Hope for Deaf-Blind Triplets — Light in the Dark

For the parents of deaf-blind triplets, a modern-day miracle worker is their best hope.

By Kenneth Miller from Reader's Digest | February 2008

Levert reported for duty last March. Since then, Zoe has made remarkable progress. She can sign 15 words — five times as many as she learned in the years before Levert arrived. Once as nocturnal as Emma, she now sleeps soundly through the night. She’s calmer, and her attention span is longer. She can brush her teeth, get dressed and grab crackers for herself.

Someday Zoe may learn to conduct a conversation, read a book, even hold a job or get married. But for now, says Levert, “it’s amazing just to see her becoming a seven-year-old girl.”

Zoe isn’t the only member of the family whose life is improving. Thanks to Levert — and a team of part-time domestic aides from a newly expanded federal program for the disabled — the girls’ parents are freer to pursue their own work. Keeping the household afloat through video and design gigs, the couple has so far raised $125,000 for the DeafBlind Children’s Fund.

Liz and George can also now pay more attention to Sarah, whose math scores and smiles-to-scowls ratio have improved accordingly. They’re homeschooling her and Emma and sending Sophie to kindergarten at a private academy. The morning scramble for the school bus has ended.

Emma worked with a temp from George Brown this past winter. She is next in line for a long-term intervenor, followed by the deaf-blind daughter of another local family, then — ideally — by Sophie. Ultimately, the fund aims to help hundreds of children, but there are immigration issues regarding importing intervenors from Canada. The Hookers are lobbying legislators to amend the rules; they’re also supporting efforts to improve training for homegrown intervenors.

Meanwhile, Liz and George are thankful for the distance the family has traveled. At a neighborhood Tex-Mex restaurant one late-fall evening, a mariachi group serenades them. Emma’s face registers what appears to be pure bliss; she has lately begun to show an interest in music.

Her mother watches her wistfully. “Someday I’m going to be able to ask her what she’s been thinking all these years,” she muses. “I can’t wait to get inside my daughters’ heads.”