Soledad O’Brien Talks Kids’ Health and Self-Help

September 12, 2016   ·   0 Comments

When Soledad O’Brien’s son Jackson, now 11, was in kindergarten, his teacher asked the class to write a story about something that had happened to them after school the day before. But for some reason, Jackson instead wrote a vivid tale about aliens coming down from space. “Everyone in the class was laughing at him,” O’Brien recalls.

Things like that happened to Jackson a lot. He’d be playing ball with his friends and when someone said, “Throw the ball to Jackson,” he’d be looking in another direction and get hit by the ball. He wouldn’t notice when conversations changed, or when the group decided to play a new game. His twin brother, Charles, didn’t seem to have the same issues, and O’Brien and her husband, investment banker Bradley Raymond, struggled to figure out what to do. “He kept getting really upset at school and having these meltdowns, and we didn’t know what was going on,” O’Brien says.

Then a schoolwide hearing test when Jackson was in first grade solved the mystery. “Most of the other kids in his class passed the hearing test, but he failed,” O’Brien says. “We took him to an audiologist for further testing, and it turned out that he had lost about 80% of his hearing.” Instead of being devastated, O’Brien says her initial reaction was “absolute pure relief. It finally made sense. We were so happy to now be able to help him in a thoughtful way. It was such a struggle for him, and now we could start getting educated and find out what to do for him.”

Kids and Hearing Loss

As a newborn, Jackson had passed the hospital’s standard hearing screening test. But many children who pass that screening have hearing problems later on. “One or two of every 1,000 children shows some level of hearing impairment in the newborn hearing screening. But by the time children reach school age, the number is about five to 10 per thousand,” says Ryan McCreery, PhD, a pediatric audiologist and director of the Center for Audiology at Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, NE.

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