Controlling the Narrative

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:

  • “What’s wrong with his ears?”
  • “He can’t hear well.”
  • “His ears are deformed.”
  • “Oh, that’s too bad.”
  •  “Hearing impaired.”

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:

  • “His hearing aids help him hear.”
  • “Sign language helps him understand.”
  • “He hears best when you get down to his level and he can see your face.”
  • “He was born with smaller ears that don’t have openings.”
  • “Hard of 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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Parent Connect Night on Zoom – ‘Keep Calm & Ask!- Unilateral Hearing’

CONTACT/INFO: Please register to receive zoom information here:

Download our flyer here: Keep Calm & Ask ‘Unilateral Hearing’ 10.21.2021

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Learning From the Experts

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: [].


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 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

<image of person holding a smartphone, credit: Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash >



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Parent Connect Night on Zoom – ‘Keep Calm & Ask!- Parent-to-Parent’

CONTACT/INFO: Please register to receive zoom information here:

Download our flyer here: Keep Calm & Ask (P2P) 9.23.2021

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Building A Foundation for Self-Advocacy

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.

  • From a young age, I always encouraged her to order her own food at restaurants. I would start off by informing our server that Teanna is Deaf and will be ordering on her own. I have never encountered any staff who was not accommodating. In the early years, she would do this by either pointing to the item that she wanted on the menu or circling it with the crayons provided with children’s menus. When she learned to read and write, and eventually started ordering her meal from the adult menu, she used pen and paper to communicate.
  • I always provided her with an interpreter from when she started learning American Sign Language at 2½ years old. Whether it was trips to the Vancouver Aquarium, weddings we attended or visits to attractions during vacations, I always made searching for and booking an interpreter part of my planning process. Now that she is a teen in high school, she has taken it upon herself to be responsible for booking her own interpreters for school meetings. She also asked to use the “remote interpreter on wheels” during her recent COVID vaccination appointment. This allowed her to receive correct information, ask questions, receive answers and have the autonomy to consent to the procedure.
  • We have constant communication and discussions about barriers that she encounters in her day to day. When we have any upcoming events or outings, I encourage her to think ahead about any potential barriers she might face. This helps her plan ahead and brainstorm about how to either prevent or manage these obstacles in case they happen. 

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

  • When I was younger, around 7 years old, I went to White Spot and I picked my own order for food. I chose a hamburger. The waiter came up and asked my mom first, so I could learn and watch how to order independently. It was my turn. I pointed to the picture of the hamburger and French fries on the menu. The waiter nodded his head, so I knew that he understood. Sometimes, I will circle the picture of what I want on the menu. Before, when I didn’t know how to read yet, and if the menu doesn’t have pictures, my mom will tell me the words and I will circle them to show to the staff.
  • I was at the food court in Metrotown with my friend Thomas. I was still young, maybe around 9 years old. We went to A&W and wanted to drink Mountain Dew. My mom always reminds me to have pen and paper when I am out. I wrote down “Can I have 2 Mountain Dew, please” then showed it to the staff. She understood and nodded her head, then I paid for the drinks. Now that I am older and have a phone, I usually just use my phone to type what I need to communicate to hearing people. I also have a card that says “I am Deaf” on it. I show it to people sometimes so they will become aware that they need to communicate with me differently.
  • I am part of the Gay-Straight Alliance or GSA in my school. I go to the Deaf School but there are also hearing kids there. The GSA meetings are for Deaf and hearing kids. Everyone is welcome. But it is my responsibility to apply to have an interpreter there. I usually email the interpreter to let her know when there will be a meeting. I am learning from my mom and from my school about how and where I can find services for ASL Interpreters, because maybe in the future I will need it for things like doctor appointments or job interviews.

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.

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The Joyce of Reading

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.

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Parent Connect Night on Zoom – ‘New to the Journey? Keep Calm & Ask!’ 

Download our flyer here: Keep Calm & Ask 6.17.2021

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The Silent Language

By Maria Ruiz

I tuck her hair
Behind her ears
Without the aids
Without the sounds
Only language she hears
Is the one my heart speaks
My eyes tell
She knows
This language
The silence
So full
Of sound
Can you hear it?
How can you
Like a dance
She hears
The sounds
Of the silent moments
Most dismiss
She hears
The sound
Of the quiet
The unknown
The language
Of poets
Of musicians
Of the thinkers
Just you and me
Sweet girl
We dance
With the letters
Of the alphabet
We make our own language
Without syllables
Without rules
Just freedom
A slowness
A stillness
That is complete
Teach me
The language
Of your heart
Yell it at the top of your lungs
So the world knows
And your alphabet
To the song
In your head
That no one else
Needs to hear
Do you hear
That voice
I hear it too
And it’s the only voice
You need
To hear
I hear you
Sweet girl
And that’s all that matters
I hear
All of you


Maria Ruiz discovered she was a poet by accident in Grade 7, when she was writing down all her emotions about a boy who was driving her crazy. From there, she has discovered that there is a world behind each word, and she often gets lost in between worlds. When she isn’t writing poetry, Maria is busy homeschooling her 3 children: Miah, Andrew, and Lilah. Homeschooling her kids has been such an adventure and gift that she treasures and holds dear. Apart from homeschooling her kids, and being a stay at home mother, Maria loves to run and is aiming to run another half marathon this summer. Together with Edwin, her husband of fourteen years, they strive to learn more about the deaf and hard of hearing community in order to help support their two children who are hard of hearing. Maria finds such deep inspiration from her children and their hearing differences and hopes to use her poetry to highlight the determination, struggles, and beauty of life.

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“School Transition Information Night” for Chinese Speaking Families Wednesday May 5, 2021

BC Hands & Voices & Provincial Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services present “School Transition Information Night” for Chinese Speaking Families Wednesday May 5, 2021 7:00-8:30pm.

This event is similar to the event happening on May 26th put on by Provincial Family Services/PDHHS for families who use English and other languages. This evening is open to Chinese Speaking Families only. 

Event flyers in Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese can be found below:

School Transition- SC
School Transition-TC



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Learning to be Flexible

By Lisa Cable

I am the oldest child in my family and a classic “Type A” personality.  As such, I LOVE to be in control.  I want to know what’s going to be happening and actively plan for each and every event so that there are no surprises.  I like lists, spreadsheets, calendars and anything that helps me to plan and keep track of all the little details.  But as every parent knows, having children can throw even the best planner for a loop.

We are lucky to have two fantastic, spirited and opinionated children.  Our son is 12 (almost a teenager!) and our daughter is 10.  While our son has typical hearing, our daughter, Lily was born hard of hearing.  When she was first identified, at 8 weeks old, as being hard of hearing it was a shock.  However, I quickly shifted to figuring out what we needed to do for her and dove in head-first with early intervention, audiology appointments and meeting other families.  It was certainly a shift from how it was with my son during his first year of life, but one that I was happy to make for the sake of my daughter.  

By the time Lily was 18 months old I felt like I had a handle on how things were going.  We’d settled into a routine of appointments, baby groups, intervention services and such.  We’d worked hard to learn as much as we could so that we could make informed choices; we reached out to other families and deaf/hard of hearing role models to learn from their experiences.  Lily wore tiny little hearing aids and was progressing well – we were happy.  

Just before her second birthday we learned that Lily had Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct (EVA) Syndrome and that it was very possible this could result in a progressive hearing loss.  Within two months she experienced her first “drop” in hearing, sending us scrambling to figure out what to do.  Managing a feisty two-year old with fluctuating hearing levels was something we were not prepared for.  It was the first time I felt like I didn’t know what to do or how to manage the rapid changes that were besetting themselves upon my tiny daughter.  

After three more years of progressive hearing loss, switching hearing aids to keep up with the changes, two cochlear implant surgeries and simultaneously navigating two different preschool programs, both Lily and I came out the other side different people.  She was resilient, confident and ready to take on the world.  I had learned the hard lesson that life cannot be controlled and planned for the way I always want it to be.  I needed to be flexible – not a pushover, but someone who could accept what comes and figure out ways to make the best of each day and each situation.  

Once Lily began Kindergarten (for which I’d planned extensively!) I figured things would be easier.  She was thriving with her cochlear implants, in mainstream school with her brother and her friends from the neighbourhood while also having a wonderful circle of deaf and hard of hearing friends to connect with. 

However, just when we think that we’ve got it all figured out, life has a way of keeping us on our toes.  Navigating elementary school with Lily has been a constant lesson for all of us in how to be flexible.  Equipment breaks down or doesn’t work, there are substitute teachers who aren’t aware of how to best communicate with her, challenges with noisy school assemblies or playing outside during lunchtime – to name a few.  Just when we figure out how to deal with one challenge another one pops up.  

What I’ve learned, and hopefully helped my children to learn, is that the challenges life presents us with don’t need to be seen as negatives.  They can be opportunities to learn about ourselves, to learn from others, to try new things and to make mistakes.  While there are days that I would love for things to just go exactly as I have planned for once, I wouldn’t trade our marvelous, sometimes crazy, life for anything.  


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