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Download our flyer here: Keep Calm & Ask ‘Mental Health Clinician’ 12.7.2021
CONTACT/INFO: Please register to receive zoom information here: HTTPS://FORMS.GLE/NJKA1K7ZXHSRWDSF9
Download our flyer here: Keep Calm & Ask ‘Mental Health Clinician’ 12.7.2021
By Kim Shauer
I saw a meme recently of “the best relationships are the ones you never saw coming” from the Minds Journal. https://themindsjournal.com/the-best-relationships-are-the-ones-you-never-saw-coming/. This has resonated for me in many aspects of life, but the most unforeseen have to be the lasting friendships that came out of early intervention services for my deaf/hard of hearing child.
When my first child was born I had a built-in, sustainable network of other moms (friends, cousins and neighbours) who all had babies a few years or months ahead of me. I don’t think I would have made it through that first year of being a new mom without their guidance.
Three years later, just when I thought I may have had the parenting thing figured out, our next child was born with complex health needs. My existing “mommy groups” were still a huge support, but they just couldn’t relate to our situation – as much as they lovingly tried! I quickly needed to put the feelings of fear aside and branch out of my comfort level to seek out another network of parents that I could learn from and feel supported by while navigating through medical appointments, therapies and hospital visits. I mostly found these parents at Infant Development Program groups, in the waiting room at the Centre for Child Development or online through associations supporting her various medical conditions.
A while later when our daughter was identified as deaf/hard of hearing, we enrolled in additional early intervention programs with deaf/hard of hearing and deafblind services. My cautious personality tends to lead me to avoid emotional exposure, so I still vividly remember feeling uncomfortably vulnerable walking into those first parent and professional groups. It was these groups that provided the start of the relationships with other parents that we still depend on today.
For many years now I have been in a parent support role and involved in the BC Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side ™ program. Parents of newly identified deaf/hard of hearing children with additional needs often share their feelings of isolation, even though they may have lots of people around them offering help. They ask me what I found the most helpful early on, what advice I can provide or what has made the best impact on our lives raising a deaf/hard of hearing child with additional needs.
I can relate to these feelings and questions whole-heartedly. I share some of our story and the benefits found in putting aside fears and any stigma of getting support, and the vast array of services and support options available. Just by getting started and reaching out to have these conversations, parents share new feelings of optimism and empowerment – that it’s okay to accept supports, understanding it’s a show of strength to reach out, not weakness.
I think back to how hard it was in those early days to step out of my comfort zone to attend my first BC Hands & Voices parent night, a BC Hands & Voices spring picnic and later, summer family recreation activities offered by the Canadian Deafblind Association of BC. As the years progressed, we continued to find our community of support by attending activities as a family and learning alongside fellow parents at the valuable workshops and connection opportunities provided by the many wonderful organizations supporting families with deaf/hard of hearing children in BC.
These were the moments where our sense of belonging flourished, where honest, non-judgmental conversations about parenting challenges took place, and where we learned skills to deal with the day-to-day issues of our child’s struggles and gain information and resources to support the resilience of our entire family.
Looking back now, I see how this was also a self-care activity for me, but I would never have recognized it as such at the time! This ended up being how I filled my own tank, with knowledge, community and relationships in order to be able to turn it into caring for my family to the best of my ability. As a parent, I really understood the analogy of needing to put on my own oxygen mask first in order to be prepared to help those around me.
I am so grateful to the many families we’ve met through the years – our children are teenagers now! I would never have anticipated when our kids were a year old that we would still be reaching out to each other today. Every stage along the way seems to bring up more questions and choices to consider in addition to celebrating the array of accomplishments! Our vulnerability with each other is what keeps these relationships thriving. There is no one more equipped to handle our challenges, tears, hope and humour in our experiences than those who really understand what we’re going through.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to benefit yet from parent-to-parent connections, please know you can reach out to me at email@example.com. I will do my best to help you find your people and an increased sense of belonging!
Interested in learning from the experiences of DHH Guide role models, but not sure what to ask? Here are some ideas to help you!
Download it here: DHH Guides Conversation Starter Questions
Author: Teresa Kazemir
When our newborn son was identified as hard of hearing, one of the things we worried about was the possibility that he would be teased or bullied because of his hearing equipment or his small, differently-shaped ears. We learned a strategy early on that is referred to as ‘controlling the narrative’. This is a public relations skill that is often seen in the media – the desire to ‘get ahead of the story,’ or tell it your way before someone else tells it their way.
We wanted our son, Jesse, to develop strong self-esteem and identity, and did not want people expressing sympathy or pity for him. We also wanted to avoid a host of negative words and phrases such as:
We were amazed at how easy it was to set the tone for conversations with friends, family and even strangers. If we talked openly about our son’s ears, hearing access and equipment, using a matter-of-fact and accepting tone, we found that others seemed to relax and follow our lead. We also intentionally modeled the neutral or positive words and phrases that we wanted Jesse to grow up hearing:
As Jesse grew older, we saw him internalize the language that he heard around him and use it to answer questions and describe himself. We wanted to ensure this would continue as he became more independent and started spending more time away from us. When he started preschool, we created a photo picture book and added captions explaining about his hearing equipment. For kindergarten, we created a one-page brochure for teachers, again modeling the vocabulary and positive tone that we wanted teachers to use when talking about our son. The Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing led a circle time with his kindergarten class, again explaining about Jesse’s ears, hearing access and equipment. By educating the children in a positive and inclusive way it removed any stigma, and the children were given the appropriate vocabulary (and communication strategies) at an age when they are very accepting.
Over the years, I have seen many variations on these strategies. Some families create colourful brochures about their child to share with daycares, preschools or kindergarten (with endearing photos front and centre). Some write letters to the classmates’ parents, so they have accurate information and appropriate vocabulary to use when talking with their children. Others make a point of meeting with the school team and explaining explicitly what language they want to be used related to their child, and perhaps what terms or labels they want staff to avoid.
All of these strategies can be used effectively to influence how other people talk about our children and help to create a positive and accepting environment where our kids can grow and thrive.
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Download our flyer here: Keep Calm & Ask ‘Unilateral Hearing’ 10.21.2021
By Nicole Eich
Parents and caregivers of d/Deaf and hard of hearing (d/DHH) children are likely to be introduced to a number of professional experts over the years. Audiologists, speech-language pathologists, ASL instructors, ENTs – the list goes on and varies depending on your child’s needs.
But one of the most important groups of experts that families can learn from are d/DHH individuals themselves. While we shouldn’t presume that d/DHH folks are necessarily interested in educating hearing parents, I’ve found that many who I’ve come to know are happy to share their experiences of growing up, going to school and navigating different environments. Our d/DHH friends are also wonderful role models for my daughter and can relate to her on a level that we, as hearing parents, cannot.
Families who have never met any d/DHH people may have the fortune of meeting d/DHH role models through programs like Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side, or by meeting d/DHH professionals working in our local system. Social media also presents a wonderful and immediately accessible opportunity to learn from d/DHH individuals and experts from a variety of perspectives. Instagram is a great platform for learning from Deaf advocates and artists and hard of hearing influencers who speak openly about the challenges of living between deaf and hearing worlds. I’ve included a brief list of some of my favorite Instagram follows below. If you’re on social media I encourage you to check some of them out even if they don’t seem particularly relevant right now, and then explore others. One of the most interesting and important things I’ve learned from d/DHH young people and adults is how diverse their relationship to their d/Deafness or hearing differences can be, and how it can shift depending on context. Having an awareness of the breadth of d/Deaf and hard of hearing experiences can only help you and your child, and can provide a sense of community when meeting in person isn’t possible.
In addition, the broader d/DHH community provides an opportunity to connect with d/DHH role models and make friends. It can be intimidating to make those connections, but networking with other families on platforms like Facebook can provide some entry points and let you know about local events your family can attend to meet d/DHH families. The local page BC Parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Aged 0-5 is one place to start: [https://www.facebook.com/groups/853918531357842].
Adventures in Deaf Ed: Deaf Educator Sara Miller advocates for the Deaf community, accessibility, inclusion, & equity
Sign with Amar: Vancouver local Amar models ASL vocabulary
mama.hu.hears: Michelle Hu is a hard of hearing pediatric audiologist, offering education and understanding for parents of hard of hearing children
Hard of Hearing Mama: Janna documents her experiences as a hard of hearing adult and those of raising two hard of hearing kids
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Download our flyer here: Keep Calm & Ask (P2P) 9.23.2021
By Joy Santos
Becoming a parent opens your eyes and your heart to a world of adventures and emotions. In my experience thus far, it’s been a rollercoaster of dynamic and often conflicting sentiments!
I want to be able to provide my daughter with everything the world has to offer, and also protect her from anything undesirable that might come with some experiences. I want her to be fearless and pounce on any opportunity that comes her way, no holds barred… and I want her to be cautious and take carefully calculated actions. I want her to be independent and confident in leaving the nest to explore, learn from her experiences and live her purpose… and I want to keep her with me forever, hold her hand and guide her through life.
As parents in a time where an overabundance of information, advice and opinions are easily accessible, one common thing rings true for us: we all have our children’s best interests at heart, and we want them to thrive as they grow into responsible adults.
Through my journey as a parent, I’ve come to realize that worrying about our children is part of the package. The worries seem to be more pronounced when our children are not developmentally typical and have different needs. When my daughter was first identified as Deaf, I went through the stages of grief and had many questions. Why did this happen? Why her? This is not real; she is going to get better. I worried about the social and educational aspects of her future. How will she communicate with friends? What if she gets bullied? How will she navigate through her young adult life when the biggest barrier that I can foresee is the lack of accessibility to information and communication? How will the world accommodate my daughter’s Deafness? What adjustments will my daughter have to learn to make in order to succeed?
I pondered how I could parent in a way that ensures that she is on the best path. My personal process to determine this was to first do some inner work. I had to define what my image of a Deaf child was. Are Deaf children capable of succeeding and having “normal” childhoods, or is their Deafness a hindrance that will result in them being sold short? I felt the need to sort this out within myself, in order to know what my role as a parent would entail.
How I managed to define it in the end is that Deaf children are absolutely capable of achieving and utilizing the same opportunities that are provided to hearing children, with the caveat being that they MUST also have the privilege of receiving the same access to information as typical children. Deaf children must not be deprived of language, only be given partial information, or be unable to receive information in real time. Deafness itself is not the hindrance, but rather, the lack of access to opportunities and information is.
If I could narrow it down to ONE essential skill that my Deaf daughter must have confidence and mastery over, it would be self-advocacy. I strongly believe that this is the most important skill she needs, and everything else will naturally follow suit and fall into place.
Based on how I had defined my image of a Deaf child, I strived to raise her to know, experience and affirm that she always deserves nothing less than complete, correct, and immediate access to language and information. I wanted to model this to her from an early age because I felt that this was the best way to build a solid foundation and make self-advocacy a second nature habit, and a part of her identity.
The following are some examples of how I made efforts to make self-advocacy a part of our everyday lives. Naturally, I adapted to provide age-appropriate experiences.
Parenting this way has had some challenges, of course. I think challenges in any scenario are inevitable. When she was younger, part of me wondered if I should bring her attention to the fact that she is different from typical children her age. She was born with what the world perceives as a disability, and I struggled at times with whether or not I should emphasize this. I felt that it was contradictory to let her know that she will encounter limitations in life, when I hoped to raise her knowing that the world is her oyster. But how can she advocate for herself if she is not aware that there is something to advocate for? She is Deaf, it is a fact.
Do I feel scared whenever she has opportunities to spread her wings? Absolutely. All parents have fears when it comes to their children’s well-being, acceptance, safety and self-esteem. For me, it is those fears that are catalysts to why I guide her this way. I want a guarantee that no matter what she decides to do and where she chooses to go, she will be just fine. That is what I am aiming to set the stage for. Easing my worries and making sure that my heart is strong and brave enough to watch her learn through life is an ongoing work in progress.
A key piece of advice that I can offer as a parent of a Deaf child is to instill in your child the knowledge that they have a voice, their opinions matter, and they always deserve full access to the best quality of life.
Teanna’s Experiences in Self-Advocacy
Joy Santos is a licensed Early Childhood Educator who has been working in childcare settings with children aged 0-5 since 2009. Her daughter, Teanna, is currently 13 years old. Teanna was born with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss in the severe-profound range. Teanna identifies as culturally Deaf. Her first language is American Sign Language, and she uses a cochlear implant in one ear. Together, Joy and Teanna love to travel, participate in outdoor activities, try different cuisines, help animals, and binge-watch streamed movies and series. Joy is a board member with BC Hands & Voices, and a Parent Guide with Guide By Your Side.
by Rosalind Ho
For the past year and more, as the COVID-19 pandemic has raged across the world, we have lived our lives in small bubbles. Within those circles, we have been confined to the boundaries of monitor screens or the pages of books, consuming news by scrolling newsfeeds or catching up on the stories behind Bridgerton or The Martian.
While some people have grown tired of the limitations of pandemic life, reading has always been a joy to me, not an escape from reality. And there really was a Joyce.
The first time I met Joyce was when I was just a toddler. Diagnosed with a severe hearing loss at eight months old, my world might have been a quiet one, but it has been peopled with princesses, thieves, artisans, runaway tomboys, wizards, and the like — none of whom I would have met if it hadn’t been for a kind and warm-hearted librarian.
I met Joyce because of my mom, Amy. My mom was a newcomer to Canada whose first language was not English. She was determined that her daughter would succeed despite her hearing loss. The first step in her plan for my language development was to get me interested in stories and reading.
At the library one day when I was about 18 months old, my mom spotted a sign advertising their storytimes, and she signed me up right away for the Little Bears storytime for toddlers 18 months to 2 ½ years old.
Joyce ran a weekly half-hour storytime for babies, toddlers, and young children at the Cameron branch of the Burnaby Public Library. She used to read aloud short children’s stories or sing nursery rhymes/songs such as “Little Miss Muffett” and “Ring Around the Roses”. She used puppets, gestures, and facial expressions to keep the attention of a group of tiny wriggly little tots.
Joyce often greeted the group with a frog puppet that she made jump up out of a basket. Mom would sit me on her lap and rock me to the tunes of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and I would watch Joyce, fascinated by her lively gestures and expressive (unmasked!) face.
Despite my enjoyment of Joyce’s visual performances, my speech understanding was still developing. My mom wanted to teach me to hear and understand English while my young brain was still plastic enough to learn quickly. Mom went to Joyce and asked if we could borrow the books or songs to take home. Back then, the storytime materials were not available for loan because they were needed for another storytime. But once Joyce learned why my mom wanted them, she agreed to let us borrow the materials for a week after the storytime and then bring them back so that she could use them at another library.
At home, Mom would take out the story and/or song and read it aloud to me every day. I learned to read by listening to my mother’s soft voice hum “Ba ba black sheep, have you any wool?” pointing to the words on the page as she sang and signed them. My mom liked being able to go through the songs and stories with me right after the storytime while they were still fresh in my mind so that I would remember and understand better.
Years since those early days of puppets and nursery rhymes, it is now my turn to be the one to flip the pages of books while reading aloud to my 3-year-old niece and to sing and sign “Row Row Your Boat” to my baby nephew during video calls, sparking the same joy of stories and songs in them.
Though the days when I watched Kermit the Frog jump and laughed at Oscar the Grouch are far behind me, I have never forgotten the twinkling star who first set me upon the road to reading. Thank you so much, Joyce.
Download our flyer here: Keep Calm & Ask 6.17.2021