Posts Tagged ‘ASL’

From Bystander to Believer: My journey as a Hearing Mother

April 17, 2017

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I am a hearing wife of a Deaf man and a hearing mother of four children, three of whom are Deaf. I was born in a hearing family with all hearing siblings. Although I learned a bit of sign language, and even performed a song in sign at my 8th grade graduation, I had never met a deaf person.

When I was fourteen, my sister, who was just two years older then I, was losing her hearing. She saw an audiologist, who gave her hearing aids, but my wise mother knew that there was something more, something better for her. She found a program for the deaf and my sister switched schools, started learning ASL, and using an interpreter. I didn’t want to be left behind! I started learning and my sister would ‘help’ me by not using her hearing aids on weekends and forcing me to sign with her.

Learning ASL led me to involvement in the ASL community; however I was reluctant to become fully involved. In college, I was a little bit involved with the deaf community and decided that I wanted to teach deaf children.  I became a huge advocate for Bi-lingual/ Bi-cultural education and looked forward to teaching. In my naivete, I said I believed deaf people could do anything hearing people do. I was convinced that I really believed it too.

In my senior year of college, I met my husband who was the ASL lab instructor. We started dating and just after graduating, married. When he felt moments of discouragement regarding his success in life, I encouraged him. I believed he could do anything he wanted to. . . except run a business of his own. His experience was in construction and that’s where he wanted to start out. Eventually he wanted to do something big that would inspire deaf youth to succeed.

The first few years of marriage were rocky as I finished my degree and started teaching and he ran into difficulties finding a steady job in construction. After much thought, he decided to go back to school, major in history and become a teacher.  I was secretly relieved that the big talk of starting a business had stopped. I knew he would be a wonderful teacher, and he had a passion for that. It would also provide us with a steady income. That’s what I needed.

Our first child was born and I worked full time while my husband attended school. My son was hearing and began signing at six months of age. We were a happy family.

Then, my second son was born deaf. No big deal, I thought. I still thought I believed that deaf children, and deaf adults, could succeed and do whatever they wanted. I had no idea how it (his birth) would shake my beliefs and my marriage.

My mind filled with questions and doubt.

What if he doesn’t want me as his mom because I’m hearing?

What if I don’t know how to teach him to read?

What if he never learns to read above the 4th grade reading level?

What if he says he wants to be a fireman?

How do I best support him?

Should he get hearing aids?

Should I make sure he has speech?

If he can talk, won’t he have a better chance at success in the future?

Only a parent understands the dreams and desires her or she has for her children. Only a parent can understand the gravity of having those dreams crushed. It’s natural for someone who gives birth to a child who is different than herself to grieve. But I was the hearing wife of a Deaf man! The hearing sister of a Deaf adult! The teacher of d/hh children! What was my problem? Didn’t I believe my child could do anything he wanted to?

I realized that as much as I had thought I ‘believed’ in the Deaf individual, it just wasn’t true. As much as I thought I had been truly accepted and enculturated into the Deaf community, I felt alienated. I was only a bystander after all.

After going through the grief and seeing a counselor who understood Deaf culture; making decisions and moving forward as a hearing mom of a Deaf child, I had nagging thoughts. Nagging, negative thoughts that would come to me as my little boy grew. They didn’t disappear as my 3rd child was born: a Deaf girl. In fact, they probably became a little worse.

I remember my son telling me, “I want to be a fireman someday.”  That was a moment when I put on a face without expression and said, “Ok! That’s awesome.” However, inside, my nagging mind was posing questions the whole time: They won’t let him be a fireman! He’s deaf! He can’t hear! How can he become a fireman? You are feeding him false hope! STOP! He also said he wanted to become a policeman or a soldier. I felt all of these jobs were impossible.

It was during this time that my husband began to dream again. He was in his Master’s program and doing a research project on Deaf Culture and History. He wanted to develop a poster that would show the world that Deaf individuals can and DO succeed, in many different careers. He finished that poster, (link “that poster” to www.deafsense.com/store)  featuring 48 deaf individuals in 48 different career pathways. To my amazement I saw on the poster a Deaf fireman, a Deaf police officer, and a Deaf ROTC participant. What? My mind went into shock. It couldn’t be. My husband must be wrong.

So I did my own research. I found that not only was he correct, but that these men weren’t the only ones who were changing the career field for my son. There were 50 documented firemen who were d/hh. There were other d/hh men who were serving on a police force. The ROTC participant is still lobbying to change the laws to where d/hh people could serve in non- combat positions.

At this same time, I began to go through a personal transformation. I began to see that I, with my bystander beliefs, was holding my husband, and my children, back from succeeding. It wasn’t his deafness that was holding him back; it was his insecurities coupled with my insecurities and beliefs that we couldn’t succeed in achieving our dreams.

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The world today teaches us to settle for less than what we might want to achieve. The world says go to school, get a job, settle down, the end. Our hearts, deaf or hearing, tell us differently. They tell us to set our expectations high and go for them through whatever challenges beset us.

The truth is, we all have challenges we must overcome. As parents, as spouses, we have a huge impact on what our loved ones will attempt to achieve in their lives. Will we stand by, allowing ourselves to be bystanders because we are hearing? Will we give into the nagging thoughts and beliefs that life is hard, and that there are only certain jobs a deaf person can do, and our children just won’t be able to achieve their dreams?

Or can we reach into our hearts and find true belief? Can we open our minds to the possibility that others are changing the dynamics in the career world and that what may not have been possible only years before, just might be as our children grow? Can we begin to see that, in reality, it has always been possible?

Can we see that we can become believers? And through believing, inspire those around us to become believers too?

Come follow us at www.deafsense.com where we believe everyone can and should succeed!

Lynell Smith

 

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Karla Giese: My Life in Full Circle

March 22, 2017

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For me, being deaf is a way of life.  I was born hearing, and began losing my hearing as an infant.  My parents couldn’t get a proper diagnosis until I was almost two and then I was fitted with hearing aids.  My parents chose to raise me with an emphasis on spoken language, using speech therapy, hearing aids, and FM systems while being educated in the mainstream setting. My hearing became progressively worse and I became profoundly deaf by the time I was nine years old.

At that point, relying only on auditory information started becoming more and more difficult. By fifth grade, I began learning sign language and using an interpreter, which continued through high school and college.  I went to college and earned my BA in Deaf Education, Elementary Education, and Special Education.  I moved to the Chicago suburbs and began my teaching career working with deaf students who also had emotional & behavioral disorders and I learned a LOT about behavior management. At the same time, I began working in Early Intervention and became credentialed as a Developmental Therapist-Hearing (DTH).  Over the years, I went back to school to get my Masters in Early Childhood Special Education and have taught in a variety of schools including residential, self-contained, resource room, and itinerant services.  I had the opportunity to start moving into more administrative roles in the schools as a Curriculum Coordinator, Assistant to the Principal, and am now Director of Student Support Services in a Montessori School that has an embedded Cued Speech program.  In addition, I am also the Coordinator of CHOICES for Parents, a statewide parent support program for families of deaf and hard of hearing children.  Plus, I’m pursuing my doctorate degree in Special Education with a concentration in Deaf Education.  I am very interested in parent support, early intervention, language acquisition and literacy.

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I married a hearing man and together we have four beautiful children, all hearing.  However, two of them have been involved in the early intervention system and have had IEPs in the mainstream setting.  I feel like I’ve come full circle in my life in that I’ve experienced all educational settings and communication modalities, both professionally and personally.  I also feel like I’ve been on all sides of the table at the IEP, as a student, parent, teacher, advocate, and administrator.  

My personal and professional experiences lead me to the point that I most often emphasize when I work with families of deaf and hard of hearing children: when your needs change, your choices can change too!  Too often, people get stuck on one way to do things.  If something isn’t working, why not explore something new?  If something is working, why not add something new?  Because I can talk, sign, and cue, I have met so many different people and have had my life enriched in so many ways.  I am able to be a part of the hearing world, Deaf community and Cued Speech community.  There is no one size fits all.  There never has been!  What works for your family is what works for you and your child.  Keep an open mind and be willing to explore Sign Language, ASL, spoken language, and Cued Speech options!

 

 

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Veditz: Online Classes for Families with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

March 6, 2017

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Born in the City of New York – The Bronx.

I was born hearing and had an ear infection that triggered hearing loss and raised in the city of The Bronx in one-bedroom apartment with just my mother–that has always been my story. I’ve always seen and knew how half of us as New York City residents struggle economically, make ends meet just barely, if at all, and most of us always feel this sharp uncertainty about the future, at least, it was for me growing up. For one, I was born to Deaf parents who moved to America from Puerto Rico. Both families were poor as my father’s side works as the landlord of a project apartment in the South area of the Bronx. My mother’s side is from the military.  Both of my deaf parents met each other at an oral school called “P.S. 47” public school in Manhattan. Both of my parents’ families speak Spanish. Come to think of this… imagine all of the communication, language barrier and not to mention, different cultures all combined in one family when both of my parents married each other. But, after turning one-year-old and my older sister, Jasmine, who is also deaf, at age five, both of my parents separated then eventually divorced. 

 

Life as of the Hard-of-Hearing Child and How I Unconsciously Code-Switch Two Languages and Modalities.

When I lost my hearing at 18 months old due to an ear infection. I had residual hearing that wearing a hearing aid, for me, is like from hearing completely nothing – no sounds to hearing absolutely everything! I embraced hearing and speaking. I loved going to speech classes during my school days. I’d sing like how I recorded my own voice signing in the speech classroom all by myself, now imagine those who really heard me singing across the elementary hallway!

But, when I didn’t want to hear… it was always my advantage, to have the choice to turn off my hearing aid, hear no sound, be completely deaf.  

 

What resource I had growing up as a city young girl, I could call my parents through the Telecommunication Relay Service (TRS), which is actually through the relay operator who would voice and translate in English for my parents via TTY. Also, I remember how almost all the time, I would be called to interpret for my older sister and parents at appointments, restaurants, movie theatres, many more. I also remember how my parents always said the youngest child “hard-of-hearing” and “very, very smart who can speak very well” when introducing me and my older sister to other people (poor my sister of having to grow up being compared to my abilities). So, all my growing years, I have always talked with my voice and sign but little did I know it is what we call “code switching”. I now understand why using both language at the same time is always a challenge because both language have different grammatical functions and rules. Therefore, the influence of speaking values that my deaf parents from their spilled over to how they raised me and my sister. Looking back, it is, indeed quite interesting that I do not see this life experience of an interesting mix of values in both worlds – hearing and deaf, as a bad thing but has become a resource for me in what I can use every day, especially, with my four CODA children and, of course, my love for music, always!

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Love for Music & Discovering ASL/Deaf Culture – Understanding & Navigating Both Worlds.

Since I mentioned my love for music. For me, music has always hold a connection to sound because I can hear, appreciate the sound of music, which grew that inner value for sound the of music. I love to listen to music (over many times), read lyrics to make connections and sign the words without realizing what it means to translate into a conceptually accurate in ASL. I also love to dance!

I knew many songs that were back in 80’s and 90’s, which were songs that are easier to follow compared to our music nowadays. The more I learn about ASL as its own language, I realized it a challenge to translate the actual meaning when signing a song because there are many different ways that depend on meaning. Then, we have to consider how words are interpreted and expressed in order to successfully deliver the same way from one language to another.

During college, I studied to be a Social Worker and the more I learned about my identity, who I really am and how I discovered ASL and Deaf culture through courses and workshops I attended. That alone, opened my eyes to the world of a human being I am. Many cultural and language conflicts in terms of how we use of ASL became a clear structure of how two languages that I equally value has stronger influence with how we bend both cultures into our way of life and because that’s how we all learn to evolve to be who we all are as individuals.  

                        

Professional Journey as a Deaf Educator and Leader.

As soon as I graduated Gallaudet University with my Bachelors in Social Work. I went back to New York City for one year working as the Deaf Service Coordinator at the Bronx Independent Services. I also had a part-time job as a G.E.D. instructor for LaGuardia Community College. That’s when I found my love for teaching, which then I went back to school, studied and received my Masters in Deaf Education. I was also working night shifts as a residential counselor for high school deaf students.  After having my 3 boys in two years as I had a set of twins after my first born being at 20 months old.

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I accepted a position as the Co-Director/ASL Lead Faculty of the ASL/Interpreting Preparation Program in Denver, Colorado. There, I learned so much more about the culture, language, history of our community and how we, the deaf people, are outsiders of the hearing society. I also learned how we all are raised with different backgrounds and education experience that brings the uniqueness even more in the Deaf community that’s within the larger community in the hearing world.

 

During my 5 years living in Texas, I was employed as parent infant program teacher at Texas School for the Deaf in Austin before I landed a Director position with the Gallaudet University Regional Center – Southwest when it first opened and based in Austin Community College. Five years later, I was offered the K-12 Principal position at Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind in Colorado Springs. After years of teaching and administrating in the education field and do an extensive outreach work at the center, I knew there is still a serious huge gap in the connection of our people, our community and the resources that we must access to but I didn’t have any answer to this huge issue that deeply impacts every deaf individual.

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  Three years ago, during the National Academic Bowl at Gallaudet University, I sat next to Karen Putz. I brought up my concerns about deaf and hard of hearing students who were showing severe delays with language and learning. During our conversation, I remember vividly how Karen was very straightforward about lack of centralized information and resources for parents with deaf children. Karen also mentioned how serious of a problem that is if we (Deaf and Hard of Hearing adults) continue to not be connected to those hearing parents with deaf children, we will continue to have challenges now that 98% of deaf children have hearing parents.

 

In other terms, we must change how we do things. That conversation never left my mind because I already knew and believed that as a huge and serious gap, which impacts many, many deaf children and how they live life and ultimately, become a productive adult that may come to question. It’s the connection. Fast forward. Three years has passed. Karen and I reunited at the Hands and Voice Leadership Conference in Estes Park, Colorado discussing about Veditz, a solution I created for deaf and hard of hearing children and their families! Veditz is the first online, mobile, on-demand and live interactive video chat tutoring platform for the deaf and hearing who wants to learn ASL or are simply visual learners regardless of where they are or what device they’re using – PC, Mac, Chromebook, or Apple iOS or Android smartphone or tablet devices! Deaf students, including, deaf and hearing people can now get tutoring in many subjects (math, science, ASL, and more!) with tutoring delivered in ASL online in your home! Teachers, professionals, students, parents and their children can use Veditz for FREE to find ASL practice partners and then meet up online on Veditz’ secured platform and conduct live video peer-to-peer ASL practice with each other.

 

Also, when a child needs help in Algebra, English writing, ASL or something else, Veditz and our hundreds of tutors are at your service. Since our tutors tutor in ASL, it saves costs on having to hire a tutor and interpreter, plus it maximizes quality of tutoring time. Also, come and learn more about our vision on building a Khan-Academy-like for the Deaf similar to our ASL Math Academy is currently featured on our website for free! When Deaf students want an answer in ASL not just English? Our FREE ASL Math Academy has dozens of videos signed in ASL with English CC on Arithmetic, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry and more!

 

Embracing Life as a Deaf Mother Raising 4 CODAs

In between my career journey after having my baby boy, Caleb, I was hired as the High School Social Studies teacher at Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, Florida. I learned the value of student connection as a teacher and implement visual learning instructions. After the double “oops” surprise came on the day of 18-week sonogram, I was told that I was carrying twins! In 2005, we had fraternal twins, Tristan and Sebastian, when Caleb was only 20-month-old where many thought I had triplets! Certainly, at age 25, I was shocked but I embraced raising twins. I have learned so much raising my own twins. Evidently, I had my hands full that I decided to stayed home temporarily to raise 3 young boys before I went back to work.

                                                

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The Impact of Co-Founding Veditz

Leaving the principal job at Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind was not an easy decision yet best decision as the decision has blindly led me to co-founding Veditz! Like I mentioned, I always knew there is a way to fill such a severe gap of “connecting with others”. I never knew how or what it takes to develop such product because I knew it starts with a person with technology expertise to build a platform.

 

Veditz is going to create an opportunity to break the communication barriers that are often created between the parents and the deaf child. There is no comprehensive program available for learning how to communicate with their deaf child. Veditz is going to provide parents and their deaf children integrated and interactive learning product where is self-paced with practical lessons and activities parents can use as they develop other competences.

 As I briefly shared the evolving human identity that I am today as a deaf, woman, Puerto Rican, single mother of four children. I am fortunate that I have been given through different professional opportunities, to be a counselor, a service provider, a coordinator, a classroom teacher, a program administrator, a school administrator, an outreach/ambassador for a University where I will always use as resources and tools to continue navigate in the hearing world. Now that technology is here and sign language is a visual language, putting both together is what validated my deep desire, passion and understanding what it takes to happen for such product to connect, educate, and empower the world’s deaf community.

 

I am going to be who I am and I will use all tools and resources to live and merge in the hearing world as a deaf adult. My identity has evolved as I was once called “hard-of-hearing” child to simply being deaf. I have and will continue to embrace what it means to be deaf in this world. Most certainly, I will also embrace the gift of being a mother and raising four beautiful hearing children (CODAs).

 

          

 

 

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ASL at the Super Bowl: A Mother’s Request

March 4, 2016

Attachment-1 (1)Dear CBS:

I write to you as the hearing mother to my 4-year-old daughter Sarah who is Deaf. On Sunday evening my daughter, her father and grandparents were getting ready to watch the National Anthem prior to the Super Bowl. Why was she watching? Because last Tuesday the website for the National Association for the Deaf explained that Marlee Matlin would be performing the National Anthem in American Sign Language along with Lady Gaga. Here is the link to that announcement – https://nad.org/news/2016/2/nad-nfl-pepsico-and-cbs-announce-marlee-matlin-perform-asl-super-bowl-50. I do not have the statistics regarding how many people who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing were watching the Super Bowl on Sunday night. However, according to a Gallaudet University website, “Across all age groups approximately 600,000 people in the United States (0.22% of the population, or 2.2 per 1,000) are “deaf.”

We can assume with good reason that a great many people who are Deaf and use American Sign Language in order to fully access communication were watching the game and anticipated seeing Marlee Matlin’s performance. I watched it, and by my calculations she was on the screen for not longer than 2 seconds. This is unacceptable.

CBS has a civic responsibility to provide equal access to communication for all people. I know that the interpretation was on the Jumbotron during the entire performance but what about broadcast television? Surely, additional cameras could have been utilized to guarantee equal access to communication.

I have some confusion regarding why this situation has occurred in the first place. Yes, Lady Gaga is an international celebrity. People want to see her sing. I myself enjoy her performances. However, Marlee Matlin is also a very well-known celebrity and an Academy Award winning actor. She currently stars in the acclaimed television program ‘Switched at Birth’ and she recently starred in ‘Spring Awakenings’ on Broadway. Deaf and hearing people alike should have been given the opportunity to see her ASL interpretation during the Super Bowl.

I think our largely hearing society forgets or just does not realize that for smart, capable, educated people (like all of the Deaf people who I have met, been educated by and befriended since my daughter was born in March of 2011) American Sign Language is not just something that would be nice to see if it’s possible. It’s like spoken English for people who are hearing. It is purely and simply necessary in order for a full access to communication to take place.

CBS: you had an immense opportunity during the Super Bowl–an event with far reaching magnitude–to show my daughter and so many other children and adults who are Deaf that society recognizes them. All the cameras needed to do was shine their lights on both the singer who was performing in English and on the performer who was using ASL in a poetic and equally beautiful performance.

I hope that CBS can do better in the future. I hope that my daughter can begin to see more of herself in society. I believe that change and growth is possible and I hope that in the future we can bring that to fruition. I will be submitting this piece to other organizations in hopes of continuing a conversation that greatly needs a voice.

Thank you.

 

Sharon Lynn Clark

Mother, Teacher, Writer

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Jess Jacobsen-Buckley: The Impact of Positive Role Models for my Daughter

November 10, 2014

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I couldn’t shake the feeling there was something “wrong” with my daughter throughout my entire pregnancy. The ultrasounds and tests came back normal, but I still felt a nagging dread. In my last trimester, I had repeated bouts of preterm labor that lasted hours and hours and I was certain she just needed to come out…that she would be much safer in the world than in my womb. So when Ruby was born and repeatedly failed the newborn hearing screen, I was actually relieved. Hearing loss? That was it? We could handle that. She was healthy and beautiful and we could do everything in our power to arm her with all the tools she needed to be successful in spite of ears that weren’t fully functional. Once we had confirmation of the hearing loss we already knew in our hearts she had, we set out to prepare to help her in every way we could. We worked with the local school system and were matched with an incredible deaf educator who was an absolute gift in helping us navigate everything. We started learning and using sign language. We pursued amplification options. And she was thriving. By six months, she had started signing herself, and watching her communication flourish made my heart swell with pride. By a year, she was stringing several signs together.

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A few months after her first birthday, she would seem agitated and start looking around and signing “helicopter.” A few months after that, she started to frantically sign “helicopter ouch” and “helicopter out.” Desperate for an answer to what was troubling her, we took her to various audiologists and ENTs. Finally, when she was two-and-a-half, we learned a name for the sound she insisted she heard, but no one else did: tinnitus. We also learned that there was nothing we could do but distract her from it. A cochlear implant could also provide relief, but insurance would not provide coverage in her case. Around the same time, I clicked a link I saw on the Hands & Voices Facebook page I’d recently liked. It was a video of two young girls beautifully signing the lyrics of One Direction’s song “Story of my Life.” We’d just gotten an iPad and I pulled up the video to show Ruby. She was immediately enthralled. Ruby has never been one to sit still for long, but before the song had even fully ended, she signed “again.” She probably watched it ten times in a row. We soon realized it was exactly the distraction she needed when her ears were bothering her. And then she started asking for it on her own when the tinnitus was upsetting her. jess buckley 3

A couple months later, on a whim, I emailed the publishers of the video – two young girls named Ren and Keely – to thank them for making and posting what had become such a wonderful distraction for our daughter. Half-jokingly, I mentioned Ruby’s obsession with the song “Let It Go” from Frozen, and that she would love to see an ASL translation of that if they were ever looking for ideas. I was completely floored when I received a response back – just days before Ruby’s third birthday – that they loved the idea and planned to make a video. I still can’t quite believe that two teen girls would take the time to make a video in the freezing cold for a toddler they’d never met. Ruby has watched all of Ren and Keely’s videos more times than I can count. I joke that she’s probably responsible for at least a third of their nearly 200,000 views on the “Let It Go” video. As we’ve watched them together over and over (and over), it’s occurred to me that these videos are invaluable not just because they offer such a wonderful distraction for our daughter. I’ve noticed my little girl lighting up and excitedly pointing out the girls’ hearing aids and eagerly showing off the new signs she’s picked up. And I’ve realized that the videos showcase something I hadn’t thought of when I was preparing her toolkit: positive role models. Ren and Keely (and the umpteen other ASL song translators we’ve since found and watched repeatedly on youtube) have helped Ruby find beauty in what makes her “different.” They’ve made her proud of who she is. She looks up to them, and while she’s never met them, she considers them her friends. I knew it was important for Ruby to meet peers who were deaf and hard of hearing, but I hadn’t considered the impact connecting her to deaf and hard of hearing teens and adults would have.

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I’m so thankful for Hands and Voices and for all the incredible role models who serve as such wonderful inspiration for our family without ever knowing it. Jess Jacobsen-Buckley

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Marsha Peterson: No One was Dancing in the Delivery Room, Except Me

October 6, 2014

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“Well, it looks like he has Down syndrome”, said a medical professional I hadn’t met before. With Apgar scores of 2 then 5, no one was dancing in the delivery room. Well except for me, in my mind anyway.

When I attended my first support group for babies born with Down syndrome, I was told “at least we have a diagnosis from birth that we can work with”. Really? Little did I know that autism, silent aspirator, hypotonia and hard of hearing would all follow as his little life began.

At a year old, Chad’s special education teacher suggested we learn sign language. I remember her teaching him the sign for ‘more’ using a musical top. He learned the sign after three or four introductions because it meant more spinning and music from the toy. The teacher didn’t provide any further sign language lessons or instructions. My sister had a book on signs tucked away with her old college textbooks. She pulled it out and as best I could, we began learning ASL on our own.

Where to start? I thought since kids like animals, I’d start with that. My son would learn five to six signs every weekend – not bad since as a single parent, I was working 40 hours per week. He remembered the signs and before long, he was relying on them for his main mode of communication. This began to present a problem however. I noticed that if someone didn’t have signing skills, he wanted nothing to do with them. This brought about horrible behaviors if he wanted to communicate something and wasn’t understood. I suffered two black eyes, a bloody lip, holes in the walls, a broken window, etc, too numerous to mention. I was learning how important communication for a non-verbal baby is!

I started asking for caregivers with ASL skills and found one or two between personal care attendants and educators. Whenever I could match him with someone he could communicate with, behaviors went away. But not many people knew the language. I decided to go back to school and finish my bachelor’s degree. With a sales background, I thought I would get my degree in marketing. As the bachelor program was coming to completion, I was struggling with my son’s school to give him language. It was nine months of regular meetings, I developed an ulcer and I am sure I wasn’t the only person who fell ill that year. The school suggested a communication device or using Picture Exchange Communication (PEC) system. For the most part, Chad rejected these and preferred the spontaneity of ASL. My frustration was so great that I decided I didn’t want any parent to go through what I did with language development. I wanted to give parents a tool they could use starting at birth and would put them in charge of language learning. I decided to somehow use this as my marketing project for my degree. After a lot of research on babies, literacy and language, I created Talking with Baby and the first book, Come Sign with Us, the Adventures of Potts and Friends was written. (Potts was the nickname I had given my son) The book won a Mom’s Choice Award for educational products in 2010.

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Despite a slow start, my son had 400 signs by 4th grade, learned another 200 before entering 7th grade. We know he has well over 1000 signs today. Learning ASL has given my son language and confidence.

Teachers asked me what I wanted for my son’s future. I always answered, “Give him a language!” What greater fulfillment in life than to interact with others. He started a day training program last summer

and I’ve never seen him so happy. We love ASL.

 

Website:  Talking with Baby

Marsha Peterson

Iowa

 

 

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

March 24, 2014

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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:

http://d-pan.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/its-everybodys-music-volume-two

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.

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