So you were a little bogged down with the back to school chaos that ensues every year at about this time, and you couldn’t make it to GA Hands & Voice’s event?
We checked in with their Executive Director, Terri Patterson for an inside scoop of what we missed…
Georgia Hands & Voices 5th Annual Back to School BASH
With over 70 families and professionals (deaf educators, administrators, interpreters, SLPs, Audiologists, students in higher education, GA Pines Parent Advisors to name a few) in attendance, 19 exhibitors, 8 teen panelists, 7 session presenters, 3 sponsors and one very dynamic guest speaker: we believe the Georgia Hands & Voices 5th Annual Back to School BASH at the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf on August 17 was a great success.
YOUR TEENAGER’S SELF-ESTEEM
We were honored to have Mr. Ken Levinson who crossed the country to come and talk about why and how teenagers develop positive, healthy self-esteem. Mr. Levinson is the Co-Founder and Lead Counselor of the AG Bell Association’s Leadership Opportunities for Teens (LOFT) Program. Mr. Levinson focused his talk on building healthy self-esteem in children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, regardless of their communication modes or methods. “I AM GREAT” spoke to the different characteristics that are vital to developing confidence and positive self-esteem in ALL teenagers and took it further to address the unique needs of teens who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. He emphasized the necessity of allowing kids to develop independence by experiencing everything and taking chances, making mistakes and learning from them. Also, he also shared the importance of teens in developing a positive attitude and a behavior of respect. Teens need to get involved in groups that help develop stronger bonds; find good role models, particularly those that are D/HH; set expectations high and learn to laugh at themselves.
We were also lucky enough to have him facilitate our teen panel which closed the day down providing great wisdom and enlightenment. Mr. Levinson’s humor and honesty really drew out the panelists, who ranged from “almost” 13 through 19 years of age. They represented diverse cultural backgrounds, academic settings, communication choices and personality characteristics, while finding quite a bit of common ground and experiences. It was really thrilling to see them become so animated up on the stage and express themselves with such honesty, especially after sharing how nervous they were in the beginning. From one 14 year old boy sharing the story of losing his implant off of a rollercoaster (of course, the Executive Director’s son) to a 15 year old sharing the benefits of sign language “because you can communicate with a mouth full of food,” they let their personalities shine. They talked about wanting to go to college, wanting to become a teacher, wanting to develop their skills in mechanics. Mr. Levinson continually emphasized that our children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing can be ANYTHING they want to be and the importance of having positive Deaf and Hard of Hearing role models. This was echoed by our audience during their questions and comments for the panelists. I think this group is well on their way to doing just that!
Along with these empowering presentations to our larger group, we also had 5 breakout sessions during the day. We covered topics ranging from “Intro to ASL” presented by a couple, Karmon, who works with the Georgia Parent Infant Network for Educational Services program (GA PINES) and Michael Cain, an American Sign Language Instructor at Georgia Perimeter College, who are both Deaf; to “Transition to What? What Happens After High School” by Becky Sills, a Director of VR Services. To add to the mix, G.R.E.A.T.D.A.Y. Inc. who provides mental health resources for the Deaf community presented; our Board President, Carianne Muse, who is also a member of the Joint Commission on Infant Hearing (JCIH), presented “What Should You Expect from Early Intervention Services” addressing the recently published set of JCIH recommendations on Early Intervention Services and how they relates to the current services provided in our state. Our final session choice, “Your Child’s Journey Towards Graduation: What You Need to Know,” was presented by Dr. Kenney Moore, the Director of the Division of State Schools and Dr. Frank Nesbit, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program Consultant for the Department of Education. The brain trust at this event was unbeatable!
So, while our wonderful volunteers from the Georgia Perimeter College Sign Language Interpreter Training Program, GA PINES and the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf provided a safe, fun and accessible environment for our children and the Georgia Sensory Assistance Project put on a Sib Shop for the 7-9 year old hearing siblings, the teens and adults were filled with knowledge and had an opportunity to connect as a community. Add in the exhibitor break time, and some lunch and it made for a full, satisfying day.
PRAISE FOR THE BACK-TO-SCHOOL BASH
A few of the comments on the evaluations of the event: “Incredibly brave, bright, insightful young people!” “It was needed and nice to socialize with other parents.” “Super fun!!!” “They were able to answer a lot of questions.”
SPONSORS & SUPPORTERS
We are grateful for the sponsorship provided by Georgia Relay, Active Life Hearing Loops and Cochlear Americas. We also had a large diverse group of exhibitors at our event:
- Advanced Bionics, AASD, AASD Accessible Materials Project, Auditory-Verbal Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, GA Bell, GACHI/Georgia Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program, GA PINES, Georgia Peach Cochlear Implant Association, Georgia Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Georgia School for the Deaf, Georgia Sensory Assistance Project, Med-El, Oticon and G.R.E.A.T.D.A.Y, Inc.
I am grateful to all of the families in Georgia that feel as passionate as I do about ensuring our children get what they need when they need it to be successful, and continually reinforce why Hands & Voices is a valuable organization and community in our state.
WHAT’S NEXT AT GA HANDS & VOICES?
So, as we move forward with the 2013-14 school year, ensuring that our families of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children have the resources, the connections and the tools they need to empower their children to be successful, academically, socially and personally, in order to reach their full potential, so that they grow up to become who and whatever they dream and aspire to be. Be watching for more info on our next event: “The Unique Communication Considerations for Your Child’s IEP/IFSP: What You Need to Know!” on October 5, 2013 at the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf from 8:30am to 1:00pm. For more info and to RSVP please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Check out our website, www.gahandsandvoices.org .