In 2008, I attended my first support group for parents of deaf/hard of hearing children. Julia was freshly aided but still non-verbal. Her dad and I were in full-on panic mode. The Internet did not paint a pretty picture for late-diagnosed kids.
Tears came easily in those first months, and I was eager to connect. I learned two things at the meeting:
1. My daughter wasn't "deaf enough" for me to even worry about.
2. Hearing loss is overcome exclusively through the use of intense auditory-verbal therapy.
I left feeling worse than I did going in, burdened by the guilt of my daughter's residual hearing (other kids had much less) and more anxious than ever about those years of missed speech therapy. It wasn't what I had in mind when thinking of "support."
Over the years, I met many more families and read documents promoting every methodology. I attended presentations that chastised parents for not signing because the lack of a visual support to spoken language is something akin to child abuse. Total Communication alternated between being the holy grail of Deaf Ed and a non-existent, nearly mythical misnomer. I heard research eluding to the inability of signing children to learn to speak and that they would never learn to read. All around there were pronouncements of children being "too deaf" or "not deaf enough" for one thing or the other.
In spite of these hard and fast pronouncements, happy, healthy kids were all around reading and communicating.
During this period of self-discovery, I stumbled upon Hands & Voices. "What works for your child is what makes the choice right," is their motto. Here was an organization, finally, that showed me all of the options and advocated fiercely for the rights of every deaf/hard of hearing child. Hands & Voices is a network of families supporting each other to achieve the best life for their child.
I felt a great relief as I learned more about Hands & Voices. I think it might have calmed some of my fears had I found it a few years earlier!
Today, there is a growing Hands & Voices chapter here in Pennsylvania. Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side of PA is helping families with newly diagnosed children (birth-age 3) navigate the many decisions they face. We're working hard as a chapter to help families and professionals network throughout the state.
It is my hope that parents will have an opportunity to attend a Hands & Voices event and that the support they receive will be meaningful and unbiased. Together we can achieve positive outcomes for every child and make sure no family feels they're in this alone. It's a positive message, guaranteed to leave you feeling better after the meeting than before!