The week before, I attended an educational session offered at the Riverside County Department of Mental Health. The topic of the talk on “Depression” and a Sign Language Interpreter was available for attendees in those in the Deaf Community.

The Department of Mental Health provided meals and the first hour was spent eating and socializing, and meeting old acquaintances and their ‘dogs for deaf’.

It came to my mind immediately that there were many different ways of communicating that were presented in this talk. The presenter was a Deaf Therapist and gave her presentation in the sign language. The interpreter voiced her. A second woman was on the other side of the table, operating an automated CART machine for people members of the deaf community who don’t have a background in signs. The words spoken were instantly translated and displayed on the screen. A second gentleman was on hand to interpret the message in Spanish. There are so many methods of communication.

The Deaf community in our region is seeking solutions and alternatives to the standard therapy options offered to them. They typically opt for an appointment with an interpreter who speaks sign language. Imagine meeting with a therapist, and you find it difficult to talk about the most intimate and private details of your life. Imagine that a third person is present together with the therapist… the interpreter, who is now a an integral part of the confidential conversation. If you meet with the same therapist repeatedly it could be that you have one interpreter per visit. It is a bit disconcerting to lose the sense of privacy in this sacred space.

It would be much more beneficial when the therapist can actually communicate with a the sign language.

The Department of Counseling at Gallaudet University is situated within Washington, D.C., is the only program that prepares mental health professionals and school counselors for working with a diverse variety of Deaf individuals. The programs are recognized through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Graduates are highly skilled in their CACREP specializations and have extensive knowledge of their respective subgroups of the Deaf community, as well as its diverse subgroups. They must possess proficiency in the sign language. Graduates and interns from these programs of counseling have had a an enormous impact on the services for Deaf people, and the Deaf community across all over the United States and internationally.

It is much more beneficial to have a therapist who is a great fit and is deaf too… Someone who might be in a position to relate to your situation and understanding your anger.

During the discussion at the time, an individual of Mental Health Representatives made reference to “Deaf Mute” and was quickly rectified by one deaf people present.

I was able to smile when I saw a baby deaf who was seated with her family towards the rear in the space. The babbling, crying and cooing sound were as efficient as the sounds of any hearing child. She definitely was not muted.

In 2014 another deaf family was identified in 2014 “divided”. Mom was present with her 10-month old daughter who was deaf. Sarah was wearing hearing aids that were tiny and was squirming about like all 10 month olds. Dad was not present. He is not supportive of his daughter’s decision to join the Deaf Community and wishes her to be able to speak as well as reading her lips. Mom believes in the benefits of “total communication” and wishes that the family be able to communicate easily with Sarah. They aren’t sure what is the best option for Sarah.

Mom displayed a few ways she’s learned.

I was suddenly struck by an overwhelming sense of urgency. What time will pass through before Sarah is able to communicate with her family? What time will she stare in the dim light trying to complete “speed lip reading” while family conversations reverberate around the dining room table? What happens when she starts feeling lonely? How long will it take before she starts feeling uncertain about her surroundings? Not quite hearing, and not quite deaf. How long will she wait before she feels insecure and different instead of being accepting and loved as who she is? Time is running out, and some things are “un-done”.

These thoughts were whizzing through my mind while Sarah’s mother and I discussed our family’s issues.

What made me think we could have solved this problem a long time ago?

What type of direction does this family receive from their doctor? Are the issues with Sarah something that should be repaired and blended as best as they could? To her benefit?

When we all went on each in our own manner I was sadness for Sarah and I was hopeful that Mom is exploring different possibilities regarding what’s most suitable for her child.

A toddler who is deaf was present with her family. They had tiny hearing aids and cochlear implants.

My goal is for every family to consider all possibilities and to communicate with others who are part of the Deaf Community who can provide direct feedback on the possibilities.

My dream is for every hearing child in the world to be loved appreciated, loved and valued as they are. To feel they are valued enough that their families and friends will put in an effort to make communication easier with them.

I was also thinking that these situations once more illustrate the importance and necessity for deaf-certified therapists.

There are many organizations and resources to meet this need. This site lists names of contact persons for U.S. regions and would be an excellent starting point to locate an appropriately trained Counselor to the Deaf.

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