I recently had the pleasure of working with the Deaf Education And Families Project (DEAF Project) to host a full-day retreat for families raising deaf and hard of hearing children. The retreat, entitled, “Connected: Celebrating Families,” was held at Marlton School in Los Angeles on Saturday, Oct. 12.
The goal of the event was to showcase the joys of bonding with and raising a deaf or hard-of-hearing (DHH) child through a series of workshops and family team-building activities.
A highlight of the retreat was the “For Dads Only!” workshop, led by Tomas Garcia and Mark Splittstoesser. As part of the workshop, participating fathers were asked to wear ear-plugs to simulate the day-to-day experience of their DHH children. The workshop received high praise from dads, including one dad who said, “The timing in my life was perfect for this. Mark hit home. Appreciate everything.”
Simultaneous to the “For Dads Only!” workshop, moms attended two different sessions. The first, “Moms Connect,” led by Lori Sortino, Apryl Chauhan and Irma Sanchez, gave moms a chance to network with fellow in discussions about a variety of topics. They also had the opportunity to create a “vision board” using images cut out of magazines to help represent their hopes and dreams for their children. In the afternoon session, led by Carmen Varela, Irma Sanchez and Jamila Guerrero-Cantor, moms and other female attendees learned how to get the most out of an IEP meeting, along with important tips for becoming an empowered advocate for their DHH children.
More than 80 children participated in a comprehensive children’s program led by Stephanie Johnson. Johnson is a teacher at Marlton School and also teaches a Family ASL class for DEAF Project. With a team of volunteers, Johnson kept kids entertained with arts and crafts, relay races, board games, play equipment and pumpkin carving.
Families traveled from throughout the Greater Los Angeles Area, Riverside, Bakersfield, Ventura, Lancaster, Indio and San Diego. Nancy Grosz Sager, the deaf and hard of hearing consultant for the California Department of Education even flew in from Sacramento to attend!