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CNN Hero Michelle Christie
02:47 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Performance can boost language learning for kids with hearing difficulties

Early intervention means better speech outcomes for children with hearing loss.

[Video: closed caption version]

Culver City, California CNN  — 

Twenty years ago, Michelle Christie directed a stage performance. The actors were all students with hearing loss.

CNN Hero Michelle Christie

As a teacher, Christie had been helping them learn to speak – and listen. Theater, she realized, brought a noticeable improvement in their oral language skills and self-esteem.

“When you have characters in costume and they’re all with all their friends who had a hearing loss, they felt like they belonged,” Christie said. “I remember just looking at the audience a lot and seeing parents just weep. They’re just so happy to see that their child can do this.”

The theater group was such a success that Christie was asked to continue the program and replicate it in other cities. So, in 1997, she founded No Limits Theater Group. She traveled the country, bringing together groups of children with hearing loss to rehearse and perform plays written specifically for them.

From place to place, Christie says she noticed a trend: Students who’d had more early intervention also had improved speech and reading ability. She found that low-income students were falling through the cracks because families couldn’t afford the resources their children needed to succeed.