Zoom Parent Connect Evening

Connect with other families with dhh children and have some time to share!

Whether you’re looking for emotional support, a place to vent, or simply to share the joys… we are here for you! ASL interpreter will be available if requested. (please let us know by June 8th)

Thursday June 11th 7:15pm-8:15pm
Please RSVP to kshauer@cw.bc.ca to receive the Zoom link for the event.

 

You can also download the pdf flyer here: Parent Evenings 6.112020

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When Grief Speaks

By Gina Cooper

It happened in a safe place. With a deeply caring, experienced psychologist named Mary Beth Goring at the John Tracy Clinic Summer Session in Los Angeles.

Grief decided she had been pushed inside for too long and wanted a voice.

Grief imploded me and I experienced a slight psychotic break.  No, I did not start shooting people or throwing things or shouting random obscenities.  Rather, I began shaking and sobbing and pouring out my worries to a highly trained professional who had heeded her calling as a psychologist. This psychologist understood how nerve wracking preparing a child with hearing loss for the school system can be.

Raising a child with a special need, especially during the early years, can be so taxing on your nervous system that it makes me extremely grateful for organizations like Hands & Voices and the John Tracy Clinic.

I cannot imagine doing this job alone.  The choices you need to make as a parent before your child can voice her own thoughts and desires can be overwhelming.  The thought of making a mistake was unbearable for me at that time. I took the responsibility for a tender young life to heart, literally… anxiety and panic accumulated into a knot and simmered slowly underneath the joy, adventure and ongoing feelings of being a mother of a deaf child.

I never wanted Sara to see me in any way but happy. I desperately wanted her hearing journey to be adventurous and full of blissful memories to draw upon when older.

Grief is an integral part of our being and will rise to be heard when it needs to.  Grief also has the compassion to wait until you’re in a safe place with a support network to catch you if you fall.

The John Tracy Clinic provided me with a group of experienced professionals and families walking a similar path.  During a morning parent support group session, I gave a spontaneous speech about feeling alone, being blamed by a family member for my daughter’s deaf diagnosis, feeling overwhelmed by people’s opinions on cochlear implants and sign language, second guessing myself with regard to my choice of mainstream Kindergarten, feeling somewhat unwelcome at certain playgroups, not knowing who your real friends are, and child comparison. I spoke my truth and unburdened my heart of sadness, disappointment, anger and disillusionment.  My brave front gave way to vulnerability and an individual yearning for society at large to comprehend what I did~that a child with a special need is still a child with potential, not a societal or personal burden, not a pity case, not a candidate for a lifetime of disability insurance or somehow not as intelligent. I cried not only for my daughter but for so many children and families who are sometimes marginalized by society. It is not right nor helpful to decide the fate of deaf/hard of hearing children without trying all means of therapy to enable them to achieve success in life.

My heart broke for every disadvantaged, impoverished child on earth. I knew not what to do with my feelings so I gave them voice in my parent support group and personal counselling sessions.  To my grief I gave a platform during this 3 week intensive Summer Session of 2014 with accepting parents, unbiased professionals and a worry free environment.

Families come together globally to gain professional evaluation of their child’s readiness for the school system, to update their hearing loss knowledge, receive new training, and effectively prepare for the transition to Kindergarten.

What I received at the 2014 John Tracy Clinic Summer Session were qualified opinions from people who cared enough about you and your child to help steer you in a positive and effective direction. A direction which would set up your child for success.

Sara, my sweet and smart tomboy is now a senior at her elementary school – the big Grade 5 at Pinecrest Elementary School in Campbell River, British Columbia on Vancouver Island! She reads at an advanced level, enjoyed gymnastics, bike riding, swimming and art with hearing kids, and has a group of friends that accept her and her cochlear she without question.

Sara did attend monthly ASL classes with a group of other deaf and hard of hearing children in the community.  I wanted to expose her to the hearing loss community and be receptive to her feedback about living with a “special need”. She decided this year that she did not want to draw attention to her cochlears or to talk about being a special needs kid. This was her choice and this choice may change down the road.  I respect that. It’s what the Hands & Voices motto is all about…”What works for your child is what makes the choice right.”

I highly recommend the John Tracy Clinic Summer Session, if you choose to attend. I was given an evaluation that the therapy method of Total Communication was working for Sara. Sara was given an evaluation of above average speaking and listening skills, which shouldn’t have surprised me but did a little. The worry, hard work and massive effort had paid off but not without a price…a psychotic break is a signal for emotional attention, a signal for self care, a cry for validation, and a plea for people to understand that your reality is important. A psychotic break is by no means a sign of mental weakness. It is a signal of overwhelm just like any physical illness symptom and should be treated with dignity and compassion.  In the name of love, we parents often climb mountains for our children…sometimes we ask for help repelling.

We returned to Campbell River feeling more confident, enlightened and educated and more prepared to enter the school system.

Yes, I was still feeling nervous. But in an excited kind of way.😀 

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VIRTUAL Parent Evening “Unilateral Hearing Loss”

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020 7:00 – 9:00pm
Location Update: Connect from your home only: by phone or computer/smart phone. This is a special evening specifically for parents of children who are unilaterally deaf or hard of hearing.

BC H&V board members Rabab Elbaharia (a parent of a child with unilateral hearing) and
Lisa Cable (an adult with unilateral hearing) will team up to lead our evening and share experiences. This is a great opportunity to learn from other parents of children who are deaf/ hard of hearing in one ear.

You will have the opportunity to ask questions and share information – a virtual event now only.

Please RSVP to Catherine at ckalchbrenner@cw.bc.ca
RSVP by April 2 and to receive connectivity information (teleconference & link to webcast)

Download the flyer here: 4.2020 UHL virtual Parent Evening

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Getting Ready for Kindergarten – Navigating Your Options

By Lee Johnston 

The transition to kindergarten can be an exciting and stressful time under any circumstances, for both children and their parents or guardians. But planning for the kindergarten transition for a D/deaf or hard of hearing child (DHH) includes its own special considerations. For myself and my partner, thinking about kindergarten, and the years of education to follow, was a very stressful process. This was due in part to the fact that we were open to considering all options—our local mainstream school, the BC School for the Deaf, Children’s Hearing and Speech Centre’s primary school, and more. We also recognize that being in the position to even be able to consider several options was a privileged one, in that we are centrally located in the lower mainland and geography did not pose a huge barrier for us. Still, it was stressful, and we did a considerable amount of work in making our decision. In this article I reflect on some of the lessons we learned along the way, and the resources we tapped into to provide us with the information we needed to make our decision. I hope it’s helpful for those of you thinking about kindergarten, and beyond!

Get (and stay!) involved with the DHH community 

We often talk about the importance of incidental learning for children – the unstructured learning that occurs when kids pick up cues and information from their surrounding environments. I believe another kind of essential incidental learning takes place for hearing parents or guardians when they can spend time with other DHH families. This learning helped us understand the different ways of being D/deaf and hard of hearing in the world, which in turn helped us think about education options in a more informed way. You can learn so much from other parents and their children by going to local events hosted by service or parent support organizations, joining Facebook groups and forging relationships with other parents and DHH adults. 

No one can speak to the experience of being a DHH student better than a DHH individual 

As I just noted, parents are a wonderful resource, and we talked to many of them. However, no one can speak to the experience of going through school (and life) as DHH better than DHH individuals. Young adults are a particularly helpful resource as they’ve recently exited the school system and have had some time to reflect on this experience. And they have had such a diverse range of experiences—positive and negative—in all sorts of settings, and often evolving in their choice of language and identity over time. There are many ways to access the diverse range of experiences offered by DHH young adults—local intervention programs present panels, BC Hands & Voices presents online opportunities to talk to Deaf and hard of hearing adults and ask them about their experiences, and there are many books and online resources available to parents if you look for them. 

This decision may not be permanent, and will be the first of many  

One of the most helpful things a parent pointed out to us was that, while we were putting so much weight on this decision, we would be putting the work in every year—to evaluate our daughter’s education setting, educate new teachers (particularly in mainstream settings) regarding her hearing loss and required adaptations, and conversing with our daughter to determine if this setting was still the best fit for her, and what her other options might be. In a way that was a huge relief, and took some of the weight off. 

Go through the intake process for all of the schools you’re considering 

I’m a person who worries about wasting other people’s time. As such, I thought it would make sense if we decided which school we would attend first, and then go through one intake process. Our early interventionist encouraged us to go through the full intake process for the two schools we narrowed in on—our local mainstream school and BC School for the Deaf (BCSD). I’m so glad we did, as it gave us a much more complete picture of what each school could realistically offer in the way of supports. Meeting the teams at each school will also be helpful if we (or our daughter) decide to switch paths in the future.  

Don’t forget to celebrate this milestone! 

At one point during a meeting with one of our potential school placements, a principal asked us what our daughter was excited about for attending kindergarten. It struck me that we didn’t know, because we had been avoiding talking to her about it beyond telling her we were considering the two schools, which would offer really different experiences. It was much easier to get excited about kindergarten once we made our decision. And it is an exciting time!  

In the end, we chose to enroll our daughter in the BC School for the Deaf. We were worried—our daughter identifies as hard of hearing and our primary language is spoken English. We were trying to learn American Sign Language, but not doing so consistently. But we decided that kindergarten was a good time to try it out, and thought of it as something akin to French immersion. Being involved with the local DHH community, and seeking out the experiences of a diverse range of DHH young adults paved the way for us to understand our options, and make what we felt was the best choice for our family at the time. The transition wasn’t always easy, but knowing—as a family—that we were open to changing direction and adapting to our daughter’s needs as we moved forward helped us all feel better in the end. We’re happy to say that our daughter now loves school. We hope your little one(s) will too!   

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2020 AGM & Parent Evening

 

BC Hands & Voices Parent Social & AGM

Monday March 2, 2020

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Free to attend

Location: 15220 92 Ave, Surrey, BC V3R 2T8
(BC Family Hearing Resource Society, Surrey Office)

(AGM portion of the evening will be available by teleconference)

BC Hands & Voices Annual General Meeting

We’ll begin with a brief 15-minute AGM, where we will share what BC Hands & Voices has accomplished over the past year.

Join us – we want to hear from you!
Come share tea and treats with other parents while you learn more about BC Hands & Voices and what we have in store for the upcoming year. Let us know what events and resources you would like to have for parents of deaf and hard of hearing children newborn to 5 years old!

ASL interpreters will be provided

Please RSVP by February 29 to ckalchbrenner@cw.bc.ca who will share the teleconference information if requested.

You can download the Flyer here: 2020 AGM

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Hard of Hearing Angels

Author: Bowen Tang

As the holiday season is over, it can be hard to find ourselves back to the grind at school or at work. This is even more difficult for hard of hearing (HOH) people since we once again face our biggest foe: noise. Wherever we go and whatever we do, noise will always be around. Despite our best attempts to adapt we will no doubt sometimes experience frustration when communicating with people. There will be ups and downs in our days and like anyone we want to share these with our close ones, particularly those who can relate to our unique experiences as hard of hearing individuals. Through my work as an educator and an advocate, I always emphasize the importance of connection between hard of hearing individuals, the impact it has on personal empowerment and being part of the HOH community. Some of us may feel like there is no need to have a HOH friend because the friends we have are enough. That is perfectly fine but I would like to share a personal perspective on how my HOH friends have become my guardian angels.

I have been privileged to meet many wonderful friends along my life journey and I wish they could all be acknowledged individually here. Among this spectacular group Joy, Tasha and Nicole (left to right) in particular are my rock. As a fellow colleague and partner in crime, Joy keeps me driven and motivated to pursue my passion. Tasha’s generosity and kindness remind me to appreciate what I have and inspire me to be a better person. Nicole taught me to accept who I am and be true to myself. Together they lifted me up from my self doubts and gave me the strength I needed to be who I am. One day we named our group chat “HOHliest Angels”.  How fitting it is because they are indeed guardian angels. It is our shared experiences as hard of hearing individuals that we feel strongly connected and it was through the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association that we came together.

For the past several years I have witnessed sparks being made when HOH individuals connect. My HOH friends and I really have become a second family to each other. It is my sincere wish that each hard of hearing person can find fellow kindred people who they can rely on in their journey through life. Hence I feel that it is important for families to pursue opportunities for their deaf/hard of hearing children to connect and make friends who may eventually become their very own guardian angels.

 

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Facebook Interactive Post Chat!

Don’t forget to RSVP for our 1st ever Facebook Interactive Post Chat!
https://www.facebook.com/events/978253215863493/

Download Flyer here: 2020 Facebook Interactive Post Chat Flyer

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Family Gatherings – “It is what it is…”

By Cecelia Klassen

*This article was first published in Family Network for Deaf Children newsletter in March 2016. It has been updated and republished in BC Hands & Voices with the permission of the author.*

Barbeques, birthday parties, Thanksgiving dinner, graduations, family reunions or any  occasion when families and friends gather together….these busy, fun events bring to the forefront the challenge of achieving fair communication access.  How do we include everyone when large groups gather together, including deaf, hard of hearing and hearing members. It should be simple, right?! 

As the parent of a young deaf adult, I want to share some of my thoughts (and hopefully wisdom!) as you raise your deaf and hard of hearing children.   I have pretty much read it all, listened to stories from deaf and hard of hearing adults feeling left out at family gatherings, and yet I still don’t have any grand solution as to how to navigate family or other group gatherings and have my young adult deaf daughter, Mari, feel fully included all the time.  

Over the years, we’ve experienced lots of awesome family gatherings, but also have had ones that were not so inclusive, where I experienced the “mom pain” – watching my deaf child miss out on conversation, relationship building and ultimately deep family connections.  I can’t always control it and I can’t always fix it but I do try my best, and so does Mari. We have come to embrace the saying: “it is what it is.”   

Family gatherings were so much easier when Mari was young; or, perhaps because she was a child, I was oblivious to the reality.  During her younger years, the cousins all played together, and life was pretty simple. The kids played hide n’ seek, dress-up, capture the flag, board games or just ran around until it was time to eat; eating was just that – eat and run!   Then came the teen years and the inevitable “mom pain” sunk in – talk, talk, talk and MORE talk, coupled with lots of laughter. Mealtimes became the epicenter of conversation. Nothing breaks a mom’s heart more than seeing your child not feeling included.   I tried my very best to make a tough situation better. 

I really believe it’s so important to keep trying. Ultimately, at the core of each of our souls is the need to be valued and included.  Family, friends and community are the foundation for this love and acceptance! Here are some of the tips and tricks that our family have used throughout the years, and still do today.  Nothing is perfect, but I do hope some of these ideas can lead to successful family connections with your deaf or hard of hearing child. Some of these tips will also help model to your family and friends how to bridge communication gaps, as well as how to include a deaf or hard of hearing member in your family or group. 

Here it goes:  My “mom tips” to improving family communication and feeling included at gatherings:

  • If you child uses American Sign Language (ASL), find an interpreter but remember this isn’t a perfect solution, especially if your child or your extended family doesn’t know how to use an interpreter.  If you don’t educate your family, they may think the interpreter is there to be your child’s friend or the single solution to communication access.  Do some homework and educate your family on how to best use the interpreter. Having an interpreter means more access to conversation, but your child still needs everyone to be involved so they feel included.  Being included and feeling included can be two very different things.
  • Invite deaf or hard of hearing friends to join the gathering.  In addition to your child’s deaf or hard of hearing friends, deaf and hard of hearing adults also act as role models to your whole family. They can demonstrate that deaf and hard of hearing children grow up to become adults, and that the communication needs of adults may be different to those of children.  
  • Plan your menu so that you aren’t in the kitchen the whole time; if you are in the kitchen, make sure that another family member is on top of ensuring that your deaf or hard of hearing child is included in the conversation.
  • Place “topic” cards on the table so that you can ask a question that everyone can answer or share their memories:  e.g., “if you could change your name, what new name would you choose?” Or “describe a situation where you were really scared”.  Have individuals take turns sharing their responses. This is great because it encourages turn-taking, and it means that your deaf or hard of hearing family member has the ability to zero in on individuals rather than watching five different conversations happening at the same time.   Hot tip: you get to control the conversation topics a bit.  Sneaky, but it works!
  • Place big posters and pens around the room with a question for everyone to answer: For example, “Name 50 things we are thankful for” or “Name something that happened this year that impacted your life.”   This helps to bring communication to a more equal playing field – by visually sharing memories or thoughts in printed word. Hot tip: this helps with literacy development too, and again a sneaky way to control the conversation topics!
  • Write notes. Have a white “dry erase” board in your kitchen or family room for fast communication.  Make sure you also have paper and pens in several areas around the house, or typing on a computer or iPad can be faster than writing notes back and forth.  There is a great app called “BIG” and it’s perfect for communicating in larger text – especially for grandparents. Kids might feel more comfortable using technology rather than paper and pen. 
  • Use name cards and pre-set the table so that your deaf or hard of hearing child is physically positioned in a good place for optimal communication access.  Hot tip:  This is also good if Uncle Frank never makes any communication effort and has a mustache, making lipreading a nightmare.  Perhaps move him further down the table. Shhhh… don’t let Uncle Frank read this!
  • Ask everyone to bring a funny or interesting photo from years ago.   This is a great visual tool to assist with communication and helps for laughter and sharing of family history too. 
  • Plan a costume theme.  This makes the event fun and creates memories.  When people are in costume they tend to loosen up and seem to gesture more.  Honestly, this really does work! 
  • Plan a funny gift exchange:  e.g., everyone brings something from their home that they no longer want (wrapped up), and put numbers on each item.   Everyone pulls a number and has to open the present – which inevitably leads to lots of laughter. Hot tip:  this doesn’t require a lot of explaining, kills time with a game that is more visually accessible and is perfect to do while you are in the kitchen preparing food.
  • Acquaint you child with family connections.  Prepare in advance by drawing out your family tree so your child knows who will be in attendance and how everyone is connected.  Show photos of who is coming to dinner (find photos on Facebook if necessary). Write out names so your child knows the spelling. Share family background so your child is up to date on what is happening in the family.  Background knowledge is the most important thing that will help your child navigate the communication topics at family gatherings. If there have been family/friend relationship changes (e.g., a divorce, illness or death), and your child is old enough to understand, let them know.  This will avoid any awkward questions at the event. 
  • If someone is planning a speech, dinner prayer or a birthday toast, ask if they can send you the text so you can prepare to interpret or let your child read the text.  This gives you the opportunity to fill in the back story or background information to your child. You may want to prepare them with photos. Hot tip:  also gives you time to learn the sign vocabulary of the words you don’t know.
  • If the TV is on – remember to always have the captioning on.  If your child uses hearing aids, make sure the background music or TV is turned down so that you have an optimum environment for clear person-to-person communication.  
  • Play games that include everyone.  This is super important – especially if the event isn’t in your home.  Volunteer to bring the games. Find games that include your deaf or hard of hearing child.  If you don’t, it’s almost guaranteed that Cousin Jordan will come up with a fast-paced, blindfolded, rhyming game that totally leaves out your child! 
  • Skip the fabric table cloth.  Buy a big roll of brown or white paper.  Put out crayons or felt pens. Everyone will doodle, write notes, play hangman.   The next day you can laugh over what was written! Hot tip:  This is a great fun, easy, rustic decorating idea! 
  • Make your table deaf or hard of hearing friendly for communication.  Rather than a long table where it is impossible to see communication (signing or lipreading), set your table up in a big square or horseshoe shape.  Maybe buffet style is better? Figure out what works for your deaf or hard of hearing child and your family. Think about communication access during the eating together time. 
  • And last but not least, when all else fails … pour yourself a glass of wine and figure out how to improve the next family event! 

It is vitally important to keep communication open with your deaf or hard of hearing child by following up on their feelings, and asking their opinion on what worked for them and what didn’t.  This will create an opportunity for relationship building between yourself and your child, and they will know that you are their ally throughout this journey. Family communication and inclusion won’t always be perfect, so don’t beat yourself up about it but you might find that by trying some creative ideas, your extended family and friends may learn something new and grow from the experience.  For you and your family, embrace and celebrate a deaf and hard of hearing friendly version of “It is what it is” and be proud of it! 

Cecelia

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Finding the Right Fit

By Nicki Horton

JC and wife

Our journey began over 26 years ago when we were blessed with our first child; our beautiful baby boy, JC. At this time, the Early Hearing Screening Program was not in place. Despite multiple visits to the family doctor with concerns about his hearing, JC’s deafness was not diagnosed until he was 11 months old.  At this point he was diagnosed with profound bilateral sensorineural deafness (over 90db in each ear) and bilateral common cavity cochleae. Reeling and emotional from this news, we were handed three pamphlets representing our “choices” as to how to help our little guy develop language. The choices were: auditory-oral, signed English or American Sign Language. Needless to say, we walked out of BC Children’s Hospital overwhelmed, stunned, and confused. We weren’t sure which path to take and, at that time, we were unaware of just how important it would be for JC to have access to a full language.

What we learned quite quickly was that our initial choice was not set in stone. We were new to deafness and had a lot to learn through experience, meeting with professionals, taking classes, networking with other parents of deaf children and getting involved in the deaf community. JC began in an auditory-oral program, (from age 11 months – 2 ½ yrs.) He underwent two “unsuccessful” cochlear implant surgeries at the age of 2. He gained little to no hearing from the implant and the electrode array shifted and eventually caused a chronic ear infection. Having major concerns about his limited language, we enrolled him in a total communication program for preschool, where he began to pick up some sign language. From Kindergarten – grade 6, he attended the BC School for the Deaf, where he was immersed in American Sign Language and his language began to take off and he began to blossom. JC was then mainstreamed with an interpreter in the public system for two years and finally attended a private school with an interpreter for his high school years. We tried it all! In retrospect, what guided our decisions for JC was the need for complete access to language/communication and services so that he could make sense of his world, his feelings and develop his ability to build healthy relationships. This meant that we had to keep an open mind, remain flexible and accept when our choices for JC were not benefiting him. It also meant that we, as a family had to make sure that we were providing a healthy language environment at home. We are so grateful for the ASL training we received. JC’s little sister, Haley, got the best training of all just by being JC’s best buddy growing up. She is still the most ASL fluent of all of the hearing members of our family.

JC played AAAA Basketball throughout high school at Vancouver College, won many awards, including the Principal’s Award in grade 12. All of this was great, but in his eyes, his greatest rewards have been the friendships that he has developed over the years by being involved in Deaf Youth Today. These friendships have sustained him throughout his educational career. In fact, he met his two best friends when he was only three years old at a DYT event. They all graduated from Gallaudet University in Washington, DC together and continue to be great friends to this day. 

Looking back, I vividly remember the anxiety, fear and sadness I felt when I learned that my little boy couldn’t hear. If only I could travel back in time with knowledge I have now and tell my younger self, “let the anxiety, fear and sadness go, there is great joy that lies ahead for your family … embrace the journey!” JC has introduced us to a community that we never would have known, a new language, and enduring friendships that have enriched our lives deeply. Thank you, JC!

 

 

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Growing Up in a Hearing and Deaf Family; Reflections of a Young Deaf Adult

An Interview with Levi Traxler

Levi and his wife in Banff, AB

So tell us a little about yourself. 

I was born in a small town in Ohio, USA. I have hearing parents, and I’m the second of five children. My older sister is hearing, so I was the first Deaf person in my family. Then my next sister and brother were born, also Deaf, and my youngest brother is hearing. My wife is Deaf and uses American Sign Language (ASL), the same as me. We live in British Columbia, and are both Early Childhood Educators.

What types of communication are used in your family?

My siblings and I grew up using total communication/signed English, but we’ve all been changing to ASL over the past few years. For me, the change happened when I went to Gallaudet University to study Early Childhood Education. As adults, my Deaf siblings and I sometimes use our voices when communicating with our mom and dad and extended family, but other than that we prefer “voice off.”   

My oldest sister now tries to use more ASL. My youngest brother doesn’t sign as much, probably because there’s an age gap, and we all moved out while he was still young, but he’s really good at fingerspelling and is signed up to take ASL at high school this year. My parents continue to use voice and signed English – it’s challenging for them to learn ASL as they get older, but we still communicate well. 

Has your self-identity changed or evolved over the years?

When I was growing up, it was always a challenge for me to communicate with other people. I worked hard at speaking and using English, but I never seemed to catch up, and it was frustrating. Even though I wore my hearing aids every day, my hearing and listening skills never improved. It was always the same – I couldn’t hear well, I couldn’t speak well, and it was hard. But when I went to Gallaudet, I went to ASL classes. At first, it was hard for me because I didn’t understand the language.  Signed English is very different from ASL – the former uses ASL signs to follow English word order, but ASL is a unique language with its own grammar that is completely unrelated to English. My eyes got so tired from focusing and watching all day long! But after a little while, I noticed I could learn ASL fast! Every day I could understand people better, express myself better. I felt I learned more ASL in four years than I had learned English my whole life, and by the end my eyes didn’t get tired at all. I had a lot of fun, and got involved in classroom discussions. Before I had been embarrassed to ask questions, because I was the only deaf person in the classroom. But at Gallaudet I felt safe. My confidence really improved. I found my identity. As a child, I didn’t really know what my identity was – I grew up thinking of myself as “hearing impaired.” At Gallaudet I learned I was a Deaf person. 

Are there things your parents did that were particularly helpful?

My parents were always involved, and I think that was so important. Also, they always asked me how I felt about things – about school, friends, if I was happy with my hearing aids. We always had good open communication. They also made our environment very visual. I remember my mom taped pictures with both the English word and the sign on everything around the house. There were pictures on the tables, the chairs, the toilet – I mean everything! I think it helped my hearing family members as well as me, so they could remember the signs. My parents also read with us a lot when we were young. They would sign the books to us, every night. The other thing I really appreciate is that my parents have followed my lead. For example, I noticed recently that my Mom has started to refer to me as Deaf instead of hard of hearing.  

Are you comfortable explaining to people about your access needs?  How did you learn those skills?

When I was younger, my mom always encouraged me to ask for help, but I was shy, and embarrassed. When I went to Gallaudet, I learned that I like to communicate with people and I wanted more access; I realized what I was missing, and I wanted to be included in that. Now I   will ask for captioning at movies and for an interpreter at big family gatherings. These days, I’m very comfortable explaining I’m Deaf when I meet new people. I will write, gesture, or use my phone to communicate if they don’t sign. It really helps that in today’s world everyone has a phone – at a restaurant, for example, I can just pull out my phone and type what I want to say. 

How was it moving from Ohio, USA to British Columbia, Canada?

When my Canadian wife and I decided to get married, I applied for immigration, and discovered that it’s a long process. But, lucky for us, it was all done by email and on paper (no phone calls required!) so it was an easy, smooth process. 

I think there are a lot more Deaf people in the USA than in Canada, which makes sense, given that the population of Canada is so much smaller. There are lots of organizations and support in the USA, whereas I feel it is still growing in Canada. It’s been a bit challenging for me to join into the Deaf community here – Deaf people in BC have grown up together and it’s a very close community, so it’s harder to be fully accepted as a new person. It’s helped a lot that my wife is from BC, though.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?  Has your deafness impacted your choices?

When I was young, I loved to play video games because I could easily understand what was going on. There was captioning, and I could control what was happening, so I felt involved. I didn’t like going out to family gatherings, but I enjoyed watching movies, reading books, and drawing. Now I like to socialize more, as I understand and follow conversation more easily. I socialize mostly with Deaf people, but sometimes with hearing people, and that’s fine too. I played football both in my mainstream high school and at Gallaudet. I had a better experience at Gallaudet, as communication was so much easier, but I also realized I’m not really a team sports person. I prefer to watch team sports rather than play. I do enjoy being active and spending time outdoors, though. My wife and I spend a lot of time camping, hiking, and exploring BC.

What are some of the advantages of being Deaf that you experience?

If I wasn’t Deaf, I would never have met my wife! I also feel like it’s strengthened my connection with some of my siblings. I love being a visual person, it’s so cool. Being Deaf has also has taught me to be more open minded about communication and languages – each person is different, and I understand that. 

Do you have advice for parents who are just starting out on the journey of raising a child who is deaf or hard of hearing?

I would say be involved, and always continue to communicate with your child. I have many Deaf friends whose parents don’t sign, or can’t communicate with them, and it’s sad. Stay open to what works best for your particular child or children, and stay involved.

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