Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH)
January 5, 1992


In 1985, when Dennis and Eileen Goik first learned their infant son had a profound hearing loss, doctors braced the Akron couple for the worst.

Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic said Mark's hearing loss was so severe that even with hearing aids, he would never speak in sentences. He would communicate through lip-reading and sign language. He would never go to a conventional school.

Devastated, the Goiks sought a second opinion at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron. The outlook was no better.

Eileen Goik, who in addition to 8-month-old Mark had two healthy children at home, could not bear the thought of her child never speaking. The hospital referred her to a local support group.

"I thought, great, just one more thing that would take up my time," Goik said, adding that she reluctantly attended her first meeting.

It changed her life and offered hope for her son.

Today, Mark is a first-grader at St. Vincent Elementary School in Akron. He attends a class with hearing children. One might say that other than being deaf, Mark is just like the other children. But that wouldn't be quite true.

Not all the other kids got straight A's on their first report card.

"It's quite a long way from first being told he wouldn't speak in sentences," Goik said.

Mark was mainstreamed into a regular class and school because he learned to listen and speak through the auditory-verbal method of communication, which Goik learned of at her first support-group meeting.

With this technique, Mark is forced to use what little hearing he has to learn to listen. Goik learned the method from Dr. Carol Flexer, an associate professor in the School of Communicative Disorders in the Speech and Hearing Department at the University of Akron.

Flexer said that when she first met the Goiks, she did not know how successful they would be in teaching Mark to listen and speak. She said that the goal was always to mainstream a hearing-impaired child but that fewer than 5% of children with a hearing loss as severe as Mark's stand a chance of being mainstreamed.

Hearing aids serve only to amplify what little sound Mark can hear. To teach him to listen and then speak, Flexer taught Eileen Goik how to use the auditory-verbal method and how to shield her lips with her hand so Mark could not watch her mouth and lip-read.

Therapy started when Mark was 1. Goik said she talked non-stop to Mark every day, but a year passed before he spoke back. Flexer told Goik not to be discouraged.

Goik said she sometimes tired of spending so much time with her son, but she knew the results would show one day. She said the constant therapy forced her other children, Tiffany, 12, and Nathan, 10, to help more around the house. She now also has a 4-year-old, John.

Goik said the payoff came one day when she was at the grocery store and got the children snacks at the snack bar. Mark accidentally spilled his drink on himself.

"He just looked down at himself and then at me and said, 'All wet,' she said, her eyes misting.

From that moment on, the words seemed to flow. Soon, Mark was attempting his first sentence. Goik said it came out, "Ah-ah ooh-ooh rain" instead of "Bye-bye choo-choo train." She said teaching her son how various letters sound is one of the greatest challenges.

Goik said Mark's speech and listening skills improved dramatically after three annual trips to the Beebe Center in Easton, Pa., an auditory-verbal clinic. The family paid $1,000 for each of the intensive one-week sessions.

Goik said she always hoped Mark would be able to attend the same school as his siblings, and she and her husband were relieved when he passed his entrance exam. Dennis Goik said his son had succeeded at school because he desperately wants to be in school with the other children.

"In preschool, he didn't interact much with the other kids, but now, well, he's really too interactive at times," he said jokingly.

Mark's first-grade teacher is equipped with a special microphone and Mark wears a receiver. His hearing aids pick up normal classroom sounds and the microphone allows his teacher's words to be amplified.

Eileen Goik said her other children had been wonderful with Mark. His brother, Nathan, teaches Mark the things young boys need to know, such as sports. His sister, Tiffany, tutors him in religion.

Mark, a dimpled towhead with blue eyes, politely answers questions and interacts with his family. He said he and Nathan are football-card collectors and own 413 cards. The Atlanta Falcons are his favorite football team. Michael Jordan is his favorite basketball player. He has 28 classmates at school.

Goik said she was proud of herself for laying a foundation for her son to have a normal life, but she is saddened that someday she will not be able to hear the fruits of her labor.

While Mark has been learning to listen and speak, Goik has steadily been losing her own hearing. She believes that within five years, she will be deaf.

Goik said she first started noticing a hearing loss in her early 20s and has been wearing hearing aids for 12 years. Since Mark was born, Goik has lost 75 decibels of hearing ability.

She still has some hearing, but she doesn't do well in phone conversations. It is not known whether the cause of her son's hearing loss is related to her own. The cause of his hearing loss has not been determined.

"When I look back at the very beginning and I see what he can do now, it makes me very happy inside. I didn't doubt that Mark would be able to talk - I doubted that I would be able to teach him," she said.

Flexer believes that Goik's personal struggle with hearing loss may have helped her son.

"Markie was able to succeed because of the language. Why did he have the language? Because he had intensive early intervention and a mother and a family that worked so hard," Flexer said.

"It took a lot of effort, but boy, is it going to pay off," she said. "Markie's going to have a life - a full, independent life."



Edition:  FINAL / ALL
Section:  NATIONAL
Page:  1A
Dateline:  AKRON