The limited amount of services and resources to serve the Latino deaf and hard of hearing population will be the focal point of Fresno State’s fourth annual Lecture in The Silent Garden from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, in North Gym 118 (5305 N. Campus Dr.).
The free, public lecture, “Conversando en Familia (Talking with Family)” will feature resources, outreach services and a workshop for deaf and hard of hearing Latinos and their families. Expected to be the first of its kind in the Central Valley, the lecture will be delivered in Spanish with English captions available for non-Spanish speakers.
Leading the workshop will be Irma Sanchez, founder of Los Angeles-based nonprofit Deaf Latinos. Sanchez will share her firsthand account of raising three deaf children and discuss some of the challenges Latino parents of deaf and hard of hearing children face and how to look for and utilize resources.
“Providing parent-to-parent support to families who are raising deaf and hard of hearing children is crucial for the stability of a united family,” Sanchez said. “Research shows that more than 50 percent of infants diagnosed as deaf and hard of hearing are born into Latino families. Very few, if any, resources are available in the Spanish language, which is oftentimes the primary language for these families. It is my goal to empower, educate, and most importantly help Latino families maintain a strong family unit, and at the same time help them strengthen the relationship with their deaf and hard of hearing child.”
Through the nonprofit, Sanchez and her husband promote awareness of the Latino culture to deaf and hard of hearing children and their families through events, workshops, presentations and American Sign Language classes for families.
She said a stigma the Latino community faces is the perception of deafness as a disability or impairment.
“Acceptance of the ‘disability’ (deafness) within the community is still an ongoing challenge, and more so within the extended family,” Sanchez said. “Another stigma is that a deaf and hard of hearing child cannot or will not learn Spanish. It is well known that children can learn many languages at the same time. I want parents to understand that they hold the key for their child’s success, and that is having communication.”
Through the Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies at Fresno State, the University is addressing the need to provide more certified trilingual interpreters, especially for those fluent in Spanish, to work in the school system.
Dr. Paul Ogden, founder of The Silent Garden and professor emeritus of deaf studies at Fresno State, said the University has just begun training and recruiting interpreters, but there is still much work to be done.
“The number of Latino professionals working with deaf and hard of hearing children is very low,” Ogden said. “Approximately 3 to 4 percent of teachers working with deaf and hard of hearing children are Latino. This is a stark contrast to what you see in California classrooms, where the percentage of deaf and hard of hearing children who are Latino is 50 to 60 percent.”