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  • Pandemic Response

    Posted by Aaron Mowell on 2/26/2021 10:05:00 AM

    It has been just a year since we became aware of a new COVID-19 virus and the first few cases here in America. Since then, we have gone through a flurry of changes implementing new practices and protocols. From learning new technologies, like Zoom to effectively work remotely, to what social distancing is like, and everyone eager to find new ways to connect amid physical separation. We all saw world leaders, local and state governments, and our schools react in various ways to address growing concerns and increase precautions for what became a global pandemic. Many effects are yet to be known, as we are still in this crisis, though some will be long-term. 

    We saw cities and schools initially respond to the pandemic with different perspectives. Early on there were strict limits on the number of people who could gather in public places, restaurants only providing take-out, and schools transitioning to remote learning. Then eventually protected face-to-face interactions were more allowable, and in-person instruction restarted, though what that means for everyone now is very different. To a child, all these changes may seem sudden and unsettling.  

    Those in our younger generation are surely watching in wonder the countless responses to the current pandemic, and certainly must be pondering - “What is the correct response?”

    For families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing, you may be asking: 

    Who is doing the right thing? 

    How do I know what I am doing is helping?  

    How do I talk with my child about this?

    What we can do as families is open a dialogue with our children and begin a discussion on what responses seem right or wrong.  As parents,  the power and opportunity to open a discussion with your child about the country, state, and city’s response to COVID-19 is yours. You might talk about the different responses seen in other communities or other countries. See what your child thinks is successful, and ask why. Give your child ownership by allowing them to lead the discussion and challenge them to share what they might do if they were in charge of addressing this, or the next, pandemic. As many of us know, the effectiveness of various responses may not be known until years of study have been done. Until then, in any such uncertain times, having open discussions can only help our children better understand the thought processes behind many of these events. Speaking frankly among family helps us all process new events and changes around us. Our children are watching and learning from us. Hopefully what we do and how we learn to face adversity as adults, will also help them to increase their coping skills and expand their world knowledge.       

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  • The Benefits of Youth Summer Programs for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

    Posted by Rachella Moore on 2/19/2021 4:00:00 PM

    Have you wondered about the outcomes when young people who are deaf or hard of hearing participate in extracurricular summer activities? A great study from the National Deaf Center (NDC), Deaf Youth and Summer Programs: The Why and How, reveals some interesting findings that highlight the impacts shown for many who attend summer youth camps and educational programs.

    The NDC reports that deaf students who attend youth programs do positively benefit, especially  in these three areas of self-development:

    Career: Students who participate in any program with targeted goals such as STEM, robotics, creative writing or the like, can be “positively affected through summer programming.” And even further, programs with internship opportunities have shown to promote deaf individuals’ career decision-making skills.

    Education: Through participation in a summer learning program, there is a correlation that shows an increase in college enrollment as well as an increased motivation to complete college. Improvements in reading achievement, reading enjoyment, and math achievement are also reported.

    Youth: Self-esteem and self-confidence are commonly seen when younger campers, as well as those who may be economically disadvantaged, attend a youth camp or summer learning program. These opportunities have shown to foster the development of students’ social skills, self-identities, values, spiritual awareness, self-reliance, and more.

    Concluding with an abundance of positive outcomes for deaf and hard of hearing youth, opportunities to extend learning for students through the summer months is a good thing.

    If ever in a position to establish and sustain a youth program for students who are deaf and hard of hearing in your area, even for the summer only, our recommendations align with NDC‘s findings, and we encourage you to go for it!

    Some ideas we’ve found which are of interest to students who are deaf and hard of hearing:

    • Establish a Junior National Association Deaf chapter
    • Start a conversation with a school’s robotics team and make it a mainstreamed program
    • Contact an “already-established” program and make it accessible for those who are deaf and hard of hearing


    © 2019 “Deaf Youth and Summer Programs: The Why and How. National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes Deaf Youth and Summer Programs licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International


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  • First Virtual Family Weekend Retreat

    Posted by Shelly Bergeron on 2/12/2021 10:15:00 AM

    Family Weekend Retreat 2020 logo. Round blue border with yellow letters: Family Weekend Retreat.  Family Weekend Retreat (FWR) 2020 was a successful virtual retreat. Over 575 family members participated AND we welcomed more than 252 professionals from across Texas who joined us this year!

    Presentations were full of wisdom and knowledge on a variety of relevant topics including communication, family involvement, social-emotional growth, resources, and unilateral hearing loss. We were honored to have our keynote speaker, Nida Din, who is the first deaf Pakistani-American Muslim woman to become an attorney.

    A family member provided this inspirational input:

     “I enjoyed that we can watch all the presentations online better than just attending in person. If we can have both the family fun weekend with everyone and online presentations [that] will be awesome”

    And that is exactly what the FWR planning team has been working towards- a unique weeklong retreat this year, from May 31- June 5, 2021, with weekend activities.

    Please see the full article: “Family Weekend Retreat 2020 - A Virtual Retreat”. Published in The Lone Star, Fall 2020 edition.

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  • Imparting Black History Value

    Posted by Crystal Schwartz- Guest Blogger on 2/5/2021 10:15:00 AM

    A year spans 12 months, and February is recognized as a month dedicated to my race and history. Black History Month accounts for what we, in America, see or experience. History recognizes impact. History is documented to preserve value in what individuals have contributed to the greatness of who we are today. The goal of this one month being dedicated to Black History awareness is to carry on the accomplishments of many great leaders dating back to 1915. Another goal is to keep recognizing achievements that bring progression towards equality of the human race. 

    During the civil rights movement, February was chosen to recognize the value of Black people to America’s Society and continue to promote equality. It is a celebration of varying positive impacts made towards progression and advancement. It is the one month that celebrates  Black people. This influences the progression of justice and equality for Black people. . When I read about what those before me went through, and then reflect on what we are going through today, I feel connected to history. I embrace the wisdom of what many went through before me. Their experiences and our experiences today bring a wealth of wisdom and knowledge to our value in America. 

    I am educated. I am a professional. I am a Black woman in America. I am also Deaf. I reside in Fort Worth, Texas with my White husband, who is hard of hearing, and our deaf and hard of hearing children who are of both races. Understanding my history and the greatness of it is a constant reminder that I matter and that I, too, am valuable. 

    That feeling inspires me to keep going. 

    Carter G Woodson said it best when he said, “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of Biography and History.” Inspiration comes from understanding the value of the history of Black people and their contribution to the betterment of America. 

    Black history has long-reaching impacts and in the area of education, and there is still history to be made. Testimonies and data verify that Black deaf and hard of hearing students in America currently feel unvalued by teachers, peers, and society. These feelings go back years in history, from slavery and segregation to incarceration and criminalization. Understanding the foundation of oppression is essential in understanding current educational trends and data surrounding racism and barriers. 

    As we celebrate Black History Month in 2021, Black History awareness in schools and learning environments is essential for students. Data shows that Black deaf and hard of hearing children are falling behind in school during the pandemic and feel the impact of social unrest more than their other peers. It is essential that parents, teachers, counselors, and professionals take the 28-29 days each February to embrace Black History Month. Inspiration comes through by way of instruction.

    I believe in order to empower another soul to do great work, one must take the step to do great work themselves. Great work leads to a greater impact and moves us towards progress. Collaboration between schools, organizations, and legislation is a good step towards improving education for Black deaf and hard of hearing students. Throughout time, collaborations would ensure that Black deaf and hard of hearing students can have the same access to the same privileges as their peers, education-wise. 


    Raise up Black deaf and hard of hearing teachers. 

    Raise up Black deaf and hard of hearing professionals. 

    Raise up Black deaf and hard of hearing engineers. 

    Raise up Black deaf and hard of hearing influencers.

    Raise up Black deaf and hard of hearing artists.

    Raise up Black deaf and hard of hearing counselors. 

    Raise them all up and watch positive results happen.  


    Greatness starts, grows, and is maintained with a sense of value. How a student is valued or perceived impacts how that student grows to become a leader who may later be recognized for making a positive impact on progress. There is value in how one teaches and learns. 

    “Education is all a matter of building bridges,” said Ralph Ellison. I then, say this to you - parents, teachers, and professionals – an internalized value that leads to greatness starts with you. Black History Month is an essential time to embrace Black wisdom and be inspired by the accomplishments of Black people. 

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  • Discovery Retreat in San Antonio, TX

    Posted by Debbie Schiraldi on 1/29/2021 9:20:00 AM

    A one-day Discovery Retreat (DR) was held for twelve central Texas high school students who are deaf or hard of hearing to gain hands-on experience in conservation. The students got to meet and learn from different professionals in the field of conservation about their passions for conservation projects. One of the individuals they met is Sachiko Flores, the cofounder of Corps That!. Read more about Sachiko Flores from last week’s blog post.

    After lunch, students participated in a beautification and conservation project at Mission San Jose in San Antonio. With the help of mission staff, students put in three hours of work on the grounds of the mission. The end product was beautiful! The day wrapped up with a guided tour of the mission.

    A young female and an older male is working together to put a new plant in the ground. The background is a garden of bushes.  

    The retreat was a successful partnership with the Statewide Outreach Center at Texas School for the Deaf, thanks to American Youthworks (AYW) and the National Park Service (NPS).

    The fruit of this partnership is a new and upcoming four-week summer program, I Can! Work: Outdoor Education. This program will give students an opportunity to gain professional paid training in the field of conservation.  

    Paraphrased from Original Article: “Discovery Retreat On the Road: Conservation Corps San Antonio”. Published in The Lone Star, Winter 2019-2020 issue.


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  • Sachiko Flores who?

    Posted by Rachella Moore on 1/22/2021 10:00:00 AM

    Does the name ring a bell? Sachiko Flores? If not, after learning more about her, we’re sure the name will stick!

    Mexican female with glasses smiling showing tree on her shirt. We had an opportunity to do an interview with Sachiko and briefly explored her journey from being a mainstream deaf student in Texas to a co-founder of an incredible nonprofit organization. Sachiko co-founded CorpsTHAT, a national organization, connecting the deaf and hard of hearing community to the outdoors through education, recreation and career development.

    Sachiko Flores was one of the Statewide Outreach Center’s first Discovery Retreat participants in 2005. Discovery Retreat is one of SOC’s flagship programs designed specifically for deaf and hard of hearing teens, with opportunities to explore each individual’s self-identity and career options through adventurous learning activities alongside adult role models. The retreat mainly reaches out to students from mainstream educational programs who have not had ample opportunities to meet other deaf or hard of hearing peers or role models in their own communities.

    Sachiko was a sophomore in a Texas high school when she first attended Discovery Retreat. She remembers herself as a shy and awkward teenager who silently struggled during her second year attending public school. The public school environment was new to Sachiko because she had been in private school from second through eighth grades without ASL interpreters.

    “Discovery Retreat became one of the highlights of my life, she says. It played a significant role in my decision to establish CorpsTHAT. That experience allowed me to find my inner, authentic self. I found myself happier and free whenever I went outside; the outdoors allows me to build confidence, expand my creativity and understand better how my actions have a greater impact on the environment. I want other deaf and hard of hearing people to experience and appreciate Mother Nature as much as I do; so it led me to establish CorpsTHAT – a safe space where deaf and hard of hearing people feel included and able to comfortably participate in any conservation activities.”

    We asked Sachiko what she would like to share with all deaf and hard of hearing teenagers in Texas who might be reading this article. Her response:

    “As wise Yoda said, ‘Do or do not, there is no try.’ High school is a learning phase where you have the ability to try something new and step out of your comfort zone. It is up to you to decide how you want to thrive in high school.”

    The exciting news is, this upcoming summer 2021, CorpsTHAT and American YouthWorks (AYW) will collaborate with the Statewide Outreach Center (SOC) to offer a paid opportunity for deaf youth to experience a summer conservation program. The four-week program is called “I Can! Work: Outdoor Education”, and we look forward to sharing this experience with teens who are deaf or hard of hearing. February 2020, CorpsTHAT, AYW and SOC completed a day long conservation project with San Antonio Missions as part of Discovery Retreat. We all had so much fun that day!
      February 2020, CorpsTHAT, AYW and SOC completed a day long conservation project with San Antonio Missions as part of Discovery Retreat. 
    We all had so much fun that day! 




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  • The Generational Impact of Sign Language

    Posted by Lynn Reichert on 1/15/2021 8:15:00 AM

    After a mom returned home from Family Weekend Retreat, she realized that she needed sign language support for her deaf son.  Where would she learn to sign, with her son, at their pace? That search inspired the launch of the Family Signs pilot program sixteen years ago.

    Since its inception, Family Signs has served an average of 180 families annually.  A group of 10 incredible, professional instructors work with our ASL, SEE, and Spanish-speaking families.   Our strong, yet flexible curriculum meets the needs of those families.  While all of this is important for a successful program, the real success of the program is seen through its impact on family narratives.

    • The father who told us that he signed at his son’s First Communion
    • The mother who wrote an article for her church about learning sign language to communicate with her son who is deaf and autistic
    • The grandmother who drove her granddaughter 50 miles each way to school every day so she could have access to sign language (This grandmother is one of our program’s biggest cheerleaders now.)
    • The mother who told us that she could go to a deeper level of talking about feelings with her son, and could even lecture him a little bit
    • The  father whose child placed in the school district’s Spelling Bee
    • The family that hosted a graduation celebration for their child’s grandparents who participated in the program
    • The family that squeezes 8 family members into the living room to join the Family Signs class because they want to learn and support their deaf or hard of hearing child

    These stories emphasize the idea that success starts with love for the child and inclusion of the child in all aspects of life, regardless of hearing levels. These families’ pathway to language and communication includes sign language; we have been honored to support them in their learning process. 

    Family Signs is a small piece of the foundational puzzle of language learning; it’s the families that put that puzzle together with their commitment, enthusiasm, and care.   We appreciate the involvement of our Texas families and look forward to many more years of Family Sign classes.

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  • Research Brief: Visual Language and Visual Learning Science of Learning Center

    Posted by MaryEllen Graham on 1/4/2021

    Visual Language and Visual Learning Science of Learning Center. (2011, June). Reading Research and Deaf Children (Research Brief No. 4). Washington, DC: Donna Morere.

    Within this brief, the question is how best to support reading development for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Hearing children rely on phonological awareness, which has often been thought of as impossible for students who are deaf. Though deaf children can benefit from developing a sense of phonological awareness by way of “speech-reading, Total Communication, reading and kinesthetic feedback associated with fingerspelling and speech movements.” 

    Students who are deaf or hard of hearing who do have some auditory skills may struggle with a deeper comprehension of more “complex language forms”, though they would benefit from sign language. The home environment plays a big role in the development of a child's reading skills. Students from deaf families, and those with a hearing parent who is able to sign, have shown higher success in developing comparable reading skills. 

    The bottom line is, a focus on developing a strong primary language is necessary in order to build a sturdy foundation to develop a secondary language. However, two main factors exist which are often overlooked. Those are (1) the parent's involvement in their child's education, and (2) the ability for the student to feel comfortable enough to communicate with their teachers and their peers. With both of these important factors combined, students are prone to develop a well-rounded education. Also, exposure to the world around them will lead students to greater success in the classroom. 


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  • Two Reasons Why A Driver’s License is Essential for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

    Posted by Aaron Mowell on 12/18/2020

    There is a growing number of students who do not see the need to get their driver’s license due to the many transportation options available such as public transit, Uber/Lyft, bicycling or walking. While this has led to a drop in the number of students, age 16, who apply for a driver’s license, getting a driver’s license is still a critical aspect of a teenager’s transition to adulthood.  Students who have taken our driver’s education course commonly do so for the sole purpose of obtaining a driver’s license so they can drive. At the end of the course, students discover two benefits of having a driver’s license.

    Reason #1: A driver’s license verifies your identity.

    A driver’s license is an official I.D. As teens begin to navigate the adult world, many will find out that having a driver’s license is critical for proof-of-identification when opening a banking account, applying for loans, renting equipment, enrolling into college, booking a hotel room, or gaining entry into private venues. Other forms of acceptable identification require more than one document. A driver’s license is often considered a universally accepted form of personal identification and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. 

    Reason #2: A driver’s license shows you are ready to work.

    A driver's license is a critical requirement for obtaining employment. Many companies often see a driver's license as testimony that the applicant is capable of completing a task and is ready for employment. Depending on the job responsibilities, you may be expected to drive or operate machinery. A driver’s license is proof that you can drive or work towards the proper certification, such as a CDL. The lack of a driver’s license can potentially limit your opportunities, especially those that may require a driver’s license. 

    Getting a driver’s license can seem like a daunting task to a deaf or hard of hearing teenager, especially when many courses do not offer communication options. The Statewide Outreach Center (SOC) at Texas School for the Deaf offers driver’s education courses for deaf and hard of hearing students, ages 14 to 22. These driver’s education courses are accessible to all students due to its unique nature of providing multiple communication options: sign language, voice interpretation and speech-to-text (captions). Typically, 99% of driver education students graduate from the program and qualify to receive their driver’s license.

    Online Adult Driver’s Education is now being offered, giving young adults the opportunity to take the course from the comforts of their home. The Teen Driver’s Education course continues to be a mainstay of the SOC’s Summer Camps and Programs. Both courses are intensive, ensuring full comprehension of the material so students are prepared for the required written and driving tests. A driver’s license is an important asset for a deaf or hard of hearing student. Don’t miss the opportunity to register for these unique and accessible driver’s education courses. Subscribe to the SOC newsletter to get registration updates.

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  • From A Hearing Screening to Support: A Parent's Journey

    Posted by Jennifer Prigge on 12/11/2020

    In the vast state of Texas, not every healthcare professional has been trained to accurately identify an infant’s hearing status with the early hearing screening model.  Often a parent’s persistence is what it takes to get early identification and follow-up care for their child.  

    Yuliana Trujillo is one of those parents. In spite of mixed messages and setbacks, Yuliana’s instincts led to success.

    From Yuliana:

    My experience of delivering my daughter was a normal one, without concerns. That is, until the results came back from the initial newborn hearing screening. But I was assured not to worry and to schedule a second screening. Going through the motions, I did what I was told. At the second appointment, the screening professional said she was unable to complete the test because my baby’s ear canals were too small. I was referred back to our pediatrician, and again, I walked through the motions.

    Unfortunately, my pediatrician didn’t follow best practices and just held a bell up in a busy room. My tiny baby, already looking around the room, turned her head towards the pediatrician. That was the “hearing test”.  She passed. I thought it was odd but who am I to question a professional? I didn’t know what to expect, so I accepted this.

    Months went by and my instinct told me something was up. My friends and family noticed it too. I went to my pediatrician five times with the same concern, “I don’t think my baby can hear me,” but was assured time and time again, she was fine.

    Finally, on the sixth visit and after advocating for almost 10 months, I decided I would demand a hearing test. I got to my pediatrician’s office and surprisingly, I was placed with a different professional. All I had to do was say my concern and she immediately referred me to an audiologist and early intervention services.

    It wasn’t until I sat in the audiology booth with giant headphones, holding my baby, watching her read a book, ignoring the extremely loud sounds, that it hit me. My baby really is deaf. All my anxious thoughts and persistence were validated.

    Sometime between sitting with the audiologist, who abruptly laid out the facts, and getting in the car to go home, a thought crossed my mind…

    My daughter was the first deaf person I’d ever met.  She was the first deaf person I ever met…and I would be responsible for what happened next.

    Yuliana continued to educate herself and find resources for her family and child.  When a teacher noticed Yuliana’s natural way of helping other parents, she suggested that Yuliana become a parent guide with the  Guide By Your Side program.

    “This opportunity allowed me to help families find information and connections the way I needed it on my journey with my deaf child. “

    Yuliana is now the Coordinator for the Follow Through Guide Project with the Texas Early Hearing Detection and Intervention within the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). In this position, she is ensuring that parents don’t have to experience the same daunting task of hunting for help like she did. When a child does not pass their first hearing screening but hasn’t followed up with a second screening, Yuliana calls the families and help them navigate their way through the process.

    Through our intervention care program, the Statewide Outreach Center at Texas School for the Deaf partners with Texas Hands and Voices and DSHS to provide support to parents of newborns with the early hearing screening process. No parent has to do this alone.

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