BC Hands & Voices and Guide by Your Side’s 2017 Fall Parent Workshop was a great success!

By Kim Shauer

A glimpse into the crystal ball – the perspective of teens & pre-teens who are growing up “Hands & Voices.”  Relationships, language considerations, challenges & more!

About 40 parents came out for our workshop this year to learn, socialize with other parents and have the opportunity to meet Deaf/Hard of Hearing Guides and adult role models.

Morning presenters Teresa Kazemir, Joy Santos and Kim Shauer shared some of their experiences developing their “parenting a deaf/hard of hearing child” perspective in a presentation originally developed by Leanne Seaver and Janet DesGeorges, founding members of the Hands & Voices organization.  

The presentation – “Is this a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Thing?” explores what aspects of a child’s behavior are typical “kid” things, and what might be due to their hearing difference.  Parents were encouraged to take a moment before reacting and ask themselves two questions:  

1) Is the behaviour a direct result of or influenced by access or communication?

2) Do I need to re-evaluate what my instinctual response was going to be?

Parents learn this sensitivity and awareness from a variety of places including their ‘new’ parent community, Deaf and hard of hearing adults/role models, and professionals.  Parents also develop these skills over time from experience – when   children act in unexpected ways that can be socially out-of-synch or even inappropriate, the first thing we should look for is communication breakdown.

Here are some tips picked up along the way to help develop your own “deaf/hard of hearing perspective” when it comes to your child:

  1. Be pro-active and actively teach world knowledge that your child may not pick up through incidental learning or “overhearing” some background information. Babies and toddlers wonder where parents go when they leave the room (they may not hear where you are in the house), and can have anxiety over when a parent is coming back. To help reduce anxiety, share with your child what you are doing, where you are going, when you’ll be back.  This also presents an opportunity to learn language in various ways – sign, tell, show a photo, have child touch an object cue (e.g. spoon for kitchen, hand towel for bathroom).
  2. Check for comprehension (tell me what you understood). Then fill in missing information and correct misunderstandings. Our first instinct may be to take a toy away if not sharing – but first examine if the child understood the concept of turn-taking and sharing.
  3.  “Never mind rule.”  A D/deaf or hard-of-hearing person may tell you that the most annoying thing they hear on a regular basis is “never mind.” This can be very frustrating, not only because of missing out on information, but also because it sends the message that the D/deaf or hard of hearing person is not worth the extra effort.  Even if the comment or joke has passed, it still needs to be explained.
  4. Anticipate potential communication access challenges; be proactive to make accommodations and then fill in any gaps that arise.
  5. Have high expectations and periodically ask yourself, “Is this typical, age-appropriate or developmentally-appropriate for my child’s level, considering additional challenges?” Ask your early interventionist who to talk to if you have concerns, and take action!

The afternoon session of the workshop, moderated by Jen Gow, was a definite highlight for attendees, with a glimpse into the future shared by a panel of parents, children and teens. The panelists represented a range of hearing levels, hearing equipment and access preferences, and school settings.

The children and teens shared how they answer questions about their hearing aids or cochlear implants and how they were encouraged to answer these questions from other kids in a positive, matter of fact way by their parents from an early age.

The children and teens on the panel also shared their interests in a variety of extra-curricular activities, including softball, dance, basketball, reading and Xbox, and they shared what strategies and adaptations work for them to thrive in these activities. For example, Kacie uses secret hand signals and numbered plays on the softball diamond, Caitlin reminds her dance teacher to move so that she can better see what she’s saying, and Michael uses various communications strategies depending on which basketball team he’s playing for.

Challenges can of course arise and some days can feel particularly difficult. The majority of the “bad days” shared seemed to involve a change to daily routines, dead batteries, fluctuating hearing levels or missing out on a social experience due to access. When these types of things occur, the panelists shared the importance of self-advocating, of having other deaf/hard of hearing friends in their lives to sign or chat with, and of having activities (such as dance) that make them feel confident. It was interesting to see some of the kids shift between signing and speaking, and describe how their chosen modality depends on their communication partner, their environment, or whether they had food in their mouth!  Overall it was obvious that these young people are clear communicators in a variety of modalities and are building a healthy resilience as well as skills that will serve them well through life.

Parents on the panel shared that it takes practice to learn to advocate for your child and to teach your child to advocate for themselves, but that it’s very important. It was great to see that even the youngest panelists have no issues telling their hearing friends “get closer to me”, “look at me and say it again” or “step back from my face, you’re talking too loud!” Parents also shared stories of the importance of building connections with other deaf/hard of hearing peers, especially when a child is the only one in his or her school with a hearing difference.

Altogether it was clear that the parents are working hard to encourage their children to feel limitless in terms of their potential. The confidence that these children and teens have, as well as their useful tools and strategies have obviously come from positive modelling and an overflowing amount of love from their parents, role models and other positive influences in their lives.


BC Hands & Voices would like to extend a big thank you to the BC Early Hearing Program, Children’s Hearing & Speech Centre of BC for the use of their beautiful facility and to Deaf Children’s Society and Children’s Hearing & Speech Centre of BC for providing professional childcare staff.  A special thank you to the Elsa and Anna, signing princesses from Storybook Dreams Parties for their exciting visit to the children in the childcare room.


And as with all events such as this, we recognize and appreciate the many hours put in by board members and volunteers, our presenters and panellists.

Thank you everyone for your time and hard work. Your contributions all helped to make the Fall Workshop 2017 a big success!

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From Adrift to Confident: a Parent Shares the Impact BC Hands & Voices has had on her Family

BC Hands & Voices (BC H&V) was recently nominated for the Canada’s Volunteer Awards in the Social Innovator category. While BC H&V has learned that we were not a finalist for the award this year, the following is a letter written by a parent in support of the nomination, which shares some of her experiences with BC H&V and the positive impact we have had on her family. (This is an English translation of Ella’s letter of support. The original letter follows).

When I learned that BC Hands & Voices (BC H&V) would be nominated for the Canada’s Volunteer Awards in the Social Innovator category, I decided that I must write this support letter so you know about the positive impact BC H&V’s volunteer work has on me and my child.

When my daughter’s hearing loss was confirmed in mid-2015, I was sad and confused. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like a small boat drifting in the ocean, sinking any time. Later that year, I attended BC H&V’s annual Parent Workshop as suggested to me by a BC Early Hearing Program Parent Guide. At the Workshop, a UBC expert on deaf education talked about the importance and ways of building up deaf/hard of hearing children’s self-confidence, and establishing friendship with others. Another speaker was a deaf person with a Master’s Degree in Education.

I had never met any person/children with hearing loss before. At the Workshop, I witnessed that people with hearing loss can become successful professionals. The most important element is how the parent nurtures the child. I also had the opportunity to meet other families whose children have hearing loss. We talked about our stories, and we felt more confident in raising our deaf and hard of hearing children.

I attended the BC H&V’s Parent Workshop again the following year. I learned more about the stories of some young adults who have different hearing levels, and the valuable advice from their parents’ experiences raising them. I learned more about how to nurture my child. These veteran parents’ stories give me hope and encouragement. It gives me the confidence that I can also help my child to have a bright future.

Another speaker was an expert in deaf education. She talked about language, learning, reading and writing development of deaf/hard of hearing children and what parents can do. The presentation empowered me, and I feel more confident in raising my child with hearing loss.

Besides organizing helpful workshops for families, BC Hands & Voices is very thoughtful in running the workshop. Childcare is provided so that parents can focus on the presentations.

Although I have been around for a few years as an immigrant now, I do not know the other cities too well. My child’s hearing loss was also a blow to me at that time. So I was nervous to drive to a city that I was not familiar with to attend the Parent Workshop. When I told the BC H&V volunteer about my concern, she talked to the parent group right away, and they arranged to have a taxi take me to and back from the Workshop with the travel assistance for families they received from the Children’s Hospital. So it was a worry-free journey to the Workshop.

English is not my mother tongue, and I have difficulty understanding the presentations in English. BC H&V provided Chinese interpreting for me so I could follow the presentations. It has helped to boost my confidence in raising my child.

Besides organizing annual parent workshops, BC H&V also runs a fun family picnic in the summer. They provide food, entertainment by clowns or magicians and set up ball games so children from different age groups can pick what they like. Parents can talk with each other, share their stories and become empowered while children are playing together. I have noticed that my daughter has become happier, more confident, more willing to express herself and communicate with others after coming to these family events.  

All these events are run by the BC H&V volunteers. The events are mostly free of charge. Only a symbolic amount is charged for some activities at the event. I know that BC H&V Board Members volunteer their time and fundraising efforts to make the parent workshop and family get-togethers possible to help us parents. And I am very grateful to them!

I hope that BC Hands & Voices will be awarded the Canada’s Volunteer Awards in the Social Innovator category and win the $5,000 that comes with the award. That will enable them to organize more events for us — families with deaf/hard of hearing children.

Yours sincerely,

Ella Jiang

(Translated into English by Amy Ho)
Original Letter Follows in Simplified Chinese
BCHV Support Letter SC

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Our Family’s Experience at Provincial Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (PDHHS) Immersion Week

Author: parent of a deaf/hard of hearing child

Provincial Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (PDHHS)  hosts an ASL Immersion week for parents of deaf/hard of hearing (DHH) kids over the age of 5 once a year during the summer holidays. Parents come together in one of four levels (you determine your own level) for three days of intensive ASL classes, while children are off with Deaf Youth Today (DYT) summer camp. All classes are held at South Slope Elementary School in Burnaby.

Image Source: https://search.heritageburnaby.ca/media/hpo/_Data/_Archives_Images/_Unrestricted/503/503-034.jpg?maxheight=1000&maxwidth=1000&watermark=wmk
(Image Source: https://search.heritageburnaby.ca/media/hpo/_Data/_Archives_Images/_Unrestricted/503/503-034.jpg?maxheight=1000&maxwidth=1000&watermark=wmk)

On the last day of the week, parents and their kids come together for a full day of fun in ASL in beautiful Stanley Park. For families who live outside the Lower Mainland, a limited amount of family housing is available. 

Our child’s hearing has dropped over the years and we’ve realised that we needed more communication opportunities for those times when the aids aren’t being worn, or can’t be worn (for example during the winter months he seems to get more colds and his hearing is affected, or while in the pool, when the listening environment is tough for anyone).

Our family’s exposure to ASL has been limited; we’ve attended a few parent workshops led in ASL and we’ve seen interpreters at parent support coffee nights. Our son’s exposure was even more limited – attending the fun family picnic in June once a year was the only time he saw people signing. When we did attend and the DYT staff would engage him, he was always very interested, absorbing whatever sign they happened to teach him. He would watch intently and  imitate the sign being taught (“butterfly! – do you see the butterfly?”). The DHH community is a wide and beautiful spectrum of communication modes, and we realized that we wanted him to be more connected and aware of this vibrant community of which he’s a part.

Given our limited experience, I was a little nervous about a full day’s worth of ASL for myself and also camp for my child. Would he be able to communicate? Would he make friends? Would he have fun? My answers came quickly after the first day when I picked up my child – sweaty, tired, and happy. My own misconceptions of DYT made me think that ASL was the only language used, but in reality a full spectrum of communication methods are used, including two interpreters  who will speak for someone who signs, or sign for someone who speaks. . The emphasis is ASL but some youth use both spoken language and ASL, acting as wonderful models of how there is no one way that works for everyone. My child made friends and greatly enjoyed his time with the DYT staff.

More importantly, his interest in ASL grew exponentially with each day at camp. He was eager to show me all he had learned each day, from finger spelling his name, useful verbs and common nouns and of course, my favourite “I love you”. One evening that week he came out of his room shortly after being put to bed and signed “I’m thirsty. Water please.” I was shocked and delighted! If I had had any doubts about my decision for us to join Immersion Week they were gone.

My own experience mirrored my child’s. The adult classes were taught by engaging instructors with lots of opportunity to practice and also get to know my fellow parent classmates. We all had different backgrounds and experiences with ASL but we shared the goal of improving our ASL skills to share with our families. The days were intense and each night my head swirled with all the signs I had learned and needed to practice but my skills improved and by the end of the week I was conversing and asking meaningful questions of my instructor and peers in ASL. Whatever level you begin at progress is guaranteed.

The final day we all spent together was  an opportunity to use the language we had learned and just have some fun together. It was a highlight for sure. We all rode a school bus to Stanley Park, enjoyed a picnic lunch, the kids played on the playground and then came together for an afternoon of fun ASL based games. Friendly competition between teams made for an exciting afternoon as well.

It was an amazing week for all of us.  We made meaningful connections with peers and instructors, our ASL skills really improved, and it was lots of fun. I feel really lucky that we have this program and these types of supports in our beautiful province. This is a wonderful program to look forward to once your own child turns 5! We’ll be back next year for sure! 

For more information about this and the other amazing programs offered  Provincial Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services click here.

To learn more about Family Network for Deaf Children and Deaf Youth Today check them out here.



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BC H&V 2017 Fall Parent Workshop

BC Hands & Voices and Guide By Your Side are proud to present our 2017 Fall Parent Workshop!

Do you have a Deaf/Hard Hearing Child between the ages of  0-5 years?
If so, here is the Parent Workshop for you – November 4th, 2017!

Presentation – “Is this a D/HH Thing?” – What aspects of your child’s behavior are typical “kid” things, and what might be due to their hearing difference? Learn life-long skills to benefit all interactions!

Parent & Child Panel – Learn from the experiences of parents along with their school-aged D/HH children on a variety of topics (school, family, activities, access and more)! The panelists, represent a range of hearing levels,  hearing equipment and access preferences, and different school settings (including Provincial and District resource programs (such as BC School for the Deaf and Bear Creek Elementary).

Register here today for the early bird rate of $15.  See flyer for details and childcare information (up to age 5). ASL Interpreting & CART captioning provided.

*** Just announced: Guest appearance from The Signing Princesses is sure to brighten up your little ones’ day ***

Registration is now open here.

Please see PDF flyer and images for all information.

2017 fall workshop

Fall Workshop Traditional Chinese

Fall Workshop Simplified Chinese



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Kindergarten Transition – Considering All Aspects of Access for Your Child

By Alison Nutt

The transition from early intervention services and the preschool years into kindergarten and school age services is a time of many changes. Not just for you as parents but also for your kiddos!  As the school year starts, it may feel both exciting and overwhelming to adjust to these changes and make sure that all of your child’s needs are met.   

A big focus for this transition to kindergarten for deaf and hard of hearing children is on access. Access will look different for each child, particularly when talking about language and learning needs; however focusing on other areas of “access” for your child is equally important, not just in the first few years but onwards into middle and high school, and any environment that your child eventually finds themselves in. This might include visual access (not limited to ASL), social access, emotional access, and access within their school and home communities – and others!

As a professional who has worked both in early invention and in mental health, I have had the privilege and opportunity to support families in many different aspects of this time of transition and in the early elementary years. Often times the nature of my work includes supporting children in ways to increase or enhance their “access” to other areas of their school and home lives that are not tied to the traditional thoughts about education and access. Here are a few of the things I have learned and observed from working with families that may be helpful as your child transitions into kindergarten or in future elementary years:

Advocating for the use of visual supports within the classroom:

  • This can be helpful for the entire class however has the added bonus of helping the deaf or hard of hearing child more easily follow routines, rules or expectations visually even if they have misheard or missed the instructions all together.
  • For those kiddos who may have some struggles with planning or organizing their time, visuals can help them to know what steps they need to take to complete a task or can serve as a reminder of an expectation. For example, a small picture at the top corner of their desk with the picture of their FM equipment can help them with developing independence with using their equipment or reminding them of the expectation to put it away at the end of the day.
  • Some children may benefit from the use of an ASL interpreter to help with their visual learning and attention to learning material.

Small group work for classroom learning as well as social and emotional learning opportunities:

  • For children who receive “pull out” services from an itinerant teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing, or a speech therapist, or any other professional, consider requesting that some of your child’s peers join these sessions. This can help with fostering social connections as well as empathy.
  • Small groups for learning activities also provide the opportunity for more focused learning with settings that are easier to manage for listening to peers or the teacher.

Ensure there is a focus on emotion vocabulary and your child’s development of understanding emotional and behavioural responses (self-regulation and emotional regulation):

    • Social and emotional learning has become more included in the school curriculum which is great! Ask the teacher what is being taught at school and review it at home with your child – this can be particularly helpful for providing more information to specific topics (incidental learning), the opportunity for your child to ask more questions, applying it to their own experiences, and reinforcing any ASL vocabulary that might be learned.
    • Bring this learning home by discussing a wide variety of emotions and how we manage them, explaining how you solve problems, and modeling how to calm down when we feel frustrated or overwhelmed.
    • There are many books (often found in the library!) and activities that can be done at home that focus on emotional vocabulary and self-regulation skills.

Seek out social relationships with deaf and hard of hearing children and connections to programs and services within the deaf and hard of hearing community:

    • Your child may be the only deaf/hard of hearing child at their school and some children have a harder time with this experience – a connection outside of school to other deaf/hard of hearing kids and adults can help your child develop a stronger sense of identity and self esteem because they are able to connect with others who may have similar experiences as them.
    • A strong sense of identity, confidence and positive self esteem can be connected to strong self advocacy skills – beneficial skills to have as your child moves through the school years and beyond!

At times, the school environment for deaf and hard of hearing children may be overwhelming and feel very busy. At a young age, your child may not have the vocabulary or understanding to be able to explain this to you or to their teacher. When this happens, sometimes what you may see is “challenging behaviour” or showing disinterest in activities or possibly a change in their willingness to wear hearing aids or cochlear implants. Connecting with your child about their thoughts/emotions, social connections and school activities can help you to gain a better understanding of what they are experiencing throughout the day and look at making shifts or changes to better support all the areas of “access”.

If you are interested in discussing this topic or these ideas further, please feel free to connect with me at the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deaf-Blind Well Being Program – Alison.nutt@vch.ca.  If our program is not the best fit for services or another program can better answer your questions, we can help to make that connection.


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Parent Coffee Night- “Help your Deaf/ Hard of Hearing Child Get a Good Night’s Sleep!”

Please join us for a special coffee night on Thursday Sept 28th, 2017
Special Topic: “Help your Deaf/ Hard of Hearing Child Get a Good Night’s Sleep!”
(Attend in person or Call-in Via Teleconference or online video conference if you live outside the Metro Vancouver area)

parent coffee

Join us at a special parent coffee night about sleep! Sometimes the techniques we use with hearing children need some adjusting for our deaf/hard of hearing kids! If there are sleeping challenges in your home – you are certainly not alone! Share in the conversation with other parents and learn some tips so everyone is well rested! Come and join us for an informal coffee night where you can ask questions or share experiences with other parents.


Please join us in person for Lower Mainland parents. If you’re interested in the phone-in or webcam/ online option, please RSVP by May 25th so that we can provide you with the calling information.

WHEN: 7:30 – 9:00pm

WHERE: BC Family Hearing Resource Society, 15220 92 Ave, Surrey

CONTACT: ckalchbrenner (at) cw.bc.ca to RSVP or with any questions.

2017 Sept Sleep Coffee night

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Summer Get-Together 2017

Join us for a play day!

Whether it’s your first time coming to an event or you never miss a chance to socialize and catch up.

Tuesday, August 22nd 2017 11:00am – 2:00 pm Grimston Park 19th Street at 7th Avenue New Westminster (close to 22nd Street Skytrain Station)

Look for the orange & blue balloons!
ASL Interpreter Available

This park has a beautiful playground and wading pool. Bring a picnic lunch, swimwear, towels and blanket.

RSVP is not required, but please watch our Facebook page for notice of cancellation if it’s raining. Visit our Facebook Page & Website: https://www.facebook.com/handsandvoicesBC Contact: info@bchandsandvoices.com

Summer Get Together Flyer

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How Do We Join the Deaf Community?

Author: Kim Shauer

This was a question asked at our recent Parent Coffee night and a question many other parents of deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH) children may also be wondering.  

BC Hands & Voices and Guide By Your Side (part of the BC Early Hearing Program) recently hosted a coffee night for parents featuring the topic of Deaf Culture & ASL. Parents had the opportunity to meet Christy Jeffery and Dan Braun, both Deaf role models who led the evening and shared some of their experiences growing up Deaf and using American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary language.

So – how do we join the Deaf Community? According to Dan and Christy – just show up! Come to an event and introduce yourself and your D/HH child. Christy and Dan reminded parents not to be discouraged even though there may be some curious looks by people wondering “who’s this new face?” Just say “Hello!” advised our guest presenters.

What seemed really special about the evening was that it was attended by parents of children with all hearing levels (bilateral and unilateral) and users of all types of hearing technology.  Many were curious about using ASL (some parents knew a lot already but for some parents ASL was brand new). All were reassured they would be welcomed into being involved in the Deaf community.  

Parents asked a lot of great questions throughout the evening such as “does our signing have to be perfect?” – a daunting question to ask these amazing signers! Their answer was not to worry so much about getting the signs right or wrong. When kids are young, many families (both with hearing and deaf children) have their own home signs and gestures (siblings as well). Parents don’t need to be perfect; communication back and forth is more important than a perfectly executed sign. Plus, don’t worry about what other people think! Give it a try and your child will end up leading the way eventually with what works for them.  

After the event, one family shared how meeting role models connected them to the Deaf Community:

“In our experience, the D/HH role models are warm and welcoming ambassadors of Deaf culture. They replace the fear of the unknown with the safety of community.” – Kurt Kuzminski

“I saw a total shift in my father after he had the opportunity to meet a Deaf role model. It was an important turning point for him and his understanding and acceptance of our daughter’s deafness.” – Sage Kuzminski

Thank you Christy and Dan for sharing such a positive message as always. We could have continued on for another hour or more I’m sure!  

Don’t miss the next opportunity to meet other families as well as D/HH Guides and role models at the summer get-together happening on Tuesday August 22 nd . Details can be found here: http://www.bchandsandvoices.com/post/summer-get-together-2017/

If you are a parent of a D/HH child under five, are unable to come to an event, and would like to meet a D/HH Guide role model virtually over an app on your smart phone or computer to ask some of your own questions, email gbys@cw.bc.ca.

Note from the Editor:
Parent Coffee nights happen approximately six times per year and cover a variety of topics. The last few have also been offered via a teleconference line and video conferencing for parents to call in and listen/participate, even if they live too far away or cannot attend in person. If you would like to be notified of upcoming events, please go to www.bchandsandvoices.com and click at the top right corner “Sign up for our Newsletter”.

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The Big Move- Traditional Chinese

By Anja Rosenke

The Big Move- Traditional Chinese

Link to English version

This translation was made possible with a generous donation of the Gwyn Morgan & Patricia Trottier Foundation.

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The Big Move- Simplified Chinese

By Anja Rosenke

The Big Move- Simplified Chinese

Link to English version

This translation was made possible with a generous donation of the Gwyn Morgan & Patricia Trottier Foundation.

Posted in Articles, Families to Families, Simplified Chinese, Translations | Comments Off on The Big Move- Simplified Chinese