I was honoured to be selected to attend the annual Hands & Voices National Leadership Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota this past summer. It really gave me a much broader understanding of what Hands & Voices does, and how BC Hands & Voices is part of a much larger cause. There were some excellent speakers and some great pieces of information I’d like to share.
This is a great piece of advice for new parents; when someone offers you something (ie: a service, an opportunity etc.) TAKE IT! Parents of babies newly diagnosed with hearing loss are often overwhelmed with many different things, and they may not be ready to deal with the hearing loss. It is our job as Parent Guides to make sure that they understand the importance of finding supports when they are ready, even though right now they may feel they don’t need it. I heard over & over again from parents, that one thing they really regretted was not connecting with other families of D/HH kids sooner. They realized the value of such networking & relationships later, and wished they had taken the advice when it was offered.
Another point that stood out to me was that of judgements & expectations of our D/HH kids. It was, understandably, a very sensitive topic with a lot of parents. There was much discussion around labels & perception. Because our kids are D/HH and they struggle with language & communication, they are often perceived as having lower cognition, & therefore the expectations for that child are lower as well. It was particularly disturbing to hear that this perception was sometimes coming from teachers, librarians & other support people in the education system. It is so important to reinforce that our kids struggle with speech & language, and they may not be able to express themselves in the same way as their hearing peers. And we should have high expectations for them, the same expectations that we have for all hearing kids.
Parents are often expected to make difficult decisions surrounding hearing loss early on, when they themselves really don’t know what the outcome will be, or even if it is the right decision. This is particularly hard when the child is a baby, and parents have little information or experience. We all know our children best, better than even the professionals, so trust yourself to make those decisions for your child…the decision must FEEL right. What works for your child is what makes the choice right!