By Teresa Kazemir
BC Hands & Voices was thrilled to have Dr. Janet Jamieson present at our Fall Parent Workshop. She started things off with an informative and encouraging talk about self-esteem in children with hearing loss.
This was followed by a panel of confident, inspiring teens and young adults. They talked about their personal experiences growing up, and some interesting situations they have encountered. After a lunch break and a chance to socialize with other families, it was time for a panel of “veteran” parents, who shared their stories and some practical pointers for raising happy confident kids. Here are a few key ideas and tips from Dr. Jamieson’s presentation:
“Family is not just the group of people you’re born with – it is also the people who understand you. You will find you are with family here.” What a wonderful way to set the tone for our workshop!
Research has shown that people who tend to have the best sense of social identity are those who are able to interact comfortably both with people of similar hearing status and those with typical hearing. This suggests it’s good to provide social opportunities with both hearing peers and deaf/hoh peers.
In general, mothers tend to handle stress by talking, and fathers tend to handle stress by doing. So it’s not uncommon for husbands and wives to have different needs, and sometimes it might be helpful for a mom to turn to another mom for support, and likewise for dads.
When parenting children with hearing loss (or any children, for that matter!) you need to think of the oxygen mask that drops down in an airplane – they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first, and then help your children put on theirs. You have to take care of your own needs in order to be able to meet your child’s needs.
It’s harder for children to join a social group (such as soccer, Girl Guides, etc.) after grade 2. When children join group activities by age 5 or 6 they tend to have an easier time.
“Always remember – you are the expert on your child.”
I would love to summarize all the stories and words of wisdom shared by the teens, young adults, and parents, but I have to admit I got too caught up in what they had to say, and didn’t take notes after the first half hour or so (turns out I’m not the best person for this job!). Luckily, the entire workshop was videotaped, and will soon be available on DVD with captioning – we’ll be sure to send out an email announcement and post it on our website when it is ready. For now, though, I can share one suggestion that came up again and again from both the youth and the parents:
Children need to have opportunities to observe their parents advocating on their behalf so that they can learn how to do it for themselves. So bring your child with you when you explain to the swimming instructor that little Johnny won’t be able to hear you in the water, and what he or she can do to help Johnny understand the instructions. As your child gets older, he or she will gradually do more of the advocating, until they are able to do it independently. Children learn by example, and a little explicit teaching and practice ahead of time never hurts either!
All in all, it was a great workshop – it was wonderful to see families using a variety of communication approaches come together to learn from the presenters and from each other. We would like to sincerely thank all of the participants and volunteers, as well as the following organizations for their support, financial or in kind:
-BC Early Hearing Program (presenters, filming & captioning, insurance)
-Provincial Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (sign language interpreters)
-Children’s Hearing & Speech Centre of BC (venue)
-BC Children’s Hospital (travel funds for families, childcare)