Mother inspired to write popular children’s book after daughter loses hearing
Doctor’s appointments are routine for 6-year-old Mila Petruzziello. Mila is deaf.
All newborns are given hearing tests before they leave the hospital – Mila failed hers, but her family was reassured that her hearing would be okay.
According to experts, two to three of every 1,000 children the United States is born with some degree of measurable hearing loss – and Mila was one of them. When she was one, Mila was diagnosed with mild hearing loss.
“It was hard for us to process and understand, but at the same time, we knew that she was a really happy 1-year-old and we knew she already had a very spunky, very lively personality...” her mom, Katie Petruzziello told News 12. “...I think the fact that it was identified after we knew her as a person was very comforting...we knew she had the personality to tackle anything that comes her way.”
More did come her way - by the time Mila was 3, she was deaf and received cochlear implants at NYU Langone’s Cochlear Implant Center. Mila is under the care of NYU Audiologist, Dr. Janet Green. Green says that cochlear implants are the best option for people with moderate to profound hearing loss.
“It’s really their best chance at having access to sound and access to speech within a range...for young children to develop speech and language skills and for older children and adults to be able to get back to their typical activities that they enjoyed,” Green told News 12.
Mila’s mom, Katie Petruzziello, decided to turn trauma to triumph. She raised money to self-publish a book about a character with cochlear implants. But the cochlear implants are just a part of a little girl who is living her best life.
“There wasn’t enough representation of deaf and hard of hearing characters in fun children’s books. It was all medically focused books, where the focus of the book was on their hearing and disability,” Petruzziello said. “I wanted to make sure that there were books out there for deaf and hard of hearing kids where they can see themselves as a normal kid that they are, doing all of the fun things that all kids do.”
Petruzziello donated more than 400 books to NYU Langone’s Center for Cochlear Implants. At their implant activations, young patients get the gift of hearing and a copy of Mighty Mila.
“The kids immediately will start opening it, looking at all the colorful pictures, they can’t wait to read it, the parents, they get tears in their eyes, they’re just so excited to read this book, they all want to know who Mila is,” Green said. “And they have learned who she is, some of them have met her. A little awe struck some little younger ones when they meet Mila,” she added.
Mila isn’t only a celebrity to the kids at NYU’s Cochlear Implant Center. She’s also a beacon for her 4-year-old sister, Sophia, who has hearing loss and just started wearing hearing aids this past summer. But despite her celeb status, Mila remains humble. She says she’s a regular kid who enjoys doing kid things – like decorating her cochlear implants.
Petruzziello is writing a sequel to Mighty Mila called Mighty Mila: Dream Job. It’s supposed to let kids who are deaf know that anything is possible. She launched a Kickstarter campaign for the book earlier this month.