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Four ‘Hero Moms’ of Deaf Children

Hero Moms

Do you remember that day when you first found out your child was deaf? I still remember the look in the audiologist’s eyes, the tone of his voice, the feeling of sympathy and sadness, “It’s a severe to profound hearing loss,” he said.

The journey that followed was filled with visits to the medical professionals, early interventionists; an information overload dumped on us as parents of a deaf child. There are pressures from the audiologist to make choices for listening devices. Maybe your family has an opinion to chime in as well.  Not to mention the stress of everyday life and trying to connect to a child who is different than you.  It’s not hard to understand why we are overwhelmed.

In my journey I have met some mothers who have become heroes in my eyes. They have done their best to communicate with their children, make sacrifices for their child’s success and SO MUCH MORE.  Although there are many more like them, I will share four stories today. Know that for each story shared here there are many more stories that go untold everyday. I know you are out there Hero Moms and I salute you!


My Mom

When my sister lost her hearing at age 16, the audiologists fitted her with hearing aids and sent her back to the classroom with no further support. My quiet but determined mother always put her daughters first and was not satisfied with this arrangement, especially when she saw my sister continuing to struggle.  Finally, after asking everyone she knew about education for the deaf in the area, she found a program that used ASL. She contacted the school officials and soon my sister was attending a new school across town with other students who were deaf. My willing grandma with wavy gray hair, my nervous but dedicated mother and I began taking classes at the local community college with my sister. She passed us up quickly, but I was close behind. I always look up to my mother and grandmother for attending that class with us. My Hero Mom made sure my sister had the support she needed, even though it meant opening our world up to a new world that was in many ways overwhelming to her.

April Giauque

This little brunette fireball is one of my Heroes. You can read her blog here. I met April after learning her daughter was the same age as mine, to the very day! We met up at a McDonald’s. While her oldest 3 children, all who have autism, played in the playground, we chatted for over an hour. It was the first time we had met in person, but we had so much in common it felt like we had always known each other. Her sixth child, the baby at the time, was her first Deaf child and April was just learning ASL. She now holds an ASL endorsement for her special Education teaching degree and is teaching at a school for the Deaf. When her second Deaf child was born, she knew what to do. Pieced together in a beautiful family, this mother has tackled every challenge and is breaking through barriers for ALL of her children, as well as for others.

Tricia Feik

I remember when I met outgoing, friendly Tricia. We attended her church on a visit to her town. Her Deaf daughter was the same age as my Deaf son.  They played together. Later she would relate to me, “From that day that she met your son she has been a different child. Something clicked for her that day.” It is so important for children to meet others like them! Tricia, truly a Hero Mom, understood that.

After that meeting we kept in touch. In efforts to connect her daughter to a larger Deaf peer group, Tricia’s family moved to a different state just as we moved to the North West. As always, Tricia has been involved in the school’s parent organization and stayed active in her daughter’s education. I admire the effort by the entire family to learn and use ASL. They make sure all are included and have what they need, even when it meant moving to a different state.

Tricia has written about her family’s journey here.

Audrey Devan

I have enjoyed meeting and becoming friends with the reserved Audrey Devan. When Audrey, a member of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe  with long dark hair and large dark eyes, found out her daughter was Deaf, she immediately started learning ASL and becoming active in the community where she lived. She was supportive of other families in her same situation but quickly realized there were few families of Deaf children near her. When it became clear that her daughter would not be getting the education she needed where she was, she left everything she knew behind, including a close and loving family, and moved to another state for the greater good of her daughter’s education. The road has not been easy but the rewards for her daughter have been amazing. The changes I have seen in her and her language have been so fun to watch. A Hero mom makes sacrifices for her child.

Becoming a Hero Mom

Being a mother is hard. Being a mother of someone who is different than you is harder. Making sacrifices in order to make sure your child has every chance to succeed is invaluable.

I know what you are thinking, “I don’t think I’d call myself a ‘Hero Mom’.”

I remember thinking the same thing. I’d think of moving or pursuing my own career while being a mom and I’d be filled with fear. I’d ask myself, “Am I doing enough?” “Am I being the mother my children need so that they can truly succeed?” “Are my kids in the right place?” “How do I take care of my hearing and deaf children? “How do I ensure everyone feels accepted and loved?”

Becoming a ‘Hero Mom’ doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes. It doesn’t mean your house is spotless and your kids are perfect angels. That isn’t realistic. No one is that kind of mom.

Being a ‘Hero Mom’ means you do your best to connect to your child, to let him know you love him no matter what. It means setting up your home for a safe place for all of your children. And a real Hero Mom will teach her child that anything is possible with the right tools, determination, sacrifice and dedication.

Are you ready to become a ‘Hero Mom?’ Are you already doing many things and just need a little push and support?

I’d love to help you pinpoint your areas of concern and provide tools that will support you on your journey. There are answers, and those answers look a little different for each family. There is hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

What is the Best Educational Placement for a Deaf Child? Our Story

What is the Best Educational Placement for a Deaf Child? Our Story

Ok… time to spill my guts.

I asked an important question today: what is the best educational placement for my child?

boys

For those of you with children who have IEPs, you will know what I mean. Many of you other parents have children who may not “fit in” in the regular public education classroom. They are active kids who are kinesthetic learners; they are bright, dyslexic, just delayed, day dreamers . . . The list goes on and on, doesn’t it.

I think most parents ponder the question: Is my child getting what he or she should out of school? Is there somewhere better? Should I do home school? A charter school? An online school?

Yes… these were the thoughts of my day. Should my child continue to attend a specialized school for the deaf? How would he do in the mainstream with an interpreter? What about a Montessori school or other charter school? The other Deaf/ Hard of Hearing program in town?

In effort to answer these questions, it was suggested that I visualize my child the way I want him to be. I thought, “I want him to be competent and to love learning. I want him to have a strong bilingual foundation in ASL and English. I want him to not just be able to read on grade level, but to turn to reading as a source of information and entertainment (even if it is mostly on the TV screen in the form of captions.) I want him to come home from school and recount fun experiences and facts, not just the sports he has played. I want him to be engaged in critical thinking and making decisions. I want him to be involved in fun science experiments that stretch his imagination and make him think. I also want him to have good friends that push him to do better. I want him to be challenged and pulled up to a higher level of thinking and learning every day.”

Well… you might be thinking, maybe he’s just a sports guy who doesn’t care much for school. That’s not really my boy. He does LOVE sports, but he also is interested in so many things and wants to learn. He loves anything about science, any story signed aloud in ASL. He loves non-fiction books and learning about history. When you present a variety of topics, he’s there and he wants to learn more.

So… if he is a motivated learner, has the language ability to improve and is really doing his best to pay attention and move forward, wherein lies the problem?

  • Does he need medication because the screening says he might have ADD?
  • Is it a lack of planning on the part of the teacher? A tendency to give ‘busy’ work instead of engage students in their learning through thematic units that include learning in social studies, science and math?
  • Is it a difference in philosophy?
  • A lack of use of ASL, read alouds and a balanced literacy program?
  • Is it a lack of support from the administration in what is expected?
  • Is it the overall mindset of, “Well, deafness is a disability and we need to focus on reading and writing so he will get that down,” while leaving out the enriching and important content areas?

I have worked for 3 years in research and development for deaf children. I taught at a school for the deaf for 6 years. I saw the low expectations, the busy work, the lack of on level challenging curriculum. I also saw teachers that put in all of their effort to make sure the kids were engaged, loving learning, and learning new things every day.

I know that what happens in any classroom is in the hands of the teacher. My child can do his best, but if the teacher and the staff are not interested in him and in teaching a way that will appeal to and engage him, how much can you expect? If after meeting after meeting, you still see him bored and frustrated with minimal changes in instruction and curriculum, what more can you do?

When I asked him how he liked school he signed, “I PATIENT” Being interpreted that means: “I put up with it.”

And so… I face this question. Do I dare face that world of solitary isolation that so many deaf and hard of hearing adults have been through and would never go back? Do I dare put his education in the hands of an interpreter and a teacher who has probably never worked with a deaf child before? All in the hopes of engaging and challenging my son and immersing him in on-grade curriculum in all content areas.

And yet, if I don’t… will I regret it? Will I look back in 5 years when the curriculum is still not challenging, and wish I had? We can always go back to the deaf school. Right?

And then I realize the most important thing: “No matter what, he will have us.”

Update on the School Situation…. Jan 21, 2015

After a year and a half of struggling in school, I did it, I brought him home.  bryan-silly

Here’s what happened. Christmas break ended and he went back to school. Everyday was a fight to get homework done. He started missing privileges, then started acting out more at home. Martin Luther King day – no school. Then Tuesday he came home a wreck. He was out of control and I knew something was wrong. I just looked at him and asked, “What happened?”  He actually let me hug him and replied, “It’s been an awful day.”

When I finally got the chance to sit down with him, after all the hustle and bustle of the afternoon, I simply asked him to tell me how he was feeling. He answered, “panicked.” We had recently discussed different emotions and the idea of “panic” and “paranoia.” It was an emotion we had recently identified and that he knew he had felt before. He was telling me, “I’m stressed out. I don’t feel safe.” Other emotions we identified as we talked: frustration, boredom, feeling restricted (creatively).

SO…. I finally said enough, is enough. Today started day 1 of home-school and it’s going to be an adjustment. However, he is excited and I guess that’s saying something. At the moment he is leading a language arts activity with my pre-schooler. The classic activity labeling items in the house. You might hear from other sources that this isn’t the best activity to do, however I have found it extremely useful in my house. It’s a fabulous literacy activity. He is spelling words and learning some root words, while my pre-schooler is doing letter recognition as well as object identification and pre-literacy.

What else do we have in store today?

A Science project that I found in my fridge this morning: we will be investigating mold. Since he’s never been involved with a Science Fair, we are going to do the whole big bang project and take it to other home-schooled students in our neighborhood.

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2 Comments















  1. I LOVE this post! I found myself nodding with every one of your concerns. I face these questions with my deaf child almost daily; “am I doing enough to support her education?”, “is she being challenged enough?”, “what environment is the best placement for her?” I am eager to hear how things progress for you both, especially from HIS perspective too. Being a parent is tough enough; then adding on language model, communication facilitator, advocate, teacher…there are many hats we wear as parents of the deaf; but how joyful it is to see it is all worth it if it gives my child access to all the world has to offer!



    Reply















    • And we seem to face them again and again, year after year! It’s not just a one time decision, is it? I need to do an update as it has been a long time since this original post! He’s doing well. It’s been a journey. It will continue to be a journey!



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