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Love and Language: Connecting with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults Transcript

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Love and Language: Connecting with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults

Danelle Gournaris ; M.A. M.S.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Family Mentor Program Manager

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[Screen fades and Danelle Gournaris appears. Shei s facing the camera and smiling. She begins to sign.]

Imagine a deaf child coming from a hearing family that doesn't know American Sign Language, and that family goes to that child's teacher, or another deaf professional, to explain to their child that their grandmother has passed away. Because this family is unable to communicate with their child in their language. Imagine another hard-of-hearing child who may have some residual hearing, but amongst a loud classroom, doesn't have the advocacy skills to tell the teacher that they don't understand or that they need additional support, and, instead, become ashamed and withdrawn. These two stories are true and are happening out there. I am grateful that my family, that comes from a rural area, really took on the need to seek out the deaf community and to seek out learning sign language. I'm very grateful that my family did this. That's given me the inspiration to become the Deaf Mentor Family Program Manager to provide the support for deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Research has shown that deaf and hard-of-hearing children require the access to language, deaf mentors and role models for them to look up to, strong family involvement that would provide strong supports for them, and also a strong support system. The components of a strong support system would be the Early Hearing Detection Intervention Program, deaf and hard-of-hearing adults, the Department of Education, and other service providers, that also would incorporate deaf and hard-of-hearing adults, to provide the holistic support for a deaf and hard-of-hearing child. Research has also shown that, if this system includes deaf and hard-of-hearing adults to support this child, their cognitive skills will thrive. Their language abilities also will thrive, and their social-emotional status grows exponentially. If we include deaf and hard-of-hearing adults, families will feel less anxious. Here in Minnesota, we have that great system and a wonderful collaboration. The Deaf Mentor Family Program provides families access to communication by teaching American Sign Language – 

[Photo briefly appears in the top left corner before fading away. It shows Danelle working as a Deaf Mentor at the MN Hands & Voices picnic. Danelle continues to sign.] 

- as well as the deaf mentors help the families to connect with other members of the deaf community by attending events and encouraging for the family to a be a part of those events. Deaf mentors and our role models provide life stories and experiences to the families so that their deaf and hard-of-hearing child carries that confidence as they grow to become successful deaf or hard-of-hearing adults in the future, and having other professionals to look up to. With the support of a deaf mentor, and a family that also utilized our Deaf Mentor Family Program and became connected with our deaf community, I happened to be observing this family at a social event. The father and daughter were walking along the beach and his daughter was four years old at the time, and she told her dad that she really wanted to go kayaking. She expressed that in ASL and the father was fearful for this to happen, because his daughter has a tracheal tube, and he was concerned that, if the kayak were to tip, it would risk her drowning. And the father had the ASL skills, or the language skills, to be able to explain that to his daughter, and how much he cared for her and loved her, and didn't want anything to happen to her. And watching that bond, and that communication, happen was truly inspiring, and that our program was able to provide the support and the supports for this family, so they were able to develop a father-daughter bond. And we are here to provide all of our families the supports that they need.

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Thanks to: 

The Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing for supporting the development of the TED Talks. 

Talent – Nicole Brown, Jay Fehrman, Danelle Gournaris, Elise Knopf, Jody and Logan Waldo.

Interpreters – Gina Alvarado, Emory David Dively, Quincy Craft Faber

InHouse Media

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