Rita Farencino’s journey of discovery about her daughters’ hearing loss has been challenging, but the Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf has been a source of comfort and support. The school provides a safe haven for families with deaf and hard of hearing children, offering assistance, resources, and a welcoming environment. Rita and her family have learned sign language and other communication skills to help them communicate with each other. The school has become like a second family, providing invaluable support and guidance.
My name is Rita Farencino. My husband Dan and I have two beautiful amazing girls, Alexa and Elizabeth. They are deaf and hard of hearing, and we have an incredible family.
I became a stay-at-home mom once Alexa was born and it was amazing. You know, it was incredible to watch her do all these new things. I mean, she's crawling, she's laughing, she's playing, and all of a sudden I started to notice that she wasn't responding to me necessarily.
If I would be behind her, I could be clapping, jumping, using a rattle, and she wouldn't seem to notice. So we decided to get her checked out, and we went to a few different doctors because they would do the audiograms and she kind of knew how to play the game even at an early age.
And they would tell us, "No, she seems to be fine, she's doing great." And I wouldn't take that for an answer, so it actually took us almost six months to get a definitive answer that she was hard of hearing.
We did a sedated ABR at the hospital and they told us that day that she was profoundly deaf and most likely wasn't hearing anything we were saying to her. It was very sad. Like I said, I grieved for a while. I still grieved sometimes, but it didn't change who she was.
She was this beautiful happy child who just brightened everyone's day when they saw her, and whether she was deaf or not, she was still this beautiful girl, and we think of her the same way now. So it was hard, and to find out that our second was partially deaf after that was even harder, but we know that they'll both have each other growing up, and that helps me, and I hope will help them through the years.
Most parents can turn on a lullaby in the middle of the night to soothe their child. That's not something we can do. They have their cochlears, they no longer have any hearing with them off, so for us, I'll sign to her in the middle of the night.
You know, I have to come in and physically comfort her at those times when she doesn't have her cochlears on, as we call them, her ears. And you know, in the shower, when we're playing in the water even, you know, just for a little bit of breaks and stuff, we are learning sign language, facial expressions, all these different things of how to communicate with them and how to continue the moment.
That her sister Elizabeth got her cochlears, and we brought her home that first day, and we showed Alexa, "Hey, look, Elizabeth has a Cochlear like you!" She got so excited that her sister had the same ear as her, the same thing, and I think that will always bring them closer together.
As they're always with each other and they'll always be helping each other, I think that's probably the proudest. I would tell Milneck that it is such a beautiful place and we are eternally grateful for their help and their assistance with our children and us as parents for helping us through this experience.
They have been honestly incredible. I mean, from the first day we stepped in, it's been like another set of family, so welcoming, so helpful, and if they see that I'm struggling or I need help, they ask, they put themselves out there for us