by Nancy Grosz Sager
California Department of Education (retired Spring 2018)
This is actually a no-brainer to me. We all know that the # 1 predictor of whether or not ANY child does well academically, socially, and vocationally is PARENT INVOLVEMENT. For a child who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing, strong parent involvement is even more important. And yet, young parents who have just learned that their beautiful little baby is Deaf or Hard of Hearing are uncertain about what to do, how to do it, and what is in store for them.
Meeting and talking with parents who have raised successful Deaf and Hard of Hearing children is the key to making parents feel comfortable and to gain confidence that their own child will be successful. It is so important that parents have many opportunities to talk with other parents who have been in their shoes, who understand what they are going through, and who will not judge them.
I always believed this. As a teacher, I always made sure there were opportunities for parents to get together and to share their stories. This was not so easy, as I lived in a very diverse community, where many different languages were spoken. But, my principal supported hiring interpreters for family events, so that families who spoke English, American Sign Language, Punjabi, Hmong, Spanish, Samoan, Urdu (and on and on) could all speak to each other. The parents always came to the events. They loved getting together, because they all shared one very important thing in common – they were all raising children who were Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
I had a personal experience that made it even clearer to me. I will tell you my story, not so you will feel sorry for me, but so that you (I hope) will believe that I “get it”. Eight years ago, my husband died. Immediately, two women with whom I worked and knew a little bit, became my best friends. Why? They had also lost their husbands. They had walked in my shoes, they understood what I was going through, and they did not judge me. They became family for me.
Since this experience, my commitment to ensuring that families who have children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing are connected to other families with children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing has become even stronger. In California, the California Department of Education funds the Parent Links program that provides connections for families that have Infants and Toddlers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Parent Links connects families with California’s newly formed chapter of Hands & Voices. I am thrilled to be a part of this organization, and cannot wait to see how it thrives in the future.