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Chesapeake girl places third in competition

Published 9:36am Wednesday, March 20, 2013

ATHENS — Emily Neal may not hear the same way most of her fellow 10-year-olds do, but she showed she can out-spell most of them as she took third place at the 2013 Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication Regional Spelling Bee in Athens on Saturday.

Neal was born deaf and received her first Cochlear implant when she was only 13 months old. After years of speech therapy at Marshall University, and a second implant when she was 5 years old, her mother said there is nothing that can hold her daughter back.

“She can hear in her own way, she just has a different way of hearing the sounds,” Shelly Neal said. “She speaks normally, you would never know she was deaf by hearing her talk. She’s always been an excellent speller. She’s very competitive and likes to win. She has come so far and I know one day she will understand how much of an accomplishment this is and what it means to others.”

Neal said she never taught Emily to think of herself as different from anyone else. She said she does not see Emily’s lack of hearing to be a disability, but a challenge her young daughter has met and overcome.

The young spelling champ uses a combination of hearing and lip reading to acquire her word to spell, Neal said. She said the only way Emily may be affected by her condition is the Cochlear implant adapts to the voice it is most familiar with, so a new person reading out the words could cause difficulties if they do not have good lip movement.

Emily came in second in the 2011 Lawrence County Spelling Bee before taking home the gold in 2012. Neal said her daughter was hoping to win regionals and eventually make her way to nationals, but was happy with third and is already preparing for next year.

“I think she has the potential to win some day,” Neal said. “We take it one bee at a time. I always let her known she has the potential to win all of them, but I don’t want us to count our chickens before they hatch.”

Neal said Emily goes about her day like every other kid her age. She attends classes as normal, without the assistance of aid or continuing speech therapy.

The sky is the limit for her daughter, Neal said. When asked about next year she only had two words for those who will go toe-to-toe with her little girl — “watch out.”


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