All About Connecting with Your Whole Child – Episode 90 with Jen Walker
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Today Dr. Saperstein speaks with Jen Walker, mother to 7-year-old hard of hearing girl who was internationally adopted. The two discuss the desire to look for ways to create a supportive environment while seeing your whole child. Jen shares parallels with going through the international adoption process and when her daughter was identified as hard-of-hearing. Listen or read the transcript to hear Jen share how and where to look for resources for hard-of-hearing kids, the importance of letting your child have a life of their own, and always looking for ways to connect with them.
This week on the All About Audiology podcast:
- 7:20 – Dealing with international adoption and hearing loss process at the same time, and finding similar situations and difficulties in both process
- 12:00 – Importance of intersectional identities and not “tagging” kids so that they can grow up as individuals of their own
- 16:00 – First reaction after finding out about your kid’s hearing loss and the first steps to look for resources
- 20:10 – Finding the Connect & Advocate program for the first time and getting involved
- 25:50 Advocating using the F-I-G Method to balance oversharing and practical advocating.
- 29:30 – The Connect & Advocate program lets you connect with your child, share with people going through similar experiences, and receive educational and medical advise
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And the Prodana pay-it-forward platform here: https://prodana.org/practioner/lilach-saperstein/audiology-counseling–dr–lilach-saperstein
Links for Jen’s pages:
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Dr. Lilach Saperstein:
Welcome back to the All About Audiology podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Lilach Saperstein, and this is the show that is all about you and your journey.
A lot of the audiology journey and having a child who is deaf or hard of hearing revolves around questions and not knowing where to get the answers. So that is what this show is all about. It is, you know, giving you a lot of information, a lot of resources, conversations with lots of different people for you to then go and say: Does this apply to me? If yes, excellent, you learn something that can help you on your way.
So, on today’s episode, I’m so excited to talk to one of my favorite people who is going to introduce herself in a moment, but I just have to say that every single time we hop on a call together, every time that we have communicated and work together, it always makes me so joyous, so I’m really excited to introduce you all, to Jen Walther, welcome, Jen.
Thank you, that’s something to live up to there, no pressure, right? [Laughs]
You know, there’s just something that happens in the universe, when two people feel like they have a lot of the same values, and also really align with: I know something that you are looking to know more about, and that is very good for both sides of that equation. [Laughs] Because it gives, you know, part of the journey for the all about audiology, the parenting coaching side of things that I’m doing, the Connect and advocate members group, you know, Jen was one of the first people to join that and really make what I’m doing valid. [Laughs] So that’s really important for my journalism, thank you for that.
Anyway, listen, people want to know who you are, why are you on the show today? So please give us an introduction, a little background.
Jen Walker, I live in Houston with my husband and my daughter, my daughter is hard of hearing or deaf hard of hearing. We kind of haven’t, I don’t know, aligned on the appropriate label, because she’s still only 7, so she’s just kind of growing into how she wants to be known as.
So, in addition to her being deaf and hard of hearing, she was adopted internationally. So she came home to our house at about two and a half years old. And that was, yeah, five years ago. Wow. Time flies. [Laughs]
I think I have just one question on that, that people might wonder, did you have any idea or understanding of her hearing status or being hard of hearing before you met her?
So we are, I think, fairly clueless parents, maybe. Because if you go through the international adoption process you get some information about this child that you’re going to bring into your house and to your family. So the information that we got, we got a medical file and some videos and pictures, and there are doctors in the US that specialize in international adoption files. And so you have like 48 hours to get a doctor to review that file and get back to you from when you have it to make that kind of “yes, we’re all in” decision. So her file, said that her hearing was normal. It had some other special needs listed. But one of the, I remember very clearly, one of the doctors that we talked to, I actually talked to two, and one of them said, “Well, you know, with this need, sometimes, hearing loss can be an issue. So you should look out for that”. And I noticed on some of her videos that, you know, she doesn’t always respond to the people calling. And like I said, we’re a little bit clueless parents, so we were like, oh, yeah, okay, whatever, sounds her hearing is normal, let’s just… We kind of, almost, blew it off. So, no, we did not know when she came home that she heard differently than we do. And we did not know for probably about a good six months of her being home. And really it was, you know, three or four months, and we were with the pediatrician, and just kind of, you know, general overview updates all that and she was like, “Well, you know, she hasn’t really picked up that much speech since being home, you should maybe get her hearing evaluated, probably not a big deal”.
Even in our like, audiology reports now, it says like “mom said, we don’t really think that she can’t hear”, and every time I read it, I just kind of cringe. Why were we not kind of up on this? So…
You also were doing something new. You were dealing with so much that, that wasn’t at all on your radar. So, hurray for the pediatrician, made that referral, and it’s okay that you weren’t concerned because that’s, you know, that’s when it’s like, the professionals are there for you hopefully.
Yeah. And, you know, I feel really fortunate because I know a lot of people have to push their doctors for those referrals, and we didn’t have to. Then we did have to wait to get in to see the audiologist. I think that I called in like March or so, and it was June, by the time we finally got the appointment. So, on one hand, also, we were like, well, we don’t really think it’s a problem so we won’t press for it either, we’ll just set it up and see what happens.
But we’ve been, I would say, very, very fortunate to have professionals around us that have pushed for us and advocated for us early on. And that’s, you know, the pediatrician who said, “you should maybe get her hearing checked”, and then when we went to audiology and we did the first sound booth test. I mean, she was three at the time, not interested in a sound booth test, quite frankly right? Not knowing what to do, and at the same time, not being able to hear what was going on, we didn’t know that. So, you know, at the end of the test, the audiologist is like, “well, it’s kind of inconclusive, but we suspect there’s an issue. So we need to get an ABR done right away”. And they scheduled that very, very quickly. So I mean, once we finally got into the audiologist, everything went pretty rapid, actually. So like a week or two later ABR. And at the ABR, they said, “Yep, she needs hearing aids. Let’s do the earmolds”, right then.
So, within a month really of our first appointment, I think we had the hearing aids and they were on her ears.
What was that like? Like, were you able to accept that? Understand what it meant? Or were you just sort of following where they were taking you? How were you feeling at that time?
It was very much a whirlwind of information, you know, drinking from a firehose is the [Lilach laughs] appropriate statement there, right? And, you know, in this age of social media, like the first thing you do is like, Facebook group and Instagram or whatever your kind of thing is. Find out, okay, what are the resources? And you know, there wasn’t much discussion in terms of like, language preference, sort of language path, or any of that, right communication pathways, it was very much like, okay, she has hearing loss, we’re going to order the hearing aids today kind of thing. And you’re gonna go from there, and you need to get into speech therapy. And, you know, there was never any, “oh, well, you should consider doing sign language, or you could consider like these other alternatives”. It was very much just like, “here’s your path, done!” I mean, the nice thing was that it was, “here’s your path, go down it fast, right? Don’t wait”. And things got set up quickly. But at the same time, there wasn’t a lot of reflection for “what’s the right thing for us?” maybe, just the best way to say that.
Yeah, and I think that for, you know, telling me if I’m putting words in your mouth, but for your situation, specifically, you were already dealing with a lot of questions of identity formation and inclusion in the family on a much bigger scale in the adoption journey. And then to get this whole additional parallel journey with identity around deafness, or…
Definitely that we’ve talked a lot on the podcast about the implicit bias in audiology, definitely, we’re going to link some episodes, especially the one with Mallorie Evans, who is an audiologist that talks a lot about how, you know, even the language we’re using by saying hearing loss, and the one option of “what we’re trying to accomplish as audiologists as a field, whereas what do people actually need?” There’s definitely a change, a difference there, which we’re trying to bridge the gap for, all the time.
But, I’m curious at what point you did start to learn or cue into those bigger conversations when it came to Evie?
I think there are a lot of parallels between international adoption, or even domestic adoption that’s across races so transracial adoption, and in some ways, our hearing loss journey, right? Because what you’re dealing with is a culture outside of your own, whether it’s yourself and your child’s culture, racial culture, ethnic culture, or hearing and Deaf culture, right? which is its own culture. And I’m very, very thankful that there are resources involved today that probably didn’t exist 10, 20, 30 years ago.
So we live in a big city, right? We live in Houston, the fourth largest city in the US. So there’s a lot of resources. And there’s a lot of things here, and, you know, very quickly, we found that we live right down the street from a school that is for kids with hearing loss. We didn’t know at the time that it was a listening-spoken language only. And we didn’t even know that that was a thing right? that there are implications to that. So our first steps were like, okay, she’s getting hearing aids, because that’s what they just told us, and we got to get her into the school. And so, to be honest, that school really did a lot for our family. And I know that there’s a big debate out there. And I understand why there are frustrations around listening-spoken language.
For our family, it was incredibly beneficial. And some of that was around getting language but some of that was just around that same aspect of “she needs to be around other people that are hard of hearing or that are deaf” right? And so in her classroom, it’s all kids with hearing aids and cochlear implants. And so she was like, this is normal. Fast forward, a few months, maybe even a year, you know what I did on the adoption side was I joined a lot of adoption groups and what you find on social media is, some are good, some are bad. I was in these adoption groups, and they do challenge or kind of perspective. So I joined some groups around deaf and hard of hearing and it was like, whoa! There’s a whole controversy here too, right? And in the “adoption worlds”, there’s lots of controversy around things, and the same goes in “the deaf” space. So it’s like, oh, this is challenging me, this is making me go beyond what’s easy, or what I was initially thinking, right? And so it was probably, to be honest, it was at least a year in or so, before I was like, okay, maybe we should think about learning sign language, right? Maybe we should think about these things.
And then got further and further involved in that and did start learning sign language. And, you know, having my daughter learn sign language as well, and I see so many benefits, that it’s like, okay, you have to be willing to be challenged, to then kind of grow from that. But it’s tough, because there’s brutal, brutal people out there, right? And it’s like
And the other side of it is you want to be exposed to new ideas, and you want to hear the perspective from, quote on quote, “the other side”, or people who have a different path or different perspectives, because lots of times, they have a good point. And that’s why they’re loudly trying to tell people their side of things because they’re not being listened to outside of that. So you have to find in a peer-to-peer or some sort of, you know, back to Facebook groups, and I think that’s very valuable that you can then say, “what’s right for us? What should I try?” and then see if it works.
I definitely find and, you know, one of my favorite things in this podcast and in the work that we’re doing together is that it really does hit so many different parts of our journey of our identity of life as parents, in our relationships, in education… And always trying to find what that balance is that’s supportive of our needs, and also pushes us forward. It’s a complicated one.
Yeah! And I think it also goes back to “intersectioning”, the intersectionality of identity, right? So I just read this book, “Deaf Utopia”, have you read that? by Nyle DiMarco
Not yet, I heard of it. Yeah.
I just read it. And he talks about, you know, this intersection of his life in different ways. And, you know, we often label groups, and then think of them as a monolith. But they’re not, right? I mean, if you say Deaf culture, some Deaf people talk, some Deaf people sign, some deaf people have cochlear implants, some have hearing aids, some do none of those.
So it’s the same as the adoption community, right? international adoptees, some of them do these things, some of them do other things, right? So you can get into the spot of, well, my persona or my child is this exact thing. And you see this a lot with different therapists, right? And I’ll come back to that. But really, they’re not. They’re like a multitude of different things, right? My daughter wasn’t born in America, but she’s an American. And yes, she’s hard of hearing, and she wears hearing aids, but she speaks and you know what else, she loves dinosaurs, and she loves owls, and she does all kinds of other things. And when we put too many labels on, we forget about that wide variety that really is a person.
You know, I think that’s why it’s important that when you find the people on your team, sometimes you’re gonna have them that are just focused on one thing, right? So we had a therapist that was just focused on trauma, and in particular, adoption-related trauma. And you know, we have a speech therapist that, her main specialty is around children with hearing loss. And it’s good to have those specialists. But at the same time, if you’re a specialist in one thing, everything that you see in a child is related, right? If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Sometimes it’s not related. You know, we have some very, I think, special people on our team who have said, “Okay, yes, this is my specialty, but I think you should consider something totally different”.
So we recently had an orofacial myologist, just consultation, speech therapy consultation, right? so about the muscles of the mouth. And that came through our hearing loss speech therapist, she said, “You know, I think you should have this done. And you should tell them, Yes, she is hard of hearing, she has hearing loss. But don’t even think about that. Do the evaluation as if that’s not an issue because we know that” basically, she was taking her own hammer out of the equation and saying, Okay, you need somebody that’s specialized in this and tell them not to consider the spectrum because we already know about that stuff. But what is it that’s special there? And we got really, really good feedback because of that, I think, and so when you can branch outside of those specific things, and that’s why as a parent, you know your child best, that’s important. That’s why I love the work that you do, because it’s important to be able to advocate across those different things. And your therapists, and your audiologist, your doctors, all those people are going to push back on you for, well, they need this because of their hearing loss, or they need this because of their trauma, or they need this because of their… whatever. There are other diagnoses. And sometimes you just have to say, ”Actually, I don’t think that’s related”. It seems like it’s related because that’s your focus. But I don’t think that’s related.
Yeah, yeah. And that’s where the parenting part of it comes in. Because lots of times parents will say, “We’re dealing with this issue, and this issue, and these behavioral things, and we’re really struggling with parenting this child”. And they’re possibly attributing all those challenges to their hearing loss, or any other, you know, diagnosis or thing that is on paper that’s known. And some of the times it’s totally something else.
But it’s interesting, though, because I think when you get that initial identification that your child is different, right? Whether it’s hearing loss, Hard of Hearing, deaf, or another need of some sort, right? When you get that initial identification that your child is a little different. She has different abilities, and she’s going to face different obstacles that you did. You kind of initially, I think, have this moment of like, oh my god, what am I going to do? Like fight or flight freeze kind of thing. There’s a lot of grief and stuff like that about, you know, you envision your kid’s life. But to be honest, I think it’s the best thing that probably happened to me, because it made me go, why am I putting so much pressure on my kid to behave a certain way, right? Because she is her own person. And I think that we sometimes forget that. And this was like a moment of, you know, somebody knocking me on my head going, “Hey, get rid of your view of how this person’s life is going to be and let them define their own life”. And I think it helps me to kind of release some of those, I don’t know, perfection ideals because it’s so easy to fall into the trap.
And not only will they grow fine, when we’re thinking of the future. They’re actually here now, and you’re here now. You don’t look at the kid and think of what are they going to do in 10 years? In 20 years? Well, we don’t have any clue about anything, the future or even tomorrow. So why don’t we really, like, come back to presence and come back to our connection with our child and connection to ourselves, then everything sort of looks very different. One of the most significant things one of my grad school professors told me is “You can get a B, you don’t have to get an A”. And of course, you know, well, the way you got into this graduate program is by being a perfectionist, “A” all the way. [Laughs] Putting a lot of pressure and a lot of perfection on academics. And then that was the first time in my life when I was like, you know, in my early 20s, “That they say you can calm down now, like, you’re here, okay, that’s awesome. But now, you can get a B”. And that was a huge mindset shift and I take that, you know, in lots of places… By the way, you can also get a “C”, and you’re still not failing, it’s okay to do things, in not the most ideal way. And tons of the perfectionism that we’re an adult is like, “If it’s not exactly right, then just don’t even do it”. And that’s… what a waste, because you could have done so much.
And I think that’s really important. You know, this has been actually a big topic at our house recently, because there have been a lot of news reports and stuff about these kids that are super high achieving kids, right? valedictorian, and all these sports and stuff. And they’re committing suicide, or self-harm, because of a very minor mistake. And it’s like, you know, like a traffic ticket, or maybe something even less than that. They just feel too much pressure. And so, we are very intentional and cognizant about the fact that we’ve been told, well, so you have that space. And then we’ve been told by adult adoptees that they often felt pressure to be the perfect child in order to be accepted by their family, right? So we have both those things in our heads, and so we’re constantly, constantly telling our daughter, like, “It’s okay to make mistakes. Everybody makes a mistake, right? And it’s okay that, you know, you don’t get a perfect grade or whatever. You’re putting in the work, you’re doing your best, you’re doing great” kind of thing and really trying to build up that, not just self-esteem, but resilience, right? Because I mean, let’s be honest, the world is a pretty tough place sometimes. And it’s really tough if you have something that’s not typical or not normal, right? So sometimes kids are the worst. I mean, I often I’m like, “Please let all the kids be nice today”. And I have no sign that they’re not nice. But you know, I think as a parent, you have that feeling. And so recognizing that… not that your child can’t achieve things because I absolutely believe that my daughter can do anything that she really puts her mind to anything at all, but that the world is stacked against her in some ways, right? For a variety of reasons. So, making sure that she’s aware of that, but that she has this resilience in herself and in her community, and that it’s okay, it’s okay to make mistakes, and you’re going to make them and you’re going to make them again, and it’s not going to change our opinion of you.
That’s very valid. I would like to ask you if you wouldn’t mind, telling the listeners a little bit about where you were when you heard about the “H.E.A.R” retreat or “Connect & Advocate” program, and what you were thinking you needed more of?
Yeah, sure. So I think I heard about it from a different retreat, actually. So I live in Texas, and I am a big, big fan of the “Hands of Voices” group, I cannot speak highly enough of them, I really enjoy everything that they’ve put together, all the support that they give to parents and families. And so I had just kind of gotten involved with them, actually, and been through a couple of their events, and had some mentors in that group. And they had a retreat, I think it was called a “Pause” retreat or something. And it was for parents, and I believe you were a speaker there.
Yes, I was.
I’m remembering correctly, yay.[Lilach Laughs] And then right after that was the “H.E.A.R” retreat, and so I made sure to go to that. And what really impressed me was the emphasis on connection. And, kind of trauma, right? So kind of healing and all of that.
Because our daughter came to our family through adoption, we have been in this space of trauma, right, and understanding trauma and what it does to your brain and what it does to your body and your kind of hold neurological process. And the counter to that trauma is connecting, right? and building that connection. And so it was a big part of our life, even before we found out about the hearing. And so then, you know, we got kind of heavy into the world of Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and listening-spoken language, and all that. And what I found was missing there was related to connection and trauma. And we would have to explain to like, teachers and stuff like, “Well, yeah, our daughter has those things because of this early childhood trauma”. And the more I thought about it, I was like, but you know, what else is a trauma, having a surgery, right on your skull, for an implant, or not being able to communicate with your caregivers and not feeling safe, right? And so really, at some level, all the kids in the school have some level of trauma, and not all of it’s related to being deaf, but there’s a component of that, right? And maybe they’ve had other traumas too in their lives. And so it was like, why don’t you know, or understand about this? Or why don’t you think about this? Why doesn’t this factor into what you do? And I’m kind of picking on the school because really, it’s across like professionals, but you know, it was like, Why isn’t this important to you guys? And you were the first one that I remember, at least, that kind of brought those two things together. And I was like, Finally, somebody. Yay. Somebody’s talking about this, and somebody is realizing that connection is so vital. And yes, you know, we have all this other stuff we have to do. But you’ve got to be connected with your kid and with your family. And so, you know, that’s what really struck me about the “H.E.A.R” retreat. I think the other thing was, it was a time when we were going through kind of the initial ARD, like the special ed evaluation process, right. So in other countries, I’m sure it’s called something else. But in the US, the ARD meetings for our IEP “Individual Education Plan” I think, you know, the first one we went through, it was like, they’re talking about our kid, and telling us all this information and telling us what they’re going to do. And we’re just sitting there nodding our head going, “Okay. Yep, yep. Okay. All right”. And we walked away, my husband and I were like, “-Do you understand what happened? -No, do you understand what happened? -No”. And we didn’t realize that we were active participants in that team, right, that they were looking for us for information. And they were looking for us to advocate for our daughter. And so, you know, coming off of some Texas skins and voices stuff around advocating, around the special ed process, and then, you know, stumbling across your program, which was like, let’s link-up connection and being deaf or being hard of hearing, it was like, “This is great”. And advocacy, right? And so, I don’t know, it was a time when I really needed some focused tools maybe, on how to frame everything in my brain [Laughs] in order to advocate best for my daughter in situations.
Yes. Awesome. I’m so glad we found each other because that is exactly what I felt was missing. And so much of what people were talking about was like, “Okay, well, we finally have a handle on this, and we realize what we’re doing here, but we’re still sort of firehose, we’re still there or like a lot of this is coming at us”. And we don’t really know if anyone who understands like, you know, there’s all these parents and coaches but they don’t understand what having a deaf or hard of hearing child is or a child who has devices that you need to care for, little tiny batteries and all the things that come with that, that’s a whole wrench [Laughs] in the daily routines, it’s not like a normal natural thing that you would know how to deal with, unless you actually walk through it with someone who knows what that’s about. And then from the audiology side, there’s not that much that you’re getting from your clinical audiologist, about parenting and advocating, because they have a lot to do on the clinical side and want to make sure that you’re well fitted and the testing and all those things. So I’m seeing you’re sort of missing it from here missing it from there, but what if we brought this together in a online forum that has much more time for those issues? So I’m really glad that that was what was able… where you found what you were hoping to get support on.
Yeah. And what I really liked about the “F-I-G” method is that I mean, we’ve had multiple discussions. So you know my point of view, right? I don’t want to overshare my daughter’s story, and my family’s story, because I’ve been told by people that I know very personally, and also people in the interwebs of the world, right? That you need to make sure that you kind of keep some privacy around your children’s stories because you don’t want to label them, right? Information spreads very, very quickly. And it’s out there forever, right? So I’ve always kind of struggled with that. How do you not overshare? And I think the “F-I-G” method is so, so cool because it helps you think through, “Okay, what information do I need to get across to this person based off, you know, the familiarity aspect of it? And then, you know, what’s the intention of this person asking that really personal question? And how do I respond appropriately?” So it was like, “Oh, this is so good”. Like, I remember walking away from that first-year retreat going, This is awesome. Like, I’m gonna use this all the time for everything, like not just for my kid, but for myself and for all the stuff. And not just for hearing loss, but also for adoption and for other things. And it’s really helped me kind of, you know, summer here, and we’re going into camps and stuff like that. And it’s really helped me tailor what I tell, like the camp people, because, yes, they need to know that my daughter communicates a little differently. But they don’t need to know, the grand scheme of everything that goes along with that, they need to know certain information about, you know, what I’ve been saying is very, kind of almost like an elevator speech, like you have, you know, for work. “So, my daughter has hearing loss, she wears hearing aids, and she communicates primarily with spoken English, but she needs to be able to sit kind of close to the teacher, and you may have to get her attention or repeat directions and speak slowly, right?” So you know, very focused on, look, this is something different about my child. And this is how you can help her and how the situation will work really well. Without going into like, a whole big thing, right? A whole big story. And it’s helped me kind of focus on “Okay, what’s pertinent for this person to know, why is it important, and how is the best way for them to use it?”
And it also sets up the expectation of how you want that person to respond, you obviously can never control other people what they say. But a lot of times people will say that, you know, “I’m sorry”, or that kind of thing, when you just say, “Oh, my child has hearing loss”, because that’s their perspective of what that means. They don’t know everything else about it. But if you don’t even make room for that, you’re like, “Listen, this is the situation, this is what we need, and this is what’s awesome about her as well”, then you’re also shifting the conversation there, and not even making room for that person to like, even bring in their perspective of things. So yeah, I’m really glad you like that the “F-I-G” method is one of my favorite frameworks for advocating and I definitely have a lot of resources on that, will link as well in the show notes.
I would like to, you know, just from because I’m over here grinning and smiling that this is working and helping people You know, you just sit in your room on your computer, think you’re talking to nobody, but then it really happens. I can’t stress enough how meaningful that has been for me to then say yes, all these thoughts in my head matter and I’m actually making an impact in your life, in your relationship with your daughter.
We talked about this as well, a lot about the protection of our children’s stories, and what we do share online or offline, really recognizing their agency that children are full people. “Wow, what a concept”. [Laughs] It’s a huge thing.
So can you just say a few words a little bit about what it’s been like being in the program? Because we finished out our year together and what you got from it as well as the other relationships from there.
So I got a whole lot out of the “Connect & Advocate” program. Some of it was, I guess I would call it like technical knowledge, right? And kind of being able to ask technical questions, whether it was about equipment or about, you know, audio grams and kind of next steps in the journey, which is important because you don’t always have the time with your audiologist. I mean, the last audiologist visit that we went to, basically, the moment that I would be able to ask those questions, it was like, “Nope, I’m done”. And my daughter was just like, I’m out of here, I don’t want to… And at that point, you kind of have to focus on your kid and getting them out of there and into a situation where they can be calm, right? So it was like, Okay, I have all these questions. And now I don’t have the chance to answer them, to ask them. So having a space, kind of on a regular basis to be able to ask those questions is important. I think what else it did was it really set time aside to prepare mentally for a lot of the things that we deal with as parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing kids. So, you know, there are pretty regular appointments that we go to, that other people don’t go to. And you can’t just sit and chat with your bestie about, yep, we’re having another ARD meeting, or we’re having this and how do I prepare for it? Right, we’re doing another sound booth test, because we think, you know, the decibels have changed or whatever, right? You can’t talk to everybody about that…It’s just tough.
Yeah. Because then you’re in an educating role. And you’re here looking for support, and they don’t even know you’re talking about?
Yeah, exactly. So you know, having that space there, I think it was also really beneficial for me to have other women, other parents, on the journey. And granted, we were at different stages of the journey, but we were all there to support each other. And sometimes, things are great, and sometimes things are not great for you. And it’s important to have people that are there with you, and they’re there for you, whether or not things are great or not great, you know, you’re gonna make mistakes as a parent, and you’re gonna have really big, big wins as a parent. And so having somebody that can celebrate with you, or that can commiserate with you and say, you’ll do better next time. That’s really important. That whole building of community and sharing resources, because everybody has access to different things, so just kind of getting more information on what’s out there and what’s available. That was really cool as well. There’s so many good things. I can go on and on and on. Really, really I could I mean, the other thing, too, is like, okay, yes, we are parenting a deaf child or hard of hearing child, but we’re also just parenting a child. And we’re also just living a life, so there are other things that we do. I mean, sometimes it doesn’t seem like it. I feel like this week, it’s just been doctors and birthdays and doctors and birthdays and doctors and birthdays and therapies. But, you know, there are other things we do we go on vacation, we see relatives on Christmas, and being able to kind of brainstorm you know, how do you tell relatives about the best ways to communicate with your kid, when they’re not always around your kid? What equipment do you bring when you go on a trip? I remember, like the first trip that we went on, we had gotten a box of like equipment of, you know, batteries and cleaners and all kinds of stuff for hearing aids. And I just like threw it in the box and we went through the baggage scanner, and they’re like, what’s this? And I’m like, what? She’s got hearing aids, this is her stuff. So how do you pack appropriately? And what do you bring? And what do you do if something breaks down on the way? or, you know, what happens if your child gets in the bathtub and still has their hearing aids on? how do you troubleshoot those things? Or even if you know how to troubleshoot those. It’s nice to have somebody go, “Yeah, been there, It’s okay”. Just having that support and that kind of soundboard feedback was really, really great.
It has been an incredible year. And I specifically really wanted the group to go for a year to hit all those different seasons and changes, beginning of school, end of school, and different holidays, different seasons as well, what’s different in the winter is different in the summer. So it’s that support for that whole year. And the group that we had is so, so powerful. What a beautiful connection between the ladies, the moms, I mean it is open to dads, honestly any parent, any caregivers, really. So welcome. And if anybody wants to learn more about the ”Connect & Advocate” program, we’re going to be starting in September after the summer for our next cohort. So if anyone is interested, we’ll definitely be talking about that more on the podcast and then Instagram and everything else but send me a DM we set up a chat I’ll love talking to you wherever you are in the world, by the way, International. We also have people from, well, three different countries now so there’s room for you wherever you are.
Jen, thank you so much for sharing and being such a wonderful communicator. Oh, what’s this all in like for you? If people want to connect with you or find your work where can they do that?
I have several different Instagram accounts. So I have an Instagram account called @teamwalkergonegloball, we really like to travel a lot. And it’s mostly just pictures of our trips whenever we travel. Technically, we have a blog under the same name, but it hasn’t been updated in at least a year. And as well @80sgirlhtx. So that’s just kind of my personal account where I put like crafts and stuff that I like to do. Yeah, so I’m always looking to connect and follow people.
Thank you so much. It’s really valuable for people to even just see that there’s other people doing what we’re doing. Even if no one in your town or no one in your family knows about this. There is a community out there. So here we are. Find us.
Yeah, it’s interesting, though, you know, they say that a lot of people like the first deaf person they meet as their child, right? Well, really, my mom is single-sided deaf. And she’s been that way since she was a kid. She had something medical happen… anyway. But I kind of forgot about it. Right? Because she has adapted so much to the hearing world that you kind of forget about it, except sometimes she’ll remind you, “I can’t hear anything on that”. Then whenever I got involved in, you know, the Deaf community, Deaf world, for the sake of our daughter, I was like, “Oh, my mom’s actually struggling with a lot of this stuff, too”. And they kind of like changes your view to some extent. So it’s nice to kind of have that broader community and realization to say, there’s more out there, you’re not alone.
That’s so good. It’s a perfect way to end. Thank you Jen and thank you to the listeners. And absolutely come and drop a message on Instagram or Tiktok, or the Facebook group or the website allaboutaudiology.com. I’m Dr. Lilach Saperstein and thank you so much for being a listener, and we’ll see you in the next one.