BC Hands & Voices presents “Finding Unity in our Diversity: Family stories of raising young children who are deaf and hard of hearing.”

CHECK OUT OUR NEW BOOK!!

Connecting with others who have shared life experiences is one of the joys of being human.  In our ever-changing world, those connections aren’t always present when we need them most.  And so we are excited to announce the publication of our first book; a collection of stories written by parents raising children who are deaf and hard of hearing as well as adults sharing their experiences growing up deaf and hard of hearing.  The authors are open, honest and engaging, providing meaningful glimpses into their lives and those of their families.  

 

We invite you to order your copy of this book today in the hope that it will provide you with optimism, insight and practical wisdom.

Price & Shipping choices

  • $24.95CAD + $6 shipping & handling within Canada, or $24.95CAD + $10 shipping & handling to the US
  • FAMILIES- Become a paid member of BC Hands & Voices for $20.00CAD and receive a complimentary copy of our book (please note this option is only available to Canadian Residents and is only available while quantities last)
  • PROFESSIONALS- Become a paid member of BC Hands & Voices for $30.00CAD and receive a complimentary copy of our book (please note this option is only available to Canadian Residents and is only available while quantities last)
  • AGENCIES- Become a paid member of BC Hands & Voices for $50.00CAD and receive a complimentary copy of our book (please note this option is only available for Canadian addresses and is only available while quantities last)

To order and make payment please fill out this google form and make payment via PayPal.
(all details available on the google form)
https://forms.gle/fJ8aonLSwcKWredeA

 

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The Silent Language

By Maria Ruiz

I tuck her hair
Behind her ears
Naked
Ears
Without the aids
Without the sounds
Only language she hears
Is the one my heart speaks
My eyes tell
She knows
This language
Well
The silence
So full
Of sound
Can you hear it?
How can you
Not
Like a dance
She hears
The sounds
Of the silent moments
Most dismiss
She hears
The sound
Of the quiet
The unknown
The language
Of poets
Of musicians
Of the thinkers
Just you and me
Here
Sweet girl
We dance
With the letters
Of the alphabet
We make our own language
Sentences
Without syllables
Without rules
Just freedom
A slowness
A stillness
That is complete
Here
Teach me
The language
Of your heart
Yell it at the top of your lungs
So the world knows
You
And your alphabet
Dance
To the song
In your head
That no one else
Needs to hear
Do you hear
That voice
Inside
I hear it too
And it’s the only voice
You need
To hear
I hear you
Sweet girl
And that’s all that matters
I hear
You
All of you

 

Maria Ruiz discovered she was a poet by accident in Grade 7, when she was writing down all her emotions about a boy who was driving her crazy. From there, she has discovered that there is a world behind each word, and she often gets lost in between worlds. When she isn’t writing poetry, Maria is busy homeschooling her 3 children: Miah, Andrew, and Lilah. Homeschooling her kids has been such an adventure and gift that she treasures and holds dear. Apart from homeschooling her kids, and being a stay at home mother, Maria loves to run and is aiming to run another half marathon this summer. Together with Edwin, her husband of fourteen years, they strive to learn more about the deaf and hard of hearing community in order to help support their two children who are hard of hearing. Maria finds such deep inspiration from her children and their hearing differences and hopes to use her poetry to highlight the determination, struggles, and beauty of life.

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Learning to be Flexible

By Lisa Cable

I am the oldest child in my family and a classic “Type A” personality.  As such, I LOVE to be in control.  I want to know what’s going to be happening and actively plan for each and every event so that there are no surprises.  I like lists, spreadsheets, calendars and anything that helps me to plan and keep track of all the little details.  But as every parent knows, having children can throw even the best planner for a loop.

We are lucky to have two fantastic, spirited and opinionated children.  Our son is 12 (almost a teenager!) and our daughter is 10.  While our son has typical hearing, our daughter, Lily was born hard of hearing.  When she was first identified, at 8 weeks old, as being hard of hearing it was a shock.  However, I quickly shifted to figuring out what we needed to do for her and dove in head-first with early intervention, audiology appointments and meeting other families.  It was certainly a shift from how it was with my son during his first year of life, but one that I was happy to make for the sake of my daughter.  

By the time Lily was 18 months old I felt like I had a handle on how things were going.  We’d settled into a routine of appointments, baby groups, intervention services and such.  We’d worked hard to learn as much as we could so that we could make informed choices; we reached out to other families and deaf/hard of hearing role models to learn from their experiences.  Lily wore tiny little hearing aids and was progressing well – we were happy.  

Just before her second birthday we learned that Lily had Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct (EVA) Syndrome and that it was very possible this could result in a progressive hearing loss.  Within two months she experienced her first “drop” in hearing, sending us scrambling to figure out what to do.  Managing a feisty two-year old with fluctuating hearing levels was something we were not prepared for.  It was the first time I felt like I didn’t know what to do or how to manage the rapid changes that were besetting themselves upon my tiny daughter.  

After three more years of progressive hearing loss, switching hearing aids to keep up with the changes, two cochlear implant surgeries and simultaneously navigating two different preschool programs, both Lily and I came out the other side different people.  She was resilient, confident and ready to take on the world.  I had learned the hard lesson that life cannot be controlled and planned for the way I always want it to be.  I needed to be flexible – not a pushover, but someone who could accept what comes and figure out ways to make the best of each day and each situation.  

Once Lily began Kindergarten (for which I’d planned extensively!) I figured things would be easier.  She was thriving with her cochlear implants, in mainstream school with her brother and her friends from the neighbourhood while also having a wonderful circle of deaf and hard of hearing friends to connect with. 

However, just when we think that we’ve got it all figured out, life has a way of keeping us on our toes.  Navigating elementary school with Lily has been a constant lesson for all of us in how to be flexible.  Equipment breaks down or doesn’t work, there are substitute teachers who aren’t aware of how to best communicate with her, challenges with noisy school assemblies or playing outside during lunchtime – to name a few.  Just when we figure out how to deal with one challenge another one pops up.  

What I’ve learned, and hopefully helped my children to learn, is that the challenges life presents us with don’t need to be seen as negatives.  They can be opportunities to learn about ourselves, to learn from others, to try new things and to make mistakes.  While there are days that I would love for things to just go exactly as I have planned for once, I wouldn’t trade our marvelous, sometimes crazy, life for anything.  

 

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O.U.R. Children Project ‘What do parents need to know about keeping their DHH children safe?’ Webinar

Join us for our upcoming Webinar!

This webinar is a part of the O.U.R. Children Project (O=Observe, U=Understand, R=Respond)

Presenters Harold A. Johnson and Sara Kennedy will outline strategies to ensure personal safety for young children who are deaf and hard of hearing. You will gain awareness of why children with language and support needs are at a higher risk and learn preventive measures and tools for their safety. When we know more, we can do more!

This webinar is open to parents of deaf/hard of hearing children birth to 5 and the early intervention professionals who support them. ASL Interpreters and captioning provided.

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS

Harold Johnson is an educator with 40 plus years of experience in the field of Deaf Education.  He has worked as a teacher, then as a program administrator, and then finally as a university professor (Kent State University & Michigan State University) preparing individuals to become teachers of students who are deaf/hard of hearing (d/hh).  Much of his career focused upon the use of Web based technologies and resources to enhance education, reduce isolation, facilitate collaboration and recognize excellence (e.g., www.deafed.net).  In 2006 his work expanded to include an emphasis upon understanding and preventing the maltreatment of children with disabilities. This work resulted in the establishment of the “O.U.R. Children Project” (O = Observe; U = Understand: & R = Respond).  The project, carried out in collaboration with “Hands & Voices,” represents a major effort to reduce the incidence and impact of child maltreatment via awareness, understanding, and proactive engagement. This work is generating knowledge, skills, and resources that serve to not only keep children safe, but also help insure their academic success as they progress from early intervention, to school, and to adulthood.

Sara Kennedy is a mom of four children, including a middle school-aged daughter who is profoundly deaf. An occupational therapist by training, Sara has worked with Hands & Voices since 2000 and currently serves as the Director for the Colorado chapter. At the national level, she serves as an editor of the quarterly newspaper, The Hands & Voices Communicator. Sara has a special interest in hearing screening in the homebirth community. She was a coauthor for the manual Bridge to Preschool: Navigating a Successful Transition as well as many articles on educational and self-advocacy, safety and prevention of abuse, why families move, and the decision process regarding cochlear implants and other topics. Presentations include the GBYS training, understanding the laws and advocacy in the birth to three and Part B system, and a memorable presentation on teaching our deaf/hh children about sex that Sara and Susan Elliott created. She finds parenting teens to be an even bigger challenge. She lives and hikes (and skis when she can) with her family in Colorado Springs.

Download our flyer here: OUR Project Flyer 4.19.2021

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Why I Sign

Author: Kurt Kuzminski

Why do I sign? Because it’s beautiful. Because it translates movement into poetry, connecting concepts to ideas, and people to people. It tells us stories in a vivid, visual medium that is intuitively enchanting, and — simultaneously — as accessible to the novice as it is nuanced to the master. So yes, for me, it’s all about connecting people through the poetry of motion.

Confession: I’m already a science nerd, so learning basic atomic theory in American Sign Language (ASL) blew my mind. Imagine your hand falling through space to <smack!> crash into your palm, fingers snapping into a fist at the last second. A confluence of force and attraction. Gravity. An aura of dancing fingers circling a closed fist? Atom. Think about it — if your fist is the nucleus, then I can’t help but imagine each fingertip as its own electron, spritely chasing its own orbit. Put them together, and <wham!> you have the sign for an atom. Now slip a lone finger out of the cloud and send it whipping about on its own trajectory. Electron. Isn’t it fascinating how intuitive that is? Need to see it? Head to www.ASLClear.org and get ready for some fantastic ASL (be sure to click on the “English” button on the top right to make it easier to navigate). So that’s one part, the visual poetry of the language. The other half is, of course, the people those hands are attached to.

I am lucky, thankful, and grateful to have met such people. Generous, inspiring, and welcoming people who patiently taught me ASL, even though I must have been, and probably still am, a babbling and hilariously-accented foreigner. To everyone I’ve met, thank you for creating a safe space and encouraging my thick-fingered fumblings. I’ll always be grateful for those generous mentors who opened their homes to us and shared the complexity and nuance of sign, and their contagious passion for it.

Carrying that passion with me, I feel compelled to share. The audience of my thick-fingered fumblings? My kids. My daughter is Deaf, and she loves experiencing new signs, especially when they describe science. When I share new signs with her, her eyes brim with delight. Flailing fingers smack into palm. Gravity. And that impact kindles something in her, that innate curiosity to explore the world through science.  She in turn, snapping fingers into fist, passes that curiosity to her little sister. And now, I’m treated to the fruits of my fumblings. Tiny fists snapping into tiny palms. Tiny fingers snapping “No,” or stretching out to say, “I Love You!”

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Deaf Parents, Hearing Child

By: Levi Traxler

 

My wife and I are Deaf, and we use American Sign Language to communicate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We rely on a lot of visual information, such as when I flicker the lights on and off to get my wife’s attention. We try to make our home as deaf-friendly as possible; for example, we prefer an “open concept”, for ease of communication, and we have a big window by our front door. Our lives essentially rely on making everything accessible for us. 

When we found out we were expecting a baby, due in May 2020, we were so happy! What an exciting time for us! But suddenly, Covid-19 became a worldwide issue and everything changed. For example, limits were placed on the number of people allowed in medical settings (in order to reduce potential exposure to the virus), and we had difficulty getting an interpreter for our hospital visits. We finally did get an interpreter for the delivery, but we then found out that we’d need to stay at the hospital for a few days and the interpreter wasn’t permitted to stay there the whole time. We understand the logistical challenges of hiring interpreters but it was tough trying to communicate with nurses when they were wearing masks. Fortunately, we still had a relatively smooth experience bringing our child into this world. 

After nine months of waiting, we were thrilled to finally meet our healthy new baby. When we were finally able to bring our child home, we realized there are a lot of different challenges for us as Deaf parents with a hearing child. Here are just a few of the things we’ve experienced so far:

  1. We need an alarm system to notify us when the baby is crying. This is especially important when we are sleeping or in another room away from the baby. 
  2. We use a video monitor to check on the baby once in a while when the baby is napping. It helps give us a peace of mind being able to check on the baby without having to go inside the room.
  3. Using a big mirror on one side of the room allows us to check on our baby’s face and see if the baby is crying or having a good time. Sometimes if we look at the baby from behind, we would otherwise assume the baby is happy when in reality the baby is crying! The mirror helps give us more visual information.
  4. Loud noises that we as parents are clueless to, like the vacuum machine whirring and sirens, are NOT pleasant to the baby! One time I took our baby out for a walk and there was a fire truck with the siren on racing down the street. I thought this would be a great opportunity for the baby to look at the fire truck as it went flying by us. Unfortunately when the fire truck got near us, the baby started crying and climbed into my arms. It took me a second to realize that the sirens are really, really loud! 
  5. Burping our baby after feeding can be tricky. We can feel the burps, but not always, so sometimes we aren’t sure if the baby has even burped yet! Same goes for a lot of bodily functions such as farting, vomiting, and sneezing. 
  6. We don’t exactly know how loud we are so we have to be extra careful with doing anything while in the same room while our baby is napping. I remember taking a minute for each step to make sure I wasn’t making enough noise for the baby to wake up! 

Despite these interesting challenges we face as Deaf parents, we’ve also had some really cool moments with the baby, such as:

  1. The baby responds to sound so if I’m trying to get my wife’s attention when she’s playing with the child, I can just make some random loud noises. The baby will look for me right away and my wife notices this and then looks at me too. It works every time! This is going to be a great addition to our household. 
  2. We were able to give our child a sign name. We love it when our family or friends ask what the child’s sign name is because we feel like it gave our child their own identity. 
  3. Our child really enjoys watching our ASL stories and also enjoys listening to sounds from other sources (family members, toys, books, etc.). This is a great way to raise a bilingual child!
  4. Just like every other parent out there, we absolutely love watching our child grow up! Our child is now six months old and it feels so different compared to the newborn stage, so we’re realizing that we need to savor every moment we have with our child.

We know that there will be additional challenges down the road but we are ready and excited. Raising a hearing child as Deaf parents presents a wonderful opportunity to grow together as a family, learning from each other along the way!

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2021 AGM & Parent Connect Evening “Ask Me Anything”

We’ll begin with a brief 30 minute AGM, where we will share what BC Hands & Voices has accomplished over the past year.
Then we’ll dive into our “Ask Me Anything” Session – Hosted by your BC H&V Board of Parents and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Adults. Join us from your favourite spot at home, bring your questions or just observe. All are welcome!
ASL Interpreters will be provided.
Please RSVP to catherine@bchandsandvoices.com by Saturday February 27th, 2021 to receive the link.

Download our flyer HERE

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Parent Connect Coffee Night- ‘Bedtime Poetry-Creating a Harmonious Bedtime’

Join BC Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side parents and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Guides for a panel discussion about all things bedtime! They will share  tips for creating a pleasant bedtime experience for both YOU and your deaf/hard of hearing child. What do Deaf/Hard of Hearing adults say their parents did to help them feel secure and sleep well when they were children? What can we take away from the things they wished had gone differently? Always lots to discuss on this topic! Bring your questions and ideas! Special guests include Monique Les, Tara Dyck and Teresa Kazemir. ASL Interpreters and CART captioning are provided.
WHEN: Thursday January 21st 2021 7:00pm-8:30pm
CONTACT/INFO: please RSVP to catherine@bchandsandvoices.com to receive the zoom link.

Posted in DHH Guides, Events | Comments Off on Parent Connect Coffee Night- ‘Bedtime Poetry-Creating a Harmonious Bedtime’

Paying it Forward: Passing on Some “Golden Nuggets” 

By Teresa Kazemir

When I look back on how we raised our three kids, there are of course many things I now think we might have done differently. For example, it was a good idea to hide vegetables in their pancakes, but why did I start them off with sweetened peanut butter?

I think we were more intentional in our parenting than many of our friends because our first child, Jesse, was born hard of hearing. We were concerned about him feeling different, not being included, or even being bullied, and so we sought advice from others.  We consulted parenting books, early interventionists and other parents of children who were deaf and hard of hearing. We also took advantage of opportunities to learn from older children and adults who were themselves deaf or hard of hearing.  Figuring out how to parent our children was an active process that evolved constantly over the years. We certainly weren’t perfect parents, but there were several pieces of advice that we received from others that turned out to be “golden nuggets,” worthy of passing on to the next generation of parents. 

  1. Provide rich accessible communication from infancy

For our son this meant a combination of sign language and spoken language right from the beginning. We talked and signed to him all the time, about everything that was happening around him, and he soaked it all up! This strong foundation in language definitely helped him later in school, and it also led to good, open communication within our family, as we talked about anything and everything.  

  1. Turn off the TV and background music

It was clear even as a young baby that Jesse loved to listen as well as watch, so one of the biggest changes we had to make early on was to become more thoughtful about when we played background music and had the TV on. We understood that even though we loved music, it competed with the sound of our voices when we talked to our baby. We found ways to make it work – we would listen to music with Jesse, but if it was time to read a book, we would turn off the music. We also found that signing naturally filled in those gaps in auditory access in situations where we couldn’t control the level of background noise.

2. Encourage your child to self–advocate from a young age

This started by talking openly and positively about Jesse’s hearing equipment when showing others or answering their questions. We encouraged him to contribute whatever he could to these conversations.  Initially we asked him to show people his hearing aid. Later we asked him to tell others what he was wearing – “It’s my hearing aid.” Over time he added more and more information, until gradually he took over, and we just supplemented with anything he might have missed. To this day Jesse is very comfortable talking about his ears, hearing aids, access, etc.

3. Embrace early literacy activities

When Jesse was a baby, there were some pretty scary articles circulating about deaf and hard of hearing children graduating from high school with very low reading levels. This motivated us to be pro-active in terms of literacy, and think about what we could do to encourage a love of books from a young age. I hadn’t really stopped to think about how many opportunities there are to promote early literacy with young children before Jesse was born, but we discovered there are lots of ways to do this. We started looking at books together when he was an infant, and incorporated this into our daily routines. We got a library card and borrowed books every week. We wrote his name on every piece of toddler artwork.  It was a real eye opener when 2 ½ year old Jesse, while out in the car with my husband, pointed at a sign with an amazed expression and said “Letters are everywhere!!!” That led to making our own signs when we played store, writing words together on the grocery list, and writing letters to grandparents. We realized that Jesse was right – letters are everywhere!

4. Make it OK to express sadness or frustration 

While Jesse has said that his hearing difference created more positive interactions and opportunities than negative while growing up, that doesn’t mean there weren’t times when he was frustrated or sad. We were advised that it was good to acknowledge his feelings, and let him know it was OK to feel that way. I wasn’t always quite sure how to do that, when my natural instinct is to reassure and look at the bright side of everything, but we muddled through. Honestly, any time he was sad, I would go back to that piece of advice, take a deep breath, push aside my natural response, and instead just sit with those feelings for a bit. Luckily he always seemed to come around after a few minutes of chatting, and I could relax back into my comfort zone. 

5. Prioritize opportunities to meet other families with kids who are DHH

 We heard this message loud and clear from our early intervention providers, so we made an effort to take advantage of family events and groups whenever we could. As Jesse grew older, this settled at a couple of family events each year (which were also great for our other two children), in addition to a couple of fun activities at school where his Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing would bring together a few kids within the school district. Even though Jesse never really bonded with any one particular friend who was deaf or hard of hearing, these experiences provided something important for him. I remember him saying when he was about 12, after attending a family conference, that it was always so nice to get together with that group because all the other kids “just get it.” He said it was really great not to have to explain anything. I think those events recharged him, and then he’d be happy to go back to his daily life once again. As parents, we highly valued those opportunities to connect with other parents. There seemed to be an instant bond – it’s amazing how fast you can connect with another parent in a similar situation, and get right to the real, heart-felt conversations.  Most of the best support and practical advice we’ve received has come from other parents. 

Parenting is much more complicated than I realized before having children. It can be terrifying, humbling, amazing and rewarding – sometimes all at the same time!  All we can do as parents is try our best, and then pay it forward to others by sharing what worked. These are a few “golden nuggets” that we picked up along the way – I’m sure others can add to the list!

Posted in Articles, Microtia/ Atresia | Comments Off on Paying it Forward: Passing on Some “Golden Nuggets” 

Parent Connect Coffee Night- ‘Learning from DHH Adults’

Join us with special guests Tara Dyck & Bowen Tang, Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) Guides with the Hands and Voices Guide By Your Side Program. Tara & Bowen will share some of their experiences growing up as well as:
-tips on how to develop self confidence in your child from an early age
-what it’s like using various technologies in everyday life
-their experiences travelling and growing up learning a variety of signed & spoken languages
-how they have developed meaningful friendships and family relationships

ASL interpreters and CART captioning will be provided.

Grab a beverage and join us via Zoom from your favourite spot at home!

Please RSVP to catherine@bchandsandvoices.com to receive the link.

 

Download our flyer here: Learning from DHH Adults 12.7.2020

Posted in Coffee Night, Deaf Culture, DHH Guides | Comments Off on Parent Connect Coffee Night- ‘Learning from DHH Adults’