Posts Tagged ‘support for parents’

How a Deaf Mentor Helped Our Family

July 25, 2018

We brought our boys home from Russia when they were 15 months old.  When they were 22 months old, Mark was diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss.  He was fitted with hearing aids a month later.  Mark is now a teenager.  I remember feeling completely overwhelmed. We had so many questions; will Mark learn to speak? Will he use sign language? How will he hear the phone? How will we teach him to read?  We had so many questions; And, so few answers.

 

After he was diagnosed, we started early intervention with bi-weekly speech lessons.  Each week we went to speech and we had little progress.  Because we believe that language is vital for toddlers, we began to inquire about sign language. No one could recommend a class or teacher for us. This process continued for about six months with no success and we all became more and more frustrated, especially Mark. No one was able to help us.

 

One day, at a local grocery store, a woman asked me about the cord holding Mark’s hearing aids on.  We began to talk and she informed me her son (who was not hearing impaired) used sign language to communicate because he had no spoken language.  I asked her how/where/who she used to learn sign language.  She gave me a name, Karen, and told me she was a “deaf mentor” and she said we should ask if we could get Karen’s services through early intervention.  We called our early intervention coordinator the next day.

 

Karen came to our house within days.   As it turns out, she is deaf.  Her husband is deaf. Her children are deaf. Finally, someone who could help us.  Someone who was able to teach us how to teach our child to be a successful person in a hearing world.   She came weekly to our home.  She came at all different times and began to teach us sign language. Her philosophy is to get language (any type-spoken or signed) into a child as soon as possible. Without language, children fall behind in every aspect of life.

 

She came when the boys ate lunch. She signed hot dogs, more, milk, cookie, green bean.  Simple words that helped language make sense to Mark.  She came before nap time and read books with us. She taught us the words to “Brown Bear Brown Bear” and “Polar Bear Polar Bear” and other board book favorites.  She would come after naps and play music and sign the words to songs and play instruments and help Mark make the vital connections between things and language.

 

But, she did more than give Mark language. She helped our entire family. She told us about door bells that light up when the bell rings so people who are deaf/hard of hearing know someone is at the door. She told us about alarm clocks that shake instead of buzz.  She taught our family what it is like to live without being able to hear. Honestly, we had never thought of any of this, after all, we can hear.  It is amazing the things we take for granted.

 

In the year that followed, the biggest question our family faced was what type of communication we were going to use.  We were not sure if we were going to use sign language, pursue an oral education, or try to find a total communication school. This decision is hard and it caused emotional grief for our family.  As usual, Karen was there for us when we were questioning what to do for Mark.  The best advice anyone has given me came from her.  She said, “Remember, nothing is permanent. Make a choice, do it for six months and if it doesn’t work, change strategies and try something different.” We still live by that advice.

We had never heard of a deaf mentor before we met Karen and now we tell everyone we meet who has a deaf or hard of hearing child. Karen clued us in on what deaf and hard of hearing people face on a daily basis. Karen believes nothing is impossible for deaf and hard of hearing people and she helped our family realize that too.

Jessica Bianco

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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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