Archive for the ‘Family Support’ Category

Amanda Case: Our Journey with Progressive Hearing Loss

February 4, 2019

In-between Two Worlds – Our Journey with Progressive Hearing Loss

It is hard to believe that it has been 6 1/2 years since we first received our daughter’s diagnosis of hearing loss. I still remember the fear that washed over me, suddenly feeling unequipped to be her mom. I had never known a Deaf person, I didn’t know ASL, what do we do next?

At age three, we had her fitted for her first hearing aid, enrolled her in the Special Education Preschool in our district, and met with an ENT and geneticist to see if we could see what was causing her hearing loss. Just as we were settling in to our “new normal,” we found out our daughter has Pendred Syndrome, which is characterized by progressive hearing loss and possible Goiter that presents in early adulthood.

We have had our ups and downs with the diagnosis. The first audiogram that showed a significant increase in loss was a hard reminder of what our future held. Our “new normal” was always going to be changing. We were always going to be adapting, and making adjustments.

By kindergarten, she was in a mainstream classroom and excelling across the board. Her personality is infectious and she made friends wherever she went. She educates her peers on her hearing loss, and has become a strong advocate for herself.

It wasn’t until her brother was born that the issues with progressive hearing loss started to present. Our son, while a carrier for Pendred Syndrome, does not have hearing loss. My daughter was heartbroken. At first she didn’t want him to have it, but as we awaited the results, she was hoping for someone like her. She so desperately wanted to teach her brother about hearing loss, make hearing aid charms for him, and “have someone in the family like ‘her’.”

At that moment, she burst into tears, letting her emotions spill out. She was scared of losing her hearing, and losing everything she had known for the last 6 years. She was scared of losing her friends, but also feeling lonely having only met one other person with hearing loss.

Trying to find groups to join proved difficult. Family ASL classes were hard to come by. As a family, we felt most of our resources kept us in, isolated from both worlds. Eventually I was able to join some social media groups, but many recommendations didn’t really consider my daughter’s situation. She was deaf, but she had some of her hearing. She had her feet in two worlds.

During a third grade project, she had an amazing opportunity to interview one of her role models, Dame Evelyn Glennie. Evelyn is a world renowned solo concert percussionist who is not only deaf, but lost her hearing at age 12. It was a moment that will stay with my daughter forever. The opportunity boosted her self-confidence, and you could see the smile wash over her just to be talking to somebody like her. Not only was Evelyn deaf, but she knew what it was like to hear before her hearing went completely. She opened my daughter’s eyes to different ways of hearing, and for a time, removed the fear she was feeling about losing all of her hearing.

Fast forward to today, my nine year old fourth grader is in a new district, doing well, but facing new obstacles. She is the new kid at school AND she is deaf. These kids have not known her since kindergarten, and they don’t always know how to interact with her, even though it is the same as they would with anybody. Her sadness and exhaustion comes through more days than before.

Friendships take time, they thrive on common threads, and it has been this process of forming new friendships that has made her differences stand out to her. She has cried often, feeling alone, missing her old friends, and scared of when her hearing will go completely. It has rekindled the need and the drive to find deaf friends, to become more involved with Deaf culture, and to become fluent in ASL.

At times, it feels very lonely. The advice we often get is either “make her get a cochlear implant” or “you need to put her in a Deaf school.” It is always black or white, but Addie is deaf AND (for the time being) she is hearing.

We are working hard to prepare for the future, learning ASL, and at times it is uncomfortable. Though we are always welcomed warmly, we sometimes feel like outsiders at DHH events as we are still beginning to learn ASL. We also feel like our daughter’s hearing loss can be forgotten when we are in the hearing world and have to look for accommodations so that our daughter does not miss out on experiences.

I often wonder what her relationships in the future will look like. Will any of her hearing friends learn ASL? What will family functions look like? What is going to change and how will she feel with the inevitable changes? The waiting and wondering drives a lot of conversations in our household, and ultimately is basis for a lot of decision making.

Fortunately, we are in an amazing school district that houses the DHH middle and high schools. We have been able to attend a few Family ASL classes, and have joined a parent support group. While we are very excited as a family, the whole process has highlighted the middle area that we fall in. The DHH program sounds AMAZING, and while my husband and I are very excited about it, our daughter is not. She is conflicted. She wants to make friends like her, but she also doesn’t want to leave her hearing friends again.

It feels like a constant struggle. When are we being good parents and letting her have a voice? When is it neglecting her needs? I imagine the conversation will get slightly easier as we get better at ASL and can submerge ourselves in the Deaf community more. For now, we feel like outsiders of both worlds, and are desperately trying to find the best way to blend the two for our situation.

Amanda Case

Visit Amanda and her daughter’s Hear with the Heart shop (Hearing aid charms)

Amanda’s blog: Hear with the Heart

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Marbely Barahona: We Wondered How His Future Would Be

December 10, 2018

Today was the day.

As parents of a deaf child, we always wondered how his future would be.

At some point, we felt overwhelmed, sad and very hopeless. We remember those days that we couldn’t see a clear future for him.

Today, he left from our nest and found his own wings. It was hard to let him go, but we knew he was ready.

He is ready because we didn’t let anyone dictate our choices.

He is ready because we never let him feel less capable of doing something, because we worked days and nights incessantly to make sure he developed a language.

He is ready because he had people around him that truly cared: teachers, audiologists, professionals and a wonderful organization, Hands & Voices where we together as a family learned so much and never again felt alone in this journey.

He is ready because we encouraged him to make friends, those that last forever, because he took advantage of every moment, every challenge, every adventure.

This is just a new beginning for him, there is still a lot more to do, only that this time he will do it by himself, he will advocate for himself and he will become a man.

Marbely Barahona

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LaShawna Sims: Deaf with Autism

December 5, 2018

I have heard that oftentimes the first deaf or hard of hearing person some people meet is their own deaf or hard of hearing child. While for us that wasn’t the case, we had a similar experience, but with a different diagnosis. We have two boys who are both severe to profoundly deaf and bilateral cochlear implant users. Our youngest, also has Autism.

We knew one person with Autism. All we knew of Autism was what we saw in that one individual. I remember telling myself things like; no, our youngest doesn’t have Autism. He doesn’t act the same way or do the same things that person does. I think it’s just that we don’t socialize him enough since his big brother started school. His progress, or lack thereof, in speech is fine. We were told that not all children with cochlear implants progress at the same speed. The professionals advised us to not compare his progress in speech with his older brother’s progress.


A common question asked in our home is, “Is it the Autism, the hearing loss or just him being a kid?”. Our son was diagnosed as “Moderate” and “High-Functioning” on the Autism Spectrum. He is also non-verbal but uses some ASL and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) to communicate with us. Over the years his receptive language skills have blossomed. Most days he wears his CIs with no issues. Other days, he knocks them off as if they are causing discomfort. It is often hard to determine whether or not he is having a sensory moment because of the Autism, being a “typical” child who is having a moment of defiance, or if there is something wrong with his CIs.

I like to say there is a lot of troubleshooting that goes on with our son. Some days he is happy to put his CIs on, while others days it can be a bit of a tug of war. I have a hard time somedays making him put his CIs on because in some ways I feel like I am not being mindful of his Autism diagnosis and what effects the “silence to instant sound” may have on him. Because his expressive language is still progressing, it can be a challenge to know exactly what is going on with him. He can let us know in sign or with PECS that he is hurt, sad, calm, or silly and wiggly. But when it comes to expressing exactly WHY he is feeling those ways, we aren’t always sure.

In the past, Logan has never really gotten a good “map” for his CIs and we think that is due to his Autism diagnosis. Getting him to reliably respond to any sounds he is hearing has been a work in progress. Before he was diagnosed, I dreaded going to the audiologist because it was a literal WWE match trying to hold him down just to run and impedance test. I can remember making sure that I wore clothes that would allow me to wrestle with him and not look completely disheveled after the appointment. Leaving those appointments, I would feel so defeated. I’d feel like I was a terrible parent for forcing him to go through the appointment. Then on the flip side, I knew that I wanted him to have as much good access to sound as possible because that’s what he needed if we wanted him to eventually use spoken language. For a number of years, all of his “maps” were manually made and set very conservatively.

Once we got the Autism diagnosis, things changed for the better. His behaviors all began to make sense. We started ABA therapy for him. His therapists have been quite accommodating in respecting our wishes of incorporating ASL in his therapy as a way of communication. Almost all of his therapists knew not one sign in ASL. Now, many of them have been inspired to learn more ASL and even use it with some of their other non-verbal clients. We’ve even had much better success at the audiologist! I can happily say that I no longer have to wear my “wrestling” attire to an appointment. With the help of his ABA therapists, we have worked on “mock audiology appointments” which have proven to be successful for Logan. He has gotten the best “maps” he’s ever had in his initial years of having cochlear implants.

While things are progressively getting better, we still have our struggles. We are learning together as a family. It’s not easy to pick apart which diagnosis is causing whatever action, feeling or emotion he may be experiencing. All we can do is take it day by day and one step at a time. In all of those hours and steps, we revel in the fact that he is uniquely him and we love every little thing about him. It makes us stronger as individuals and stronger as a family. Even though we have had some hard days, it’s always nice to look back at those struggles and celebrate how far Logan has come. It’s a great reminder that despite our current struggle, we will overcome it together as a family. For that, we are blessed and grateful for this unique journey.

LaShawna Sims, Bilingual Southern Nevada Regional Guide

Nevada Hands & Voices

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The Journey of Acceptance

October 24, 2018

During a staff discussion, the topic of “acceptance” came up. The journey of raising a child who is deaf/hard of hearing is an intensely personal one.

Hands & Voices posted this question on our Facebook page.

Parents,

Tell us about your experience:

I realized that I accepted my child’s deaf/hard of hearing journey when__________________.

Here are the responses that were shared:

I realized that I was given the gift of being this small human’s mommy, and God had His own plans for me with this journey. It was about a week after she was identified with bilateral severe/profound sensori-neural loss.


 

When I was no longer angry! It took a long time to get there also, probably 7+ years.


I realized that I accepted my child’s hard of hearing journey when she answered audible questions in sign language. She also has Apraxia of Speech, so her ability to form verbal words is super tough.


I was young when I had my daughter 18, 19 when I found out her hearing loss. I use to blame myself, that I had done something to cause this. When I stopped blaming myself and realizing that she was extra special. We started signing when she was 5-6 months old. I accepted it, when I stopped punishing myself for it..When she was one she got implanted with cochlear implants and that’s when our real journey started. Reaching milestone after milestone. She started first grade this year!


I found a sign language book at the store at the mall (remember when they had them) and started teaching her myself. At that point, no one official accepted she was deaf. Later, we switched to cued speech. That was on us, too. It was a very rocky road before diagnosis (thanks, Arlington Hearing Resources!)


I let go of the idea of what a “normal” child should be.


I accepted it immediately so that I could move forward and educate myself for my child, as denial gives no benefit to anyone. However, I have experienced several evolutions of understanding and ways of guiding my child, since there is no one resource or guide that applies to all deaf/hoh, or their attitude towards deaf culture. It is ALL on us as parents, that’s for sure… Educators and deaf culture can’t come together, and it is a terribly sad thing.


Honestly, not sure if I have fully accepted it yet. Going on three years now. I am waiting for the day to talk about it without crying. Y’all give me hope I will one day be able to fully and truly accept it.


I realized that I accepted my child’s deaf/hard of hearing journey when I had connected with parents and families, deaf adults and providers to learn from and feel supported. Transformational learning can not be done in isolation.


When she became “okay” with it. She got her hearing aids in the 3rd grade and was excited. Until the 5th grade…seeing her struggle with self esteem and not socializing hurt me to the core. She is now 15…growing in self advocacy confidence is returning…she wears her aids with no problem and is beginning to make d/hoh friends thru the camps she attended this summer.


When I was told she was hard of hearing.  It didn’t make a difference to me.


Well I have a twin brother who is profoundly deaf. My oldest son, we knew something was up around 2 months old they didn’t do newborn screen then. I accepted it right away, maybe because I grew up with it.When I was pregnant with my daughter we were prepared either way she is fine. Then there’s my 9 year old, we knew the second I found out he was a boy I knew he would have a hearing loss just not sure how bad.He was miss diagnosed 2 times before it came back moderate hearing loss.He also had severe speech delay with it my oldest never had speech problems.


I realized I had accepted my child’s hard of hearing journey when I could tell our story to other parents and not cry, but smile because the journey had made us so much stronger.


When I realized my strong, intelligent, beautiful girl; full of personality, can do anything anyone else can. Straight A’s and headed to the 7th grade! Proud mama.


I realized that I accepted my two sons’ deaf journey when I made friends with deaf adults and learned that it was all going to work out. I now consider their deafness to be my greatest gift. I have grown in ways that I never dreamed were possible.


My son was diagnosed when he was three. H&V, you all are great, and helped us to understand what we were going thru. I miss you all .


When my child was able to ask for help via sign language (at 10 months).


My husband is partially deaf (50% without hearing aids, 80% with), so we always knew it was a possibility. For my daughter, after her hearing test at age three. She had already failed the newborn screening, and had had two inconclusive ABRs. My son was as soon as he was born. Failed his newborn screening, but does have better hearing than my daughter.


I realized that God had blessed us!


I realized I accepted my daughter’s Deah/HOH journey when I met and got to know happy, well-adjusted, self-confident & successful d/hh adults who were willing to share their stories & culture, and also connected with parents who were supportive & knowledgeable. This process of acceptance & honoring continues today as I get to experience her as a happy, successful, self-confident mother & professional who is bi-lingual/bi-cultural.


It took me like six years to accept that he was hard of hearing and in the seventh year, my girl was born with the same problem and for me it was very hard, she is 4 years old and the boy 10. and I think I have not accepted it completely, I still wonder why?


Me tomo como 6 años, aceptarque el tenia perdida de audición bilateral y al séptimo año nació mi niña con el mismo problema y para mi fue muy duro, ella tiene 4 años, y el niño, 10 años. Creo que no lo he aceptado completamente, aún me pregunto por que?


He was one day old and failed two newborn hearing screenings. God gave me this beautiful little soul and made him how he saw fit. It’s my job to join him on this journey and help him any way that I can. My baby can do ANYTHING he sets his mind to.


I had an official diagnosis.


I could mention it to other people without breaking down and bawling my eyes out. It’s still a tough pill to swallow but it’s getting easier, but I still wonder why it happened. Now I just worry about the bullying I’m afraid he’s going to receive growing up (kids are mean).


I just wanted to share with you about my hearing parents . My hearing parents wanted me to be like other hearing peers . She (my mom) wanted me to manage and communicate better in the hearing World. She wanted me to hear and speak better in order to communicate via hearing people . I understand and respect their wishes . I can not change their views and opinions . They’re my mom and dad …


EHDI (Early intervention) did not exist when my daughter was born. That being said, once we had the diagnosis I was relieved, but not surprised as there is a history of deafness in our family. We charged onward. My daughter is very strong, independent, proud, beautiful Deaf woman who dreams big!


I realized it when I began to meet other families with children who were both deaf and hard of hearing. Seeing how “normal” they were and how they did everything else hearing children do. Once I let go of feeling embarrassed, to be open about it. I’m so proud of my deaf daughter. I love educating people who ask me. It makes me feel empowered and honored to be her mama.  Plus, I’ve met the most amazing families along this journey and when I think about if it weren’t for my daughter I might not know any of them…wow. I am so lucky!


Right before our appointment where the audiologist confirmed hearing loss… (12.5 months) after 12 months and roughly 6 audiology visits, two ENT visits, and starting Early start a couple months prior, I realized how sad I would be if she was determined to have normal levels and we would be kicked out of the program we loved so much with all of our DHH infant friends. Def made it easier to face the other challenges that came our way.


I don’t know. When she got accepted to Gallaudet?
Seriously though, about a week after diagnosis. I come from a family peppered with Deaf people. I knew the old realities, but man, so much has changed.


I realized that I accepted my son’s hard of hearing journey when he began to wear his hearing aids without being asked to. When he began to realize he needed them, I knew it was a real deal!


…when a family member said “he won’t have to wear his hearing aid all the time, will he? Like in photos?”

…when others’ lack of acceptance becomes your moment of acceptance!!


I went to my first Michigan Hands and Voices conference and met so many others from infancy to adults who thrive each day. I knew that my son thrives in his own way.

 

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Resources for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Mentors, Guides, and Role Models

September 11, 2018

Resources for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults Who Serve Families:

Family Leadership in Language and Learning (FL3)

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Guidelines:

These guidelines are intended to offer suggestions for EHDI systems as to recommended practices in provision of D/HH mentor/guide/role model services to families/children.

http://handsandvoices.org/fl3/fl3-docs/DHH-Guidelines.pdf

Interviews with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults and Other Resources:
Families can explore these links with a wealth of diverse perspectives through stories, articles, websites and research on this page.

http://handsandvoices.org/fl3/topics/dhh-involvement/resources.html

The Importance of Families Connecting With Deaf/Hard of Hearing Adults
An interview with Janet Des Georges, Executive Director of Hands & Voices and Karen Putz, Co-Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infusion exploring the idea of meeting a D/HH adult who is different from your child.

http://handsandvoices.org/fl3/topics/dhh-involvement.html

 

Language, Literacy, and Social Development:

When a child is identified as deaf or hard of hearing, surrounding the family with multiple levels of support throughout a child’s journey to language, literacy, and social-emotional development adds to positive outcomes. This section covers websites, research, and resources.
http://handsandvoices.org/fl3/topics/lang-lit-soc.html

Communication Considerations: What Role Can Adults Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing Play

Family-to-Family Support
Parents who are just beginning the journey can be supported and learn from parents with lived experiences of the joys and challenges of raising a child who is deaf or hard of hearing. There is something incredibly unique and important in receiving support from other parents and families who have children that are deaf or hard of hearing and have “been there.”
This section covers support opportunities and resources, including links to other parent organizations:
http://handsandvoices.org/fl3/topics/fam-fam-support.html

Hands & Voices Facebook Groups:
D/HH Guides: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DHHGuides/
D/HH Guides, Role Models, and Mentors: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DHHMentorsGuidesRoleModels
Military Families: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HandsVoicesMilitarySupport
D/HH Plus: https://www.facebook.com/groups/deafhardofhearingplus
O.U.R. Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HVOurChildren/
Unilateral Hearing Loss: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HVUnilateral

The National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM)
NCHAM has conducted a nationwide survey to gather information about programs that involve D/HH adults as role models, guides and/or Deaf Mentors in the EHDI system and beyond.
For a state-by-state list of D/HH Adult programs:

http://infanthearing.org/dhhadultinvolvement/states/index.html

NCHAM Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adult Involvement Learning Community:
http://infanthearing.org/dhhadultinvolvement/d-hh-learning-community-home.html

Publications Related to Deaf Mentor Programs: https://www.infanthearing.org/webinars/docs/deaf-mentor-summary.pdf

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The Cornerstone of Parent Choice

April 2, 2018
Most recently, we have been asked to clarify our position on parent choice. Supporting parents in making their own informed choices for the child they know best is central to everything we do.
 
The Cornerstone of Parent Choice
By Karen Putz,
Co-Director of Deaf/Hard of Hearing Infusion
Hands & Voices
 
In my very first job right out of college, I informally took on the role of being a mentor to a family with a toddler who was deaf. I had no formal training, other than my own experience of growing up hard of hearing, becoming deaf as a teen, and learning American Sign Language shortly after. That first experience of working with families was so enjoyable for both the family and for me that I began to get calls from more and more families. I happily provided mentoring support, even though my primary job was structured toward independent living for teens and adults.
 
Then I got a call that would change my life and eventually lead me formally down the path of parent support…
 
A mom called to ask for support services and resources. She had just found out her six-month old daughter was deaf. I debated whether to take the appointment, for I had just turned in my resignation letter to stay home with my own newborn baby. Since the family lived near my home, I took the appointment.
david and aubrey
I ended up mentoring that family on my own out of sheer passion for the work. We held sign classes in her home and the neighbors joined in. We mentored other families together. In an ironic twist, this mom was also there to support me when my toddler became profoundly deaf two years later. It was that moment that my journey became personal–now I was the mom of a deaf kid. Everything shifted in the way I provided support from that point on, because I was now walking down the parenting path with my own experiences. My husband and I were now facing the process of choices and decisions we had to make for our child (and the two that followed).
 
And that changed everything.
 
As a parent, we are responsible for all kinds of decisions for our children. My husband and I soon learned that NOT making a decision was a decision in itself–and we had to own the consequences of that path as well.
 
In 2004, I stumbled upon Hands & Voices while putting together a website for parents in Illinois. The minute I read the description of the organization, I knew it was a fit for our family.
 
Who are we? We are parents of ASL signers, cued speech users…. parents of kids with cochlear implants or total communicators… we are people who have common interests connected through the community of deafness. Hands & Voices is a safe place to explore options, get unemotional support (although we can be emotional about it!), learn from one another and share what we have in common. We value diversity and honor the role of parents and family as the single greatest factor in raising a WASK (our favorite acronym: Well-Adjusted Successful Kid).
 
“There is room in the community of deafness for an organization like Hands & Voices, and in fact, I think parents, and even many professionals, have been crying out for a group like this,” says Leeanne Seaver, Board member. “Somehow parents connecting to other parents provides an element of credibility; there’s a level of ‘knowing & feeling’ that only a parent experiences. And parents, especially parents of babies newly identified with deafness or hearing loss, need a way to connect like this without being wary of a sponsoring agenda from a service provider.”
 
Hands & Voices is a nonprofit, parent-driven organization dedicated to supporting families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. We are non-biased about communication methodologies and believe that families can make the best choices for their child if they have access to good information and support.
 
Everything about the organization matched what I felt was most needed. Parent choice. Support for diverse communication options. Coming together for common causes. Support by parents for parents on the parenting journey.
putz kids 2
It is now many years later; my kids are now young adults. I’ve been a board member, a founder of a state Hands & Voices chapter (along with the parent I previously mentored), and I am now working as staff. Through the years, we’ve remained steadfast in our mission and vision to provide support to parents on the journey. We work with a diverse group of parents from all walks of life and all different stages of their journey.
 
From time to time, we are asked for our position on a variety of topics. Most recently, we have been asked to clarify our position on parent choice. Supporting parents in making their own informed choices for the child they know best is central to everything we do. When it comes to the parent’s right to choose, we stand firmly behind this concept:
 
Parents not only have the right to choose language and communication modality for their child who is deaf or hard of hearing, they have the ethical, legal and moral obligation to do so. Furthermore, the research proves that the single greatest indicator of a DHH child’s eventual success—regardless of which mode or method of communication is used—is the meaningful involvement of his or her parents. The goal is to make that involvement authentic, effective and informed by the wisdom that so many have to share from direct experience…parent-to-parent, deaf or hard of hearing adult to parent, and professional to parent.
 
putz kids
The parenting journey is filled with twists and turns. As a mom of three kids, I’ve experienced this firsthand. As a Deaf Mentor in early intervention, I’ve had the honor of being a part of a family’s journey often from the beginning. As a staff person with Hands & Voices, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a variety of families negotiating this journey around the world. I’ve seen it time and time again–even in the midst of difficult situations and trying times–there’s so much more that unites us than divides us. We must continue to focus on the common goal: building an informed community surrounding parents so they can nurture the seed of potential in every child.
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Rana Ottallah: Finding My Way Home

March 26, 2018

I have attended two Hands & Voices Leadership conferences and my first Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) conference. There is no place on earth that felt like home than those three conferences.

Being a parent of Deaf/Hard of hearing child, with strong beliefs and convictions–is a lonely place. Single motherhood is a lonely place, strong advocacy for Deaf and Hard of hearing children is a lonely place, being a female community leader is a lonely place. All of these roles come with lots of emotional pressures, and the pressure to look strong and capable all the time. Educated , informed, calm, collected , on top of your game, and prepared for any and all changes of plans–at each and every setting.

The weight of responsibilities on my shoulders gets heavier and heavier by the day–I feel emotionally and physically drained. I feel lonely,and on my own. Nobody gets it or understands it.

Moms of Hands and Voices

The first time I attended a Hands & Voices Leadership conference, I met other parents and listened to their stories, I felt complete, whole and at Home. I wasn’t alone anymore. I felt the warmth of home surrounded by mothers like me, experiencing the same emotions and feeling similar pressure

moms of hands and voices 2

Things came into prospective and the vision became much clearer when I listened to other mothers tell their stories, share milestones, and share emotional highs and lows.

I realized that it is okay to feel down, overwhelmed, frustrated, but it’s not okay to feel alone when I am a member of the Hands & Voices home. There are hundreds of Hands & Voices mothers and leaders out there who get it, understand it, and are available to pull me up when I am down, wipe my  tears when I cry, and cheer me up when I feel helpless and frustrated.

I no longer feel alone, I found my way home.

parents of hands and voices

A home filled with Hands & Voices warmth, support, and unconditional love and understanding of parents and family struggles.

I am emotionally charged and ready for whatever comes my way. I am headed to my smaller home a better mom, stronger advocate, and more capable community leader with so much to give and so much to share.

Thank you Hands & Voices for bringing me home.

 

Rana Ottallah

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On Death and Dying–And Deaf and Hard of Hearing Kids

January 23, 2018

IMG_5993

When my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I didn’t give it much thought. The prognosis was very good and the treatment was quick. My three deaf and hard of hearing kids were pretty young at that point and I actually waited to share the news until their grandpa was well into treatment. There were a few questions which I answered and life went on.

The second time around, my dad was diagnosed with Stage II Esophageal cancer. This time, the kids were teens. So from day one, they were involved and informed. We were optimistic that the cancer could be contained. My dad, a former Marine and World War II vet, approached chemotherapy like a war and hunkered down for the fight. The following year, a PET scan and blood work came back with good news: the cancer was in remission.

It didn’t last long.

When we arrived at the point when the doctor gently suggested hospice care, my siblings and I were all still deep into denial. Even after the hospice care nurse left, we figured hospice was something “down the road much later.”

Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. It’s a coping mechanism that kicks in when you’re not ready to face what’s happening in front of you.

So we kept paddling down that river. Of course, I didn’t tell my kids what we were facing, because I was deep into denial myself. My dad was in a wheelchair at this point and we had a hospital bed set up in the family room.

The kids started asking questions to which I had no answers for.

Is he dying?

Will he get better?

How long will it take for him to be able to walk again? 

When my brother and I took my dad to the doctor, reality finally hit. I cornered the doctor in his office and asked him how much time we had left.

“I don’t think it’s days or weeks, but maybe…months.”

Yes, reality hit.

The only way to tell the kids was to gently but clearly tell them the news. I don’t even remember how or what I said, I just remember the sad looks on their faces as the reality hit them too. They had never experienced the death of anyone close to them and this was all new.

As painful as it was to see my own kids grieve and cry, I stopped trying to be the “strong one” and just broke down too.  Expressing what you feel is an important part of loss. Our greatest danger with handling the emotional pain comes from stuffing it inside and pushing it away. Deaf and hard of hearing kids–any kids–need to see what we feel. The healthy thing to do is to feel every aspect of it–let it out, let it flow. Go into the pain, instead of away from it. When kids see their parents handling life from a place of raw emotion with recovery, they too, learn that it’s okay to feel, to express, to reflect.

One of the most helpful things for my kids to get through the loss of Grandpa was to reflect on their best and funniest moments with him. We sat and shared stories. We also talked about the dark times as well. Anything and everything was on the table to be asked. Of course, depending on the ages of your kid/s, you’ll need to adjust your language in a way they can understand and process.

Keep it simple.

Keep it truthful.

Death and dying tends to be a subject we want to dance around. Instead, be upfront with your kids–see it as part of the celebrating of life, the imprint of one soul on this earth.

dad dying

 

Karen Putz is the Co-Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infusion at Hands & Voices. karen@handsandvoices.org 

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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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Hands & Voices Leadership Conference 2017: Cultural Perspectives

October 10, 2017

HV Panel

Panel Session: Engaging Families and Leaders in a Diverse World

This year the Hands & Voices Leadership Conference brought cultural diversity to the table. A group of seven women, moms and clinicians whose cultural heritage represents many corners of the world, participated in a discussion panel.

Cultural diversity is a topic we need to discuss so we can better serve families from different cultural backgrounds. Culture is the integrated pattern of learned beliefs and behaviors (Nunez, 2006; Betancourt, 2003). It explains how we view and value the world. It is influenced by socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, occupation, etc. (2006, 2003). Culture is the way we think, act, and interact with others. People from the same race do not necessarily share the same culture. As service providers, we should practice, grow and master our cultural competence skills. Cultural competence allows us to determine the social and cultural influences in a person’s health beliefs and behaviors. It is the ability to interact with people who are different than ourselves (Nunez, 2006, Dy, 2011).

In the following paragraphs, parent-guides/panel participants discuss key aspects to keep in mind when serving our Hands & Voices families:

Different cultures have different reactions to a diagnosis of hearing loss. Those reactions influence how and when we seek support. As parent-guides we can help families access support services sooner rather than later if we can connect with them and understand where they are in their own journey.

Our Connection: As parent-guides serving families from different cultures, we need to keep in mind that there is a common connection between us and the DHH families that we serve, and that the connection is the common diagnosis. This is an unbreakable bond that will open the door for us to serve and support those families. Language and translations: Language barriers also create challenges. Terms in English may not reflect the same meaning in different languages. Families need to understand exact terminology, be able to share the correct information, and exchange viewpoints about their child’s care to ensure a clear understanding of the decisions they make on behalf of their children. Are we connecting families with similar backgrounds so that they can feel a sense of familiarity especially at a time when everything is new and unknown?

Family preferences: We need to understand where each family is in their own journey. Find out about the families’ view of hearing loss, and support them accordingly. For instance, after the diagnosis some families are comfortable jumping in and starting an action plan. However, other families may need time to absorb, digest, and understand what their child’s diagnosis means to them and how they choose to approach the decisions they need to make regarding their child’s language acquisition, education, and even medical or professional treatment. It is important to provide a wide variety of opportunities for engagement. Small intimate gatherings are just as effective as big social events. Educational opportunities both virtual and real-time can bring important information. Resources should be accessible at a time that is convenient for families. We need to keep our hand on the pulse of the family when it comes to introducing new supports, like a deaf mentor, support group, family activities, etc.

Extended Families: Extended large families also play a role in many cultures and may impact how we support certain families. As members of Hands & Voices, we already know that it takes a village to raise a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child. It is important to think about grandparents’ or other family members’ views on deafness or Hard of Hearing, and how we can include and involve them in our efforts to serve and educate their families.

Asking for help: Things may get difficult, and the tools that we have may not be sufficient for supporting some diverse families. At Hands & Voices, we have members from different cultural backgrounds. Reaching out to them may help parent-guides discover new resources or learn different options on how to better support a specific family. We should all keep in mind that asking for help and resources does not make us lesser advocates or guides, because all parent-guides face many challenges serving families from a different culture than theirs

We should pay close attention to each family’s dynamics and preferences, be aware of cultural influences, and offer our support accordingly. We are not alone. We all are constantly navigating others’ beliefs and behaviors. Finally, we should ask for help when in doubt, or if we think we are running short of resources. We are here to help each other help more families succeed.

 

Thank you to Rana Ottallah & Rosabel Agbayani parent-guides for their input in writing this summary. Thank you to all the panel participants for the content of this summary: Apryl Chauhan (CA), Yiesell Rayon (HQ,CA), Janet DesGeorges(HQ), Djenne-amal Morris (HQ), Rana Ottallah (LA), Rosabel Agbayani (CA), and Alejandra Ullauri (IL).

References:

Betancourt, J.R. (2003). Cross-Cultural Medical Education: Conceptual Approaches and Frameworks for Evaluation. Academic Medicine, 78(6), 560-569.

Dy, C.J., Nelson, C.L. (2011). Diversity, Cultural Competence, and Patient Trust. Clinical Orthop Related Research 469, 1878-1882.

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