How Do We Join the Deaf Community?

Author: Kim Shauer

This was a question asked at our recent Parent Coffee night and a question many other parents of deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH) children may also be wondering.  

BC Hands & Voices and Guide By Your Side (part of the BC Early Hearing Program) recently hosted a coffee night for parents featuring the topic of Deaf Culture & ASL. Parents had the opportunity to meet Christy Jeffery and Dan Braun, both Deaf role models who led the evening and shared some of their experiences growing up Deaf and using American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary language.

So – how do we join the Deaf Community? According to Dan and Christy – just show up! Come to an event and introduce yourself and your D/HH child. Christy and Dan reminded parents not to be discouraged even though there may be some curious looks by people wondering “who’s this new face?” Just say “Hello!” advised our guest presenters.

What seemed really special about the evening was that it was attended by parents of children with all hearing levels (bilateral and unilateral) and users of all types of hearing technology.  Many were curious about using ASL (some parents knew a lot already but for some parents ASL was brand new). All were reassured they would be welcomed into being involved in the Deaf community.  

Parents asked a lot of great questions throughout the evening such as “does our signing have to be perfect?” – a daunting question to ask these amazing signers! Their answer was not to worry so much about getting the signs right or wrong. When kids are young, many families (both with hearing and deaf children) have their own home signs and gestures (siblings as well). Parents don’t need to be perfect; communication back and forth is more important than a perfectly executed sign. Plus, don’t worry about what other people think! Give it a try and your child will end up leading the way eventually with what works for them.  

After the event, one family shared how meeting role models connected them to the Deaf Community:

“In our experience, the D/HH role models are warm and welcoming ambassadors of Deaf culture. They replace the fear of the unknown with the safety of community.” – Kurt Kuzminski

“I saw a total shift in my father after he had the opportunity to meet a Deaf role model. It was an important turning point for him and his understanding and acceptance of our daughter’s deafness.” – Sage Kuzminski

Thank you Christy and Dan for sharing such a positive message as always. We could have continued on for another hour or more I’m sure!  

Don’t miss the next opportunity to meet other families as well as D/HH Guides and role models at the summer get-together happening on Tuesday August 22 nd . Details can be found here: http://www.bchandsandvoices.com/post/summer-get-together-2017/

If you are a parent of a D/HH child under five, are unable to come to an event, and would like to meet a D/HH Guide role model virtually over an app on your smart phone or computer to ask some of your own questions, email gbys@cw.bc.ca.

Note from the Editor:
Parent Coffee nights happen approximately six times per year and cover a variety of topics. The last few have also been offered via a teleconference line and video conferencing for parents to call in and listen/participate, even if they live too far away or cannot attend in person. If you would like to be notified of upcoming events, please go to www.bchandsandvoices.com and click at the top right corner “Sign up for our Newsletter”.

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