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John Butchko

I didn’t speak for the first year and a half of my life.  In fact, I didn’t really make any sounds at all like a usual baby.  The fact that I didn’t babble was one of few hints to my parents that I had a hearing loss.  The most I would do was squawk, a noise I am told was impossible to ignore.  It’s quite funny that I ended up where I am after that start– and due in large part to the John Tracy Clinic (now John Tracy Center “JTC”).

Although I passed the standard hearing tests with flying colors, my Mom’s stubborn belief that something was off lead to an auditory brainstem response test that revealed I was profoundly deaf.  I was 14 months old and my parents were at a loss.  They had never met anyone who was deaf and did not know where to start to help me.  My audiologist referred us to JTC and I began my journey.

 During my first visit to JTC,Susie Tracy was present and shared with the support group her story of the special relationship she had with her brother.  Susie saw me run eagerly through JTC exploring the classrooms and told my mother that I would turn out all right.  My mom enrolled me at JTC and Susie came to observe me a few times each year and followed my progress.   

I don’t have a lot of specific memories of my time in demo home or the preschool, but my life was changed.  I rode to downtown LA with my father four days a week and looked forward to those times where traffic would let us arrive early so I could have little round hash browns from Carl’s Junior.  Everything I did there washed over me, since I was an infant who was just having fun, but JTC professionals were quite clear with my parents about how it was up to them to model speech for me and encourage me to talk and listen.   They taught my parents how to support me to take a place in the hearing world. 

My expressive and receptive language blossomed and grew.  At age three I moved to a private preschool that had no experience with deaf children, and JTC played a critical role in helping with a smooth transition.  It was a resource for my parents and for the classroom teachers who had to learn how to deal with me.  John Tracy Center gives parents the tools they need to support and advocate for their child and provides resources and encouragement each step of the way. There were bumps along the way, but I progressed from preschool to elementary school, middle school, and high school, fully mainstreamed and fully a part of my school community.  I played for the school soccer team, was elected to student government, and headed the school’s honor society.  I think Susie Tracy turned out to be right.