Archive for the ‘Deaf & HH Teens’ Category

Janel Frost: Reflections on Communication Access at Family Gatherings

October 18, 2017

Janel & Mason for Holley

What follows is my own reaction to Dianne’s post as a parent of a child:

This is my son. It pains me as a mom to watch my son go through feeling so left out at family get togethers, however, I don’t know what more to do for him. I’ve encouraged many family members to try harder to learn a language that could help him feel more included all the while realizing that they may use this new language one or two times a year. My husband and I have both taken turns to interpret when needed, but it’s not the same as direct access to communication–and who wants your mom a part of the nerf gun fight with all the cousins?

So I take delight in the fact that there is a place where my son can go to feel connected and a full participant–with others who use American Sign Language. We encourage and take part in his comfortable, communication accessible world as much as possible to let him know he is not alone. It is in that deaf community that we understand how he feels in the hearing world, and we don’t mind one bit.

This is my son’s reaction to my post:

Wow, mom. Yes this is exactly how I feel. I love my cousins, aunts, uncles and my grandparents, but when we have get togethers, it really is hard for me. I want to join in but get lost in almost every conversation and I just don’t want to bother anyone and ask to repeat for the third time. Uncle Greg and I will go out on the porch or in the basement just to find someplace quiet so that we can talk one on one. I like that he does that for me. It does sadden me sometimes that all my family members don’t know how to sign. I am glad I have the deaf community. I enjoy being able to talk for hours without having to stop to repeat. It just feels so free.

Janel Frost
Director/ASTra Coordinator
Michigan Hands & Voices
(248)845-8762
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Deaf and Hard of Hearing Teens: Fitting in When We Stand Out

September 11, 2017

The Journey through Adolescence: Fitting In When We Stand Out

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The adventure of adolescence is full of discovery both socially and within ones’ self, and even more so for someone who is deaf/hard of hearing.  Adolescents seemingly expend constant energy to become strong, unique individuals while at the same time trying to fit in without standing out.

For young people who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH), adolescence provides the opportunity for them to own their hearing without it becoming their central identity. People do not want to be defined solely by their audiogram, technology, or by the accommodations they use.

Supporting our youth as whole people who happen to have hearing differences may lead to increased acceptance of self.  When a group of teens who are DHH were asked what they would wish for in a perfect world, they did not wish for normal hearing. Instead they wished that “people wouldn’t think of us as impaired or broken”. They wish that people would think of them as a teen first, person with hearing loss second.  At the Colorado Hearing Foundation-sponsored Journey Through Adolescence Conference (Children’s Hospital Colorado March 2017), Jonah Berger, therapeutic mentor, stated “…disability should not be in charge, we are in charge…” Adolescents can learn to take charge and become confident with who they are as they choose their path in life.

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To support confidence and self-advocacy for teens who are DHH–the strategies below, built around pillars of growth through adolescence, may help them on their journey of self-discovery

 

  1. EMPOWER ADVOCACY:

Empower advocacy by teaching adolescents how to become active in their audiology and educational appointments. Glaring at their audiologist or counselor may give them a feeling of control, however, it does not build partnerships. They need to tell these professionals what makes them cringe, what makes them grumpy or frustrated in school, with their technology, or being deaf/hard of hearing.  Teens should become the expert about their own hearing. They need to describe what makes them hear better and how they prefer to communicate. Learning the skills of self-advocacy through partnerships will be an invaluable skill as teens mature into fully independent adults.

 

  1. OPPORTUNITIES FOR CHOICE:

Advocacy works best when you understand your hearing, your technology and what works well for you.  Adolescence is a time for DHH teens to try new technology, strategies and communication styles to have full access to the information that their peers are receiving.  Encourage your teen to explore their options. Sometimes the hardest part of making choices is taking the first step to try something new.

 

  1. BALANCE INTERDEPENDENCE WITH INDEPENDENCE:

Interdependence is how we rely on each other.  Independence is how we rely on ourselves.  Healthy interdependence builds the foundation for future independence and should start early.  The goals for independence for a teen that is DHH should be the same as for their siblings.

For example, teens should be expected to get up on their own and get ready for school in the morning. DHH teens can use vibrating alarm clocks or other technologies to develop this independence. Staying home alone and knowing what to do in case of an emergency are valuable skills for all teens.

 

  1. BEYOND HEARING TECHNOLOGY:

Technology is rapidly advancing and can remove some of the typical and frustrating communication barriers.   To stay connected with friends, teens can now access Instant Messaging, texting, social media, real time captioning apps, video relay.  Internet safety and supervision is critical and must be taught to all children and youth regardless of their hearing differences. Additional information on cyber safety may be referenced at

www.handsandvoices.org/resources/OUR/2014/V17-3_cybersafety.htm

 

  1. CULTURAL LITERACY:

Teens who are DHH benefit from being informed on current teen culture.  Incidental language and learning is rapidly acquired during adolescence through music, movies and TV and are part of the adolescent culture.  There are multiple ways for adolescents who are deaf/hard of hearing to connect with the typical adolescent world and be a part of that culture.  This might include YouTube, videos, lyrics, technology and interpreters that specialize in signing music and live concerts.  Being a part of a team or other activities give the teen another identity besides their hearing.

 

  1. SOCIAL COMMUNICATION:

During pre-adolescent years, a variety of skills are developed through play and guided by adults.  During these years, parents and teachers often help with miscommunication or clarify missed information.  During adolescence, the development of friendships requires more communication skills and less play.   Adolescents need to develop the skills to repair communication breakdowns, which include asking for clarification and/or asking for information to be repeated. Adolescents have the responsibility to increase their ability to be better understood, whether that be through spoken language, sign language or both.  Multiple opportunities to socialize with friends and family members will increase their confidence and ability to repair communication breakdowns.

 

  1. IDENTITY:

As William Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true…”  Often people with hearing loss are not aware of how exhausting good communication can be. When exhaustion happens, it is easier to revert to faking or pretending that we are hearing rather than asking for repetition for the third, fourth or fifth time. Encourage youth to be true to themselves and to the people with whom they are interacting. Responding with “just forget it”, is unfair to all. People with typical hearing do not hear everything and ask for repetitions with confidence.  Let teens know that it’s okay to take a break when they are working hard to hear and to let people know that is hard to hear everything that is being said.

 

 

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  1. SELF-ESTEEM:

Let’s be clear, everyone’s self-esteem is fragile. This fragility is not a flaw to be corrected, it is a human condition to be respected in everyone. Like all adolescents, teens who are DHH struggle with self-esteem and self-identity. Hearing is another facet of self-esteem and self-identity.  Teens who are DHH may feel comfortable with people who are hearing, people who are deaf or people who are hard of hearing, depending on the time or the social situation. Make sure they know that they do not need to choose only one group, and that the group is not their self-identity. The development of self-identity is a life-long, fluid process.

 

  1. ROLE MODELS:

You can’t be what you can’t see. DHH role models or mentors are the best kept secret but it shouldn’t be that way.  If teens, parents or professionals are curious about the possibilities and successes of people who are of hearing in today’s world, then seek out the people that are on that journey.  As you and your teen meet people and cultivate stories, keep in mind that your child will have their own unique experiences and journey. For perspectives from teens may be referenced at www.handsandvoices.org/resources/dhh_adults.html

 

  1. CONFIDENCE:

Teasing and bullying will happen whether you are deaf, hard of hearing or if you have typical hearing. Bullies are victims of low self-esteem too.  Bullies attack perceived weakness.  Help your teen learn a variety of skills to get through all kinds of situations. Kidpower.org is an international organization that provides trainings to increase safety and confidence. Your DHH adolescent can teach the community how they want to be treated, what they need for respect, and what they have to offer. The respect one has for oneself becomes the model for the respect one receives from others.

 

by Stephanie Olson, Co-Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infusion at Hands & Voices

and

Lynne Canales, Itinerant Teacher, Englewood Public Schools

 

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Judy Yang: A Passion for Badminton

August 15, 2017

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My name is Judy Yang and I am 18 years old. I’m the only deaf child in my family. My family is from China and I was born in the United States. My parents found out that I’m deaf when I was two years old. They were upset and they didn’t know what to do with a deaf daughter at first. When I was six years old, I received a cochlear implant. 

After my parents divorced, I moved to Chicago area with my mom, two brothers, and my grandparents when I was seven years old. My family moved so that I could attend a school with a deaf program. I was so happy to learn many new things and make a lot of deaf friends at my school in Chicago area because I struggled in school and had no friends in Michigan.

My uncle was a competitive badminton player when he lived in China and he took me to a park district badminton court and taught me how to play for fun when I was in third grade. I enjoyed playing badminton a lot because I had so much fun playing against my family or other members for competition.

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When I was 7th grade, I decided to become a serious athlete in badminton. My mom took me go to my uncle’s own badminton place to meet a new coach, Ilian Perez. Ilian had just moved to Chicago from San Francisco and I was his first student.  It was also his first time to meet a deaf person and he didn’t know how to communicate with me. Ilian tried to teach me how to play badminton competitively, but I couldn’t understand what he said. He asked my brother Justin how to say “fast” in Chinese then he said it to me, but I still couldn’t understand him. He decided to demonstrate the moves he wanted me to do so I could follow his moves during training.

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Today, I usually gesture and read his lips in our communication with each other. I follow what my teammates do when my coach tells them what to do, because I can see what they doing with my eyes rather than hearing it. Deaf people have the power to use visual cues with their eyes than hear!

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I played four years of badminton on the varsity team at Hinsdale South high school in Illinois. In 2016, I became the state champion. I had so many achievements in both badminton and academics. I’m so grateful to have my teammates, family, friends, and coaches–especially my mom–because they all encouraged me not to give up on playing badminton during high school.

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Savannah: My Deaf Journey

May 30, 2017

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Hey!

My name is Savannah. I am a hard of hearing high schooler, and I use a cochlear implant and a hearing aid to help me in my everyday activities.

From birth, I was diagnosed with profound hearing loss in my left ear and moderate hearing loss in my right. I have always known that I was deaf, and this has been a fact of life for me.

My first memories of using technology were in pre-school. I wore an FM receiver in my right ear and the teacher would wear an FM transmitter. Now, this transmitter looked quite different than the transmitters commonly used today. It was a large box, clipped to their hip, with a thin cord running up their chest and a tiny microphone attached to their shirt collar.

My kindergarten teacher named it “Tina the Transmitter.”

I used my receiver, complete with a bright pink mold, all the time. My mother would tape it to my ear during karate practice, so I could punch, kick, and hear while feeling secure.

Then, in first grade, I got my first hearing aid. It had a giraffe pattern on it and I loved it. So much so that my mother fought tooth and nail for my audiologist to allow me to get one in my left ear.

Why was this an issue, you ask? Hearing aids amplify sound and sends the waves through your cochlea and to the auditory nerve. But my left ear, audiologists said, wouldn’t be able to pick up the amplified sound, and would therefore be a waste of time. Nevertheless, we persisted, and a few months later I had bilateral hearing aids.

Throughout my elementary years, my parents would sometimes ask me if I wanted a cochlear implant in my left ear. I would adamantly refuse – saying I didn’t want to be deaf but rather hard of hearing.

In seventh grade, my tune changed. Middle school brought new challenges and new experiences. I began debating the pros and cons of a cochlear implant. I still used my hearing aids as well as a newer version of an FM transmitter.

The summer before eighth grade, I got the surgery. It was such a rewarding experience. While I was definitely scared going into the operating room, that fear dissolved quickly. I knew that I had made the right decision.

Master ear

Being turned on was really interesting. There were all these new gadgets and computer programs that controlled my head! My hearing rapidly improved from initial beeps to normal sound. While aural therapy was boring, it was worth every second to be able to hear new and exciting sounds. I learned a lot about sound booths and frequencies in that year!

Finally, I reached high school, where I use Cochlear’s Mini Microphone as an alternative to the transmitter I had once needed. Today, I am able to hold conversations at lunch and collaborate with classmates using this technology.

Being deaf is an important identity to me. I have changed a lot since the days when I rejected the very idea of getting implanted. While I may not understand everything people say to me, I can hear much, much more than I ever realized I could.

An interesting thing about being deaf/hard of hearing and using technology is that you live on the border between the deaf and hearing worlds. I really enjoy explaining to hearing people about my ears and my needs, and hopefully educating more people about my community and myself. But being on the border of my two worlds mean that my “people,” so to speak, are a select group of individuals. While I do try hard to connect with my deaf identity (learning ASL and deaf culture), and I try and integrate into hearing culture everyday, I have come to realize that my world is the border.

Being deaf is challenging. I have to deal with projects involving music and with watching videos without subtitles and with bad audio. Yet being deaf is rewarding as well! I have the ability to share with people my stories and spread awareness for deaf/hard of hearing people.

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I even created an Instagram account, @mydeafjourney, that I use to share my everyday experiences with deaf and hearing people alike!

So, if I had the chance to stop being deaf, I wouldn’t take it.

Being deaf is who I am. And I don’t want to erase my identity.

<3 Savannah

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