Many of us take things for granted every day, like being able to hear. Friends, Abby McClellan, 12, and Alex Gossett, 13, understand. Both Abby and Alex were diagnosed at an early age with mild/moderate hearing loss which progressed to deaf.
Abby’s mother Mandy became involved with Arkansas Hands and Voices because of Abby’s hearing loss. Over the years Abby became directly involved also, enlisting her friend Alex as well.
Mandy explained that the girls have become great volunteers and advocates for Arkansas Hands and Voices. “I think both girls have learned to be great advocates for themselves, which in turn is helping students who are deaf and hard of hearing who are coming up behind them in school,” she explained. Both Abby and Alex are always willing to talk about their hearing loss which helps to create awareness of issues related to being deaf and hard of hearing. “They openly share with others, which is a fantastic educational opportunity for teachers, students, families, etc.,” Mandy said. “Families with young children who are deaf or hard of hearing like to see older kids who are successful in school, doing well socially, and are fairly typical pre-teen/teen kids. Their hearing loss is not holding them back from any area in life.”
“I love getting to meet amazing people,” Alex said. “To me, it’s the best part of being involved.” Abby agreed.
The girls have also talked to students in college classrooms about hearing loss Arkansas Hands and Voices and have even talked with a group of women legislators as well. “Anything we have asked Abby to do to help educated others about issues related to hearing loss or deafness, she has done,” Mandy stated.
Abby and Alex have a made a commitment by continuing to attend and working with younger kids. Last year they helped with the annual Candy Cane Christmas event and plan to again this year. This year’s Candy Cane Christmas event will take place on December 1 in Conway, Fayetteville and Little Rock.
The Arkansas chapter of Hands & Voices is an official chapter of Hands & Voices with a fully functioning board of directors offering non-biased support for families of children who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.
Their goal as a state chapter is to form a comprehensive group of parents and professionals that work together to benefit children and families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. They want to provide Arkansas families with the necessary resources, networking, and information in order to improve communication access and educational outcomes for their children. Their statewide activities, advocacy efforts, and parent/professional collaboration are all focused on enabling our deaf and hard-of-hearing children to reach their fullest potential.
Arkansas Hands and Voices is comprised of families with children who have all types of hearing loss and use many different types of communication modes including: Auditory Verbal, Auditory Oral, Cued Speech, American Sign Language, Signed English, Simultaneous Communication and Total Communication. They are a group of deaf and hard-of-hearing adults.
Families can learn about the variety of resources and options available to them and how to access them. Through this network of resources, families can make informed decisions about their future in regards to educational options, the changing landscape of assistive technologies, and many other issues facing families with deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
Families within the same geographic region within the state can share experiences and information as they support each other. They will be given the opportunity to gain knowledge and direction from families who have faced the same challenges and choices.
To learn how you can become involved in Arkansas Hands and Voices or to learn more about the organization, visit www.arhandsandvoices.
Join the Arkansas Hands & Voices Facebook Group.