Parent Coffee Night- November 21st

Please join us for our next coffee night on Monday November 21st, 2016

parent coffee

We hope you can join us for our next Coffee Night to be held on Monday Nov 21st (7:30 – 9:00) for parents of children with hearing loss. Coffee Nights are informal, with lots of opportunity to ask questions, share information and meet other parents. No childcare provided for this event.

 WHEN: 7:30 – 9:00pm

WHERE: #27 – 7488 Southwynde Ave, Burnaby (look for the orange & blue balloons).

CONTACT: Catherine @ to RSVP or with any questions.

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The Power of Fairies

by Lee Johnston

We run through a similar bedtime routine every night in our house. After dinner and playtime, our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter is given a bath, followed by “milk and book,” as she calls it. Then she snuggles with either myself or my partner in a big comfy chair in her bedroom – lights dimmed, bottle of warm milk at the ready and a selection of familiar books at our side. Along with being a nice way to bond together at the end of our day, it’s a really interesting time in her life, developmentally speaking. Kathleen is becoming more vocal and opinionated in general, as toddlers are wont to do, and more interactive. My partner and I appreciate being able to spend time with Kathleen focusing on literacy and language skills as she winds down for the day, in a comfortable room without distractions.

When it’s my turn to read, I ask her what book she wants first. I’ve learned her shorthand: “Monkey book” refers to Curious George (“pancake” for the one where he saves the charity breakfast; “chocolate” for the one where he wreaks havoc in a chocolate factory); “Mouse book” refers to the story of Tiny Too-Little, the mouse with a crush on a giraffe who attempts to pile random objects high enough to give her a kiss. There are classics like Corduroy and Goodnight Moon, books recommended by workmates and gifted by friends, and ones depicting stories taken straight from her favorite TV shows (I’m looking at you, Peppa Pig!).

One of the latest additions to the book collection holds a special place in my heart. Freddy and the Fairy is the story of a boy who finds a fairy named Bessie-Belle stuck in a tree. He rescues her and in return she offers to grant his wishes. Unfortunately, she can’t hear very well and has trouble correctly interpreting Freddie’s requests for different kinds of pets. A series of miscommunications ensues, wherein Bessie-Belle grants Freddie a bat instead of a cat, a frog instead of a dog, and so on. Freddie gets frustrated and stamps his feet, and the fairy gets sad and cries. Fortunately, the Fairy Queen appears and explains to Freddy that his habits of mumbling, turning away and putting his hand near his mouth when he’s speaking are impeding his ability to communicate with Bessie-Belle. He learns to communicate more clearly and his wishes for a multitude of pets are granted, with only the occasional slip-up.  


Kathleen loved the book from the get-go. Maybe it’s because Bessie-Belle wears hearing aids like her. They’re a subtle blue and often covered by the fairy’s hair, so I’ve pointed them out to her. She nodded in acknowledgement, but seemed more interested in the cat Freddy was envisioning wishing for. Maybe she loves the book because she likes fairies and animals, and can empathize when the fairy is “stuck” and “sad.” Whatever the particular reason, Kathleen’s “Fairy book” quickly became a staple of our nightly routine.

The best part is that it’s actually really good. The illustrations are delightful and the prose stands up to repeated readings. The book’s author, Julia Donaldson, is famous for having written classic children’s books like The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom. She herself is hard of hearing and wears hearing aids, and has commented on how touched she was by the positive response to Freddie and the Fairy, particularly from hard of hearing children who were happy to see hearing aid use depicted in a book. Donaldson has gone on to advocate for more diverse representation of deafness and hearing loss in children’s books. More recently, she has gone on to create a book (What the Jackdaw Saw) about friendship and sign language with a group of deaf children in a workshop organised by a UK-based charitable organization for deaf children and youth called Life & Deaf. If you’re interested in reading more about this author’s belief in inclusion in children’s book and about the development of What the Jackdaw Saw connect to this article.

Now that she’s getting older we’re thinking more about how to increase Kathleen’s access to representations of hearing loss. She has yet to indicate that she has questions about why she wears hearing aids while no one else in her family does. And it’s too soon to say what, if any, role her hearing loss and hearing aid use will play in her identity formation as she grows into her older self. But it’s important that we see ourselves reflected in the world, particularly when we’re children. We’re lucky that we can attend group sessions with other hard of hearing and Deaf children, and that another child attending Kathleen’s daycare wears hearing aids. She has examples of other children to look to for affirmation. But it’s nice to have an example of hearing loss representation in our home, expressed in an entertaining and subtle way. It’s also a nice tool to have to pass on to the Freddie’s of the world – those of us (myself included!) who sometimes take our hearing status for granted, and forget to communicate with others as best we can. I’m looking forward to seeking out more books and representations of hearing loss for our family and home, so they’re there if and when Kathleen needs them.

Unfortunately (for me), Kathleen has a new obsession – Peppa’s First Sleepover. This book doesn’t stand up quite so well to repeated readings, which is too bad as it’s the first book Kathleen has decided must be read no less than three times in a row. Freddy and the Fairy’s waiting patiently on the shelf, however; its time will come back around, I’m sure.


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Parent Workshop- The Journey- Raising Our Deaf & Hard of Hearing Kids

Event Title: Parent Workshop – The Journey- Raising Our Deaf & Hard of Hearing Kids

Hosts: BC Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side, CHHA BC Parents’ Branch, Family Network for Deaf Children, Deaf Youth Today

The Power of Stories: Kim Sanderson (Communications Consultant and proud mom of a son who is Deaf) will draw from her experience raising a deaf son and hearing daughter to discuss the importance of identifying and reinforcing your child’s strengths as a means of developing a strong foundation for their life plan.

Language, Learning & Literacy: Charlotte Enns (Associate Dean and a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba) will provide information about how early exposure to language is connected to later learning and literacy development. Her main focus will be on sharing ways that families can reinforce their child’s language and literacy learning.

There will be lots of opportunity for discussion, to ask questions and share experiences in addition to these presenters. ASL interpreting & CART captioning provided.

$15 per adult includes lunch.
Childcare programs available for age group 0-5 and 5-12 year old deaf/hh kids $10/child. Parents to provide own lunches for children. Please see flyer for full details.

Date: Saturday, October 22nd

Location: South Slope Elementary, BC School for the Deaf – 4446 Watling Street, Burnaby

Link: Register @

2016-parent-workshop-page-001 2016-parent-workshop-page-002


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Guide By Your Side Program Expands to Include Deaf Hard of Hearing Guides

by Kim Shauer

My name is Kim Shauer and I’m a mom of two terrific daughters, Ashley (11) & Julia (8). Julia was born with a chromosomal condition, which began a journey I had never anticipated – into hearing loss and many other services for our family: see Julia’s Story.  We thrived on parent-to-parent support in those early days (and still do!) so I was thrilled to become a Parent Guide with the Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side Program six years ago.  This led into coordinating the Guide By Your Side Program’s parent guide support for parents whose babies are identified with hearing loss through the BC Early Hearing Program’s newborn hearing screening.  

Guide By Your Side Parent Guides 2016


Catherine, Amy, Lisa, Simrit, Shannon, Terri, Sarah “Charlie”, Kim, Joy

I remember having a lot of questions in the early days.  I wondered what it was like for my daughter to wear hearing aids and how she was going to be able to do certain things that I had taken for granted, being a hearing person myself.  Early on, I had the opportunity to meet both Deaf and hard of hearing adults who made me feel hopeful about all of the things people who are deaf and hard of hearing can do (pretty much everything!).  However, I wasn’t sure if could ask the personal questions I really wanted to ask:  What was it like growing up with a hearing loss?  How were you treated at school?  What’s the best/worst thing for you about having a hearing loss?  

It wasn’t until a few years later through my connections at Hands & Voices that I took the opportunity to ask some of these questions that remained inside me. Having those answered enhanced my knowledge and helped me feel less anxious and more hopeful.  I realized how important it is for parents to be able to ask those questions safely and with permission right from the start.  Fast forward to my recent involvement with the expansion of the Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side Program to include Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Guide role models on our team.  I was so excited to promote opportunities for every parent to ask their questions sooner!

Addition of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Guides to Guide By Your Side May 2016

2016 DHH Guides

Jesse, Christy, Monique, Bowen

Guide By Your Side support from both Parent and DHH Guide role models is now offered to every family and is the first program of its kind offered in Canada.

There are families who express “I don’t feel ready yet” at first, and others who react with “Yes, give me every resource you have available!”, and we respect that families have different needs at different times.  Most importantly, when parents do connect with a DHH Guide, they’ve told us it is positive and have said “I know my child will be okay” and “I was very happy with the support and really grateful”.  One family recently commented “Thank you so much passing the request to the DHH Guide. I just received a very kind email from Christy today. Her tremendous experience must be an important asset to us.”

If you have any questions or feedback for our program, I can be reached at (604) 612-9193 or  

A little history: BC Early Hearing Program Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advisory Group Recommendations

The expansion of the Hands and Voices Guide By Your Side Program took a few years to happen.  In 2013, BCEHP established the BCEHP Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Advisory Group*. This group includes representatives from the three primary parent organizations for parents of deaf and hard of hearing children, as well as DHH individuals who represent a range of communication and language choices and who provide support to parents of school-age DHH children in their professional lives. After reviewing recommendations from other jurisdictions and other DHH role model programs, this group recommended the addition of DHH Guide role models to the BCEHP Hands and Voices Guide By Your Side Program.

A two phase approach was taken to achieve the goal of DHH infusion and ensure BCEHP’s program aligns with the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (JCIH) and best practice as defined by International Consensus.  Phase one was development of the video “Nice To Meet You,” which is available on PHSA Youtube and the BCEHP website.  Implementation of phase two began in May 2016, when DHH Guides started “meeting” families alongside Parent Guides through our Guide By Your Side Program.  BCEHP Service Coordinators now present the opportunity for Parent Guides and DHH Guide role models to contact parents in the early stages after learning their baby is deaf/hard of hearing. Guides initially introduce themselves to parents in pairs or as a team by email.  Locally and in some communities outside of the Lower Mainland, there will also be opportunities to meet DHH Guide role models at family and workshop events.  To stay informed about these and other opportunities, parents can sign up for our monthly email notification “Information for Families (Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side & BCEHP)” by emailing me at

*Note: The DHH Advisory is different from the Sign Language Advisory, who developed the standards for sign language instruction with families with infants. BCEHP funds the first two years of sign language instruction, after that MCFD funding is used.  Please contact your Service Coordinator with BCEHP or your early intervention provider if you are looking for sign language instruction for your family.

The nitty gritty: support and research for families to have Deaf and Hard of Hearing Role Models

  • Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (JCIH) Position Statement 2013:
    • Goal 11: All Children who are Deaf/HH and their families should have access to support, mentorship, and guidance from individuals who are Deaf/HH.
  • Best Practices for Family Centered Early Intervention for Children who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: An International Consensus Statement  (Journal of Deaf Education and Deaf Studies 2013)
    • Best Practice Principle 4: Families are connected to support systems so they can accrue the necessary knowledge and experiences that can enable them to function effectively on behalf of their deaf/hh children.
    • In addition to support from qualified professionals, FCEI recommends parent to parent support and support from Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals.
  • Research by Dr. Alys Young (Univ. of Manchester), evaluating outcomes from U.K. Deaf Role Model Program. Benefits to parents included:
    • Parents felt reassured, more positive about their child’s deafness and more confident about the future.
    • Parents felt they were better able to see the potential of their child.
    • Parents could ask “curious” questions that they had not been able to ask of professionals.
  • National Centre for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM serves at the (U.S.) National Resource Centre for the implementation and improvement of comprehensive and effective EHDI systems.)  NCHAM e book (2014) A Resource Guide for Early Hearing Detection and Intervention, Chapter 10 by Dr. Marilyn Sass-Lehrer.
    • “Deaf and hard of hearing adults provide an important source of support that can strengthen the family’s sense of well-being and the child’s social-emotional development (Hintermair, 2000, 2006 Meadow-Orlans et al., 2003.”
    • “Families who have had regular interactions with deaf or hard of hearing adults demonstrate better communication with their children and a more realistic understanding of what it means to be deaf or hard of hearing than those who have not.”
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Experiences traveling with a Deaf child

By Joy Santos

Traveling was a huge part of my childhood, and it is something that I would like for my daughter, Teanna, to experience in hers. We make travel plans as much as we can, be it quick weekend getaways, camping and road trips, or a well deserved longer vacation. At first it felt daunting. I worried about things all parents worry about when going away. How do I keep my child entertained? What will I need to bring? What safety measures need to be put in place? My daughter’s Deafness added an extra element that I felt I needed to learn about and prepare for.

Our very first trip was a weekend of camping when Teanna was 3½ years old. Since she had never been camping, I felt it was important to let her know what we would be doing and what to expect, as well as make sure that she knew and understood the safety rules. She had only been identified as Deaf and received a cochlear implant (CI) the previous year, and we were both also learning American Sign Language (ASL) together.

To prepare for this trip, I explained what we were doing to her as best as I could in ASL. Her language and vocabulary were quite limited at the time, as was my Sign Language, so I gave her the basics – “camping,” “outside,” “fire,” “hot,” and of course “marshmallow”! I supplemented these with pictures I found on the internet of what a campsite setup would look like outdoors, what a campfire looks like, and bugs we might see. We also had a lot of camping practice in the living room, and watched YouTube videos on how to build a campfire while discussing safety with using it.

I reiterated that while she is allowed to play and explore, she should always be near enough so that I could see her, and she can see me. I felt it was a good idea to enforce safety rules visually by incorporating them into her play i.e., scenarios with dolls and finger puppets. We also practised her physically looking back regularly to make sure I was still in her sight, if she chose to wander off and play. When it came time to go, she was definitely prepared, and I felt confident that she understood the safety rules.

Sure enough, when we arrived at the campsite, she already seemed to be familiar with what to expect. She was excited to see the fire pit, and helped collect twigs and dry leaves for kindling. She knew to stay a safe distance from it once it was lit, and enjoyed her first campfire roasted marshmallow. Overall, I felt that the camping trip was a success!

Fast forward to now; Teanna is 8 years old.  Since then, we have been on a few plane rides, a cruise, travelled by train, and, of course, have gone on numerous camping and road trips. To this day, I still prepare her visually ahead of time, and always enforce safety measures.

This includes usually letting travel crew/staff know that she is Deaf as a safety precaution. If an alarm goes off, for example, and she does not have her CI on, she will not hear it. Also, the staff then knew that they need to show her where to go and what to do in the case an emergency, such as an evacuation, as opposed to telling her. I do the same for ride attendants at theme parks for the same reasons. I have not encountered anyone who was not accommodating to us. One time, a flight attendant even brought a safety demo kit to us so Teanna could see the oxygen mask and life jacket up close, and physically walked around the plane to show her where the emergency exits were located.

What to pack (these are our essentials for a child with cochlear implants but much of this applies to other hearing technologies as well):

  • Extra cochlear implant batteries
  • Cochlear implant battery charger
  • Waterproof airtight container: something to store cochlear implants and batteries. A plastic food container works well.
  • A container of silica gel beads: you can buy these in loose form from hardware stores or online, or you can save the packets of desiccant you find inside packaging. This is useful for keeping cochlear implants dry.
  • A hat to protect gear from the elements, and keep it secure. We like using Nammu hats, which can be purchased online at
  • A whistle. I taught Teanna to use a whistle should she ever get lost, is unable to see me, or in an emergency situation. I feel this would be quite useful in places like a busy airport or train station where we could easily lose each other.
  • Any other equipment to keep cochlear implants secure and dry e.g., clips, headbands, waterproof casing.

ASL Interpreting / Access / Discounts

20150930_222721So far, we have only been able to take advantage of ASL interpreters provided for us, as well as Disability discounts, during our travels to the United States. For example, we were provided interpreters for the duration of our cruise with Disney Cruise Lines. They were there to interpret the performances we attended, as well as any interactions Teanna had with other passengers (for example, with other children at the kid’s club) or crew, such as during our dinner seating or any organized children’s activities. This helped immensely with her autonomy, and it allowed me the peace of mind that made for a relaxing vacation.


20151002_100023Theme parks and attractions in the USA typically provide ASL interpreters if they are given notice ahead of time – two to three weeks will usually suffice. Websites typically have information on how to arrange this, or you can call the park or attraction directly. We were provided an interpreter for a few hours when we visited Universal Studios Hollywood. She interpreted the tram ride that toured the studios, as well as the performances. We also received the added perk of a passes that allowed us priority access to some rides.

There are often discounts towards admission for a person with a disability and their companion. I have had to take the initiative to ask for these, though, since sometimes Teanna’s disability is not apparent. We have used this for park admission, as well as train tickets with Amtrak in the USA while booking online.20151002_152717

I sometimes felt a little apprehensive to ask for these “perks” but I have learned that it never hurt and, in fact, has been of great benefit to us. I was quite blown way by interpreter being provided for us despite Teanna being a young child. Having these advantages made our travels that much more worthwhile, and Teanna enjoys the experiences and newfound knowledge. At Universal Studios, for example, she was very keen to learn about special effects. Because the show was interpreted, she was fully able to grasp all the information, as well as have the independence to ask questions and have them answered in the language she is most fluent in.

I look forward to more adventures with my little one, as well as learning about Deaf Culture around the world!


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My Unilateral World; Hearing with One Ear

By Lisa Cable

I was born with a unilateral, profound hearing loss. While the specific cause of my hearing loss has never been determined, it is clear that it’s genetic. My mother’s brother, mother & grandmother were all the same as me.

When I was born, newborn screening didn’t yet exist. However, because unilateral hearing loss ran in the family, my mother knew what tell-tale signs to look for, such as one-sided head-turning towards sounds. As I got a little bit older, she became aware that I might have inherited this trait. Taking me for audiological testing, she was able to have the professionals confirm what she suspected was in fact true.

Back in the 70’s, there was little that was done in the way of early intervention or listening equipment for children with a unilateral hearing loss. But, given that my mother had grown up with her mother and brother, she was familiar with ways to help me.

In the years before I entered school, my mother ensured that I was having my hearing regularly tested, to monitor the ear that I was using to listen with. She also had my speech development monitored and worked hard to expose me to lots of spoken language.

Once I was in school, my mother would always meet with my teachers before school started to ensure that I was setup to succeed in the classroom. Some of the things she discussed were where I should sit to best hear the teacher, ways for the teacher to optimise communication with me, and problem solving tips for when I struggled to hear in a certain environment or situation.

As an adult, I usually forget about my hearing loss. It’s part of who I am, and I’ve never known any different. In fact, I sometimes even forget which ear I can hear out of and which one I can’t. The two hardest things for me to deal with are localization of sound and background noise.

Localization of sound means figuring out where a sound or voice is coming from. A perfect example of this happened recently when I was in Toys’R’Us with my family. There was a special event going on so it was really noisy. I was in an aisle and could hear someone calling my name. But it took me looking around frantically for about 30 seconds before I saw my aunt standing about 6 feet in front of me. With all the noise echoing around the store I just couldn’t figure out where the voice was coming from. While it can be a bit frustrating at times, it certainly is not at all detrimental to my quality of life!

The other issue is background noise. Busy social events or noisy parties are the worst. If someone is standing in front of me or on the side I can’t hear from, and attempting to talk to me I just can’t hear them. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned just to be honest and say “I can’t hear you, would you mind moving over here so that I can?”. Or if it’s easy enough, I just position myself to hear better. People are never upset and would prefer that I can hear them, rather than me pretending to hear and having a very stilted conversation.

Very recently, I went for some audiological testing. As an adult, I have only had my hearing tested once in my 20’s. As I now approach 40, I’ve felt that I am struggling more to hear – especially with background noise and situations where people are on the side of my deaf ear. With my kids, I find I’m often telling them I can’t hear them because they’re yelling at me from another room or walking away as they talk to me. There’s also a lot of extra noise when they have friends over and my frustration levels are getting high. Interestingly, the results of these recent tests show no changes in either of my ears, but I am looking at trying out some hearing equipment to alleviate some of the struggles that I’m having.

Because there has never been any stimulation of the auditory nerve in my deaf ear, trying to put a hearing aid on it now just won’t work. So I am looking at trying out the Phonak Cros II, an amplification device for people with unilateral hearing. On my deaf ear, I will wear a device that simply acts as a microphone to collect sound from that side. This will then transmit those sounds to a hearing aid that I will wear in my hearing ear. I’m told it won’t help with localization of sound, but will allow me to hear speech and sounds that I would normally miss on my deaf side. I’m sure it will be an adjustment but I will let you all know how it goes!

Despite my recent struggles, there are upsides to a unilateral hearing loss. The best is that I sleep amazingly well. When I go to bed, I sleep on my hearing ear; it is instantly quiet and I’m not bothered by any noise around me. It’s fantastic!

I was very lucky growing up to have a mother that recognized early on the importance of monitoring and intervention in regards to my speech and listening. Also, my parents never framed my hearing loss as a negative thing, it was just part of who I am, in the same way as my uncle and my grandmother. These wonderful examples have served me well as I am now a parent to two beautiful children: my son, Ryder, who has natural hearing and my daughter, Lily, who is bilaterally profoundly deaf. Lily loves that she has a mom with hearing loss, and I love that both my kids are unique and special in their own way…just like me. 🙂

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Summer Get-Together 2016

Join us for a play day!

Summer Get Together H&V Aug 16 2016-page-001


Whether it’s your first time coming to an event or you never miss a chance to socialize and catch up.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016 11:00am – 2:00 pm Grimston Park 19th Street at 7th Avenue New Westminster (close to 22nd Street Skytrain Station)
Look for the orange & blue balloons! ASL Interpreter Available

This park has a beautiful playground and wading pool. Bring a picnic lunch, swimwear, towels and blanket. RSVP is not required, but please watch our Facebook page for notice of cancellation if it’s raining.

Visit our Facebook Page & Website: Contact:

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Ipad Apps for Speech, Vocabulary and Auditory Development

By Catherine Kalchbrenner

Ipads and other tablets have become an everyday household device. With prudent selection of appropriate apps, they can be a useful tool to support learning in our children but, unguided, they can be little more than a distraction device. I wanted to make screen time more meaningful than random games for my hard of hearing child. With this in mind, I set to researching apps that could build my child’s vocabulary and exercise her auditory memory.

I came across a great resource from the Alexander Bell Convention in 2014. As well as some great suggestions for apps, it offers detailed information and advice. Encouragingly, it reports research results that literacy apps can augment literacy development in children. While the presentation is geared towards professionals, as a parent of a hard of hearing child, I found it really insightful.

What it lacked, however, was links to the suggested apps in the apple store or clear icon pictures to be sure of the app in question. With full credit going to the presenters at the Convention, I expanded the list to make this go-to menu of apps. I hope it will be a useful tool for parents and professionals alike.


Articulation Station- Little Bee Speech


HOPE words- Cochlear


Articulation Scenes
Articulate It Pro
Both by Smarty Ears!-pro/id391296844?mt=8


ArtikPix- Expressive Solutions


SpeechBox for Articulation Speech Therapy- By Jonah Bonah Learning LLC


Artic Practice- Learning Fundamentals Inc


Pocket Artic- Synapse Apps


Auditory Skill Development

Hear Coach- Starkey


My Playhome- Playhome Software ltd


My Scene- MyFirstApp


Auditory Workout
Outdoor Fun
Both By Virtual Speech Centre Inc.


My Tiny Farm Animals- Toddler’s Seek & Find Activity Book for Kids
My Little Town- Toddler’s Seek & Find Activity Book for Kids
Both by wonderkind GmbH


Fun with Directions HD Lite- Hamaguchi Apps for Speech, Language & Auditory Development
There are a couple of versions of this App.


Bag Game- All4myChild


A Who am I- Nth Fusion LLC


Vocabulary Apps

italkatMoog: The First 100 words- The Moog Centre of Deaf Education


My First 1000 Words: Flashcards & Games By Alligator Apps- Innovative Mobile Apps


Do you have any favourite apps to add to this list? Leave us a comment below!

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Back to Basics: The Importance of Speaking to Young Children About Their Sexual Health

By: Jennifer Gow

There are three important reasons to talk to young children about their sexual health. All of them are centred around protection and prevention, with the idea being to keep our children safe, educated and informed. This was the take home message from Saleema Noon ( at the BC Hands and Voices 2016 AGM held in March. Many of you with school-aged children may be familiar with the sexual health education that Saleema does in school districts in the Lower Mainland. Or you may have come across her on the TV or radio. We were excited to have her present on this serious topic in her characteristic fun, light-hearted way. So back to those three reasons:

Normalize the conversation. Young children haven’t yet been conditioned to know that sexual health can be a taboo subject in our society. They love to be scientists, exploring the world around them, so they tend to be very receptive to being taught ‘body science’. By making the conversation matter-of-fact and normal at an early age, we can lessen the extent and length of the “grossed-out” phase. This is a stage that many kids go through in their middle elementary years due largely to societal and peer pressure.

Become our children’s number one information source. If we don’t teach them, someone else will, and that person may not be a reliable source. The media world today is very different to the environment we grew up in, with our children exposed to different pressures than we were. Media content is more sexualised and ubiquitous, and easier to access – think computers, smartphones, tablets. We shouldn’t rely on schools or others to educate our kids to discern between fact and fiction. Instead, we should step in to be our children’s reliable go-to source.

Protect our children. Studies show that children who are educated in sexual health are better protected from child sexual abuse. Sex predators seek out vulnerable individuals. They recognise that a child who uses scientific vocabulary for body parts and has ownership of their own body has been taught these things. From this, they also know that the child will have been taught to report any exploitative situation. By introducing the concept of sexual consent, we empower our children and help to protect them. It’s especially important for parents of children with additional needs to understand this. Since these children tend to spend more time with other adults in positions of trust, and they may not have the same education around sexual health as their peers, they can be at increased risk from sexual abuse.

With this in mind, here are aspects of sexual health that Saleema recommends preschoolers should know:

  • Scientific words related to sexual health. This means using the same anatomical language a doctor would use with your child so they won’t be intimidated in a medical setting (e.g., penis, testicles, vulva, vagina, stool).
  • They have ownership of their own bodies. They should be aware that they have three private body parts (mouth, breast and genitals, which covers the area from the belly button down and around to the bottom of the back, including the buttocks). It is against the law for anyone to go on their bodies without permission. They need to report any violation of this to an adult they trust, and know that they will not get in trouble when they do. If the first person doesn’t believe them, or doesn’t do anything about it, then they need to know to report again to someone else, as many times as needed until someone listens. While parents may worry about talking to their children about such a serious topic, kids tend to learn this in a matter-of-fact way in much the same way they learn a fire drill.
  • The basics of reproduction, pregnancy and birth. Reproduction usually happens when a man’s sperm joins a woman’s ovum by sexual intercourse. Babies grow in the uterus, not the stomach, and are usually born through the vagina. Children may ask more probing questions, which should be answered honestly. They will only absorb the information they are able to process.
  • The uniqueness of our bodies and each of these processes. How a person looks doesn’t necessarily tell you how they feel on the inside (introducing the concept of transgender). Just as each person is unique, so is each family. There is a diversity of families, with different ways for families to form. Some babies get their first water slide during a vaginal birth when the uterus muscles contract and water breaks, others come out the sunroof during a caesarean section. Both are healthy ways for babies to be born.
  • Not to pick up condoms and needles, explaining that while these are clean and healthy items before use, they can have germs after being used, and we don’t want them to get sick.

The full checklist can be found at Saleema also noted that there are many great books to refer to and explore these topics with your child. Her top recommendations can be found at

With our community in mind, the evening was enriched by two other contributors, Astrid Evenson, Sign Language Instructor, and Kim Shauer, Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side Coordinator. Astrid taught us ASL vocabulary for the scientific words and processes discussed by Saleema during her presentation, and Kim spoke to additional considerations for families who have children who are deaf or hard of hearing and have additional needs. With this in mind, we can help our children develop language to tell how they are feeling (e.g., scared, hurt) and identify parts of the body. If they have not yet developed signs or spoken language, we can model this language through their language abilities (e.g., head shaking, Picture Exchange Communication System/picture symbols, IPAD/Alternative Communication Devices). Goals around safety should be discussed with our children’s team, and safety goals included in Individual Family Service Plans or Individual Education Plans (e.g., explaining appropriate & inappropriate touch; public versus private). On this topic, Saleema also noted that there will be a chapter on sexual education for children with special needs in her new book for parents, which is due to be published this fall.

While preschool and kindergarten programs may adopt an approach to sexual health education that is similar to Saleema’s recommendations, it remains important that we, as parents, are confident in talking straight to our children on this topic right from day one. Given a strong basis of honest information from their own family means that any extra details they glean from other responsible adults will be the icing on the cake. It also empowers them to handle information from peers or other sources like the media. It gives them the tools to interpret the information and know they have a trustworthy source in you to explore topics. If we start today with our young deaf and heard of hearing children, we’ll be ready to help them fill in any gaps that might appear from missed incidental learning as they grow.

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Fun Family Picnic 2016

2016 Picnic Invite (web)

WHO: BC Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side, BC Early Hearing Program, CHHA BC Parents’ Branch, Family & Community Services, Family Network for Deaf Children – Deaf Youth Today (DYT)

WHAT: An event for deaf/hard of hearing children, their siblings and parents and children with their Deaf/hard of hearing parents (CODA). Join us for a fun day! We will provide:
• Hot dog lunch
• Entertainment and games for the kids
• An opportunity to mix and mingle with other families and with youth/young adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Please bring with you:
• a salad, fruit or vegetable plate or dessert to share (note: no freezer/fridge/oven)
• lawn chairs or blanket to sit on
Rain or Shine!  Free admission! Donations gratefully accepted at the event.

WHEN: Saturday June 18th, 11:00 am to 3:00 pm

WHERE: Victory Hill/ Provincial Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services 4334 Victory St., Burnaby BC

CONTACT/ RSVP:  Pre-registration is required so we know how many people to expect. 
Special Note– Families of children with Atresia and Microtia – let’s meet up at the picnic!
If you are interested in meeting up with other families of children with Atresia and Microtia, please contact Catherine Kalchbrenner: who will collect names, and make a point of introducing families to one another during the picnic.

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