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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What If I Give Financially to Signs for Hope...Where Does the Money Go?

"Coordinating the Adoption of Deaf Orphans in the World"

Maybe you are wondering...

"What if I to give financially to Signs for Hope, where will the money go?"

No one at Signs for Hope (SFH) is paid or has been paid in the past. Everyone who does anything for Signs for Hope is a volunteer.  They volunteer their time, their talents and skills, and often their own money to do whatever God calls them to do through Signs for Hope.

Becky Lloyd, the founder and CEO, is the only "full-time" volunteer at Signs for Hope.  Signs for Hope is still a relatively new ministry, approved by the IRS as a "charitable organization" in October 2013 (501c3).  Yes, all donations to Signs for Hope are tax deductible.  You can read more about Becky and God's story for the beginnings of Signs for Hope on the Signs for Hope website here.  Archived prayerletters are also available on the website to give you even greater insight into the ministry God does through SFH.

Charles, her husband of 35+ years, handles the bookkeeping for the ministry.  Signs for Hope has a CPA that handles the tax returns each year for the ministry.  If you want a more detailed copy of this year's or any previous year's financial statement, just ask Charles for it
(chlfrvw@juno.com).


This is a partial list of what gifts donated to Signs for Hope have supported this past year, 2014:

Over $25,000 was donated to families to help with the costs related to the adoption of deaf children this year.


January 2014 & October 2014- Paid travel expenses, in January, for a qualified ASL interpreter to travel with the Collicotts, Doug and Linda are Deaf, to Bulgaria for the adoption of their deaf son, Brett. Paid half the travel expenses for a qualified ASL interpreter to travel with the Colvins, Kris and Barbi are Deaf, in October, to China for the adoption of their deaf daughter, Baylee.  Lifeline Children's Services paid the other half.  The ASL interpreters donate their time and their skills for these trips with Deaf families.




Brett & Doug Collicott, 2013, then 2014


Becky with the Colvin Family, December 2014

February 2014, Empowered to Connect (TBRI-based) in Birmingham, AL.  Signs for Hope attended the ETC conference with two board members and families who have adopted deaf children and those who are adopting deaf children.  Partial expenses were paid by donations to Signs for Hope to cover these expenses. 

Feb/March 2014, Liberia Mission Trip - Partial travel expenses paid for Signs for Hope board members (four) to visit and evaluate 5 Deaf schools across Liberia to know better how to partner with them to improve their education, over the next decade, of the more than 250 deaf children they serve. The team also met with the Liberian Ministry of Education to see how they can work in conjunction with their educators, as well, and with members of the Liberian National Association of the Deaf. We are patiently waiting the "all clear" to head back to Liberia in 2015 to begin implementing phases of training and support.  When the word "education" is used, that includes academic, vocational & life skills and biblical.  For a detailed report email SFH's Chairman of the Board, Steve Farmer farmer3222@comcast.net

ACFI Deaf School, Oscar & Viola Stewart
School for the Deaf, Liberia
Virginia School for the Deaf, Liberia

Oscar Romero School for the Deaf, Liberia

April 2014 - Stipend paid to ASL interpreters in St. Louis (shared this expense with Show Hope) for the ETC conference there.  Two Signs for Hope families attended. 

April 2014 NC Road Trip - Paid Becky's travel expenses on the back roads of NC, from the mountains of Asheville to the coast at Jacksonville, to visit with multiple deaf adoptive families and SFH prayer partners and supporters.  She was graciously hosted by families and stayed in their homes. 

May 2014 - Paid for Charles and Becky to travel to CAFO 2014 in Chicago.

                   $2,000 sent to Liberia to support the needs of the deaf children.


June 2014 - Paid for Becky to travel and attend the annual American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC) conference in Framingham, MA. 

September/October 2014 - Paid Becky's travel expenses for her additional education and training she received this fall through Texas Christian University (TBRI Training, the course itself was gifted to Becky, $3,000) and the National Center for Biblical Parenting (NCBP, Presenter Training in Los Angeles). SFH also paid for Jonathan Walterhouse (SFH board member) to attend the NCBP Presenter Training in Los Angeles, along with Becky (Oct).  Four (4) days in Austin , TX (Sept) were added to the TBRI Training trip, so Becky could visit with multiple families who have adopted deaf children there, as well.  


Signs for Hope Families in Austin, TX, September 2014

National Center for Biblical Parenting Training, October 2014
September 2014 - Paid for Becky's road trip to DC for the ETC conference.  Six (6) Signs for Hope families attended this conference.  Also visited and shared with Open Bible Deaf Church, a monthly supporter of Signs for Hope, in College Park, MD. 

Empowered to Connect - DC, September 2014


November 2014 - Paid for expenses related to the SFH Passport to Deafness event held in Asheville, NC.  Over $5,000 was received during this event. 
PASSPORT TO DEAFNESS, November 2014


As you can see, God multiplies your gifts to Signs for Hope as this work is impacting hundreds of people, hearing and deaf, around the globe.

This does not account for any of the time Becky and the SFH board members spend researching and developing resources for the families of the deaf children being adopted and for the deaf children in Liberia, who will probably never have the option of earthly adoption.  Nor does it represent Becky's, daily, one-on-one support for adopting families and Liberians involved with caring for deaf children.  Advocating for "Best Practices for the Adoption of Deaf Children" is another passion Becky works to improve. Her blog series entitled "So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?" has been cause for hundreds to flock to this blog this year.  Check them out for your self, there are 8 of them so far.  In addition, helping parents and caregiver's of deaf children learn better how to reach the heart's of these precious deaf children for Christ is an endeavor of Becky's that is never satisfied.  Becky believes by sharing Christ and all He teaches us with these deaf children and their families, God will call them to share the same with others. 

Did you know Deaf people locally and world-wide are among the top three unreached people groups in the world?  http://www.doorinternational.com/hearing/deaf-culture

We pray for God to touch the hearts of those He wants to support us prayerfully and financially.  It is amazing to watch how He does this. 

If God touches your heart to do either or both, pray for us on a regular basis and/or give to us financially, please contact us to let us know so we can continue to thank God for providing for all our needs, as He has promised to do so. 


May God richly bless you as you follow Him wholeheartedly!

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.~James 1:27

Subscribe to the SFH Prayerletter on our website

Use the DONATE button above to use PayPal for gifts of any amount or mail a check to:  Signs for Hope, PO Box 460, Fairview, NC  28730

Contact Becky directly:  beckyblloyd@gmail.com/828-691-2581 (voice, text, FaceTime)





Tuesday, December 23, 2014

HAPPY HOLIDAYS & MERRY XMAS!

I tend to be an observer.  I learn so much just by observing.  I don't plan to observe, that's just...what I do.  



I never will forget Brother Ed Kofi, in Liberia, telling me on more than one occasion, "Sis Becky, you don't talk much, but you observe.  I've watched you." He is an observer, too (wink!).  My good friend, Dawn Barnes, has "caught me" observing and commented, "You are ALWAYS thinking." Dawn is an observer, too (wink!)  When I am with Deaf and observing them, I catch/notice so many new signs.  Yes, even after 15 years!  If I am with my good friend who is hearing, Vandora, when I see something new I quickly ask her, "Did you see that sign for ...?"  

Definitions vary a bit for the word, observer.  Most say it is a person who watches and/or one who notices things.  

Some would say I observe too much or too long, before I act.  I am guilty, as charged, I am sure.  I wish I could say I pray as much as I observe, but that is simply not true.  My observations are most often followed by much pondering and thinking and sometimes filtered with prayer.  

When I read/study God's word my observer mode comes out, often.  Sometimes, I pause long enough to ask God's Spirit to help me "see" or "notice" what it is He wants me to glean from His Word.  Many times, He shows me what He wants me to learn even when I do not ask Him to do so.  His Word is ALIVE (LIVING), so it will accomplish it's intent.  

I tend to be a stickler for what His Word says and what it does not say.  There is so much you and I can learn when we, ourselves, devote time to reading and studying God's Word for ourselves.  Yes, it is also important to receive wise counsel from others who do the same, but there is nothing that can take the place of you and me sitting in the presence of Yahweh, alone, one-on-one.




I hate assumptions, but I am guilty of them all to often.  Assumptions get us into so much trouble in our earthly relationships, one can only imagine what our assumptions relating to God can do.  The assumptions about our God are so destructive for so many.  It isn't the nonbeliever's assumptions that concern me the most, but more so the believer's assumptions that are so damaging and debilitating for themselves and others and often for an entire lifetime.  

Please do not assume you know what God's Word has to say about something, check it out for yourself.  Become an observer of His Word.  Notice things, that maybe others have never brought to your attention.  You may be surprised to find something very different from what you "thought" or "assumed" was true. All to often, we tend to develop thinking patterns based on assumptions instead of His Word.  Be aware, God will always be revealing more and new truths to you as you mature in your walk with Him, as well.  What I know and believe about the scriptures, today (age 55), are somewhat different from what I knew as a new follower of Christ at the age of 14 and even so as His follower at the age of 41.  

You and I will never know all there is to know about God, He is simply...too BIG!

An "assumption" that was revealed to me this year, by a dear friend's Facebook post, surrounds the phrase "Happy Holidays".  A few years ago, when the media and many in the retail industry decided they would no longer wish others "Merry Christmas", this time of year, but instead they would say "Happy Holidays", many of us became indignant.  And we were all to proud to boldly proclaim Merry Christmas back to those who wished us Happy Holidays...those heathens.  Turns out our pride may have been a little over zealous.  The word holiday means first and foremost "holy day", according to Merriam-Webster, so wishing someone Happy Holidays is not far from wishing them a Merry Christmas, now is it?  Jesus is holy and these days are 'set-apart' to celebrate His 'holy' birth.  The same holds true for Xmas.  I remember many years ago, that became a popular way to write Merry Christmas, Merry Xmas.  How dare they take the "Christ" out of Christmas!  Once again, when someone took the time to search a little deeper, turns out the use of the X dates back to the early 1500's and it is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. 

When God looks down on us, I wonder how often He shakes His head in disbelief at the insignificant things we become so zealous over and the vital things we overlook? 



Will you join me in celebrating the birth of the holy child, who lived a holy life, so He could die a holy death, for you and me to be holy?




Thursday, December 11, 2014

EDYN GRACE!


S4H's Wheels for the Walterhouse Family
(shared by Becky Lloyd, December 11, 2014)
Jonathan Walterhouse is a S4H Board Member
and his wife, Michelle, is a S4H Advisory Board Member

All donations are tax deductible!



All for God's glory!

Shared by Jonathan and Michelle Walterhouse...

Edyn Grace is our 6 year old "princess" who has had a challenging life. She was abandoned at the hospital in Peru when her birth mother realized she was not able to take care of another child. Edyn was born premature with multiple health issues, most of which were not discovered until she was a few years old. She is Deaf, and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Thankfully she was taken to an Orphanage in Peru run by Christian missionaries to the Deaf. She spent the first 5 years of her life there in an environment where she was cared for and nurtured to the fullest extent possible.

God called our family to adopt in November, 2010. It was a providential meeting between several families in which God connected us to the Orphanage where Edyn was living. Three years later and after God had provided over $36,000 for adoption and travel costs, our family was able to travel to Lima, Peru to complete the adoption. We flew back home on December 20th, 2013. God be praised!




Edyn Grace's Gotcha Day, December 5, 2013!

Read more about His story for Edyn Grace on our blog MorefortheHouse.


Since returning to the US, last December, multiple tests have been performed in working with more than 6 doctors to determine whether or not the diagnosis Edyn was given in Peru was an accurate one. In short, we found that she does not have Cerebral Palsy. Rather, she has been diagnosed with a rapidly progressive Ataxia (muscle weakness and lack of muscle coordination) of unknown etiology. Essentially, she has, over the last 3-4 months, lost a significant amount of her mobility. She has much trouble controlling her core muscles and as a result began to fall repeatedly. There are many different variations of Ataxia, and we are still awaiting a recent test to ascertain which kind she has.This of course has changed our family's everyday life, quite drastically. Edyn now uses a wheelchair for mobility. She currently has a pediatric manual wheelchair while we await insurance approval on a powered chair. Currently, with her manual chair, we wheel her up next to our van, help her stand and take a few steps towards her seat, then hoist her into her seat as we cannot brace her wheelchair in our current van. Once Edyn's power chair arrives, we will not be able to transport her in our current van and will need to obtain a wheelchair-accessible van.

These vans are expensive! Even a used, 2011 van (wheelchair-accessible) with 54,000 miles has a price tag of $35,000. We are seeking approval for a low interest loan through our State's Rehabilitation service office, but even at that--with the traditional 7 year loan--our monthly payment will be substantially higher than any vehicle payment we have ever had.

We have had many people ask how they can help, and to be truthful- the things we need most are prayer for God's wisdom and funds towards the purchase of an "Edyn Grace Van".

Would you consider helping us in this endeavor? 

Click on this link or on the DONATE button above to go to the Signs for Hope website to donate now!

Or mail a check to Signs for Hope, PO Box 460, Fairview, NC  28730 


James 1:5
- "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."






Saturday, December 6, 2014

So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 8 of...


What is BEST for the Deaf Child and Beyond?



The blog post below was originally shared in September of 2013 under the title, "What is BEST for the Deaf Child?".  I have decided to include it, in its updated form, to become Part 8 in the series, "So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?"



In an effort to inform and equip adoption agencies, especially faith-based ones, as they seek to provide the best possible family environment for the raising of deaf children and to expand their understanding of the Biblical Worldview concerning the Deaf Peoples around the world, I have decided to write this post. 


 
Having numerous dDeaf family members (d meaning a form of deafness and D meaning a member of the Deaf Community) I often thought my husband, Charles, and I would end up giving birth to and being given the responsibility of raising a deaf child.  However, Rachel and Joseph are both hearing and we never had to face that all-encompassing question, "What is best for our deaf child?"   
 
Thirteen years ago when God led me to return to school in the fall of 2000 at the age of 41--2 yr. Interpreter Training Program degree and then 4-yr. degree in ASL Studies,--the answer to the question, "What is best for the deaf child?" became a personal quest of mine. At that time, I did not understand why I was so obsessed with wanting to know the answer to that question, but I do now, at least in part. 

I researched and researched and researched some more...I still do.  I talked to numerous educational interpreters, they are on the front lines and see what deaf children are faced with day in and day out...I still do.  I have also listened to many dDeaf people share their stories of frustration and pain with hearing family members who never learned sign language...and I still do.  
And I listen to the stories of those who experience deafness, but do not know sign language or were not exposed to it until much later in life and do not feel accepted by hearing people or by Deaf people, to this day.  They do not really "fit" anywhere! 

 
Sometimes, I feel embarrassed to admit that it took me several years to come to my conclusion. However, that uncertainty forced me to develop a strong and sure foundation for why I can boldly say, today, without reservation or hesitation, that providing the deaf child a sign language rich environment, as their strong foundation, is by far...BEST!


In addition, over the past 14 years, I have become heavily involved with the Deaf Community.  I have learned they are among one of the top three unreached people groups locally and around the world.  An unreached people group is an ethnic or ethnolinguistic people in which less than 2% of their population know of and follow Christ.
 
Often, Deaf people remind me of this story in the Old Testament, Exodus chapters 3 & 4, where the LORD (Yahweh) is speaking to Moses from the burning bush and Moses is making excuses as to why he should not be the one to do what God has called him to do.


"Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.
The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exodus 4:11, NASB)

Many Deaf people who do follow Christ, believe it is no accident God has allowed them to be deaf and that He clearly has a plan for each of their lives within their deafness.

This additional knowledge has led me to see more clearly, another reason, possibly even a stronger and more important one for granting the deaf child the right to be allowed to learn ASL and that is for the purpose of impacting those who are dDeaf with the gospel of Jesus Christ.


We know, from much research, the ability to share the hope of Christ by others within their own people group is much more successful than when those from outside their group try to do the same.  If ASL-fluent and Deaf Culture-immersed families adopt deaf children and then provide them with a sign language rich environment there will be many more opportunities for God to lead some of those children to share their beliefs with other Deaf people as they become adults.   I already know stories of adopted deaf children who feel called to return to their home lands to share the gospel with the Deaf people there.  Their sign language fluent hearing adoptive family members will also have influence on the Deaf Community and vice versa.  However, if families never give their deaf children the opportunity to learn sign language or interact with other Deaf people, the possibility of them ever influencing the lives of Deaf people for Christ is minimal to none, at best. 

Maybe more of us hearing people should follow Paul's example, learn sign language and become immersed in the Deaf Community:

"Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." ~1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Some challenging questions for us to ponder:


For the sake of the gospel, should Christian hearing parents of deaf children learn ASL?  To date, in the US, 90+% of hearing biological parents never learn to sign with their deaf children. 

For the sake of the gospel, should Christian adoptive parents provide a sign-language rich environment for their deaf children? 

And, finally, should any and all hearing people learn ASL and be immersed in Deaf Culture, to possibly 'win the Deaf' and some how 'save some'?

Before I am misunderstood, let me go ahead and say clearly, I believe the BEST for the deaf child is knowing and embracing both ASL and English, as best they can. In addition, I also believe they should be given every opportunity to embrace both the hearing and Deaf cultures, as well. 

Ideally, I also believe it is also BEST for all hearing people and all dDeaf people to do the same. 

God has purposefully given us family members who experience deafness.  This is no accident nor is it only a result of the fall of mankind or sin which we should simply accept as a part of this life.  Why else would He continue allowing 95+% of deaf children to be born to and/or raised by hearing parents?  And why else would He be allowing as many as 70% of our aging population of hearing family members experience debilitating deafness in their final years? 

We are long overdue for asking God, specifically, what His will is concerning the dDeaf in our midst.  Over the years, we, hearing and Deaf people alike, have constantly been separating these two groups of people, but God is constantly trying to ensure that the vast majority of deaf people (old and young) always have hearing family members.  The family is a part of God's design from the very beginning.  When will we stop separating what God Himself has put together?  What are we missing when we separate ourselves from each other?

If you are an agency or a family not focused on adoption being, solely, His work and ultimately to spread His gospel, I urge you to do some soul searching and ask God to reaffirm to you why it is you are involved with adoption and more specifically the adoption of children who experience deafness.






James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.


<><><><><><><><><><><><><>

So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Ongoing Blogpost Series


Part 1, Overview

Part 2, What is the Best & Quickest Way to Learn American Sign Language?

Part 3, No One Told Me

Part 4, Deaf Children are Anything, But Quiet

Part 5, Why is The Deaf Child So Far Behind the Hearing Child

Part 6, The Adopted Deaf Child and the Cochlear Implant

Part 7, The Adopted Deaf Child and Your Church

Saturday, November 29, 2014

So, You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 7 of...

"The Adopted Deaf Child and Your Church"


These multiple blogposts, "So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?", are being written to try to better prepare a hearing family, for adopting a deaf child.  Rarely are these things ever considered when a family says yes to adopt a child with a hearing loss.  The increasing number of deaf adopted children being released for the adoption by a 2nd family is one of the reasons for these blogposts.  

This is the 7th in the series.  Here are links to all the others.

Part 1, Adopting the Deaf Child, An Overview

Part 2, What is the Best and Quickest Way to Learn American Sign Language?

Part 3, No One Told Me


Part 4, Deaf Children are Anything, But Quiet

Part 5, Why Is The Deaf Child So Far Behind the Hearing Child?

Part 6, The Adopted Deaf Child and the Cochlear Implant


Part 8, What is BEST for the Deaf Child and Beyond?


95% of deaf children are born to and/or are raised by hearing parents, who probably have never met a Deaf person in their life.  So they have some excuse for their not knowing all these things when they are suddenly confronted with raising a child that experiences deafness.  However, if you have decided your family is prepared to adopt, and the best option to adopt a child with deafness, this is one of the things you need to be prepared to accept.  Just in case no one has told you or you have not thought of this yourself. 

First, here is another little known fact, among hearing people, that still boggles my mind.   Less than 10% of those parents who give birth to and/or are raising deaf children, here in the US, ever learn to sign with them.  That statement shocks me every time I read it, hear it!  These numbers are coming from schools for the Deaf around the country, so these are hearing families who have accepted the fact their deaf children should be educated in a sign language-rich  environment, YET they are not willing to learn that language to grant them good, strong communication, with their deaf child. That fact is beyond my comprehension! 

Through the years, hearing parents of deaf children--this is after their deaf children have become adults--have confided to me two things, consistently.  One, they so wish they had learned to sign with their deaf children when they were young.  And two, others tell me they regret not allowing their deaf children to learn to sign when they were children, as many do not learn ASL until college-age. They realize how this has ostracized their children in both the hearing and the Deaf worlds.  By the way, these are not questions I pose to these family members, but simply conversations parents initiate with me...the interpreter.






Back to our topic at hand...

Unless your family is already attending a church where there is an established Deaf Ministry, this will most likely be an area of great struggle, frustration, and disappointment for you and your family, once you adopt a deaf child.  It is very possibly your family will have to seek out another church.  The only problem is, there are very few churches, across this country, doing a really good job of reaching out to the Deaf, through ASL interpreted services or with Deaf-led services. In the largest cities, where the concentration of the Deaf population is much greater, there are few thriving Deaf Ministries (most often hearing-led by ASL interpreters and some with Deaf leaders) and even fewer Deaf Churches, where the pastor himself is Deaf. 

Once you begin to learn about the Deaf Affinity Group, the group of people who identify themselves as Deaf living around the world, a subculture of every hearing-culture, you will quickly be confronted with the fact that less than 2% of all Deaf people know of and/or follow Jesus Christ.  That is true right here in our own US of A.  This fact puts them in the top three unreached people groups around the world. 

Think that through for just a moment. Try to think about how this could impact your adopted deaf child and your family throughout your adoption journey, which is life-long and will actually reach into the next generation.  For example, if you have dreams of your adopted deaf son or daughter growing up and easily finding and marrying another Deaf person, who is a follower of Christ, think again.  You do think about your deaf child growing up and becoming all God desires for him/her to be, don't you?

Allow me to share a little Deaf Culture with you.

There are no statistics on how many Deaf people marry other Deaf people, nor how many mixed marriages (Deaf with hearing) there are, but in years past Deaf marrying Deaf was the most common practice.  Several reasons have been suggested:

1) Deaf people tend to feel only other Deaf people can truly identify with them on a deeper level through their language of ASL and their shared experiences, growing up in a hearing family that never learned to converse with them,.  They feel the bond they can have with each other is much stronger when they marry another Deaf person. This often comes from their life experiences of hearing family members rarely sharing details of their family's spoken conversations, everyday.

2)  Deaf people would marry other Deaf people so they could keep their precious ASL and Deaf culture more pure. 


3) Many years ago, it was thought if a hearing person married a deaf person their deafness was contagious and it would spread.  So, intermarrying was taboo, for most hearing people, at least for a time. 

Back to our topic:


Let me help you think through some reasons why it is hard for an all hearing church to embrace the adopted deaf child of even one of their own?   




1) More than likely, no one in your congregation knows sign language or has any idea about the culture of the Deaf.  I know it may be a few years before your deaf child can communicate well via sign language, but when he/she does others need to be ready to converse with them.  If no one at the church can communicate with your deaf child, you can be assured there will be behavior issues to deal with on a regular basis.
Pairing your deaf child with a "buddy" who knows sign language, to some extent, could help reduce those frustrations for a time.  The vast differences in these two cultures, Deaf and hearing, will take someone who is passionate about the Deaf a life time of willingness to learn.  


2) Deaf children have an uncanny ability to make noise at the most inopportune and embarrassing times. You think this will be an easy fix?  Think again.  Since deaf children, often do not even know what makes sound and they cannot hear those sounds, they have no idea they are causing a disturbance to the hearing people around them.  Granted sometimes they do begin to do this just to annoy hearing people, but this is something deaf children and their parents deal with for many years.  These continual disturbances are not well tolerated by most hearing people and it will not take long for someone to tell you so.  Be assured, it is not only the Deaf who are being excluded from our churches, but all those who are not "normal" experience this oppression from the very ones that should embrace them with open arms.  

Here is a recent article about how few churches, in America, are reaching anyone with a disability, The Church and Disability.   


3) Hiring a qualified ASL interpreter for just your deaf child may not be well received by your church and often harder still, there may not be a local qualified interpreter willing to interpret on a regular basis. I dare say this is an area, where you will want the most qualified ASL interpreter who shares the same beliefs as does your family, to ensure the message for your deaf son or daughter is clear.  Again, this is not an easy find.  In addition, fees for qualified ASL interpreters, especially on the weekend, can easily start at more than $50 per hour.
I have read recent blog posts of families who are in the process of adopting a deaf child who mention how easy it would be for the adopting family who adopts a deaf child just to go ahead and start a Deaf Ministry in their own church.  Let me just say, from more than 14 years experience of being involved with Deaf Ministry and learning from several others, mentors, who have been involved with Deaf Ministry for over 40 years, themselves, developing a Deaf Ministry is far from easy. Trust me when I say, you will already have your hands full if you adopt a deaf child, leaving no energy whatsoever to start and maintain a Deaf Ministry. 


"Why is Deaf Ministry So Hard?" is a two part blog post shared by Marshall Lawrence--the hearing biological father of a deaf daughter, Rachel, founder of Silent Blessings Deaf Ministries and the children's TV series performed by all Deaf actors, Dr. Wonder's Workshop.  



To watch each episode in its entirety click here.

Others say hearing mom and dad can easily begin interpreting at church for their deaf child once they are home.
IF mom or dad are already trained ASL interpreters, that MIGHT be a possibility.  If that does happen your church will no longer be a place for you to refresh, refuel and reconnect.  You must keep in mind, casually signing in ASL and interpreting in ASL are two vastly different things.  Conceptually accurate interpreting is a skill that requires many years of training and practice and should be shared with a team interpreter if the assignment is longer than say an hour of continuous interpreting with no breaks. Ideally, that time should be no more than 30 minutes. Again, your life will be full to overflowing by the adoption of your deaf child and interpreting at church will become an added burden not a service filled with joy.  Some deaf adopted children are so embarrassed by being the only deaf person in their church and then having mom or dad interpret for them, drawing even more attention to them, especially if they are seated up front, becomes more than they can handle. 






If you have not given much thought to or prayed about the spiritual needs of your deaf child, please do.  As I shared earlier, the Deaf are among the top unreached people groups around the world.  Actually, this should be your main focus of prayer for your deaf son or daughter, in my opinion; to know and follow Christ with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength.  While their spiritual foundations must come from within their own homes, the place the family decides to corporately worship with other believers will ultimately greatly impact your deaf child, as well. 

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates."~Deuteronomy 6:4-9

One of the best resources available for reaching the hearts of all children for Christ is the National Center for Biblical Parenting.  Check them out, today!




Monday, August 25, 2014

So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 6 of...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpKKYBkJ9Hw
Click the above picture to go to the
Cochlear Implant Simulation
on Speech & Music
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpKKYBkJ9Hw


The "Adopted" Deaf Child & The Cochlear Implant



Note: The term "deaf" is defined as partially or completely lacking the sense of hearing, therefore it includes those considered "hard of hearing", as well. 


Hopefully, you have noticed in this series, "So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?"--6 posts thus far--the topics covered and information shared are somewhat different from other information found in other places.  We try to address topics that are rarely even thought about, prior to adopting a deaf child, but will greatly impact a family if they do adopt a deaf child.  We believe it is the right of the deaf child to have adoptive parents who are highly skilled and prepared specifically for their vast needs, prior to bringing them home.  We believe the information these blog posts are covering will help equip them to do that, IF they decide to proceed with the adoption of a deaf child. 




In the year 2014, we live in a world of much misinformation--false and/or inaccurate information sharing. Sometimes it is because only some of the information is readily shared or easily discovered.  Often times, the media shares information that will only cause the greatest emotional response, with hopes that will guarantee them more faithful followers in the future.  Sometimes, it is just easier not to share all the information upfront because it is too overwhelming.  Let's just face it, sometimes, we are easily satisfied with what we are told, initially, because we like it and are not willing to do the necessary work to do an exhaustive information search on our own.  I could site many examples of this, but the one that is nearest to me, at the moment, is the one that I will share in this blog post. 



If I randomly interviewed people on Any Street, USA and asked the question..."Does the Cochlear Implant make someone who is deaf, hearing?", for those who have heard about the Cochlear Implant (CI) before, I have no doubt an overwhelming  majority of people would respond, "Yes, of course, it does!".  While their response is "partially true"--the Cochlear Implant (CI) does provide the recipient with the sensation of sound, albeit much different from the sound our natural hearing provides--there is much more information the parents desiring to adopt a deaf child must know. 


This will not be a simple or easy journey, gaining full knowledge surrounding the CI, but I believe it is a vital one and one every deaf child is worthy of.  Many adoptive parents, adoption agency personnel, and incountry orphan care workers ASSUME the CI will "fix" deafness.  That simply...is not true.  It will require much time in research and prayer, on your part, parents, to uncover all the necessary information to make a wise decision concerning the CI. Not doing so, I believe, is a disservice to not only the deaf child, but also to yourself and the rest of your family. 





Cochlear Implant Simulation:  Click the above picture to hear what "sound" sounds like through a Cochlear Implant.



For the "adopted" deaf/HOH child, whose brain has been deeply traumatized and whose emotional and social development is grossly immature, the functioning outcomes of the CI have never been researched.  The functioning outcomes of the CI are the measurable benefits the CI provides the recipient in communication access --listening and speaking skills. The ultimate test of these skills are when the recipient communicates with those in the natural hearing world and not just among their immediate family members who become accustomed to understanding their speech no matter the clarity.  The published outcomes of the CI on the deaf child are based almost solely on those who are born into loving families, with healthy developing brains and with the greatest of external professional resources for skill training, not on the "adopted" older deaf/HOH child's brain. 



What is the Cochlear Implant? "A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to someone who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing HOH. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin (see the above picture)."  (www.nidcd.nih.gov) There is also an internal probe that reaches down into the Cochlea (inner ear), where sound is transported to the brain for comprehension.  The CI destroys all residual hearing the recipient might have. Of course, there are always risks involved with a surgery of this magnitude, so research those here.

 


Chances are you have seen the emotional videos on FB and/or TV showing the first time a young child has "heard" his/her mother's voice.  They do pull at your heart strings, but these videos can be misleading as you must remember this child is not suddenly hearing AND understanding their mother's voice, as you and I might first be tempted to believe, they are simply hearing "sound" for the first time, provided by the CI.  As you heard in the simulation video above.  Many years of intensive speech and hearing training and thousands of hours of therapies will be required to enable this young pre-lingual (knowing no spoken language prior to implantation) deaf child the optimum use of the CI, whatever that might be for each specific child, as it is different for each individual recipient.  





Do you ever wonder, as I do, why it is we rarely see follow-up videos and reports on the outcomes/successes of these children as they grow into adulthood?  One would think they would be the best advertisement for those doing the CI surgery and those manufacturing the CI.   I believe it is partially because ultimately the outcomes of the CI vary so greatly from one recipient to another and so many children implanted do not grow up to be as "hearing" as we are initially led to believe. 



While the CI is considered "successful" as it does provide "sound" for the recipient there is so much more involved than just "hearing" that sound.  The brain must be trained to translate that sound into comprehendable meanings that then translate into language and speech and most-desirable clear communication with another hearing person.  Sometimes the comprehension of speech being heard via the CI surpasses the recipients ability to then vocalize the correct sound(s) and speak clearly.  The ability you and I have to speak clearly is directly related to what we hear and how well our brain can translate what we hear, therefore what a CI recipient "hears" will directly determine how well they speak.  


Just to give you an idea of how hard it is to master spoken language, unnaturally, click on the video above. Rachel Kolb from the TEDxStanford website is profoundly deaf, but had 20 years of speech therapies and very supportive parents from birth.  She was a student at Stanford and a Rhodes Scholar when she gave this speech in 2013.  While she speaks clearly, to some degree, she prefers to communicate through sign language, as she says it is a much more natural communication for her.  Her talk is given in spoken English, but she is also fluent in American Sign Language.  Rachel is bi-lingual (English and ASL) and bi-cultural (hearing and Deaf Culture). 



Experiment: Try NOT looking at Rachel while she is speaking and see how well you can understand her.  


Rachel is studying abroad this fall at Oxford, majoring in English and writing.  An ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter will accompany her. 

Review the 3rd post in this series:

"The New "Member" of Your Family...the ASL Interpreter!"


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It is vitally important to understand the backgrounds of CI recipients to further understand the unique challenges they will face in interpreting the sound generated by a CI accurately and then utilizing that interpretation for communication and functioning in the "hearing" world.  Generally, there are three different categories or groups of CI recipients.


1) Post-Lingual (after spoken language develops) CI Recipient - typically the age represented by this group would be a hearing child or adult that is already speaking, age 36 months and older, but lost their hearing suddenly due to an injury, illness or as a result of prolonged use of certain drugs prescribed for an illness.  This category represents a very small group of deaf/HOH children, as the above situations are rare.




If the recipient of a CI was hearing and speaking (post-lingual) prior to implantation, the brain's ability to match the new sounds it is hearing with the original sounds it knew, will be much more natural and, therefore, somewhat easier.   The sounds will not "sound" the same, of course, as you heard when you listened to the CI simulation above, but the brain's ability to connect the new sound with meaning will be greater than for those who did not hear and speak naturally before implantation. 


Putting on the CI is not the same as putting on a pair of glasses to perfectly correct your vision.  It will take much time to re-train the brain to learn what each new sound represents. I have heard of some newly implanted recipients, in this post-lingual category, going throughout their homes flushing the toilet, turning various appliances on and off, and practicing bodily functions to be able to determine which new sound specifically represents the old natural sound. The same is true for speech following a CI surgery.  A recipient's own voice, now heard through the CI, will sound different than before, as will all other voices.  The brain can adapt well, however, if it was already programmed to hear AND comprehend speech, naturally, before the CI surgery. For the vast majority of CI recipients who were hearing and speaking prior to implantation, the outcomes for a fully functioning life in the hearing world are much higher than for those who have never heard and spoken before. 



Resource:

Treating Hearing Loss with Cochlear Implants

2) Pre-Lingual CI Recipient, under the age of 36 months

For the young deaf/HOH child, 6 - 36 months of age, with a neurologically-healthy functioning brain, the CI can possibly become the hearing replacement or sound producer for acquiring language, more so than for those older who have surpassed this critical sound and language acquisition phase of life, up to 36 months. That is not to say all children implanted prior to 36 months of age will become fully functioning and communicate with ease in the hearing world, as research does NOT support those outcomes. There are innumerable variables involved with each unique deaf/HOH child and the many external resources (therapies and trainings to help the recipient produce listening and speaking skills) which will be needed for obtaining the maximum benefit.  It is important to understand that the way a hearing child naturally learns a language is by first hearing sounds and mimicking them repeatedly, practicing until it comes out correctly-spoken.  The developmental process of spoken language really begins in utero for the unborn child and continues for at least the next 36 months.

Resources:

Language Outcomes After Cochlear Implantation

Language Development Domain


3) Pre-lingual CI Recipient, age 3 (36 months) and older

For the older deaf/HOH children, implanted at age 3 (36 months) and older, outcomes granted by the CI vary significantly. Those deaf children who have not been exposed to spoken language because of their deafness, prior to 36 months, will struggle to master spoken language and good listening skills.  Spoken language takes longer to develop, even naturally, than visual language; hence the reason so many hearing parents now teach their hearing babies sign language, so they can begin communicating their wants and needs as early as 8 months of age. 




Resource:

Language Outcomes After Cochlear Implantation (58 references included)


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Note: The research outcomes for the above categories are not based on the "adopted" deaf/HOH child, but are based almost solely on the deaf/HOH child born into loving hearing families.  In addition, the required professional support services all CI recipients must receive for producing the best outcomes (listening and speaking skills) are local and readily available to these children and they and their families are fully utilizing them.


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When researching the CI prior to adopting the deaf child, three equally important things to remember for the deaf child you desire to adopt are shared below.  These three factors MUST be foremost in your mind as you sift through the research for the CI.



1) Language Acquisition - Rarely are the brains of the adopted deaf child in the prime age of language learning from 6 months to just under 36 months (3 years) when they are adopted.  In fact, most are over 3 or 4 yrs of age and some are as old as 10.
Yes, some deaf/HOH children are available for adoption, with no exposure to language at all even at the age of 10.  Keep in mind, the time span between 6 months and 36 months is the "full developmental process" for language learning.  There is nothing magical about simply being under 36 months when the deaf child receives the CI.  The vast majority of adopted deaf children are beyond the "optimal time", according to their brains, to "master" language. This does not mean they cannot learn language, but it does mean the process will be laborious and take many years of training.

Resources:


Brain Development and the Mastery of Language in the Early Childhood Years

Speech and Language Developmental Milestones



AND


2) Neurologically Unhealthy Brain - All adopted deaf children will have experienced trauma.  The same is true for all adopted children, but remember the deaf child will also have additional trauma because of the lack of language and little to no communication for bonding with peers and/or caregivers.  In fact, deaf children tend to be targeted by their hearing peers and their hearing caregivers for additional bullying and abuse...physical and sexual.  Which means, even if you do find a deaf child under the age of 3 to adopt, the trauma they have experienced will greatly impact their brain's ability to not only bond with you and others, but also acquire language, immediately, as it will not be a neurologically-healthy functioning brain. Not only will this neurologically unhealthy brain delay the ability of the deaf child to learn and master language, it will also mean the many years needed to develop spoken & understood language (communication) via the CI, will also delay the bonding between the child and their hearing, speaking family members.  Signed language can bridge those two gaps much more quickly.   Clear communication is vital to building trust and felt-safety for the adopted child and without that the deaf child's traumatized brain will not be begin to heal and become healthy. 

Resources:

Understanding the Importance of Neurotransmitters


Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development

                                                                 
                                           AND



3) No matter what country the adopted deaf child comes from, the medical records will be sorely lacking in their diagnostic evaluations, especially concerning the child's deafness. The extent of deafness of an adopted child can rarely be fully known until they are evaluated comprehensively here in the states. Hearing screening and testing is rare in other countries, especially of institutionalized children.  Deafness is not visible and it can be easily overlooked, especially in the child under the age of 3 or 4.  Older non-verbal children MIGHT be suspected of hearing loss, but rarely then are they even tested.  Some children labeled "non-verbal" could also have hearing loss.  I know many stories of families adopting a child and following their first physical here in the states their deafness is discovered. No one knew! I also know of several stories of families specifically adopting a deaf child and when they arrive home they find out their child's deafness was a severe case of ear-wax buildup. You see many pictures of children wearing hearing aides and maybe even CI's, in other countries, not until they are evaluated, here, do you know if any of them actually benefit the child...or even work for that matter.  Do not trust what is in any "waiting child's medical file" as being 100% accurate or complete.  After hearing so many stories of inaccuracies--misinformation--relating to the medical files of adopted children you simply cannot trust what is listed there or what may not be listed there as factual. Adoption, truly is an act of faith! 

Review the 5th post in this series:

"Why Is The Deaf Child So Far Behind the Hearing Child?"


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As we all know visual language--mime, gestures and sign language--is often much more easily understood even by people from different cultures and different spoken languages.  The use of sign language and gestures with the deaf child will greatly increase their understanding and will begin to strengthen their bond with their family members, in a much more timely manner than the long-awaited outcomes of the CI.  In addition, the increased visual communication opens their brains to a much bigger world, creating a more healthy environment in which to grow their brains whose development has been stunted by trauma.  Using visual language to communicate with the adopted deaf child will also begin the process of bonding and connecting, much more quickly.  Much the same as the reasons for teaching hearing babies to sign before they can speak.






Test:  The video above has no spoken language.  Not one word.  See how much of it you can understand, visually. 


Review the 2nd post in this series:

What Is the Best & Quickest Way to Learn ASL?



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Parents MUST be fully informed of ALL the requirements and challenges surrounding the implantation of the CI for their deaf/HOH adopted child, from pre-surgery and for the rest of their lives.


As you gather information please pay close attention to the words that are used to describe the outcomes and results of the CI.  The words used are very general in their claims and never specific, never promising a deaf/HOH child will be able to "function normally, just as a naturally hearing person does, in the hearing world".  Some questions you will want to ask:
  • I understand my child will hear sounds, but will he/she be able to understand what is heard clear enough so they can begin speaking clear enough to function "normally" in a hearing world? If so, how long with this process take?
  • Will my child need additional support(s), in addition to the CI, to reach their highest possible functioning level within the hearing world? If so, what are they?
  • What is the average number of years it takes for an older deaf/HOH child (over the age of 3), following implantation to begin to speak in full sentences accurately and being fully understood by others and with an age-appropriate level of comprehension? 
  •  How long will the CI last?  Will it need to be replaced? 
  • Will my insurance cover the CI surgery AND all the needed therapies and trainings that are required for optimum listening & speaking development? 
  • Could the fact my adopted deaf/HOH child's brain has been traumatized by neglect and institutionalization sabotage the best possible outcomes provided by a CI?   

  •  Will you allow us to still use sign language with our deaf/HOH child after implantation(some programs will not)?

  • Am I willing and able to commit the time needed to ensure my implanted deaf/HOH adopted child receives every required external resource (listening and speaking skills therapies & trainings), IF they are available in my area, whereby granting them the best environment for developing the highest possible outcomes achievable for them, whatever that is? 
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Last, but certainly not least, is the question of the
whole child. How will the CI affect the whole child cognitively, emotionally, physically, and spiritually? The CI requires years of training and therapies for communication (listening and speaking skills) to develop,
how will that impact the adopted deaf child's ability to connect and bond with hearing family members and beyond?   How will the CI affect them as they grow into adulthood?


I strongly recommend you interview at least 4 adult CI recipients that were implanted after the age of 3 and more specifically those who had no access to language (no hearing aides or speech training) prior to implantation, this will give the best comparison.  However, unless they were adopted, with traumatized brain development, the comparison will still not be equal. 


Always remember the adopted deafchild is unique in their history & trauma, in their personality, in their drive to achieve and/or please, in their ability to stay on task, in their ability to not only endure the countless hours needed for listening and speech trainings and therapies, but also learn from them. 


Signs for Hope believes it is the right of every deaf child to be given the opportunity to learn sign language as their first mode of communication. Having sign language as a base for communication, not only for bonding between parents and the adopted deaf child, in a timely manner, will also guarantee a continuous mode of communication should the CI not provide the desired and needed fully-functioning access to their "hearing" world years later. 

If you have additional questions and would like to contact me, Becky Lloyd, please do not hesitate to do so. I may not know the answers to your questions, but we can discover them together. 


I pray the above information has helped to give a much broader picture of the CI and the "adopted" deaf child. The decision to implant or not to implant is rarely an easy one, as some may mistakenly believe.  Instead, it is one that requires much time and patience to gain the full knowledge necessary to make wise decisions for each deaf child. 


If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.~James 1:5-8