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!

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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 to receive the link.


Download our flyer here: Learning from DHH Adults 12.7.2020

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Uncovering a Silver-Lining During Covid-19

By Maria Pucci

Having kids in this day and age can feel like a rollercoaster ride. As parents we want to make sure that we keep them in one piece! When you are a parent of more than one child, something as simple as keeping them alive seems so hard at times. Now we have this pandemic thrown into the mix and it has definitely been a struggle for most, including my family. 

I am a mother of three wonderful children. My oldest, Luca, is almost 9 years old and identifies as hard of hearing. He has been wearing hearing aids since he was 2 months old and will not go a moment throughout the day without wearing them. His younger brother and sister, Enzo and Ayva, have typical hearing.

Earlier this year, at the beginning of the pandemic, my concern was just to make sure my family stayed healthy and that we made the right choices to stay safe. Since we live in a multi-generational home and my husband has not been able to work from home, we have to be a little more careful. Other than staying home, limiting contacts and cleaning all the time, the pandemic didn’t seem so bad until we had to pay a visit to the audiologist.

The day that we went to Luca’s appointment and his fantastic audiologist started talking to him, Luca turned to me with a puzzled look on his face and said “Mom, I have no idea what she is saying”. And that’s when it happened, the realization that this pandemic had more of an effect on Luca than it did anyone else in the family. Here are some questions that I decided to ask him regarding how this pandemic is affecting him. 

  1. What is the hardest part for you when you’re out and about?

The hardest part is I have to stay 6 feet away and I can’t touch others. When people are 6 feet away I can’t read their lips – they are too far away from me.

  1. How do you feel about masks?

I don’t like them. They are hard for me to wear because when I take them off, my hearing aids always get stuck on them and pull them out of my ears. When other people are wearing masks, I can’t hear them. It sounds like people’s voices are blurring out because of the mask. People sound like they are talking with a door in their face. The worst part about people wearing a mask is I can’t see their lips when they talk.

  1. As we decided to continue online schooling, do you miss your friends? 

I miss my friends. I don’t get to play with them in real life. We make online playdates so we can still play together.

  1. How do you like online schooling?

It’s okay because I can see my teacher’s lips. On the computer, she doesn’t have to wear a mask which makes it easier for me to hear her.

  1. Can you hear the teacher better online or in a classroom?

I can hear the teacher better online because my hearing aids are blue-toothed to my laptop. At school, even with the microphone, it’s hard to hear the teacher with all the noise through the hallways during class.

  1. Can you understand what the teacher says?

Yes, most of the time. I only can’t hear her when the computer cuts out, but that doesn’t happen all the time.

  1. What can we do to help make things a little more accessible for you right now?

You and dad can make sure that when someone is talking to me, I actually understood what was said to me.

  1. Our family has learned a lot of ASL. Would it be easier if more people knew ASL?

YES! It would really help so that I could always know what people are saying to me.

  1. What is your biggest wish?

I wish that this will all be over soon so I can hug my friends and people don’t have to wear masks anymore.

  1. What advice do you have for parents of deaf and hard of hearing kids during this pandemic?

To the parents I would say, make sure the kids actually understand what is going on in a conversation with people wearing masks. To the kids, stay 6 feet away from people and don’t be scared to ask your parents what is being said when you can’t hear something. That’s what parents are there for.

Now that our family has a safety plan to remain healthy during the pandemic, I can refocus on ensuring Luca’s communication access. While the last few months have been challenging for him, there have been positives as well. I’m really happy to be seeing Luca develop his confidence and self-advocacy skills. That is definitely a silver-lining!

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Fall Harvest Storytime Zoom

Saturday November 14th 2:00pm-3:00pm
Storytime in English & ASL – Connect with other families – Meet two of our Deaf/Hard of Hearing Guides! 
Have your little one show us a fall craft they have made. We like some of the ideas listed here:
Please RSVP to to receive the zoom link. ASL interpreter and captioning will be provided.

Download flyer here: BCHV Fall Harvest Storytime

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Parent Connect Coffee Night ‘Microtia/Atresia’ 2020

Parent Connect Coffee Night on Zoom- Microtia/Atresia
WHO: BC Hands & Voices & Guide By Your Side
WHAT: Join us for a special parent night about Microtia/Atresia hosted by Jesse Kazemir, an Engineer and musician with bilateral microtia/atresia who wears BAHS (Bone Anchored Hearing Systems), and Catherine Kalchbrenner, a Parent Guide and mom of a child with right-sided microtia/atresia. Grab a beverage and join us from your favourite spot at home! Ask questions & share experiences with other parents. ASL Interpreter will be available if requested by Oct. 26th.
WHEN: Thursday October 29th, 2020 7:00pm-8:30pm
Download our flyer here: Microtia Coffee Night 10.29

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Zoom Parent Connect Evening- September 2020

Connect with other families and share ideas about how to support our children. Whether you are looking for emotional support, a place to vent or share the joys…join us! Grab a beverage and join from your favourite spot at home! ASL Interpreter will be available if requested by Sept. 18th 2020

Tuesday June 22nd 2020 7:00pm-8:00pm
Please RSVP to to receive the Zoom link for the event.


Please download the flyer here: Parent Connect Evening 9.22.2020

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Helping your Child Succeed this Fall – Individual Education Plans Source: Children’s Craniofacial Association’s Parent Panel

The Children’s Craniofacial Association is an American organization that our family has followed since our child was born with facial differences. Their mission is to empower and give hope to individuals and families affected by facial differences. You can check out more of their amazing programs and wealth of information here:

One of the programs/events they host is an annual family retreat and educational symposium. Much like Hands & Voices, they believe that bringing together families with extraordinary children builds incredible bonds and fosters camaraderie and helps all families feel empowered by those connections. 

We’ve never been able to attend a retreat in person for a myriad of reasons but this year COVID handed us a silver lining when CCA decided to cancel their in person retreat and host a virtual retreat instead. The two full day schedule was jam packed with interesting and relevant topics for our family, but I’d like to share some notes I made from one of the most useful workshops I attended, the Parent Panel – IEP focus. For those of you who still have young children your child may not yet have an IEP (Individual Education Plan).

An IEP is a document that is built in collaboration with the school, those that work with your child and you. It contains goals and strategies to help your child learn, services and resources that your child needs to succeed in school, and ways to track progress. 

The workshop was hosted by 3 veteran parents who shared their tips for parents new to IEP collaboration meetings. 

  • Try to attend your meetings with a partner/friend or family member who can take notes for you while you focus on advocating and sharing needs or requests. IEP meetings can sometimes cause us as parents a lot of anxiety, which in turn causes us to get emotional or feel rushed. Having a partner there can greatly help with that. 
  • Remember YOU ARE THE EXPERT! No one else knows your child as well as you, so be confident. 
  • Document every interaction you have with your team. 
  • Directly related to the above is creating an IEP binder. See a great blog post here about how to do that:
  • Establish a clear home/school communication method that will work for everyone.
    • For example, a written notebook that can go home each day with your child can be extremely useful. You also need to remember to write in the notebook to keep your child’s team updated of things happening at home. The benefit of this method is that it also creates a paper trail of your interactions with the school.
  • Consider writing your own “parent report” to bring to each meeting. This report is equally  as important (if not more so) than the other reports you may bring to meetings such as audiograms, speech language pathology reports, physio or occupational therapy reports. Use your parent report to give updates about how services are impacting your child (both positive and negative). Be very specific.
  • After meetings try to follow up with an email with a quick summary of what was discussed. 
  • Plan ahead – make sure you’re making long term and short term goals
  • Accommodation requests are often best received if you have assessments that can prove the need. You can do this in two ways; 
    • If the school’s assessment doesn’t show a need, you can always get an independent assessment from a third party.
    • Collect your own data to show. Both show that you’ve “done your homework”. 
  • Some areas that these parents noticed were sometimes left out of their children’s IEPs:
    • Playground safety
    • Environmental adaptations (sound modifications for example)
    • Accommodations to encourage self-independence
    • Socioemotional needs and goals
    • What other enriching activities are available and are they accessible to your child? If they’re not – find ways with the school to modify what they’re offering so that it’s accessible to all students.
    • Mental health – consider adding a mental health professional to your team.

 There was an amazing amount of information shared in the workshop and it was an overwhelmingly positive experience. I felt better informed and ready to take on my child’s next IEP meeting. COVID-19 has brought uncertain times and perhaps an even greater need for cooperation between parents and professionals. Our children’s IEPs are going to be very important for this upcoming school year. I hope this information will be helpful and give you some more tools for advocacy. 

More information on IEPs can also be found here:

BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils

INSOURCE Special Education Parent Support (US based)
This website has a wealth of great information for any and all topics about IEPs including how to improve your child’s existing IEP and talking points to advocate for your child:


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Staying Connected While Physically Distant

By Rabab Elbaharia

Since my daughter was identified as hard of hearing, our family has decided to take every possible opportunity to be part of the Deaf and hard of hearing community. We have always found this connection valuable throughout the journey.

With the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic situation, many aspects of life have become more difficult as we’ve been asked to adjust to a new reality. As adults, we’re able to read and understand the facts of what’s happening, but a lot of us have struggled to explain to our children why things changed suddenly and so dramatically. Fortunately, one of the things that has helped our children to adjust is to stay connected via technology.

As a mother of a hard of hearing 6-year-old kindergartener, I feel extremely grateful for technology (although I know we have all suffer Zoom fatigue at some point). It has kept my daughter connected to her community and to the professionals who work with her. She has found great relief in this connection during this difficult time.

Luckily our daughter is enrolled in a kindergarten run by one of the three early intervention agencies, which we are truly grateful for. When school transitioned to an online format, her teachers were nothing but supportive. Online learning brought about daily videos of morning circles and story time that allowed Salma to continue her daily routine and keep her learning on track. Moreover, Friday dance parties gave her true joy when she spent some afternoon time dancing and having fun with her classmates and teachers.

This unusual situation also made Salma’s 6th birthday quite unique. Graciously, her teacher arranged an online party to celebrate her, and her classmates and their families sent her their best wishes, even sharing a virtual birthday gift.

One of the additional perks that came with transitioning towards more online learning was the sibling ASL and conversational ASL courses we were able to access, which gave us a chance as a family to refresh our ASL skills.

Salma’s speech language pathologist put enormous effort into modifying her sessions with Salma to make them online compatible. Not only has she helped Salma with her speech but she also provided Salma with much needed reinforcement to keep her hearing aid on. Thanks to technology our amazing audiologist was also able to keep checking on us and helped me trouble-shoot many issues that arose with Salma’s equipment during the lockdown period.

As well, I found comfort when parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing kids reached out to each other not only through virtual parent meetings but also by arranging for virtual playdates for the kids. These playdates have been such a delight for Salma to be a part of.

In addition, Salma took part in a series of online camps (camp in a box), hosted by the Family Network for Deaf Children and their summer program, Deaf Youth Today. The camp was full of surprises and managed to keep Salma thrilled and excited, with the promise of new interesting activities every day.

Clearly, although we are all physically apart, technology is helping to ensure that we are connected more than ever in different ways. It has allowed us to take part in most of our usual festivities, despite the unfortunate circumstances. It is these difficult times that bring people together by not only nurturing our personal connections, but also by encouraging us to come up with new ways to stay connected.


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B.C. Sign Language Interpreter Nigel Howard is a “real life superhero” to this deaf 4-year-old

Note- this article was originally published on Vancouver Is Awesome on May 29,2020 and is being reproduced here with permission from the author and Vancouver Is Awesome.


Our first and only child, Iliyan, was 6 weeks old when we learned that he had bilateral severe-to-profound hearing loss, meaning that he was born deaf.

This came as a shock to us and, as with the majority of parents of deaf children, he was the first deaf person we had ever met.

As new parents we were already filled with worry and anxiety about the usual things like, is he eating enough? Is he sleeping enough? (Will we ever sleep again!?)

Now with the added layer of having to learn how to parent a deaf child, it was safe to say we were overwhelmed at the very least.

Within hours of Iliyan’s identification as a deaf child we received a call from the BC Early Hearing Program checking in on us, how we as parents were feeling. Our coordinator also provided some information and assured us that we would have access to information, speech-language pathologists, other experts and, most importantly, other parents, since we had some important choices ahead of us as we learned how to parent a deaf child.

We chose to obtain our early intervention services from the BC Family Hearing Resource Centre, which we felt was a good fit for us, though all three provincial agencies provide exceptional services. We decided early on that for our family, communication was critical, regardless of whether it was in American Sign Language (ASL) or in spoken English, and with the support of the BC Family Hearing Resource Centre we began to learn ASL, as well as prepared for our son to receive cochlear implants if and when he was eligible.

Iliyan took to signing right away. In fact, he signed his first word at 9 months. To our dismay, his first word was neither “mum” nor “dad” but “light.” We decided as a family that it would be important for Iliyan to meet as many Deaf and hard of hearing children and adults, who choose to communicate in a number of ways, in order to normalize his deafness and hearing equipment, as well as for us to connect with more people and families.

We had the good fortune of meeting Nigel Howard a few years ago, when Iliyan had recently received his cochlear implants and was communicating using both sign and spoken English. Iliyan adored meeting him, and still remembers one of the signs that Nigel taught him – the sign for “boot.”

Fast forward to the last few months, Ilyan is now four and a half and seeing Nigel signing alongside Dr. Bonnie Henry has made him so proud to be deaf. When we purchased a few “Listen to Nigel” posters, Iliyan immediately asked that we hang one in his room, and post one outside our house.

Having Nigel – and his poster – has given Iliyan a real life superhero that he looks up to and can identify with, especially in a world where we don’t often get to see Deaf people in prominent positions in media, using ASL.

– Zen Tharani and Shazia Karmali

Partial proceeds from V.I.A.’s “Listen to Nigel” posters are being donated to the Deaf Children’s Society of B.C.. You can order them HERE.

Original link:

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Zoom Parent Connect Evening

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

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

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


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

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