Saturday, September 30, 2006

Deaf Education on Talk of the Nation Oct. 12

A parent sent me this announcement:



Special Two-Hour Broadcast to Explore Future of Deaf Culture In Light
New Technological Advancements

Washington, D.C.; September 21, 2006 - NPR's Talk of the Nation will
feature I. King Jordan in a special 2 hour broadcast on the future of
deaf education and culture on Thursday October 12, 2006. Dr. Jordan
plans to retire at the end of this year as president of Gallaudet
University, the world's only university dedicated to deaf and hearing
impaired students. As the first ever deaf president of the
he began the job in 1988 amid controversy and leaves 18 years later in
the midst of more controversy over the appointment of his successor.
In Hour One of the broadcast, Dr. Jordan weighs in on the debate and

Hour Two will examine the shifting debate over the cochlear implant.
Once an issue that divided the deaf community, the use of cochlear
implants is now more accepted. Yet, very difficult questions remain
about how people with cochlear implants can successfully live in two
worlds - the hearing and the deaf - about how children with these
implants should be educated. Guests during this hour will include
documentary filmmaker Josh Aronson, whose film "Sound and Fury" tells
the story two brother split apart by their different approaches to the
implants for their children. Mr. Aronson has recently completed a
follow-up to his film, "Sound and Fury: Six Years Later" and will join
the program with Peter and Heather Artinian who were featured in both

The deaf and hearing impaired community will be able to follow in
real-time Dr. Jordan's discussion with Talk of the Nation host Neal
Conan through live captioning on ; .
captioning technology enabling the streaming of broadcast captions on
the Web is developed and provided by the Media Access Group at WGBH
Boston. Those tuning in to the program through the live caption
will also be able to email questions to Dr. Jordan over the course of
the hour.

The October 12th broadcast will be the second time Talk of the Nation
has employed a captioning service to accommodate the deaf and hard of
hearing audience. On February 2, 2005 for an interview with Dr.
and the authors of the 1990 book, "Inside Deaf Culture," the program
offered real time captioning to enable participation among the hearing
impaired community. Audio and text of the interview is available at ; .

Talk of the Nation is NPR's midday news talk program that explores
topics from politics to pop culture, education, religion, books,
family and music. Through call-ins and e-mails, listeners are able to
join in dialogue with decision-makers, authors, academicians, artists
and newsmakers in the headlines. Neal Conan has been host of Talk of
Nation since 2001. With 2.8 million weekly listeners, the program
on 276 NPR Member stations around the country; for local stations and
time periods, check


NPR Media Relations:
Emily Lenzner, 202.513.2754,
Chad Campbell, 202.513.2304,
Emily A. Lenzner
Director, Communications and Media Relations


635 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Washington DC 20001-3753

w. 202.513.2754 / c. 202.744.9484

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Happy Birthday to my Baby!

Nine years ago, after fourteen hours of labor, my youngest son was born at home. Steven Michael weighed a hefty nine pounds and he had a full head of jet black hair. When he was two, his hair turned a beautiful blonde color. People would take one look at me, gaze over at Joe and wonder just where that blonde hair came from. He's very much his daddy's son and was blessed with legs that can tear up a soccer field.

Birthdays make me feel bittersweet, for each one that passes serves as a reminder that time is ticking away and all too soon, my children will someday be off on their own. I can't believe my "baby" is nine years old. I still feel like I'm 25, so the math doesn't add up.

Happy Birthday to my little sweetheart!

Check out one of Steven's favorites: Steven Michael, Get Off That Bed Right Now!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Divine Lunch

In early September, I headed out to the Marriott hotel to sign the contract for the IL Hands & Voices Mom's Night Inn. Across the street from the hotel was my favorite restaurant, Maggiano's. A family that I worked with generously gave me a gift certificate so I decided to treat myself to lunch. Armed with a stack of magazines, I was looking forward to enjoying a Maggiano's Salad.

I walked in and did a double-take. Sitting in the waiting area was the priest that married the hubby and I-- Father Joe Mulcrone. He was waiting for a friend to show up and join him for lunch. So we hugged and I sat down to catch up with him while he was waiting for his friend.

A half hour later, his friend still hadn't arrived. We decided to have lunch together, figuring his friend could always join us. We had so much to catch up on, since we both advocated for many of the same issues but hadn't seen each other in a long time.

We shared a great lunch and Father Joe chatted about his latest mission: a trip to Mexico. Father Joe arranged this trip to Rancho Viejo, Mexico for the 2nd Annual Catholic Deaf Youth in the Western Hemisphere on July 1 -8, 2006. There were 25 deaf adults from the U.S., Trinidad/Tobago, Ecuador and Mexico. Pat Graybill, Father Joe and several others spent the week celebrating various masses and teaching leadership skills to the participants. Communication was quite a challenge: Two spoken languages: English and Spanish. Three sign-languages: American Sign-Language (ASL), Venezuelan, and Mexican.

Halfway through our lunch, we stopped and had a good chuckle. Apparently Divine Intervention had arranged for us to meet and have lunch together-- how else to explain how a priest from Chicago and a gal from the western suburbs arrive in the same restaurant at the same time and a companion doesn't show up?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

BookHands: For the Love of Books, Chocolate & Open Communication

Every six weeks, there are ten of us who gather and share an evening of desserts that almost always include chocolate of some kind. We fill our plates with the goodies, grab a drink, and gather around to catch up on the latest news and a brief update on our kids.

Then the host implores everyone to sit down, grab their books, and make one final trip to fill up a plate. So begins an evening of BookHands, a women’s book club located in the Chicagoland area. The discussion begins by describing a brief reaction to the book that was selected weeks ago. One by one, we share our perspectives of the book, answer questions prepared by the host, or conduct an analysis of characters or events.

BookHands was the creation of Karen Carrier Kurt, a deaf mom who realized that a night out with other deaf moms often turned into a discussion about current books. She thought it would be fun to have a few moms over to do just that. In May 2003, Karen invited a few deaf moms that she knew and others that she met through “friends of friends.” The first meeting was held at her house, and the selected book was Lucky Man, an autobiography of Michael J. Fox.

Over the years, the books have evolved and so have the discussions. Some of the members use American Sign Language and some use simultaneous communication (signing and speaking at the same time). The name BookHands is a natural fit and an apt description of our group.

We have covered books such as The DaVinci Code, My Sister’s Keeper, Deafening, The Three Mrs. Parkers, and The Devil in the White City to name a few. We have met in each other’s homes and occasionally in a bookstore. For The Devil in the White City, we attended a slide show at a local library that covered the World’s Fair and had a discussion afterwards.

Our backgrounds are diverse: a former assistant director of a non-profit agency, two college instructors, librarian, a medical records technician, an accountant, a former legal assistant, teachers, an insurance agent, and a former computer programmer. BookHands fills a social niche for the ten of us because we are scattered geographically and often spend our days caring for little ones or at work communicating with those who can hear. To be able to combine a love of books and discuss them in an accessible medium allows for comfortable group dynamics. We certainly have the option of joining a local book club and using interpreters, but the group dynamic and communication style simply would not compare. With each book selection, we are learning more about each other’s lives and we are also being introduced to books that we might not have picked up otherwise.

And of course, you can’t beat the chocolate desserts!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sound and Fury

When Sound and Fury was released in October, 2000, the movie spurred discussions about cochlear implants all around the nation. The movie covered the story of two brothers who had deaf children. One chose to obtain a cochlear implant for his son, the other decided not to choose that for his daughter.

I saw the movie in Chicago at a film festival with a friend. Never before had I experience a movie that was so raw and up close about the decisions that parents make when raising deaf and hard of hearing children.

Sound and Fury often stayed on my mind, so about a year ago, I decided to get in touch with both families and find out how they were doing. I learned that all of the deaf members of the Artinian family had obtained a cochlear implant, with the exception of Peter. You can read the article here: Sound & Fury: A Family Comes Together Again.
Josh Aronson, the director of the film, has now released a new film: Sound & Fury, Six Years Later. Heather Artinian obtained an implant at the age of nine and the film chronicles her life as a teen. For more information on how to obtain the film, contact Mr. Aronson at:

On another note, the youngest child to receive an implant is three months old: Music to the Ears.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

We Are Hands & Voices

About four years ago, I started a website for parents in Illinois attempting to put together resources for parents of deaf and hard of hearing children. During my search of the web, I found an organization called Hands & Voices.

I came across their opening statement:

"Hands & Voices is a nationwide non-profit organization dedicated to supporting families and their children who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as the professionals who serve them. We are a parent-driven, parent/professional collaborative group that is unbiased towards communication modes and methods. Our diverse membership includes those who are deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing impaired and their families who communicate orally, with signs, cue, and/or combined methods. We exist to help our children reach their highest potential."

I felt like I hit the jackpot. Here was an organization that I had envisioned in my dreams; a collaborative organization that embraced the diversity regardless of communication mode. An organization that valued the contribution of deaf and hard of hearing adults and providing non-biased information to families raising deaf and hard of hearing children.


So I got involved. I contacted the people running Hands & Voices and inquired about the organization. I sent off my membership form and began to receive The Communicator. The next thing I knew, Leeanne Seaver, the executive director asked me to take over the start-up of the Illinois chapter.

It has been a rewarding experience.

In two short years, we've hosted several Parent Connection meetings; two-hour meetings where parents come in and connect with other parents and deaf/hard of hearing kids of all ages get to play with one another. Just recently, we had a good, old-fashioned kickball game with 20 kids. We're having our 2nd Annual Mom's Night Inn this November.

Along the way, I've had the opportunity to meet a variety of families that have chosen different modes of commmunication. I've met kids and adults with every possible type of hearing loss, every possible type of identity, and such a wide variety of life stories to share. Every single family has the same goal: to raise a well-adjusted, successful kid.

We are often asked, how can you possibly be non-biased? In a field frought with communication wars, identity wars and finger-pointing, the idea of being non-biased has people wondering if it is even possible. After several years with Hands & Voices and some excellent training from the leaders, I have learned that it is indeed a reality.

And here, in a nutshell, is the Hands & Voices approach to providing Non-Biased Support.

I invite you to visit the website and check out the articles that we've published.

Everyone is welcomed to join as a member and become a part of Hands & Voices.

Together, we can help families with children who are deaf and hard of hearing: "What works for your child is what makes the choice right."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Marlee Matlin-- Still Going Strong

It was 1986 when Marlee Matlin trotted up to the stage to accept an Oscar for her performance in Children of a Lesser God. She was the youngest performer to receive an Academy Award. It was just two years after I had become profoundly deaf and was first introduced to American Sign Language. I understood almost nothing of Marlee's signing in the film and relied on the captioning.

Today, after twenty years of signing, I understand a heck of a lot more and I don't have to ask for repetition on a frequent basis anymore. Looking back, I remember the comments that surrounded Marlee, the praise/disdain of her communication style. Whether she used her voice, sign or both, she couldn't escape being criticized when in the spotlight. I always thought it was crazy when people would comment on communication mode and forget the accomplishment or the person behind it.

Today, the supposed "one-shot wonder" has had an acting career that spans twenty years with numerous movies, sit-coms, and guest appearances. She has produced books, been involved with several charities and tonight, she will host the "Extreme Home Makeover" in her second appearance.

And she managed to find time to have four kids!

Today's Chicago Tribune posted an article: Matlin Gets The Last Laugh.

I found myself enjoying the Extreme Makeover Show. Marlee hosted the show with a lot of enthusiam and it was great to see such a deserving family reap so much from a new home. The best part-- knowing that the son and father finally had a way to communicate on a daily basis.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bernard Bragg Honored as "Father of Deaf Theatre"

On Saturday, September 9, 2006, Bernard Bragg, one of the founders of the National Theatre of the Deaf, was honored as "The Father of Deaf Theatre" at Oakton Community College in Illinois. The event was sponsored by the International Center on Deafness and the Arts.

CBS News Anchor, John Davis, was the emcee of this event. The Traveling Hands Troupe, a group of deaf, hard of hearing and hearing dancers began the event with a dance routine.

In honor of Bragg's mime career as "The Quiet Man", Jonalee Folerynski performed a mime story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears that certainly didn't need any voice interpretation for those not familiar with American Sign Language. Other performers included Michael Schwartz, Kyle Littlepage, Liz Tannebaum, Mike Stark, Gina Matzkin, and Melanie Kaplan.

One of the most memorable skits of the night was CJ Jones' comedy routine. Deafinitly a routine that'll make you laugh your butt off. Heck, just one look at his publicity picture will make you chuckle:

One by one, Bragg's protege's took the stage to demonstrate the skills that Bragg instilled in them through workshops and camps. One by one, they thanked him for his guidance and expertise over the years. Bragg was actually speechless for a very short time, but he quickly bounced back with an eloquent speech and a "thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Monday, September 11, 2006

No, I Just Haf A Cowd, Dank You

Yesterday, I stopped in at the bank that I always patronize and got in line behind a new teller. As I was waiting, I tallied up the checks that I wanted to deposit and didn't realize that it was suddenly my turn. The teller must have said something, as I noticed her gazing at me with a puzzled expression.

Most of the time, I will offer an explanation to people with a simple, "I didn't hear what you said. I'm deaf."

But yesterday wasn't a nicey-nice day. I was in a hurry to head out of the bank and cranky as heck. I was craving some chocolate Sno Caps to stave off the major PMS symptoms that were gnawing at me. Or perhaps some Fannie May... Or Godiva chocolate...

New Teller Gal asked me a question and I thought she asked me how I wanted my money. "Twenties would be fine." I responded. She actually laughed and repeated her original question, which turned out to be, "Do you have any ID?"

Any other day, I would have explained, "I'm deaf," but yesterday, the PMS beast inside of me growled. "I've been a customer for almost ten years and I've submitted a check deposit slip with my name and address on it. My purse is in the car and the hubby is waiting outside. Can you process this without ID?"

Apparently my speech isn't crystal clear. She gazed at me and suddenly asked, "Are you sick?"

There were several other customers behind me. Ahem, is this the kind of question you ask customers? I quickly debated whether I was going to give her an explanation.

No dearie. What you hear is a result of several years of speech therapy and diminished hearing. Very diminished hearing, my dear. As in deaf.

Hmmm, I could add a little more nasality on the end and finish the sentence with a florish...


I could sit back and watch her take a few IQ points off if I miss any more questions that she fires off...

Instead, I smile sweetly and say, "Oh yeah, I have a nasty cold."

And I remember to wipe my nose just before I hand her the pen back.

Friday, September 08, 2006

It's No B.S. Mom, I Love You Too!

I grew up in a family with five generations of hearing loss. My Great-Grandfather, Grandmother, my mom and all of her siblings were deaf or hard of hearing and none of them knew sign language. All of my siblings have hearing loss as well as my children and one niece.

My mother's hearing began to decline in her twenties. All of my brothers and sisters were born hearing and one by one, we each lost our hearing. My oldest sister was three years old when she fell, hit her head and instantly became profoundly deaf. My parents sent her off to live with my aunt and she attended Central Institute for the Deaf, an oral school. My brother Dennis was 36 years old when a wooden beam fell on him at work and he woke up in the hospital two days later with a severe hearing loss. My sister Jeanie began to lose hearing in her 20's and just last summer, she slipped on a rug and became profoundly deaf. My brother Kenny has just recently began to wear hearing aids for a mild loss.

I came along 10 years after the last sibling was born. When I was five, I was diagnosed with a moderate to severe hearing loss. I muddled along in school, receiving a hearing aid in 4th grade and speech therapy. Because I “functioned” so well and was able to keep up my grades, I was pretty much lost in the system. Teachers lavished praise on the “girl with the hearing loss.” My loneliness was often overlooked.

My life stayed this way all through my school years. I made friends with a select few who could look beyond my hearing loss. In high school, I met another girl, Shawn, who also wore hearing aids and we became fast friends. We each shared the horror of dealing with group situations and the anxiety that came with it. We learned to adapt so well that some of our friends had no clue that we wore hearing aids. Of course, we missed out on the punch lines of many jokes while laughing along with the others.

When I began attending classes at the local community college, I started to fear that I had no future ahead of me. I had interviewed for several jobs, but no one had the courage to hire me or deal with my inability to use the phone. I took one job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant and earned money mostly by babysitting. The future began to look pretty bleak. The few guys that I dated weren’t good marriage prospects. I began to wonder just where I was headed.

On a whim, I decided to transfer to a college that had a program for deaf and hard of hearing persons. My mother reluctantly supported my decision. She was afraid to see her last baby go off to the great unknown. How in the world would I cope at a university when I could barely get by at the community college?

Just before going off to college, I was water skiing on my bare feet and I turned to cross the wake. I fell hard, and for the next few days, I kept feeling like I had water in my ear. I had become profoundly deaf.

Going off to college turned out to be a blessing. At first, it was quite a culture shock. I was living on a co-ed floor with people who signed so fast that it was intimidating. Little by little, I was transformed. Slowly, I was introduced to a Deaf life to the point it felt like “coming home.” I was in a world where hearing didn’t matter. It was a world where, if I missed the punch line of a joke, someone would kindly sign it over again until I could join in the laughter. Of course, occasionally I encountered: “Sorry, train gone!”

My mother and siblings began to see a new person blossom in front of them. I introduced them to a TTY, and a new, accessible world began to open for them. My mom admitted that she wished she had known more about sign language while we were growing up so that we could have had access to interpreters.

When my oldest son became deaf, my mom began to ask how to sign certain things. It made me smile to see my 70-year old mom signing to my kids. One of her favorite signs was the sign for “I love you,” which is made with the thumb, forefinger and pinky finger extended and the two middle fingers bent downward.

Every time we got into the van to leave to go home, Mom would flash her “I love you” sign. There was only one problem though…

Mom would occasionally forget and leave the thumb bent inward, which turned the sign into “B.S.”

It is quite a picture to see Mom flashing her “B.S.” sign when we are pulling out of the driveway. It always puts a smile on my face.

It’s no B.S., Mom. I love you too!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Meet Henry Kisor--Pilot and Author

For the last two years, I've been contributing articles to the Hands & Voices Communicator. I'm always looking for deaf and hard of hearing people with interesting jobs.

About a year ago, I came across Henry Kisor, a literary reviewer for the Chicago Sun Times. I contacted him and asked if we could meet so I could do an article. Henry was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Criticism in 1981 and the author of several books, including "What's That Pig Outdoors, A Memoir of Deafness."

We met for lunch and Henry shared tales about his life's adventures. Henry took a train trip across America, interviewing passengers by lipreading, and the result was the book:
Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America.

A midlife crisis had Henry pursuing his dream of flying (a dream that he thought he couldn't accomplish because he was deaf) and he began to take flying lessons. He obtained his pilot's license and began to do some research about flying. A pilot by the name of Cal Rodgers, came up during his research and he discoverd that Rodgers was hard of hearing. Henry purchased a small plane and decided to take a trip across America, similar to the trip that Cal Rodgers took in the early 1900's. He penned the tales of his adventure in this book: Flight of the Gin Fizz. I enjoyed this book so much that I wrote a review: Epinions: Flight of the Gin Fizz.

Henry joined the International Deaf Pilots Association and participated in several fly-ins around the U.S. He also wrote three mystery novels and a children's book. Henry recently retired from 38 years of newspaper writing and is working on another book.

You can read the full Hands & Voices article here: "Mystery Author Unveiled: Meet Henry Kisor."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Labor Day Bash

We had a Labor Day Bash yesterday, with a handful of deaf and hard of hearing friends, food and lots of conversation.

That morning, the hubby and I were preparing the food. We had hot dogs, brats and a new kind of polish sausage that we've never tried before. I picked up the food from Bobaks, a store that has a reputation for good sausage. The hubby was being very helpful and he cut open the polish sausage from the package, put it in a pan and tossed it in the oven. We both commented on the interesting stripes that were on the outside of the sausage, but we didn't give it another thought.

One of the guys, John Maloney bit into the first sausage and instantly discovered that the sausage was wrapped in plastic.

Apparently the stripes were supposed to alert us to the fact that the plastic casing was supposed to come off before cooking.


Oh well. Sometimes you just gotta laugh.