Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Triplets Who Are Deaf Blind-- After the Show

"What do you do when this stretches out for the rest of your life?" commented Dr. Phil on his show today featuring the Hooker family with triplets who are deaf blind. The first half of the show gave viewers a peek into the daily life of caring for the three of them every day. Diapers, special pajamas that zip up in the back, head rocking, temper tantrums and drinks that end up on the floor. The daily struggle of trying to build up language while simply trying to survive through the day.

As I watched the show, I found myself thinking about the sheer amount of work it takes to try and communicate with three young ones using tactile sign. I noticed that one triplet had a cochlear implant, so I'm sure the family's life includes visits to the audiologist on a regular basis for mappings. One child who is deaf blind is a challenge; three requires some daily outside help to keep your own strength going. It's no wonder the family's mental resources were tested to the limit.

Dr. Phil brought on Jennifer Rothschild, author of Lessons I Learned in the Dark to inspire the family. Jennifer became blind a the age of fifteen. While her story was inspiring, I really felt that Dr. Phil could have made a greater impact by bringing on an adult who was deaf blind. Brian Hubbard, for example, is a psychotherapist who happens to be deaf blind and an inspirational speaker as well.

Perhaps as a result of this show, the Hooker family will be able to connect with other families raising children who are deaf blind and adults who are deaf blind.

For a summary of the show, go here: Triplets Who Are Deaf Blind.

Personalized Children's Books

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Triplets who are Deaf Blind on Dr. Phil Show

Imagine having your hands full with triplets. Now imagine that each of them are deaf blind--your hands would be truly full. Jamie Burke did an interview with the parents, Liz and George Hooker, when the children were close to five years of age: Deafblind Triplet Daughters.

The Hooker family will be featured on the Dr. Phil Show on Wednesday, February 28th, 2007. Check your local listings for the time.

From the Dr. Phil Show listing:

Most parents find raising a child overwhelming enough, but imagine if that child could neither see you, nor hear you. Now imagine having three children like that. Liz is the mother of the only known deafblind triplets in the world. Her three daughters are now 6 years old, but one of the girls is able to communicate at a 2-year-old level, and the other two at only 10-month-old levels. Liz's world is consumed with their 24-hour care, plus the care of her oldest daughter, who is 10 and often times overlooked among the chaos of the triplets. After years of dealing with the girls on her own, a new man stepped into Liz's life to fill the shoes of her ex-husband. George thought he could become Liz's hero, but their relationship has been strained from the start and the stress is tearing them apart. See what a day in Liz and George's lives are like, and the surprises Dr. Phil has in store for them. Plus, meet an inspirational woman who says her world turned from light to dark at the age of 15. She's got a message for George and Liz. Don't miss this heartbreaking and heroic story!

Personalized Children's Books

Monday, February 26, 2007

Deaf and Hard of Hearing People-- The Realities of Employment

At a recent Parent Connection meeting over the weekend, a supervisor of deaf education mentioned that deaf and hard of hearing people often have difficulties finding employment and most are underemployed.

Many deaf and hard of hearing persons, the supervisor explained, often do not have opportunities to move up to higher positions despite being qualified to do so.

On the Hands & Voices website, the statistics are rather dismal but many of the studies are also quite old: A Snapshot of Statistics.

From the site:

Approximately 40% of deaf adults are unemployed and 90% are underemployed. (Siegel, 2000).

Underemployed simply means that someone has degrees, qualifications or skills that are not being utilized in their current employment.

The truth is a somewhat muddled picture. Today, with so much technology available, there are many more opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing persons to take on a variety of jobs that were considered unthinkable thirty years ago. We have doctors, lawyers, vets, reporters, realtors, financial advisors-- the list goes on. Yet, deaf and hard of hearing persons often have a difficult time of even getting their foot in the door and obtaining an interview. The one thing that often presents a barrier is the attitude of the person doing the hiring. One has to wonder how many qualified, talented deaf and hard of hearing persons are overlooked for jobs because of the perception that their "hearing deficiencies" will present a problem.

Jo Waldron sums it up: "The worst barrier in the world is attitude." Marlee Matlin, in a Business Week article also has something to say about attitude: All it takes to realize that a deaf person can rise to any task is a little awareness and interaction. All it takes is a little awareness. I like to say that the greatest handicap of deafness does not lie in the ear, it lies in the mind.

Check out Trudy Suggs' article: Will Work For Food.

Thoughts, anyone?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Itching for Spring

It has started.

I was in line at Lowes yesterday and picked up my first gardening magazine of the year. I love that moment when I recognize that spring is coming and I can sculpt my backyard with a shake of a seed package.

There's one plant that I've never had any luck with, the purple echinacea in the photograph above. I took that picture at the Holley Family Village in Michigan a few years ago. They had a wonderful, small garden filled with native plants and grasses. For the last couple of years, I've tried transplants, potted plants and seeds in an effort to get purple echinacea in my landscape.

At first, I tried just one potted plant, figuring that I could harvest the seeds and divide the plant for the following year. I'm such a cheap gardener, I don't like to spend money on something that can be propagated easily. That first year, the rabbits mowed the plant down to the ground.

The second year, I tried seeds in various locations. The rabbits had a picnic as soon as the seedlings sprouted.

I also hate having to barricade a plant, so plants have to be tough to survive in our backyard. We live across the street from a prairie filled with coyotes, so the rabbits take refuge in suburbia. You know that old rule about seeing one rabbit? It means you've got a family of a million rabbits instead.

Last year, I didn't bother with the echinacea because I was experimenting with white daisies from my neighbor. I was so happy that a clump of white daisies managed to survive the rabbits without a barricade.

So perhaps this summer will be the summer of purple flowers for me.

Stay tuned. Pictures will be forthcoming in August.

Assuming, of course, that the rabbits don't win again.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Doing an Article on Cochlear Implants

It was bound to happen.

I'm currently working on an article that will feature families who've experienced a rough journey with a cochlear implant. The idea for the article came about when my daughter's friend experienced an implant failure. Her implant simply stopped working during dinner one night. It was really tough for my daughter's friend to have to go through several weeks without her implant, deal with another surgery and the long adjustment process afterward as she got used to a different brand of implant.

Don't get me wrong, the majority of my friends and the families that I know who have implants get great use out of them and have no regrets. If you do a search for cochlear implant stories, you will find a vast wealth of stories of implant users who are happy with them.

So when I got the idea for this story and went looking for families and adults to share their stories of difficulties, I took a beating.

How dare you discourage parents from considering an implant by writing only about the negatives?

Parents will get enough disclosure before surgery as the implant team will go over all the possible complications that can result. Why worry parents with things that happen in only 1 to 2 percent of the cases?

I also found my name dragged through the mud on one forum by someone who didn't even know me. Another accused me of running a PR campaign for the Deaf Community.

And the irony is that I'm getting closer to getting an implant myself.

All I really wanted from this article is to share the stories of families/adults who have gone through a difficult time with an implant. So that my daughter's friend and the other families that have struggled would be able to relate to others who have "walked that walk" and know that they weren't alone.

The real point of this article is not about the implants-- it's about the families' journeys. It's about sharing feelings of what families/adults have experienced when encountering difficulties with an implant. Every family/adult has a story that needs to be honored and shared, and sometimes it includes stories of families and adults who've had outcomes that fall in the that lower end of the statistic.

So if you're an adult with an implant who has had a difficult journey or a family with a child with an implant and you are willing to be interviewed, contact me at: parentsofdeafhoh (at) aol (dot) com.

Update: Here's the article-- Twists and Turns, Journeys with Implants.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Back to Reality--And It Bites

We just got back from a short vacation down in Kissimmee, Florida. I had won some money from Epinions and it was in the form of an Ebay gift certificate. So we decided to use it on a time share vacation at Silver Lakes Resort.

The resort was quite nice, although the two-bedroom villa that we stayed in was a bit outdated with the decor. We sat through a 90-minute presentation and toured the brand new facilities which were packed with a "wow" factor. Granite countertops and plasma tvs in every room-- we almost wanted to buy a time share right then and there. Fortunately, one look at the checkbook balance and we came to our senses.

We spent one day at Wet-N-Wild, a water park run by Universal. The temperature was 74 degrees with nary a cloud in site and the water was heated. Best of all, there were almost no lines and we were able to try every ride in the resort. The youngest kiddo and I wisely declined the 90-degree body slide, preferring not to do bodily harm to our backside.

We played tennis at the resort one day and it was the first time that the kids had ever held rackets. The boys constantly fought the urge to swing the tennis racket like a baseball bat but they took great delight in chasing after tennis balls whenever they would hit it out of the court. "This is the most fun I've ever had!" exclaimed the oldest. The hubby and I looked at each other in amazement. The free stuff beat out the expensive water park, go figure.

So here we are back home to a dusty house, a sink full of dishes and snow piled up outside. There's homework to be done before the kids head back to school tomorrow and grocery shopping to do.

Ah, back to reality.

But before I head to the kitchen, I'm taking one more look at the palm trees swaying in the wind...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Surviving Substitute Teaching

For the last three and half weeks, I have been substitute teaching at a local high school in the foreign language department. The teacher that I subbed for participated in the Deaf Olympics as an interpreter for the USA Hockey team. The USA team took the gold medal.

I subbed in three different American Sign Language classes with about fifteen students in each class. In two of the classes, the students were absolute angels. One class had a few students who enjoyed disrupting the class and clowning around. They certainly kept me on my toes. Fortunately, no one had to visit the dean.

It was easy for the students to take advantage of having a deaf sub because I could see them whispering answers to each other during quizzes. It was nearly impossible to monitor it closely so I'm sure a few of them got away with some assisted answers. They also got away with talking to each other during movies.

On the last day, the students wrote a one-page essay describing their experiences with a substitute teacher. I was pleasantly surprised to receive some nice feedback.

Last night, the regular teacher stopped by to pick up her key and some papers and gave me a t-shirt from the Deaf Olympics.

I'm actually going to miss those students!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Supporting Families Without Bias-- The Hands & Voices Way

One of most frequent questions I'm often asked is how can you support families without bias? I've come across several professionals in the field who give me incredulous looks when I describe the Hands & Voices philosophy:

"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."

Support families without bias?
they exclaim. That's impossible! Everyone is biased!

Yes, we all have our personal belief systems, but we cross over into bias when we have a pre-determined outcome in mind for a family when working with them. When we operate with an agenda, no one wins.

In the four years that I've been involved with Hands & Voices, I've had the chance to meet a variety of families who have chosen a variety of modes and methods of communication with their deaf and hard of hearing children. It is this varied and wide exposure that leads to the ability to support families without bias because we've seen families with well-adjusted, successful kids in every communication mode. If you come from only one perspective, it is difficult to see the value in other modes/methods of communication. I have grown and changed my own perspectives as I've worked with families making a variety of choices. The bottom line that families have to face: Can I communicate with my child? Does my child have the ability to turn his thoughts into language and the ability to communicate that?

With infants now being diagnosed with hearing loss on their second day of life, parents have the ability to seek out options and talk with other parents, professionals and deaf/hard of hearing adults without having to quickly make a decision about communication methods/modes. However, in real life practice, especially in the state of Illinois, what's really happening is that parents are referred to a pediatric audiologist and the state's early intervention system which has no control over the bias of information that goes out. Parents are still heavily in contact with professionals in the decision-making stage of their infant's life. In states like Colorado, Wisconsin and Michigan, the early intervention programs have a mix of professionals, parents and deaf/hard of hearing adults under a program called Guide By Your Side.

We also have the current practice of flooding parents with a variety of options and saying to them, "It's your choice, pick one." Parents are at the beginning stage of dealing with feelings, inexperience and a whole host of other factors, some factors which will only reveal themselves with time.

When parents have a good support system in a safe arena, they're going to be open to questions and exploring options and most importantly, looking at their child's perspective of the journey as well. We stress this at Hands & Voices-- that it's not just the parent's journey, it's the child's journey as well. Look at where your child is leading you-- no decision is set in stone and you have the option to make different decisions as your child grows.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My One Paragraph of Fame in the "O" Magazine

I was cranky when I arrived home from subbing today after battling four inches of snow on a rural road. My niece excitedly greeted me by hollering, "You're in Oprah's magazine!"

My mind scrambled to figure out what I sent to the magazine. I had sent out several queries in the last couple of weeks and couldn't remember just what I had sent to the "O" magazine.

As it turns out, my letter to the editor was printed in the March issue of "O" Magazine Just a simple paragraph thanking Oprah for a personal lesson that she shared about weight and food.

It may only be a paragraph, but it sure is nice to open up the pages and see my name in print!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Tyson Foods: Listen Up!

I'm pissed.

My family loves chicken fajitas and we normally make them with chicken breast strips from Trader Joe's. The other day, the hubby and I were at Meijers and decided to grab two bags of Tyson Fajita Chicken Breast strips. After all, as you can see from the Tyson picture below, the white chicken breasts look quite delicious:

But after cooking up the Tyson product, here's how much of the purty white stuff we ended up with:

Did I mention I was pissed?

As I continued to cook the product (which was advertised as fully cooked. I was merely "warming up" the product) the hubby and I began to remove the not-so-delectible selections of meat that we found in the pan:

Yes, that plate on the left is the fatty dark meat that comprised over ninety percent of this supposedly white meat Tyson product.

Oh, I was pissed. And the hubby was too. Twelve dollars of meat and hardly enough to feed a family of six.

But what I'm about to show you is not for the faint of heart. Make sure you're sitting down as you direct your eyes to this next photograph:

Does this even resemble anything close to white chicken breast meat?

Listen up, Tyson foods-- that's deceptive advertising. I won't be buying this product ever again. And I'm betting the readers of this blog won't be, either.


Tyson responded quickly:

Dear Ms. Putz:

We appreciate your taking the time to share your comments regarding the
chicken fajita strips. I understand your frustration when a product
does not meet expectations.

I visited your blog spot--the pictures helped me to understand part of
the issue. The first picture (from our web site) is a 6 ounce package
of Tyson Fajita Chicken Breast Strips. These are sold refrigerated, not
frozen. The second picture (item that you purchased) is a 20 ounce bag
of frozen Tyson Fajita Chicken Strips. The fajita chicken strips
include both thigh and breast meat.

A report regarding the fatty thigh meat was sent to the Quality
Assurance Manager. I also forwarded your message to the Marketing
Product Manager. Per our product guarantee of satisfaction, a refund
for the two bags will be mailed to you at the address included in your
e-mail. Again, we appreciate your feedback.

Best regards,

Willie D. Barber
Manager, Consumer Information Services
Tyson Foods, Inc.

Note from me: I apparently posted the wrong bag of chicken breast strips, but if you look closely at the bag that I took a picture of-- you can see the same white chicken breasts on the second bag (there's no "breast" in the bag description). Still deceptive advertising!

Update: Tyson followed up with a letter and apology and a check for a full refund. They also sent a coupon for two more bags of Fajita strips.

Uh, no thanks!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Chicago Gets Ready For Another Super Bowl

For the last two weeks, I have been substitute teaching at a local high school. On Friday, I was telling the students about the 1986 Super Bowl. They looked at me with a blank look on their faces and I suddently realized that none of my students were even born when the Chicago Bears went to the Super Bowl in 1986. What a reality check. I remember the 1986 Super Bowl like it was yesterday.

My friend Tena, who was a Honey Bear cheerleader during that Super Bowl, is probably taking a similar reality check today, except she looks just as good today as she did in 1986. You go, Tena!

We are heading over to a deaf party tonight and I look forward to cheering on the Bears and sharing this piece of history with my kids.

On another note, Karen Meyer, ABC reporter, had a feature on a Bears player this morning:
Chicago Bears Player Reaches Out to Children About Stuttering.

Go Bears!

Deaf Teacher Featured in Rocky Mountain News

Susan Elliot, a deaf teacher, serves as a Hands & Voices board member and on the Gallaudet Board of Trustees. She was recently featured in the Rocky Mountain News: Massaro: After a Pal's Suicide, She Chose Life.

I first met Susan via videophone last summer when we were scheduled to give a presentation together at a leadership workshop. It is quite a feat to pull off a presentation with someone you've never met before, but I enjoyed working with her.

Gotta love this quote in the article: "If Elliott ever engaged the battery rabbit in a competition, stretcher bearers would haul off the bunny by halftime." It's true-- Susan has boundless energy!

Here's what a former student has to say: Aspirations Encouraged by an Encounter With A Deaf Teacher.