Feed Your Curiosity with a DHH Mentor

Written by: Monique Les

Stunned.
Inspired.
Curious.

Those were the three foremost feelings that stirred in my heart when I attended Leeanne and Dane Seaver’s presentation during the 2023 Hands and Voices Leadership Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The presentation was titled “From LEGOs to Letting Go: How a Deaf Mentor Changed Our Family”, and the one word that caught my attention was LEGOs. I am a Hard of Hearing mother of three young children, so LEGO is a big theme in our house! However, with my Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) mentor hat on, I stepped into the room thinking that it was going to be a typical family conversation about how they met their Deaf mentor.

What a surprise I was in for!

Leeanne and her son Dane actually BROUGHT in Henri Grau, their Deaf mentor, whom Leeanne had met during the early days of her son’s diagnosis. I was under the impression that it would be a mother-and-son presentation, with a chat about their Deaf mentor. To physically witness Henri’s presence and place within their family made a marked impression on me.

Apparently, Henri did not even seek to be a mentor in the first place! He had simply showed up at Leeanne’s place of work for a job interview in telecommunications and unexpectedly got “roped” (their words, not mine!) into their journey of navigating her son’s deafness. Talk about a chance encounter in the right time and place.

As the conversation progressed, you could see just how much their lives had been transformed by their Deaf mentor. Henri’s natural willingness to immerse himself into the Seaver family was inspiring, and the fact that the family was able to embrace him as another family member – even having him over for Thanksgiving, Christmas and road trips – is extraordinary. Dane had someone to teach and expose him to ASL, a gift in its own right, but the Seavers also had someone in their lives who was successful in navigating his own journey and who could serve as a beacon of hope that everything was going to be ok. 

It was incredibly touching to see that Dane and Henri were kindred spirits, and to see the joy that came from Dane’s mother’s eyes in knowing that he had access to language, community and a sense of purpose. As a mother (even though my children do not have hearing loss), I know what every parent desires for their children – to be happy. I realize that now as an adult when I reflect on the decisions that my parents made for me, with limited resources. When I was young (the 1980s), access to information was different. My parents wanted me to be integrated into our “hearing” family and into mainstream society (their world), navigating oral communication as best as I could. I remember asking them why they never exposed me to ASL. Their response was that ASL was always considered the backup option, in case oral communication was not the right approach. The power of decisions! Nowadays, that decision is more fluid than it was decades ago.

In the case of the Seaver family, when Leeanne and her husband (Tom) learned that they would have to navigate the family’s communication needs, they were willing to explore – even though it was not the life they had originally envisioned. As Leeanne said so beautifully “it was the life we were meant to have”. It’s like that line from Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” As a DHH mentor myself, I remind myself that each family is like a box of chocolates. Every family is different. Every child is different. Every dynamic is different. Every decision is different. It is the differences that make life wonderful…and interesting!

An open mind, and an open heart had led the Seavers to Henri – who made connections with their son through LEGO. As with most children, LEGO is a hidden world waiting to be explored! Dane’s world was opened though the initial connection of play. Play is such an underrated activity, and throughout the presentation I felt myself remembering all the times that my parents played with me. If you have a little one at home, play with them – even if you’re not sure if you’re making an impact. Henri’s consistency in playing LEGO with Dane created visual access to language. In self-reflection, my childhood ‘play’ was making meals in my toy kitchen – often bringing fabulous ‘dishes’ to my parents and extended family. The language of love, laughter and joy can be expressed in a unique way through play. In my humble opinion, it is a solid foundation in which parents, extended family members and other people in your child’s life can connect on a developmental and emotional level. It all adds up, and it all matters.

Upon leaving the conference room, I was left reminiscing all the times my parents sought out DHH adults during my early years. I still remain in contact with many of them, particularly as a sounding board (because… even my own parents sometimes just don’t “get” some things about being DHH!). Make those valuable connections early on. The simple act of connecting with other DHH adults/families is worth it. You have all to gain and nothing to lose – as you’ll be left with the hope that everything is going to be ok.

You’d be surprised how willing DHH adults are to share their journey! Many parents were actually quite shy to approach me during the conference, out of fear or uncertainty – perhaps? I encourage you to seek them out. Ask. Feed your curiosity, even if it’s still ongoing 30-something years later.

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New to the Journey-Parent Connect Night

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 Monday November 26th.
WHEN: Monday December 4, 2023 7:00pm-8:30pm
WHERE: online via Zoom
CONTACT/INFO: Please register here: https://tinyurl.com/48jy9yx9

Download our flyer here: NewJourney12.4.2023

Posted in Babies, Coffee Night, Events, Families to Families | Comments Off on New to the Journey-Parent Connect Night

Dads Panel-Parent Connect Night on Zoom

WHO: BC Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side
WHAT: Come join us on Zoom for an evening of insightful conversation with some of the dads in our community! Joining our panel for this event will be DHH Adults or parents of children who are dhh. Attendees will have an opportunity to hear from these dads about their experiences and ask questions.
All are welcome-not just dads! ASL Interpreters will be provided.
WHEN: Wednesday November 29, 2023 7:00pm-8:30pm
WHERE: online via Zoom
CONTACT/INFO: Please register here: https://tinyurl.com/mr3v9tmk

 

Download our Flyer here:Dad’s Panel 11.29.2023

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Across the Continent for a Summer Adventure!

By Lisa Cable

This past July my daughter, Lily, headed off to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York State. She attended TechTigers, a STEAM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Art/Math) camp specifically for deaf & hard of hearing kids in middle school grades. She even got to build her own computer and have it shipped home to use! 

When the campers were in the daytime “classrooms” they had full access to the learning in both spoken English and ASL, with captioning being provided as well. For context, Lily is deaf with two cochlear implants and uses speech/listening at her mainstream school, but outside of school often chooses to go without her implants and use ASL. She has just started grade eight this September.  

I asked Lily to answer some questions about her time at the NTID camp: 

What did you do during your week at camp? 

We had lots of activities such as learning how to hack, building a PC, enjoying great food and chilling with other people. We also got to go out every night and enjoy fun activities such as an amusement park, bowling and the Strong National Museum of Play.

What did you learn during your week at camp?

I learned many new things even when I was not doing the activities that had more of a focus on learning. In the activities I learned to code and how different components work in a PC as well as doing some hands-on learning, which I really enjoyed. Other than that, I improved my ASL signing skills, met lots of different people and learned that snow cones are delicious!

What was the thing that you enjoyed the most during your week?

What I enjoyed most was meeting other people. I loved being around other deaf people and being able to sign and talk to many people. I don’t love talking to people but I surprised myself and made some great friends.

What was the thing that surprised you the most?

The easy flow of communication. Everybody just talked and you felt like you were able to just join in whenever. They were willing to meet new people and talk and help. What also surprised me was that some of the teachers were hearing and had interpreters but were willing to learn sign to teach and communicate with the students. It’s great when teachers want to learn new skills to give the students a better learning experience and access.

What did you learn about the university that you thought was cool?

How easy they made it to get the help you needed, because they provided so many accessibility options and opportunities where you could get help whenever you needed, hearing or not. As it is a hearing/deaf school they also make sure everyone has equal opportunities to succeed!

How did they make sure everyone had access/was able to communicate?

In every activity they had multiple interpreters and captioners for whoever needed them. They made sure everybody could understand and had whatever they needed to survive.

For more information about NTID and TechTigers check out these links:
National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT): https://www.rit.edu/ntid/

TechTigers week-long summer program for deaf or hard-of-hearing students entering 7th, 8th, or 9th grade who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math:

https://www.rit.edu/ntid/techtigers 

 

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Tech Chat- Parent Connect Evening 2023

WHO:BC Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side
WHAT: Join us for an informal discussion about access for your deaf/hard of hearing child in everyday life! It doesn’t matter what type of hearing equipment your child uses (if any), learn what other parents of deaf/hard of hearing kids are using and finding helpful. BC Hands & Voices board members and Guides will also be part of the conversation to share what works for them! Get the latest info from older kids, teens and DHH adults on how they access information in their hobbies and day-to-day life including video games, in the car, text to speech apps and much more!
WHEN: Thursday, October 12, 2023 7:00pm-8:30pm
WHERE: online via Zoom
CONTACT/INFO: Please register here: https://tinyurl.com/mwvw957f

Download our full flyer here: TechChat 10.12.2023

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Gallaudet University: A Higher Education

What will school look like for my Deaf child? Is a higher education possible for them if I choose American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary modality of communication? Will they be singled out as the only Deaf person in the class? Is there a school where my bilingual/bicultural (ASL/English and Deaf/hearing) child can thrive and be respected?

These were some of the questions that I pondered with regards to my daughter’s education in the future, even when she was just an infant who was newly identified as Deaf. Yes, it was still years away, but I am certain most parents start to think about this early on, regardless of whether their child is Deaf or hearing.

Teanna was born with bilateral, sensorineural hearing loss in the severe to profound range. She was identified late, at 18 months of age. She wears a cochlear implant in her right ear and her first language is American Sign Language. She identifies as culturally Deaf, has attended the Provincial School for the Deaf since Kindergarten, and is currently 15 years old and about to enter Grade 11 in the upcoming school year. At home we use ASL and also speak English. She freely chooses when she wants to use her voice, and with whom. I raised her with the intention of learning as much as we could about Deaf culture and immersing ourselves in the Deaf Community. Through doing this I learned about Gallaudet University, the only university for Deaf students in the world. Instruction is entirely in American Sign Language and it is located in Washington, DC.

Gallaudet University became a dream realized in 1816 when two individuals, Laurent Clerc and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, met and traveled from Paris, France to the United States and wanted to open the country’s first school for deaf education. In 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed Gallaudet University’s charter, The Enabling Act, which is an Act of Congress that allowed the university to issue degrees, thus enabling Deaf people to pursue a higher education. President Lincoln played an important role in the founding of Gallaudet University, and since then it has opened up a multitude of opportunities for Deaf/Hoh individuals globally. To this day Gallaudet is the only accredited liberal arts university for Deaf students in the world.

The university’s mission is to empower Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Hoh) Communities around the globe. Since the charter was signed, Gallaudet and its alumni have made various contributions to society and the Deaf Community such as:

  • The discovery and validation of American Sign Language as a language. Researchers have also recognized that there are over 120 sign languages throughout the world, and potentially another 200+ to be discovered and studied.
  • The conclusion that the Deaf Community has culture.
  • The declaration that the Deaf have political and civil rights.
  • Research that helps us understand how the brain acquires language.
  • It was a Gallaudet research team that created and patented the technology that currently allows us to text in real-time on our smartphones.
  • Gallaudet played an integral role in providing access in television and movies for Deaf/Hoh individuals through captioning.

Earlier this summer, Teanna had the incredible opportunity to visit Gallaudet University and participate in one of their week-long summer camps. She chose to attend the camp called DC2, which stands for Discover Colleges and Careers. It was an intensive camp where the participants explored their learning styles, interests, strengths and possible career options. They also learned about important skills such as financial literacy. I, too, had the opportunity to visit the university and take a guided tour. It was here that I learned about the highlights of its history and met students and staff. Gallaudet aims for students to “Connect. Discover. Influence.” as stated by their tagline. This means that students are able to connect with leading professors and other students, discover opportunities and influence the world around them.  

As a parent, it was so endearing to have my child return from camp feeling inspired and empowered, confident in her identity as a Deaf person, excited about the new friendships she made, equipped with new skills and knowledge and keen to plan her future education. I’d say, though she had only spent a short time there, Gallaudet had certainly accomplished their mission of empowering a Deaf individual! It’s difficult for me to articulate my emotions upon learning about Gallaudet and taking a tour. I could best describe it as a mixture of relief, giddiness and pride that such a place exists!

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Jokes and Jokes

By Levi Traxler

I love jokes and awful puns! My appreciation for jokes increased tenfold when I became a dad. I think it’s very important to have a sense of humor as long as it’s appropriate. I can see that humor can help alleviate the pressure sometimes, especially as a parent or a professional! Life can be stressful enough as it is. 

I grew up developing a sense of humor by watching a lot of spoof movies with my family. I especially remember my dad laughing a lot at particular movies ( The Princess Bride, Airplane!, Blazing Saddles, Police Squad) and it left a very strong impression on me. I learned a lot about puns and how sounds can influence the jokes when I don’t get it as a Deaf person. 

Then I went to Gallaudet University and I learned about Deaf jokes. Deaf humor is very blunt and straight to the point! Deaf jokes often rely on handshapes, movements, and facial expressions. As you probably can imagine, deaf jokes are very visual in nature. There are some linguistic differences between Deaf and hearing jokes, and usually one kind of joke doesn’t translate well into the other kind. For example, sound-based jokes don’t work well on the Deaf folks. I wonder why? I noticed that hearing jokes rely on auditory cues such as timing, delivery, and word play. 

Another major difference is the cultural references. The Deaf community is smaller and Deaf people usually share similar experiences with each other. Deaf jokes also usually use signs or reference to signs. Hearing jokes usually make references to mainstream culture, popular media, or common social situations. You can open any social media and almost immediately find memes on it. It’s a lot more accessible and relatable to hearing individuals but Deaf individuals can benefit from it as well. 

Deaf jokes may highlight the experiences, challenges, or stereotypes faced by Deaf individuals in a humorous way. They may involve situations where communication barriers or misunderstandings arise between Deaf and hearing people, or they might explore the unique aspects of Deaf culture and identity. Hearing jokes may draw on experiences related to sound, music, or auditory perception, often using these elements as a basis for humor.

It’s essential to approach jokes about any group with sensitivity and respect. When it comes to Deaf and hearing jokes, it is crucial to be mindful of potential cultural, linguistic, or communication barriers that can affect how these jokes are perceived. While some jokes may be appreciated within their respective communities, it’s important to avoid jokes that perpetuate stereotypes, demean individuals, or make light of people’s experiences. I have seen plenty of Deaf jokes that demean the Deaf individual and I think it’s important to know the context of the situation. 

Due to the differences in communication modalities, Deaf jokes may not be accessible to hearing individuals unless they are specifically translated or explained. I usually find myself having to explain the Deaf jokes to a hearing individual and often they still don’t get it. Hearing jokes, however, can be readily understood by hearing individuals, given the dominant use of spoken and written language in society.

Remember, humor can be subjective, and not all jokes will resonate with everyone. It’s crucial to be respectful, considerate, and aware of the diverse perspectives and experiences within the Deaf and hearing communities when engaging in humor.

If you are interested in learning more about Deaf jokes, you may want to check out this famous King Kong joke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaJHetU9K0c  This is another good place for Deaf jokes: https://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-layout/jokes.htm

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Try New Things and Find Your Community!

By Eyra Abraham

My parents discovered I began to lose hearing when I was about three years old. The hearing loss was unexplainable, but it changed my life’s course. I was the only child with hearing loss within many generations of my family. Even though we never found out the cause, it was a situation that we had to accept.

Despite the common challenges that occur when one is hard of hearing, like any challenges in life this experience has truly made me a better person.

The world is full of sounds like fire alarms and door knocks, but people often forget that not everyone has the same access to these sounds. And that’s what happened to me. I slept through a late-night fire drill in a condo building in Nova Scotia. The alarm came from the hallway, not the built-in smoke detector found in my unit. The people who left the building got accounted for, but I wasn’t.

I only learned about the fire drill when, a few days later, I was checking my mailbox. There was a memo from the property management company explaining that a fire drill had taken place and that tenants’ safety needed to be taken seriously.

This event was very unsettling and helped me to realize that my hearing access might put me in a position where I couldn’t respond or could be hurt. I wanted to bring back a sense of control and not let my hearing loss define me, so I took this on as a challenge.

As a result of my experience, I founded a tech startup company called Lisnen about six years ago. My company supports people with hearing loss with products like the Lisnen App. The App helps people who are hard of hearing use their smart devices to be aware of their surroundings, especially when not wearing their cochlear implants or hearing aids. We leverage the smartphone microphone’s audio and artificial intelligence algorithm to help predict sounds that are heard nearby. We also provide content for the community on shared experiences to help guide people in dealing with their everyday experiences with hearing loss.

Since launching, I’ve attracted several business partnerships and pitched investors to build the technology. I have been featured in the media including the Globe and Mail, TV Ontario, CBC and Global News. I often speak on stage at tech events and private events internationally. I’ve been asked to sit on boards and committees both in the US and Canada, advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. As a visionary, I speak on AI and its impact on people with disabilities. Hundreds of people have heard my mission and vision for the future and I have inspired others with my words. One would never have thought that the young me who tirelessly attended speech therapy sessions at a young age would find this handy later in life.

My courage to do the work and achieve success came from years of preparation. Looking back at my early years, I can identify two important things which impacted my life. I hope these will serve as wisdom for any parent of a child with hearing loss.

Always show up in ANY room.

My parents knew that character is developed by trying and learning new things. So they made sacrifices to put me into as many different programs and activities as they could get their hands on. I signed up for swimming, gymnastics and ballet after school and on weekends. The summer library reading club and computer class were during the school break. I attended piano lessons and music theory classes for 10 years to reach the Royal Conservatory of Music Grade 8 level. I was two years shy of completing my classical training when I left to focus on university.

I still showed up in rooms where people might question how I could hear in these situations and follow along. Often, things were not very accessible to me. However, I showed up more to learn and adapt to various environments. It was about something other than learning to be a better swimmer or dancer – it was developing tools in my toolbox to manage my hearing loss.

Find your community

There was a period during my junior year when I was struggling with school. I was sent to join another school in another town and was assigned to a small class with other hard of hearing students. It gave me the boost of confidence not to let setbacks define me. It was refreshing to see people similar to me. Up until that point, I had always felt different from others. Being around people like me gave me a sense of belonging. Connections with others going through similar situations can really change your perspective.

Recently, I’ve spoken to many people with hearing loss who have succeeded, including inventors, executives of major companies, athletes and politicians. We typically connect like a magnet when we discover our commonality with hearing loss. We want to be respected for our unique and shared experiences. Also, just being around them, I saw what’s attainable. What you see is what you perceive as possible for yourself.

Looking back, I can’t take all the credit for my success. Many people, including my parents and older sisters, have encouraged me every step of the way.

Life is a journey, I’ve learned. So focus on your child showing up to places and trying new things to help develop new tools and experiences to adapt to various environments. Also, pause to find a community of like-minded people for your children and yourself who can help you along the way. That’s where I found opportunities to thrive.

Posted in Advocacy, Articles | Comments Off on Try New Things and Find Your Community!

Summer Get-Together 2023

WHO:BC Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side
WHAT: Come out for a fun afternoon with other families with dhh children!
(Please note this event is geared to 7 years and under)
Look for the orange & blue balloons!
(Parking lot closest to splash pad is at Beta Ave & Dundas Street.)
Bring a picnic lunch, blanket/lawn chairs & water gear if you want to get wet! Parents are responsible for their own children. ASL interpreter will be available.
Please check your email and our FB event page on the day of as this is a weather dependent event.
WHEN: Tuesday August 12, 2022 11:00am-2:00pm
WHERE: Confederation Park, Burnaby
CONTACT/INFO: Space is limited, please register here https://tinyurl.com/mt88jntv

Download our flyer here: SGT 2023

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Our Experience with Early Intervention

By Joe Zhang and Kelly Lv

Our son Leo was born in Vancouver. He did not pass the newborn hearing screening test and we were very overwhelmed because this was a total shock. A few weeks later, Leo did not pass the ABR test either, and the audiologist showed us the audiology report, so we could see the “banana shape” and which frequencies were affected. Honestly, we were frustrated, overwhelmed and sad at that moment. The audiologist was kind to comfort us and gave us contact information to follow up.

We connected with an Intervention Coordinator through the BC Early Hearing Program, who referred to us a few organizations and people to follow up with.

We reached out to the organizations which offer early intervention in BC to learn about their programs. We were able to see the centres and talk with professionals who walked us through the process and resources to support Leo, and the overall roadmap from baby, infant, toddler to preschooler and finally to the education system. We learned about the types of services each program offered, so we could choose the organization that was the best fit for our family. We were also told about some successful stories of alumni, which comforted us a lot.

We attended a family connect event held at one of the centres, and participated in the Coffee Nights held by BC Hands & Voices, where we connected with other families.

We also reached out to the Guide By Your Side Program and were connected with both a Parent Guide and a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Guide. Both gave us lots of valuable information, resources and experiences to support Leo. We felt very motivated and encouraged. At this point, we accepted the fact that Leo is hard of hearing and got down to work on helping him to grow and learn.

Leo has been a good user of hearing aids since he was 3 months old, and we decided that the Listening and Spoken Language approach would be the best match for him and for our family.  Over the past 4 years, we have worked with several  specialized Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, who educated and empowered us to be Leo’s primary support and advocate, so he could learn and integrate into the hearing world.

We worked with the Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing closely, focusing on family goals outlined in the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), and helped Leo reach his fullest listening and spoken language potentials. For example, we read books in our most fluent language, have daily circle time at home, attend library events like baby story-time, family story-time, and participate in a variety of age-appropriate activities at the community centers. We treat Leo as a typical kid and do our best to develop his full capabilities. We don’t want him to be limited by his hearing challenges, so we try to expose him to a variety of different activities, experiences and topics.

Now Leo is close to the age of 5 and he is ready to go to kindergarten this September. He is curious, inquisitive, energetic and compassionate. He is doing multiple sports including skating, gymnastics and soccer. We are proud of him for all of the progress he has made!

Posted in Articles, Families to Families | Comments Off on Our Experience with Early Intervention
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