PAUSE 2021 With a Twist…

Posted by Michaela Hamaker, Texas Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side Program Coordinator on 8/13/2021 9:15:00 AM

Stronger Together! Mom to Mom, Caregiver to Caregiver!

The Importance of Parent-to-Parent Connections Through Annual Mom’s Retreat!



Each year, Texas Hands & Voices (TXHV) and Guide By Your Side, along with support from the Statewide Outreach Center at Texas School for the Deaf, host a retreat for moms and female caregivers who have children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Traditionally, the event takes place in-person at a venue overnight, Friday-Saturday.

With the pesky pandemic still looming over us, we knew we’d have to approach 2021 a bit differently. We know the impact of this retreat is life-changing for our parental community, and we did not want to cancel when so many come to expect and anticipate it. So, we went to work and got creative!

Rather than overnight, we decided to host in-person events Friday night at local painting venues around the state with appropriate safety protocols in place in order to protect everyone who wanted to join in all around Texas. We’d then come together on Saturday morning – virtually via Zoom - from our own homes for some learning with a variety of guest presenters.

Well, once again that pandemic had other plans, causing us to cancel the in-person events. So, we pivoted and revised the plan to include a Friday night online painting session that everyone could join, led by Painting With a Twist in New Braunfels, Texas. We quickly mailed painting kits to everyone, along with everything needed for PAUSE 2021 -- With A Twist, fully online!  

Though we know online meetings are not always the most conducive for developing relationships and close connections, we made lemonade out of lemons, and opted to consider the benefits.

With 55 moms and caregivers registered, we expanded participation across the state more than we ever had before. Many are from areas across the state where PAUSE events are still hours away. Thanks to TXHV and several generous donors, 15 scholarships were distributed. For the first time ever, we had 11 Spanish language users in the group, and we were excited to have members of the deaf and hard of hearing community join us too. With CART, ASL, and Spanish language interpreters, all attendees had communication access.

Everyone had a wonderful time painting the Texas state flower - the bluebonnet – on Friday night. With door prizes and the fabulous instructor, one mom shared at the end of the night what we all felt.

“I just wanted to say that this is SO MUCH FUN! …this happiness is something I’ve needed through this rollercoaster of a journey!”

THIS is the exact reason why parent-to-parent support is so critical, and we at TXHV are thrilled to be a part of this family’s story! 

Saturday, the group was treated to two very interesting presentations.  Karen Putz talked about “Unwrapping Your Passion in Difficult Times.”  Putz is co-director of DHH Infusion at Hands & Voices, and co-founder of Illinois’ chapter of Hands & Voices.

Dr. Lilach Saperstein, an audiologist and creator of the podcast All About Audiology, shared “The F-I-G Method of Advocacy.”

Before adjourning, a Facebook page was created for all PAUSE 2021 attendees, so everyone can continue to connect and build community.

Some comments shared from those who attended PAUSE 2021:

“Thanks so much for this great event! It was fun, informative, and well run.”

 “Amazing presenters, with information that I could relate it to my journey!”

“Very inspiring and motivational. I felt very welcomed and supported. It is a great feeling to know you are not alone and share the same journey with other moms and families who are similar, and different.”

 We are already looking forward to next year’s event and hope that we can gather in-person, though after seeing the benefits, we are planning to continue to hold some portion of PAUSE 2022 virtually.

            To quote Tom Seaver, “you have the honor and privilege of being in position to do something amazingly special. If you have the chance, you must do it.”.  

It is my honor and privilege to get to be a part of the lives of families with children all across Texas who are deaf or hard of hearing.