An interview with Leeanne Seaver, MA, executive director of Hands & Voices, conducted by Doug Beck, AuD, director of professional relations of Oticon, Inc.
For more information on Hands & Voices, go to www.handsandvoices.org or call 866/422-0422 (v/tty).
Beck: Hi, Leeanne. Thanks for meeting with me today. I know Hands & Voices (H&V) offers a unique and pragmatic approach to raising and educating children who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH), and I'd like to learn a little about that.
Seaver: Thanks, Doug. I'm glad to meet with you, too, and I'm grateful to Oticon for this opportunity.
Beck: How long have you been involved with H&V?
Seaver: I've been involved since the very beginning, 10 years ago. Our flagship organization is the chapter in Colorado. At present, we have eight state chapters up and running, plus another seven states in start-up mode.
Beck: What does it mean when you state you're a “parent-driven” organization?
Seaver: Our state boards of directors are made up of at least 51% parents and the rest are a combination of professionals and adults who are DHH, so we're a parent-driven, professionally collaborated organization. “Parent-driven” means that our agenda is always filtered through a parent perspective for applications to our real-world situations and needs…then influenced by our knowledge of the “systems” that service us, to which we return feedback and “end-user” knowledge. It's all quite symbiotic!
Beck: Is it true that H&V takes a neutral stand on communication-ideology issues?
Seaver: Yes. We believe each child and family are unique, and there's no one “right way” for all DHH children to communicate. Some modalities and methods work well with one child, and others work well with others. I have seen compelling examples of success represented in kids across the full spectrum—using ASL, cochlear implants, Cued Speech, total communication, SEE, oral English, etc. In each situation, the family had thoroughly considered reasons, diligent commitment, and appropriate support for the communication choice it made, which exemplifies H&V's slogan, “What makes the choice work for the child and family is what makes the choice right.” So, we don't promote one mode over another, but are united by the desire to improve educational and social outcomes for all DHH children, regardless of their mode or method of communication.
Beck: I applaud your position. I recall bitter and nasty arguments over the best way to educate children. Although each party certainly had valid and important points, I believe there are few universal truths in education! As you pointed out, the individual child, the environment, the parents and their maximal communication mode should all be part of the equation.
Seaver: Right. We can all show “stars” based on mode X, Y, or Z, and on equipment A, B, or C. But we can each show failures among those chosen paths, as well. The important thing is to work with the child as an individual to identify and use his or her strengths to enable the child to achieve all he or she is capable of in the given situation.
Beck: I should mention that you have a new and exciting web site.
Seaver: Thanks. Yes, we do. The site (www.handsandvoices.org) is easy to navigate and full of information for parents. It also offers an easy-to-use map to find local chapters, a calendar of events, a multitude of resources, more than 200 articles for parents and professionals about raising and educating deaf and hard-of-hearing children, IEP advocacy strategies, curriculum guides, interviews with cutting-edge researchers in the field of deafness, access to trained parent mentors, and more. The web site is geared for parents and professionals.
Beck: The site is comprehensive and well designed and I urge parents and professionals to visit. It's an enormous and pragmatic resource. I appreciate your time, Leeanne, and we wish you continued success with Hands & Voices.
Seaver: My pleasure, Doug.