Archive for March 24, 2014

D-Pan: Empowering Deaf & Hard of Hearing Youth through Music Videos

March 24, 2014

dpan behind the scenes 2

Empowering Youth through Music Videos

by Mark Levin, D-PAN

There was a noticeable difference between the first and last day in all the students that attended our D-PAN workshop last year. When the students arrived they were excited, but nervous, not exactly sure what to expect. They knew that when the weekend was over, they would have created an ASL music video, but they didn’t quite know how they were going to accomplish it. By the end of the weekend the students were beaming with pride and self-confidence. Even their parents mentioned they noticed a difference in how their kids carried themselves. Unlike many weekend excursion experiences, this wasn’t just about fun; this was about showing the world what an eager, motivated and passionate mind can do when encouraged to challenge themselves.

There were four instructors; Sean Forbes worked with the students on translation and performance alongside Rosina Switras. Adrean Mangiardi worked with the students on production and editing, and myself (Mark Levin) worked with the students on production. The students voted on the song and from there the brainstorming began. The song they chose was ‘Fireflies’ by Owl City. No ideas were too wild to be written down, if they thought it, it should then be entertained.

After the brainstorming session, we had a full group session. All those wild and crazy ideas they had…how do you make them a reality? That was one of the first lessons the kids learned that weekend. The thing with film is, those wild and crazy ideas are encouraged, but it’s the execution behind them that takes effort and determination. ‘How to make your vision into reality’, a lesson that goes beyond film.

After the kids chose their roles (production, performer, editing) they were separated and given a crash course on their roles. Thus ended the first day, and the kids were excited and ready to get to work the next day. The next morning started out with a recap of the previous evening and the beginning pre-production stages. The chosen directors had to create a story and structure the music video, one of the heavier tasks of their day. Just like a real film set, there was a lot going on at once; students were practicing ASL, setting up lights, discussing the next shots, and bonding with each other. Even during their lunch and snack breaks they were talking about how to make the next shot better. After 12 hours of shooting, performing and editing, they had a solid rough edit. They also had something else:

With the day started in uncertainty for them – the question “how are we going to do this” was frequently asked. We guided them through their questions and helped them find the answers they needed. No disco ball? Let’s use the sparkly shirt of a student as a substitute, too late to capture the sunrise… let’s do some light effects to mimic a sunrise. The lesson learned was how to utilize the tools you have to solve the situation at hand. By the end of the day, all of the instructors had a hard time keeping up with the students as they were taking control and setting up shots and eager to move on to the next. Their confidence was already beaming. They were able to answer their own questions, and in turn it encompassed them. Students were thinking twice before they answered questions or provided answers, assessing the situations – they were in control, and most of all they were confident. Not just with their newfound skill-sets, but they were confident with their identities, as young adults, who happened to be Deaf and hard-of-hearing.

On Sunday afternoon, the students finished editing the video. After we finished watching the video, we couldn’t be more proud. When given encouragement, motivation and the proper tools, the students excelled, not without struggle, but they certainly left the weekend workshop more confidant young adults. The D-PAN team was so inspired by the students and the workshop that we decided to create a music video filming the students creating a music video for Owl City ‘Fireflies’.

What makes us even prouder is that multiple students from these workshops have gone on to create their OWN ASL music videos, with viral success. When you show kids the potential of their ability, there are no limits to what they can do. Encourage your child to pursue their passion, even if someone else told them they couldn’t do it.

You can check out the D-PAN video with students from the workshop here:

Fireflies Music Video

Upcoming D-Pan Workshop:

In March (March 28-30 2014), the Deaf Professional Arts Network, also known as D-PAN is hosting its third annual ASL music video workshop for Deaf and hard-of-hearing youth. The camp takes place over the course of a weekend in Brooklyn, Michigan at the Holley Family Village. Twenty five lucky students ages 12-17 will spend a weekend, working with the D-PAN team (who has created over 25 music videos) learning how to create, direct, translate, perform, and edit an ASL music video.

For more information on the Weekend Workshop, click here: D-Pan Music Video Workshop

To see more ASL music videos, and behind-the-scenes documentaries with the students about the camp, and other ASL music videos, check out D-PAN’s latest DVD “It’s Everybody’s Music” Volume 2:

Note from Karen Putz: 

My daughter Lauren, her friend Lauren Holtz, and my son Steven attended last year’s D-Pan Music Workshop and they had a blast. The girls had attended a previous camp with Sean and recorded “We Are the World” in ASL.  My son was attending for the first time and he wasn’t too happy that I was making him go–but I wanted him to get out of the house and away from the computer.

Wow, what a transformation for my son! He gained so much confidence and several new friends from the event. It was a thrill to see him up on stage introducing the Fireflies video to the audience.  My shy kid was on stage– speaking to a group of people!  That’s the benefit that D-PAN gives to the kids they work with it– a sense of empowerment and confidence.

After the workshop, the two girls started a YouTube channel featuring music and ASL:  Ren and Keely.

D-PAN has released a new DVD featuring a variety of music videos. Not only does it include original videos by Sean Forbes as well as the Fireflies video– it also has a rocking gospel video as well.


Hands & Voices Chapter Updates

March 13, 2014

Every day, our Hands & Voices chapters are connecting with families and doing some awesome work.  Here’s a quick summary  and highlights from several chapters:



Michigan now has 14 Parent Guides in the GBYS Program and has increased the number of families served by 300% in one year.  At the end of a second visit recently, the Parent Guide said to the Spanish-speaking family that she hoped she had been able to help them. The mother replied through the interpreter, “Oh, you have helped us so much. You have given us a recipe to bake a cake!”



The GBYS Guides recently received training on “Cover Oregon,” the state-funded insurance programs and Medicaid.  Leadership training will be provided in June.  The GBYS program is partnering with EHDI to reach out to the homebirth and midwifery community as well as improving data collection.



Five new guides have joined the GBYS Program. MN H &V hosted an Annual Roller Skating event during a very icy cold night in January.  113 people attended and had a chance to network and meet several adult role models who are deaf and hard of hearing, along with a fabulous representative from the Roller Girls and the team mascot!  Upcoming events include another collaboration with the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre, summer playgroups, and developing webinars and culturally-specific parent groups. MN H & V will be hosting the first ASTra Educational Advocacy Training based on the new Educational Advocacy book.


BC, Canada: 

BC H & V recently completed a GBYS Parent Guide training.  They are conducting interviews for another Parent Guide position.

BC H & V  had an amazing Unilateral Coffee Night last month. Great support happening between families plus an adult with unilateral hearing herself offered wonderful attitude and perspective on growing up with unilateral hearing.  BC H & V will be doing more of these specialized coffee nights in future.



Illinois now has 16 guides and recently completed a training. IL H & V  hosted a “network event” during a teacher conference which allowed the guides to introduce themselves to the participating professionals/organizations and then we allowed each organization five minutes to share about their organization and leave each guide with their materials. We had over 20 organizations participate giving us a “one stop” experience to learn more about each other.  IL H & V held two Mom’s Night Inns, one in the Chicago area and another in the central part of the state and they are gearing up for a spring family event.  IL President, Andrea Marwah held an IDEA training at the ITHI Conference.



DE H & V brought Harold Johnson out to speak at Delaware’s Still Listening, the state Department of Health hearing loss conference to introduce the O.U.R. Project.   DE H & V is working on setting up a series of Kidpower workshops.

In the works is a social event for families at the Delaware Natural History Museum with free admission, snacks, and interpreted tours.  After all, everybody loves dinosaurs.

New Mexico: 

 NM H & V will be establishing a GBYS program soon. The Christmas gift-wrapping fundraiser was a success.



The VA GBYS is now up to 150 families (23 are Spanish speaking) since August 2012. GBYS training is coming up in April.  Two “Meet and Greet” gatherings for families are coming up.



TX H & V just finished an annual GBYS training which included a break-out session for D/HH Guides.  Texas has nine Parent Guides (Four Spanish speaking) and four D/HH Guides. The number of families served is growing. TX H & V hosts an average of eight family events per month and recently produced videos in English and Spanish for a companion parent site.



KY H & V has been involved in several activities, including Lexington Hands Alive, a teen panel, Explore Your Future, New Beginnings Riding Program, Family Learning Vacation, and a parent night. A Big Brother/Big Sister initiative is in the works as well as a proposed Senate bill requiring hearing tests for all children prior to entering school.  KY H & V welcomed three new board members to the team.



WI H & V GBYS is using Tele-Connect options to pair Guides with families.  Face-to-face contact is still the best option, but the Tele-Connect option works well if families have a sick child or in the case of  inclement weather.  Two Spanish-speaking Guides have joined the team.


CO H & V has a new GBYS Coordinator, Liesel Thomas, a parent of two deaf children.  Her story is here:  The Thomas Family: A Story of Passionate Perseverance in Parenting.   CO H & V is partnering with two deaf organizations to create a Role Model program and is also working with a graduate student to survey EHDI experiences and parent to parent support for families with deaf and hard of hearing children.



WA H & V GBYS is in the fourth year and has one coordinator and six Parent Guides. The goal is to increase the referrals and work with more families as well as hosting events. 



NV H & V GBYS recently hired a new Parent Guide for the Vegas area and looking to add a Spanish-speaking Parent Guide.  Working closely with the state EHDI program and looking to expand services to families.


TN H & V will be offering monthly open conference calls to share resources and connections.  The final revisions of the TN Resource Guide for Families of Deaf & Hard of Hearing Children are being worked on.  The Advocacy Committee is working on a Deaf Child Bill of Rights.



PA H & V GBYS is now getting direct referrals from the Department of Health.  A total of ten Parent Guides have been trained and offer a diverse background of experiences.  Parents can be matched up with more than one Guide if they have specific interests.



GBYS training, website, and brochure are under way with a focus on collaboration and outreach with agencies and organizations.  The Guides will be attending upcoming parent workshops and EHDI. NE H & V continues to collaborate with the “Connect” program and the monthly reading program which connects families with D/HH adults.


UT H & V hosted two activities in February, a Night at the Capitol (pizza, met with legislators, and toured the Capitol) and a family game night that was popular with families with young children.  Utah is focusing on outreach and activities to families in the rural areas of the state.


MS H & V is moving along toward chapter authorization and accepting applications for board members.  They held a Valentine’s banquet and attended many state conferences and workshops.


IA H & V has welcomed several new board members and continues to build up the GBYS program and plan for the upcoming Hearing Loss Symposium.


ME H & V held a family winter event which involved sledding, building snowmen, and popcorn and hot chocolate.  The group is working hard to incorporate GBYS into the state and expanding their board with new parents.


WY H & V added a Fundraising/Grant Specialist to the team. The 2nd Annual Night 5K is in the works.  Hearing Aid legislation did not pass, but the state funded a Hearing Aid program to cover hearing aids for children.


GA H & V is gearing up for the Hands & Voices Conference to be held in the fall and has just submitted the GBYS application.  The chapter is participating in a number of projects, coalitions, and initiatives: Let Georgia Hear (insurance coverage for children’s hearing aids), Georgia Pathway to Language and Literacy, UNHSI State Stakeholders’ Group.


February 26, 2014 the Manitoba chapter launched!

These are just some of the updates we’ve highlighted from our recent GBYS/ H &V Chapters meeting. We will share more updates in future posts. It is truly exciting to see each program in action!



















Finding the Balance ~ Helen Cotton Leiser

March 5, 2014

helen and kids

The Hands & Voices annual Leadership Conference is always my safe haven. One year’s theme, “Finding the Balance Within” was exactly what I needed. In my role with Hands &Voices, I have spoken to over 200 moms around Oregon.  I have seen marriages stressed, mothers feeling overwhelmed and siblings trying to figure out where they fit in with all the appointments and worry associated with having a sibling with hearing loss.

Studies show that 95% of parents of deaf/hard of hearing children have no history or experience with hearing loss. Having a newborn in itself can be stressful. When your newborn is diagnosed with hearing loss or deaf+, the diagnosis can challenge many areas of your life and create a strain on relationships, marriages, and can send parents spiraling in all directions as they face this new reality.

Parents of school aged kiddos face their own levels of stressors as they ensure the educational and  emotional health of their child. I know three sets of parents who have had to leave Oregon to find the right school for their child.

Have more fun… it’s what I have been telling myself for the last 8 months, and what I heard in the opening plenery of the Leadership Conference. I know I need to pick up my camera and do what I love to do. I know I need to spend more time with my friends. I see that many of us parents are not feeding our souls; we are not having fun.

Getting back to who we are, not our labels, not our IEP challenges; but who we are, our being. It’s really hard to have fun and be ourselves, especially in the beginning of the process. I have spoken with parents of school aged kiddos who feel if they let their guard down or relax for one moment, their child’s communication will falter, their school life could suffer or their emotional well-being will dwindle.

We forget that if we don’t take care of ourselves first, if we don’t get back to who we are, the individual within, we won’t have what we need to advocate and support our child. We also forget to ask for help. Our Guide By Your Side program and chapters are here to assist you in supporting your child in school, at home, and on the playground! Those of you new to the process don’t know what you should know and you certainly don’t know where you need help. Parents of school-aged kiddos have been attending IEP meetings for awhile and may not consider the benefits of having someone else at the table or just having another (trained) parent to talk to.

What do you need that you don’t have? What would a balanced life look like to you? How do you feel when you lay down at night? If you don’t know then tonight when you go to bed take a deep breath and listen. That is your authentic feeling. Do you need to make any changes?!

So as spring slowly approached and the days lengthen, we hope that you also slow down, set aside your worries and challenges and enjoy the warmth of the sun that is just around the corner! Watching kids play outside and in the pool is a great reminder to get a little more ‘child-like’ and have fun. So do that. Go jump in a pool, run through some sprinklers, lay in the grass looking up at the stars, and eat a smore.  It’s time for all of us to recharge and remember that we are parents first; parents to kids who just want to be kids.