A Parent Guide is an specially trained parent of child or children with deafness or hearing loss who work as a“Guide” directly with families who have just learned their child cannot hear, or who have older children and are in need of the unique support that comes from someone else who has walked this path him/herself and can share from direct experience and wisdom.
My involvement with children who are deaf and hard of hearing began in 2003 when we got our first foster child and she is deaf. At four years old, she had no language. Zainab was four months old when her family arrived in the US as Iraqi refugees. Soon after CPS became involved.
When our older daughter graduated from college we decided to do foster care. We filled that empty bedroom and our house was again busy, active and noisy! Three years later we adopted Zainab and have continued on our journey with our wonderful little girl who is deaf. I knew some basic sign language from being a special education teacher for years but we had to learn a lot, very quickly, because those critical language years had already been compromised. We learned about hearing aides, ear molds, audiograms, Ling sounds, cochlear implants, ASL, speech therapy and more. I learned some things the hard way, like supervising playdough time with a four year old because hot pink playdough does not work for ear molds!
I have been a special education teacher for over 30 years and have worked as a therapist in a behavioral health center with children and adolescents. I have a BA and MA from the University of Minnesota. My husband of over 32 years misses the seasons in the Midwest but I love the Arizona sunshine, especially in January.
When Hands and Voices and the Guide By Your Side program came along it seemed like a great way to continue to meet and share with other families and their children who are deaf and hard of hearing.
I was born and raised in Tucson. I live there with my husband Lee, my son Riley (born in 2000), and my daughter Sabrina(born in 2005). Sabrina is hearing. Riley was born 12 weeks early and spent the first 7 weeks of his life in the NICU. He passed his newborn hearing screen but at age 4, was diagnosed with moderate to severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and Auditory Neuropathy. He has worn hearing aids ever since. Because he was diagnosed so late, he had learned to lip read and was oral. Because he had a speech delay, he had been enrolled in Early Intervention and received speech therapy since he was a baby. I am so thankful for that because, without that, he could have been so behind in language, as we did not know he was hard of hearing. We took some ASL classes but Riley prefers to be oral. Riley has helped guide us on this journey with what works best for him. Riley is mainstreamed and is doing very well. He is in The National Honor Society, has started driving and looking at colleges. Riley is interested in pursuing a degree in Engineering. We are very proud of the young man he is becoming.
I have been a member of Arizona Hands & Voices and a Guide by Your Side Parent Guide since 2008. I was so happy to find this organization and to know that we weren’t alone. It has been a great experience for my son to meet other kids who are similar to him. It has been wonderful meeting other parents and supporting and learning from each other.