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By: Molly Roberts, Family Leader and Texas Chargers Treasurer, Denton, TX

Abstract: A parent shares her and her experience attending the Texas Statewide Conference on Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing with her son.

Keywords: Family Wisdom, deafblindness, deaf, hard of hearing, learning, communication

My son Christian and I had the opportunity to attend the Texas Statewide Conference on Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SWCED) this July in San Antonio and BOY am I glad we did! It was an exceptional conference, full of breakout sessions for professionals and parents, including sessions on navigating the IEP process, teaming with professionals and advocating for your child. Not only was this a week for acquiring valuable knowledge, it was an opportunity for creating special memories between Christian and me.

Christian has CHARGE Syndrome and is dual sensory impaired. He attends a Regional Day School for the Deaf Program close to home. For years I would hear his educational team talk about attending SWCED, but I had not considered it for parents. At the last minute I decided to read more about it and found out that not only did they have multiple sessions geared for parents, the registration rate for families was extremely low plus they provided childcare. I decided this would be a special bonding opportunity for Christian and me. We packed our bags and headed down to San Antonio. Little did I know we were in for a huge surprise!

When we arrived I decided to look at the sessions and I noticed that David Brown, the CHARGE Syndrome "guru", was going to be speaking. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve! Somehow I had managed to luck out and wind up with the opportunity to visit with David Brown one on one!! Not only that, he offered to sit down to lunch with me, Christian and his educational team. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget.

No matter how many times I listen to David Brown talk about the sensory system I learn something new. I leave his lectures amazed at the resilience of individuals with multiple sensory impairments. Their behaviors are not maladaptive; they are adaptive, as they are seeking sensory input. As professionals and parents our role is not to remove the behavior, but rather replace it, if possible, with a more appropriate sensory solution.

Principal at New Mexico's School for the Deaf, Dr. Ron Stern and his wife, Hedy Udkovich Stern, spoke about guiding principles for parents of deaf and hard of hearing children. They themselves are both deaf and have children and a grandchild who are deaf. They encouraged parents to communicate fluently with their children and ensure they are active participants in their homes and community. Their lecture was truly motivating and inspired me to find new ways to include Christian in family discussions and community outings.

Christian had an amazing time as well. The Texas School for the Deaf did an excellent job orchestrating childcare. The volunteers were able to communicate with Christian and they included him in all the activities. During the times we were not busy at conference, Christian and I made many special memories. We visited the San Antonio Zoo and Morgan's Wonderland, saw family, checked out the Alamo and ate many yummy meals followed by tasty treats. We also ventured down to the River Walk for dinner with David Brown and other friends from the Texas Charge community. It was such a special week and undoubtedly, one I will never forget. I intend to make SWCED a yearly experience for Christian and me and I highly recommend other families take advantage of this exceptional resource.