Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

West Virginia Hands & Voices Open House Picnic Slated in Nitro ; Sept. 26 Event in Celebration of Deaf Awareness Week

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

West Virginia Hands & Voices Open House Picnic Slated in Nitro ; Sept. 26 Event in Celebration of Deaf Awareness Week

Article excerpt

bcalwell@cnpapers.com 304-348-5188

An advocacy group for families with deaf or hard-of-hearing children is planning its fourth annual picnic and open house in Nitro. West Virginia Hands & Voices is a parent-driven, non-profit organization that is dedicated to supporting families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as the professionals who serve them.

The group's annual picnic is from 2:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Nitro City Pavilion, 1600 Park Ave., Nitro. To RSVP for the picnic, call or text 304-932-1435 or send email to info@wvhandsandvoices.org.

Gwen Bryant, of St. Albans, parent of a 10-year-old son with hearing loss, said Hands & Voices is open to all affected parents and caregivers, regardless of the methods they use to communicate with their children.

"Our mantra is, we're non-biased towards communication methods, whether it be sign language or other methods of communications, Bryant said.

Christina Payne, mother of an 8-year-old daughter with hearing loss, said there tends to be a "great divide between adherents of sign language and those who adopt more modern technologies such as hearing aids and cochlear implants.

"We don't promote a particular method or mode of communicating, Payne said. "We really support the families to get information and make choices that are best for their child. We kind of bridge the gap.

Bryant and Payne recently visited Shoals Elementary School, where their children attend classes designed to meet the educational needs of children with hearing loss.

In addition to the group's annual picnic, West Virginia Hands & Voices strives to be a year-round resource for parents of deaf or hard-of-hearing children.

For example, parents could meet for "coffee chats at various locations, where their children can play while parents share information and discuss issues they're facing.

And "we try to be as involved as we can with different agencies and organizations that touch the lives of kids with hearing loss. . . we provide the parents' voice to the needs of our kids, Bryant said. …

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