More than 90 percent of the nearly 12,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing babies born annually in the United States have hearing parents. Often, that baby is the first deaf person the parents have ever met, and questions abound as they enter an unfamiliar world.
California State University, Northridge’s Deaf Education and Families Project (DEAF Project) answered some of those questions at a daylong retreat on Oct. 12 at the Marlton School in Los Angeles. “Connected: Celebrating Families” presented workshops and family team-building activities designed for parents of all experience levels.
More than 220 individuals and families of deaf and hard-of-hearing children traveled from across Southern California to learn, play and network. To make the information available to as many families as possible, DEAF Project heavily subsidized the event through sponsorships and grant funding.
“We are thrilled with the turnout at our first, full-day event of this kind,” said Rachel Friedman Narr, project coordinator for DEAF Project and a professor of special education and deaf education at CSUN. “It’s inspiring to see parents from not only throughout Los Angeles, but Ventura, Riverside, San Diego, Bakersfield and Indio, all coming together in support of their deaf and hard-of-hearing children. We hope to make the Connected retreat an annual event, and we look forward to seeing these families at future DEAF Project events and activities.”
One of the goals of the retreat was to encourage families to explore language inclusion and multilingualism as building blocks for solid inter-family relationships, as well as a key component of their child’s overall success.
“We want parents to understand that they don’t have to choose one method of communication,” Friedman Narr said. Workshops were presented in spoken English, spoken Spanish and American Sign Language.
Highlights of the retreat were the parent-specific workshops and networking opportunities.
The “Moms Connect” workshop provided a networking space to share ideas and experiences related to raising deaf and hard-of-hearing children. The “For Dads Only!” group, led by two fathers who are deaf, addressed the importance of fathers’ roles in the lives of their children, and participants wore ear plugs at times during the workshop to simulate the deaf experience.
“I saw families from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, who are all united because they have children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing,” said Nancy Grosz Sager, the deaf and hard-of-hearing consultant for the California Department of Education who attended the event.
More than 80 kids were entertained with arts and crafts, relay races, painting, play equipment and pumpkin carving in a supervised children’s program.
CSUN’s Deaf Education And Families Project supports and empowers families with deaf and hard-of-hearing children. To date, the organization has positively impacted more than 1,000 families throughout Southern California.
For more information about DEAF Project, email DEAFProject@csun.edu.