CULVER CITY, CA -- CNN: Twenty years ago, Michelle Christie directed a stage performance. The actors were all students with hearing loss.
As a teacher, Christie had been helping them learn to speak -- and listen. Theater, she realized, brought a noticeable improvement in their oral language skills and self-esteem.
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"When you have characters in costume and they're all with all their friends who had a hearing loss, they felt like they belonged," Christie said. "I remember just looking at the audience a lot and seeing parents just weep. They're just so happy to see that their child can do this."
The theater group was such a success that Christie was asked to continue the program and replicate it in other cities. So, in 1997, she founded No Limits Theater Group. She traveled the country, bringing together groups of children with hearing loss to rehearse and perform plays written specifically for them.
From place to place, Christie says she noticed a trend: Students who'd had more early intervention also had improved speech and reading ability. She found that low-income students were falling through the cracks because families couldn't afford the resources their children needed to succeed.
"It just didn't seem fair. I decided I wanted to start an educational center really helping families in poverty," she said.
Today, her No Limits organization has three education centers -- located in California and Las Vegas -- offering free support and enrichment programs to children with hearing loss. The organization works with about 600 children and their families each year.
No Limits has also produced 100 plays in 13 states. The group has reached more than 200,000 people nationwide.
"Many kids are enrolled in college or have already graduated from college. It's so exciting to see it, because now they are the future. ... I want them to dream big for their lives," Christie said. "We have kids who are pilots. We have scientists. We have lawyers. We have psychologists. There are so many successful people with hearing loss."
CNN's Allie Torgan spoke with Christie about her work. Below is an edited version of their conversation... HERE.
SOURCE - CNN