2023 AGM & Parent Connect Evening ‘Keep Calm & Ask Us Anything’

WHO: BC Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side, BC Early Hearing Program
WHAT: 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. Some topics we will cover: travelling w/dhh kids, participating in sports & community activities, and building self esteem. All are welcome. Bring your own questions or just come to listen ASL Interpreters will be provided.
WHEN: Monday March 6, 2023 7:00pm-9:00pm
WHERE: Online – Link will be provided upon registration
CONTACT/INFO: Please register to receive Zoom information here: https://tinyurl.com/yszr28xn

Download our flyer here: AGM 3.6.2023

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Learning Sign Language- Four Ideas to Motivate and Engage Family Members

Author: Nora Maldonado

Oftentimes, when a child is diagnosed as deaf or hard of hearing, there is an initial outpouring of enthusiasm from friends and relatives who want to learn ASL. It is novel, and people genuinely feel motivated to help by learning some sign. This can make new parents of a deaf or hard of hearing child feel elated, and excited; however, sometimes, when the proverbial dust settles, many people (however well intentioned) may not follow through with initial plans to learn. Life is busy, and learning a new language is no easy feat.

When our daughter was identified as deaf, we immediately started trying to forge connections with other deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and families. Inevitably this meant that our path diverged from the paths we had been sharing with other friends. However, we gained new friends, made new connections within the Deaf community, and we were lucky enough to have three or four family members who stuck with it, learned some ASL, and continue to do so. If you are lucky enough to have even one person in your life who is committed to learning ASL, the following are some ideas to help keep them motivated:

  1. Easy access to learning – in our case, it was our daughter’s grandparents and aunt that were committed to learning ASL. Initially, instead of just sending them the link to a class, we signed them up ourselves, and set them up with the Zoom calls every week. This made it easy for them to participate. This was much more forward than I would usually be, but in our case, this initial push was well worth it, as it got my daughter’s grandparents and aunt started – which can sometimes be the hardest part!
  2. Praise – we recognize that learning a second (or third!) language is very difficult. We make a special effort to recognize and praise their efforts, always stopping to remind them how much this opens up our daughter’s world, and how much it impacts their ability to have a relationship with her. 
  3. Reinforcement – before long, our daughter was understanding and responding to their signs. This was great reinforcement for them, as they could feel the progress they were making. We made a point of highlighting how our daughter was understanding them and this helped them come full circle, and understand the impact of learning ASL.
  4. Community events – from early on, we made the effort to invite our daughter’s grandparents to Deaf and Hard of Hearing community events. They were able to meet other families, and other grandparents that were also learning ASL. It made them feel included, and part of something larger than just the ASL classes. I think it was also important to our daughter to see her grandparents signing and interacting with her peers and their families. 

We can all appreciate the difficulty in learning a new language. Hopefully these tips will help you keep family and friends motivated and engaged if they have decided to learn ASL. 

 

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Growing Up with a DHH Sister with Additional Exceptionalities

By Kim & Ashley Shauer

Our daughter, Ashley, graduated from high school this year and we have enjoyed reminiscing about different aspects of her childhood together. 

Ashley was almost 3 years old when her sister, Julia, was born with a rare chromosome 15 duplication and many health concerns. After discharge from the NICU, we suddenly had numerous appointments with a large team of medical professionals and our calm, relaxed home had unexpectedly become a revolving door of service providers. While this provided a whirlwind of wonderful support, we naturally worried about how this upheaval may affect Ashley and her relationship with Julia.

Growing up with a deaf/hard of hearing sister with additional disabilities offers a unique perspective, so I was thrilled that Ashley was willing to share her experiences so far growing up as an “exceptional” sibling! 

KS – What was your relationship like with your sister when you were younger?

AS – When we were little, I loved to play school with her. We made forts (I was an expert fort maker). I taught her how to crawl and would clean the bedroom for us when we shared a room. Later on, we had a swing set and would swing beside each other and I would push her – she had an adaptive swing. When we got a trampoline, she would love laying on it while I bounced her – and she still does! She gives me the biggest smiles and hugs. When I would wake up at night, I would go in her room and wake her up and say hi. She would just go back to sleep and I don’t think you ever heard me on the monitor!

KS – I didn’t know that! How do you remember learning about Julia’s condition? I recall trying to keep information age-appropriate for you in the beginning, such as that she needs more help because her muscles are not as strong. 

AS – When I was younger you explained it to me, but I still can’t remember what it’s called! Something like, your sister was born with a rare condition that includes hearing loss and a variety of other things…mostly I remember that I loved to pick the colours and sparkles for the ear molds of her hearing aids. I was 4 so I usually picked pink & purple!

KS – We had received parenting advice about the importance of parents setting aside extra time for each child in a family, particularly when one needed more attention due to medical needs. I loved our evenings together after Julia went to bed.  

AS: I remember every night you would give me a piggy back ride upstairs. I know you did that for too long – till I was about 9 years old! I think that was one of the reasons we ended up moving – ha ha! I loved reading together before bed and talking about how our day was. 

KS: What are some of your favourite holiday memories?

AS: Going to Kelowna for Christmas, trick or treating at Grandma’s house, going to the Disney Hawaii resort for Julia’s Make-A-Wish Trip and staying in the cabin along the river in Manning Park – besides going camping or staying with family that felt like our first real family holiday. 

KS: What do you remember about the many appointments we had in Vancouver? 

AS: They would usually give me stickers and I could pick which one I wanted. I also remember we usually did something fun afterwards. We’d go to the Aquarium & Science world more than anyone else I knew!

KS: I was away with Julia periodically during different surgeries and hospital stays. What do you remember about some of those times? 

AS: You always explained why you were at the different doctors so I was never wondering what you were doing. I remember staying with Grandma and Grandpa. Sometimes I missed you guys when it was a long hospital stay but I liked going to my grandparents’ house. 

KS: When do you remember meeting other siblings who had brothers or sisters with some similar medical or support needs? Was it nice to know there were other families like ours?

AS: We would go to special events and do fun things with different organizations. At Zajac Ranch family camp, I remember playing with other kids, but we didn’t really think anything of it at that age, we just played. Later when Julia played Challenger Baseball, I went to the playground a couple times with another sibling.

KS: I remember you being so confident and proud of your sister when you were little and I took such strength from your positive attitude! You would notice people staring at Julia and sometimes I wouldn’t know the best way to react. One time when I didn’t know how to respond to someone, you took over, gave Julia a big hug, and while she smiled you said to the staring adult, “Isn’t she just the cutest baby in the world!” I still share that with other new parents.  

AS: Yes, people would be so weird sometimes when we were out.

KS: I remember when I was looking at Kindergarten placements for Julia, you really wanted your sister to go to your elementary school just as your friends had their siblings at the school. Did other kids at school ask you questions about Julia and how did you handle those situations?

AS: I don’t really remember kids asking me anything or not being nice. Many were quite interested and when the school started the Sign Language Club at lunch, lots of kids went. In grade 7 when friends were seated away from each other for talking too much, they would sign to each other so that was cool. They probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. 

KS: Then when it came high school, neither you nor your friends wanted your younger siblings to go to your high school! I appreciated that you also shared with me that you just wanted to be your own person again, instead of being known as “Julia’s sister”. I remember one of your other concerns at the time was that you might get called out of your classes to help her and could miss important information. How did it work out? (Due to the pandemic we couldn’t look at other high school options so she did end up going to the same high school)

AS: It was fine. I was never called to help with anything. It’s a huge school so I actually rarely saw her!  

KS: How do you think having Julia as your sister has affected your personality?

AS: I’m patient, empathetic and less judgmental. I am probably more mature since I had to grow up a bit faster in some ways. I’m not selfish or bossy. I have more understanding of the disability community because we get it and those who aren’t, don’t get it. I’m a good observer, watching and making sense of sounds and non-verbal cues. I read Julia really well and understand her language.  

KS: You are one of her favourite people! What are your hopes for your sister for the future? What does she enjoy most in life? 

AS: She likes structure in her life and being with others. I hope she is happy and has fun daytime things to do that she enjoys.

KS: What are your plans and hopes for yourself for the future? 

AS: I will be going to university and plan to go into something that helps other people, not sure what that will be yet. I’m not sure how Julia has shaped that, I may have done that anyway. 

KS: This might be my favorite conversation! Is there anything else you would like to say or share with other families or siblings? Pieces of advice?

AS: Everything happens for a reason. Live the best life you can. 

Editor’s Note: It is with broken hearts that we share the news that sweet Julia passed away peacefully in the early hours of December 24, 2022. She will be dearly missed by her family and friends, as well as the many support providers and teachers who were lucky enough to work with her over the years. Julia’s life was short, but the impression she left on the lives of others will never be forgotten. 

 

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Lafarge Lake Christmas Lights Walk in partnership with Provincial Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (PDHHS)

In partnership with Provincial Family Services
Provincial Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (PDHHS)

After the business of the holidays, come and join us for a chance to connect with other families, walk around the lake, and enjoy beautiful lights! Hot chocolate will be provided. Our meeting spot will be at the Percy Perry Stadium near Lafarge Lake. More details on how to get to the stadium will be provided closer to the date.

There are no costs to attend the event. There is ample parking and a SkyTrain station (Lafarge Lake-Douglas) nearby.

When: Saturday January 7th, 2023
Time: 4:00 – 7:00pm
Location: 1299 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam
Registration: If you are interested in registering or would like further information, please email FS@gov.bc.ca

Download our flyer here: Lafarge Lake Event Winter 2023

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Parent Connect Night-Microtia/Atresia on Zoom


WHO: BC Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side
WHAT: Join us for a special parent night about microtia/atresia hosted by our board member parents and guides with children who have microtia/atresia and/or use Bone Anchored Hearing Systems (BAHS). Grab a beverage and join us from your favourite spot at home! Ask questions, get tips and share experiences with other parents. An ASL Interpreter will be available if requested by January.
WHEN: Tuesday, January 24, 2023 7:00pm-8:30pm
WHERE: Join us via Zoom from your favourite spot at home!
CONTACT/INFO: https://tinyurl.com/enmmhxuv

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Enjoying Stories as a Deaf Person

Written by Levi Traxler

I love stories. I love reading, even more so if it’s about fantasy or science. I remember reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings when I was in high school. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I do remember it was kind of hard to read at first, but it became easier the more I read. That is how I developed an appreciation for stories. I’m not much of a writer but at least I enjoy reading! I also get heavily invested in well-written stories in television and movies.

When I was young, my parents encouraged me to read, read, and read even more. It was challenging at first because I couldn’t hear the letters clearly so I had to work hard to understand the texts. At school, my Teachers of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing did a lot of stories and that got me hooked into reading. I kept trying to read books and if I couldn’t understand anything, I asked my parents or older sister what the sentences meant and they were always helpful. Whenever I got stuck, I found a way to break through and continue reading. 

Reading got easier and easier as I gained more experience reading a wide variety of books. Books from high school English class were hard to read but I learned that I wasn’t the only one struggling with this so I’ve accepted that not every book needs to be read or thoroughly enjoyed. I feel like the most important thing is to find out what kind of books you like to read and go from there. I love fantasies, science, mysteries, graphic novels and comedies.

If you want your child(ren) to enjoy reading, make it a fun activity for them and lead by example. I always saw my sister reading books in her spare time, and it motivated me to read more. My teachers encouraged me to talk about the books I’d read, and it helped me understand the books more too. Each child has their own preferences so it’s a great idea to expose them to different kinds of stories and books. Libraries are a great starting place for that.  It is also a great idea to get the child to act out stories and bring them to life. I am doing the same with my child by reading the books in ASL and getting him involved (What is this wolf doing? Why is he huffing and puffing?). By engaging children in stories, they are more interested and motivated to keep reading. Starting a love of reading at a young age is an important step in encouraging kids to become lifelong readers! 

Levi’s son having fun reading

 

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At the Table with BC Hands & Voices Presents: “DHH+ Additional Needs”

WHO: BC Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side
WHAT: An online evening for parents and caregivers of deaf/hard of hearing children with additional medical and/or support needs to join together for conversation and connection. Parent Guides and BC Hands & Voices board members with experience raising amazing kids with a variety of extra conditions will be available to answer questions and provide information to help support our kids to reach their full potential.
Statistically, more than 40% of deaf/hard of hearing children are born with additional needs – so we are in good company!
WHEN: Tuesday November 8, 2022 7:00pm-8:30pm
WHERE: Join us via Zoom from your favourite spot at home!
https://tinyurl.com/3ynay7wb

Download our flyer here: DHH+11.8.2022

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My Trip to the Hands & Voices Leadership Conference

By Lisa Cable

I was recently privileged to attend the Hands & Voices Leadership Conference in Fairfax, NY. This annual conference is an opportunity for representatives from Hands & Voices chapters across North America to come together, network and learn collectively. As a first-time attendee I was excited to take advantage of all the conference had to offer.  

Throughout the 3 day conference there were a wide variety of educational sessions to choose from. I had the opportunity to hear from a panel of leaders south of the border in Washington, Oregon & California talk about how they’ve teamed up to support one another and what they’ve learned along their journey. There were two other excellent panels as well: one composed of siblings of dhh kids and another of dads. Panels like these are always so enlightening as people speak from their hearts and give true insight into their unique perspectives.  

Sheila Moody from Western University in Ontario presented on behalf of her team about the value of parent-to-parent support and the research they’ve been doing to back up this important part of early intervention. There was also the opportunity to learn about different technologies, resources and programs that exist to better the lives of dhh children and their families. 

As with any conference there is so much learning from the speakers/panels but sometimes the most valuable learning comes from the sharing between attendees. I met such diverse people from Indiana, Illinois, Florida, California and everywhere in between! Sharing stories, comparing notes and finding commonalities in our lived experiences was invaluable to me – both as a leader in Hands & Voices but also as a parent of a dhh child.  

One final highlight of the conference was the visit and dinner at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester (NTID). We had a fabulous evening at the University, meeting the staff and learning about the school’s history and what it has to offer students. It was not an institution that I previously knew well, and I’m so glad I was able to learn more about it.  

Not only do H&V leaders attend this conference, but parents and professionals alike that are aligned with our interests. I encourage anyone that is interested to check out next year’s conference!

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All About My Hearing Aids

Local parent and H & V board member Rabab Elbaharia shares a book created by her daughter Salma. In Salma’s own words, “Hello… My name is Salma . I’m 8 years old. I identify as Hard of Hearing. I thought about the questions my friends and classmates frequently asked me and I decided to answer them in this book. Have a Joyful Reading!”

Please click on this link to access Salma’s book in PDF format: All About My Hearing Aids

 

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At the Table with BC Hands & Voices Presents: “New to the Journey?”

WHO: BC Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side
WHAT: Are you just starting on the journey of parenting a deaf/hard of hearing child? Or perhaps you’ve been on this ride for a while and now feel ready to connect with more parents? Maybe you’re at a new point in your journey or are changing course and have some questions. We are Guide By Your Side parents and BC Hands & Voices Board members supporting parents of deaf/hard of hearing children aged 0-5. Join us for an informal parent-to-parent night and ask us anything! We are here for you! 
ASL interpreter will be available if requested by September 21, 2022.
WHEN: Wednesday October 5, 2022 7:00pm-8:30pm
WHERE: Join us via Zoom from your favourite spot at home!
CONTACT/INFO: https://tinyurl.com/r9wtey45

Download our flyer here: New to the Journey 10.5.2022

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