Sunflowers are my favorite flower. Have you noticed a regal feeling when you look up into their plate-sized center and see their massive tree trunk-sized stem? I am amazed at their strength, sturdiness, as well as their delicateness. I have always liked them and I have always liked gardening, but I have never been brave enough to try to grow them. I thought that it took extra care and extra skills I have not acquired. After an epiphany, I realized that if I don't try I'll never know, so I planted a pack and waited to see what happened.
After I watered them and the sun shone on them for a few short weeks, many little green sprouts appeared! I took daily pictures to see their progress and was amazed at how a tiny seed could produce such grandeur. In the end, I had at least 30 huge sunflowers, all strong and sturdy. They were my pride and joy that summer in the garden. The love and attention I gave them proved to be successful!
Parents who have children born with hearing loss often feel this same overwhelming fear of the unknown. They want so much for their children, but are unsure how to capture it. Children who are using manual communication pose another obstacle for hearing parents. The thought of learning a new language at the same time having to learn about hearing loss seems scary and overwhelming. I tell parents that they can do anything they want to do, as long as they give it their all. At first, the parents find success because they are working on basic signs like, "more", "all done", "milk" and "bathroom". Their success helps them to feel good about themselves and they often will use signs with their children regularly.
As children transition into preschool, they have someone teaching them American Sign Language or Pigeon Signed English full time all day. These little seeds start blossoming into sunflowers at an incredible rate. They are like sponges; the more you give them, the more they can soak up. This is where a roadblock occurs with parents. Parents feel like they cannot possibly keep up with the skilled staff at school or their children, so why bother? They become frustrated and fall behind in their skill which leads them often to shut down.
It is this exact time that I tell parents NOT to give up. If your flowers are dying in your garden, are you going to rip them out by the roots or will you go to the store and see what you need? Communication Connections, Inc. nonprofit for families with hearing loss, is that store for YOU. Come and get help. Figure out what you need to do and forge on. For your flowers, you might buy a few different fertilizers, be sure the sun is out, be sure to add enough water, etc. If you don't tell anyone, I'll let you in on a secret. I know my sunflowers flourished because I sang to them. :)
Use this philosophy when you have children with hearing loss using American Sign Language. Get extra help, practice daily, watch videos, and take classes. YOU can keep up and be skilled in American Sign Language. Your child will appreciate you and will help you along, too! Please trust me. You can be what you want to be and there are easy things to help you on the way. Communication is the key to connections and the key to connections is language! BE the SUN and WATER for your SUNFLOWERS to blossom. Learn to communicate well with your child with hearing loss in American Sign Language if that is the language s/he uses. You will be more than thrilled with the outcome!
Allison Schley has been in the field of deaf and hard of hearing education for 20 years. She founded a nonprofit for families with hearing loss. She most recently wrote a children's book, entitled Forever Friends. This book shows the how a deaf dog and deaf boy teach the world that all kids are good and being deaf is okay.