Summer Camp for Children with Hearing Loss: An Interview with the Founders of Camped Up

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Finding a summer camp for your child with hearing loss can be a tricky endeavor. While summer programs can be a time when your child expands their horizons in a new environment, it can also be tricky when you have to teach counselors about communication needs, and equipment troubleshooting.

Enter Dana Selznick. I recently had the opportunity to connect with this Hearing Education Service (HES) provider, who works on the Upper West Side in New York City. Dana, along with her two partners Arielle Ditkowich and Brittany Prell (fellow HES providers) is opening a summer program designed specifically for Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant users.

I caught up with the three co-founders of Camped Up and we had the chance to discuss how they met, goals of the program, and summer camp memories!

 

 

It sounds like you three have a bunch great energy going on between you. How did you meet?

Dana and Arielle became instant friends during orientation on the first day of grad school. The next year Brittany started the same program and all the professors kept telling each of us how similar we were to each other. When the three of us finally met it was clear our professors knew us well, we have been friends ever since. After graduation we all started careers as New York City HES providers and have succeeded with each others help and guidance.

Why a summer camp? Where did idea for Camped Up come from?

Arielle is very active in summer camps and was thinking about a way to bring her love of camp to students in the New York area. She approached Dana and Brittany with the idea of starting a camp in NYC for Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant users and they jumped on the idea! She also thought of Neil, a good friend and former camp director at her lifelong sleepaway camp who now runs multiple camps throughout the US. Upon calling him for advice, he loved the idea so much he immediately said he wanted to be a part of it and offered years of camp and administrative expertise.

One dinner later, Camped Up was formed.  We ran the idea by a few parents and they loved it. 


What can you tell me about Camped Up? What will it offer for children with hearing loss that other camps don’t?

We have created a camp that every child in New York would fall in love with.  The reason that it is a specialized camp for hearing loss and spoken language is because we make the environment conducive for listening.

Our camp avoids any acoustic challenges by providing appropriate modifications to the environment. We have the tools, technology and training necessary to provide the best possible experience for all of our campers. This camp has something for everybody. 

Whether you are into sports, arts and crafts or science, Camped Up is an all around fun day camp!   

 

What do you hope Camped Up will accomplish? What experiences do you want children to have?

We thought that it would be a great idea to provide children with a summer camp experience in which they could come together and play with other Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant users. We hope that our campers will gain a sense of pride and comfort with their hearing loss, and make new friendships within this community. 

We want our campers to have an all around amazing summer camp experience. We want them excited to come to camp in the morning and not wanting to leave at the end of the day. At the end of camp we hope they will go home with new friends, the same love for camp that we had as campers, and memories from the exciting activities that they will be talking about for months to come.

 

Can you tell me a bit about the experiences you all bring to the camp?

All three of us have a dual masters degree from Columbia University- Teachers College in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education. There we learned how to use all forms of assistive technology, and have been implementing these skills throughout our careers as New York City HES providers. Together we have years of camp experience and involvement in a wide variety of programs geared towards children. And most importantly we all share a love of children. 

Did any of you go to camp as a child? What memories do you have?

You could say that, collectively we have over 45 years of camp experience! All of us have attended day camps, sleep away camps and have gone from counselors, to group leaders throughout the years.

Dana’s favorite memories from camp are the camp songs and cheers she learned and sang throughout the summers.

Brittany loved the circle games and team building activities she played with her camp friends.

Arielle’s favorite memory was making a picture frame in Arts and Crafts that still sits on her desk with pictures from camp.

 Is there anything else you want to share about Camped Up?

We just want everyone to know that CampedUp’s main goal is to provide an awesome summer for your child!

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me, and I wish you all a great summer of creating camp memories for a new generation of children. For more information about Camped Up, please visit their website at www.campedup.com

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Raising Deaf & Hard of Hearing Kids: An Interview with author Karen Putz

putz_bookKaren  is a mom to three deaf and hard of hearing teens. She is the Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infusion and a board member at Hands & Voices.  Karen recently released The Parenting Journey: Raising Deaf and Hard of Hearing Kids. I was finally able to catch up with her and ask her a few questions about the motivation behind her book, well as what are some of the realities of raising children who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Karen you have a great deal of experience working in the deaf and hard of hearing community. You have also had your own reality of dealing with hearing loss over the course of your life. What made you want to write the book at this particular time in your life?

The book just kind of poured out of me. I spent many years working with families with deaf and hard of hearing children as well as raising my own three kids and I just wanted to share my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned along the journey.  For me, one of the most valuable aspects in this whole parenting experience has been the wisdom, support and sharing from other parents. I wanted “The Parenting Journey” to be an extension of that.

When you have a child with hearing loss it can be difficult to sometimes distinguish between behavior that can be attributed to typical child development and behavior that is specific to your child’s hearing loss. In your book you mention that it “shouldn’t always be about the hearing loss.” What advice can you give parents about how they can help with their child’s needs?

That’s always a toughie! As a parent, you have to step back and ask yourself, “Would my child be going through/experiencing this if he/she wasn’t deaf/hard of hearing?” The answer isn’t always easy or clear.  Always check to make sure that communication is happening and that both you and your child understand each other – that helps rule out the deaf/hard of hearing part of the equation.

Another thing to ask yourself when it comes to your child’s behavior is, “Will this matter ten minutes, ten months or ten years from now?”  If it’s something that’s going to solve itself in a short amount of time, then pick your battles wisely.

In your book you talk a lot about the importance of recognizing options and choices in dealing with hearing loss. What can parents do when they feel overwhelmed by the decisions and choices they need to make?

The good ‘ole “pros and cons” list can be helpful. In areas where you need more information or education, seek out mentors (parents, professionals and D/deaf/hard of hearing adults) and ask questions.

Dan Miller from 48days.com has some general guidelines that I think applies very well:

1. State the situation/issue.
2. Get advice.
3. List alternatives.
4. Choose the best alternative.
5. ACT.

If you’re overwhelmed, take some time to do nothing. Understand that doing nothing, is also a choice. Ultimately, you have to get into a place where you and your spouse/partner/significant other “own” your decisions for your child. You’re doing the best you can with the information and resources you have at the time. Also, look at your child– you will find that you learn a lot from your child and the journey changes as you all grow as a family.

Great advice! As you know parenting is full of ups and downs. Have there been certain times throughout your journey that were particularly difficult?

Yes, we’ve faced twists and turns on the journey. We’ve encountered the occasional team member who did not agree with our decisions. The kids themselves have moments where they’re facing challenges and as a parent, it can be really difficult to watch your child go through struggles. As a parent, our natural instinct is to smooth the road for them, but they have to learn to do this themselves.

Agreed! It is so important to provide our children with tools they can use in difficult situations. It sounds like you were able to find a great deal of support on your journey of and we know how critical it is for parents and children to find support. Do you have any suggestions how parents can go about trying to find support when they live in an isolated area?

Support can indeed be a challenge and sometimes it feels like you’re all alone on the journey. Seek out organizations serving parents and request support. There are online groups as well. Local hospitals, schools and service organizations may have regular meetings for parents. Thanks to technology, Skype, ooVoo and videophones offer face-to-face opportunities for parents to connect with other parents, professionals and D/deaf/hard of hearing adults.

Karen, I thank you for taking the time for the interview. Your book is a wonderful addition to the resources available for parents of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. I wish you luck with your future projects!

karen putz professional outdoor

In addition to all the work that Karen does in the DHH community she is also a Passion Coach and the author of three books. In her spare time, she can be found walking on water or competing at barefoot water ski tournaments. You can read more about Karen and her parenting journey on her blog deafmomworld.com

 

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Where will Hearing Loss Take Your Family?

What does 2013 hold for your family?CMV hearing loss

I ask this question of myself as 2012 draws to a close. January can be a time of promise. The year still stretches out before me – the squares on my 2013 have yet to be filled in with competing after school activities, speech therapy sessions, and doctor’s appointments. For now my calendar sits there with a bounty of white space. There is room for change, for new routines, for new goals, for new connections. All my faults and shortcomings of the previous year can now be wiped clean and I can start again.

But before I can start trying to move forward, I need to figure out where I have been.

I feel that I often become so focused on where I think my son should be, that I don’t notice the bigger picture of all the progress that he has made as an individual with hearing loss, and that we have made as a family dealing with hearing loss.

Sometimes my focus is more on what goals my son still needs to cross off his IEP, instead of the ones he has already reached. I focus on trying to find time for my son to play with others to help with his social skills, instead of finding moments in our day to model social skills. Sometimes all I see his gaps in his knowledge and what I can do to fill them, instead of acknowledging all the connections and ideas that he has on a daily basis.

Sometimes I forget that he is only a six year old, and that hearing loss has only been in our lives for the last three years.

So I promise to be kinder to myself, to keep realistic expectations, and to celebrate those small everyday moments that are so easy to overlook.

Where do you want your family to be a year from now?

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Keeping Your “Game Face” When Your Child is Diagnosed with Hearing Loss

Photo by CreactionsOne of the most difficult things to do as a parent when you first receive your child’s diagnosis is to keep your “game face” together. This is the face that you are going to need to get used to wearing when your child is awake, when your child is near you, when your child begins to ask you questions about their hearing loss, or when strangers ask questions about your child’s hearing loss.

It is where you put on your best smile, blink back any tears that might be forming and begin to tell yourself, along with anyone else who is listening, how wonderful it is that you child is fortunate enough to respond to wearing hearing aids, a Baha (bone anchored hearing aid), or cochlear implants. And believe me it is a wonderful thing.

As hard as it is to put miniature hearing aids onto tiny ears; or to attach the processer onto the back of your infant’s head for the first time – you can’t do it while you are crying. Your child is watching you. They are watching your reaction the first time you put on this new equipment. What does your child see reflected in your eyes? Is it excitement and hope? Or sadness and fear?

I know if it’s not easy, but I also know that it is a skill that you need to get really, really  good at.

DO practice your game face. Lock yourself in your bathroom and practice in front of the mirror, seriously. Try to keep your thoughts positive. When your mind begins to float into negative territory bring it back by taking a deep breath and focusing on the present. While it may not seem so at the moment, the identification of hearing loss is a positive step for your child and your family. As hard as it may be, tell your child how lucky he is to wear hearing aids or a cochlear implant so that his ears will get the help they need. Starting out with a positive attitude is one of the best things you can do. You want your child to view his hearing aids and/or other assistive devices as what they are: instruments to amplify sound so that he can hear better and participate more fully in family and school life. You don’t want him to absorb negative connotations about his hearing aids and to have him think he needs to feel sorry for himself for being different.

 

DON’T make a big deal about the diagnosis in front of your child. At this point your child has no understanding of being “handicapped” unless she is made to feel that way. Your child’s self-concept, or feelings about herself, does not develop in isolation. In the younger years she takes her cues from the feedback and reactions she receives from family members. If she sees you become tense or embarrassed about her hearing aids when in public spaces, she will begin to feel that you are embarrassed by her.

 

DO remember to keep things in perspective. One mother confessed that shortly after her son was diagnosed with profound hearing loss she found herself crying because she was certain that no one would want to go to the prom with her son if he had cochlear implants. Then she found herself laughing because her son was only six weeks old at the time and she realized how out of context her thought was.

 

DON’T forget to look after yourself. While it is normal to experience feelings of grief and sadness when your child is been diagnosed with a hearing loss, it is also important to recognize when your feelings become worse or if you begin to feel like you cannot cope anymore. Take the time to ask for a referral to an appropriate mental health care professional.

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