South Dakota School for the Deaf undergoes name change
This interview originally aired on In the Moment on SDPB Radio.
Senate Bill 37 cleared all hurdles in the Senate and House and reached the governor's desk, where it was signed into law. That law changes the name of the South Dakota School for the Deaf.
The organization will now be known as the South Dakota Services for the Deaf. This change was made to better encompass all its programs and offerings to the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Kim Wadsworth, superintendent of SDSD, joins In the Moment to discuss the name change.
Since 1880, the South Dakota School for the Deaf has supported our deaf and hard of hearing community. Now its mission continues, but under a new name.
Kim Wadsworth is superintendent of the South Dakota Services for the Deaf. She joins me now at SDPB'S Kirby Family Studio in Sioux Falls.
Thanks for being here, Kim. It's nice to meet you and welcome to In the Moment.
Thank you very much, Cara. It’s a pleasure to be here today to share about our school.
Okay, and so Senate Bill 37 was signed this week into law by Gov. Kristi Noem, making that name change effective immediately. Tell me a little bit about how that came to be.
Right. Well, the name South Dakota Services for the Deaf really better reflects the programming and activities that SDSD currently provides as an all outreach and audiology program. So in 2009, SDSD shifted to an all outreach audiology program, so therefore we did not have day students anymore. No more day classes.
We now serve all our kids with outreach educational consultants and audiologists across the state.
So we're not just in Sioux Falls. We are across the state with two clinics, one audiological clinic here in Sioux Falls and the other one in Rapid City. And I always say South Dakota is very fortunate to have these no-cost services for our families birthed through high school graduation or 21 where they can have their child come into our clinics for a no-cost hearing test, just to make sure they have full access.
And so when a child is born who might be showing signs, right... Because they do the hearing test right in the hospital right away, so you might know. It may be a delayed response as well, but you might know right away. So this is when South Dakota Services for the Deaf will, I want to say, swoops in?
Right, well, at SDSD, we work closely with our state of South Dakota Early Hearing Detection & Intervention program. And so we've been working many, many years and we have some exciting things hopefully coming down the pike.
But we tried to have the children identified right away. So we call it the 1-3-6. By one month, have the child have a hearing test, by three months have them identified and by six months, have them have early intervention services. That's where we come in.
And so yes, all our hospitals are doing a really pretty good job of getting kids tested right in the hospital before they leave, which is key for us. And then we get these referrals from audiologists, from birth to 3, from all different places, and then our consultants get that name and they call that parent within 48 hours to say, "Hey, I'm here to support you. And we are a partner in educational success."
Just as many times if a parent has a child with a hearing loss, that's the first person that they've ever met who is deaf or hard of hearing, and so they have lots of questions and so we just work alongside of them on that journey.
Was it a struggle to get the name changed legally in the state?
Well, I remember years ago talking about, oh, it'd be just a huge undertaking to do this, but in 2009 it was still fresh and it was tough that we were shifting to all outreach and we didn't have our school.
So it is unfortunate that we do not have that residential program anymore, but we do have a strong growing outreach audiology program that I feel is doing wonderful things in our state for our families.
Thirty-five years you've been with this organization leading this organization, and you're set to retire?
Yes. I went to Augustana and then after Augustana I got a job at the Utah School for the Deaf, so I taught there for nine years.
Came home to South Dakota and was at the school for the deaf here for 26 years, so it's been a rich career for me. I guess a calling. I knew since a very early age what I wanted to do, and that's what I've done for 35 years.
Wow. Congratulations. And you're going to travel and enjoy retirement and your adult children.
And what's next, do you see, if you had to predict. What's next?
Well, I feel again, SDSD is alive and well and serving kids across the state. We will continue to do that. And I have good staff, a strong staff, with South Dakota Services for the Deaf in outreach and audiology, and I feel like I can just pass the baton and SDSD can still keep going strong and thrive in our state. So I'm excited to watch the next few years here too, because we have a lot of great things going.
Kim, I want to thank you for taking time. Five minutes goes by really quickly. I appreciate it.
That's for sure.