My name is Jennifer Nielson. My husband, Darrell, and I met at Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children over 30 years ago while we were students here. Here is a picture of us with our Spelling Bee trophies! Darrell has always been very competitive but for that school year, I won First Place and he got Second! Our daughter, Gabriella, was born in 2013. She failed the Newborn Hearing Screening test three times and was finally diagnosed with a congenital hearing loss. 

We communicated with Gabriela in the language my husband and I share, American SIgn Language, and worked on having Gabriela read lips from the time she was an infant. We signed “I love you Gabby” every day while speaking the words so Gabby could read our lips, over and over. We believed that communicating with our daughter in the natural way of our home would allow her to speak better in the future because she would know words. When we enrolled in the Parent Infant Program at Sunshine Cottage, we were assigned to Lisa Lopez, Darrell’s former elementary teacher. Now, Lisa was our Parent Infant Advisor! When we discovered the extent of Gabriela’s hearing loss, the audiologist fitted her with hearing aids. 

The first time Gabriela heard her name was when the audiologist said “Hi Gabby!” Gabby’s look of surprise was amazing. Gabby’s loss was progressive and she was implanted in 2018 and 2019. Gabby is in 2nd grade now and is progressing well in listening, language and academics! It is what we wished for her. We have always said we want Gabby to know how to talk and communicate with others so her life would be easier than it has been for us. She loves to share and talk and has a huge personality. She loves to explore and have new things to do and learn. Currently, she is taking Martial Arts Class and is learning to play the guitar. She still uses ASL at home but she also uses her words with clear, intelligible speech. Sunshine Cottage has been very supportive to our family and have always welcomed us with open arms. All of the teachers and staff are amazing and so patient and everyone really looks out for their students and their families. 

Gabriella continues to work hard every day to get ahead and she looks forward to middle and high school and college. She wants to learn about space and the universe. Maybe she will be an astronaut or work for NASA! Anything is possible.