a few questions that I need to answer. If I can get anyone with this characteristics to help me, I will really appreciated.



August 26, 2012 at 5:12 am


I am profoundly deaf but received my cochlear implant in 1996 when I was four years old. I did not sign prior to receiving my CI (like your mother my mother was an advocate for cochlear implants. She just did not know it was available until I was four years old because my doctors then thought it would be “easier” if I just learned to sign. I still have vivid memories of my childhood going around and talking with other parents who were unsure of implants for their children. I was their example.) I was reading through your sister’s story and saw her comment saying that you both had received a second CI. I was not given the choice of a second implant until I was sixteen years old and by that point I did not want it. I’ve heard that there is a subtle difference that comes with a second implant. Again I will admit that I really do not have much knowledge about it nor have I met someone that had two implants. However, I am now at the point in my life where soon I will be taking my MCAT and applying to medical schools. I sometimes wonder will the second implant help me to struggle less, then the skeptic in me says that my left ear has been inactive for a little over 20 years. So I guess I am asking for your point of view or even Jessica’s even though I am older than her we did receive implants around the same time. (side note- Jessica we have the same birthday.)