Advocacy is for all ages. That's why I try to include my children in Deaf and hearing loss awareness events as much as possible.
One year, we walked with leaders from our local Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Chapter. I use the work "walk" loosely. My son decided to speed walk the entire time while my daughter followed several steps behind her Lipreading Mom. While walking and signing with fellow walkers, many of whom are Deaf and use American Sign Language (ASL), I used my "third eye" to keep track of my precious children.
After the walk, a Deaf and hearing loss resource fair was set up on the park grounds. I was supposed to assist with the HLAA table, but spent most of the time chasing after my curious kids. I first chased them into a tent set up with an ASL storyteller, who signed the words to popular children's books. My daughter has always been fascinated with sign language, since she was a baby. At age 8 months, she and I attended a baby-mommy sign language class, and since then she's taken to the language like a kid in a candy store. So the ASL storytelling held her attention. As for my son ... Let's just say I had to keep chasing after him.
Our next stop was an ASL arts and crafts booth, put on by the local school for the Deaf. My kids transformed two foam handprints into clever magnets depicting the sign for "I love you." I later added these magnets to our eclectic collection of refrigerator magnets holding all their artwork at home.
At the next booth, we learned about a local church starting a ministry program for Deaf and hard of hearing people.
Our favorite stop was the food booth, where we gulped down Sunny D and munched on fruit, donuts and crackers. Entertainment was provided by a very loud guitarist and drummer with a local Christian band. Thank goodness for the ear plugs given away by an audiologist at another booth. Lipreading Mom does everything she can not to expose her little ones to noise that could harm their hearing and turn them into Lipreading Kids.
After 20 minutes of songs and snacks, we ventured to another booth giving away free books and stuffed animals to promote hearing aids. The book "Oliver Gets Hearing Aids" tells about a little hard of hearing elephant getting his first set of behind-the-ear listening devices. Lets just say that Oliver's hearing aids were bigger than Lipreading Mom's head. The animated book came with an Oliver the Elephant puppet that storytellers can wear and wiggle their fingers in. Guess who got to wear the puppet and read the book in a silly Oliver voice at storytime that night?
I'm thankful for opportunities, like this walkathon, to share in hearing loss advocacy with my children. Although they always see me wearing hearing aids and sometimes signing to friends, it's eye-opening for them to see lots of other people in the same boat as Lipreading Mom.
What else can I do to teach them about advocacy?
Ask Lipreading Mom
Shanna Groves was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss after the birth of her first child. She was 27. Raised in a hearing family, Shanna traces her hearing loss to a genetic loss on the paternal side of her family. She is mom to three young children, a published author, and speaker. Her books are featured at www.ShannaGroves.com. Shanna blogs about being a hard of hearing mom at http://LipreadingMom.com.