Students, families and faculty joined at Fresno State’s fourth annual Lecture in the Silent Garden on Friday for Latino families of deaf and hard of hearing children.
Professor Paul Ogden of Fresno State, hosted the event and was proud to be a part of the conversation to Latino families with deaf children.
“It’s the first one of its kind in California where it is completely spoken in Spanish,” he said.
Although the event was directed at Latino families, there were two screens on each side of the stage translating the talk into English and four ASL interpreters.
“It’s a unique experience because this is probably the first time that Latino families have this kind of event for them and this kind of exposure as well. It’s probably one of the few times that Latinos are actually the majority in an event,” said Omar Ruiz, who attended the event.
The audience was composed of approximately 85 percent Latino families, where most parents brought their children. The amount of families with deaf or hard of hearing children attending the event was made clear as they silently clapped in sign language following each speaker’s talk.
Deaf children of Latino families are not given the same opportunities as others because their parents are not aware of how easy it is to accommodate their child’s needs in order for them to succeed just as any other child would, which was made clear by Sanchez in her talk.
“So often the parents expect their kids to finish high school and immediately go start working on a farm,” Ruiz said. “Their expectations are just for them to get white collar jobs so this is going to show them that their kids can become college professors, doctors, lawyers and everything else so it’s really awesome.”
Several Fresno State students volunteered for the event, which provided breakfast and lunch for the families and held activities for the children while their parents sat together at the lecture.
“You have Spanish speaking parents and they don’t understand because you have to translate all of that from ASL to Spanish, and Spanish to ASL so this lecture is really important,” said volunteer and deaf studies major Chris Pacheco.
Irma Sanchez of the Los Angeles based nonprofit, Deaf-Latinos, spoke at the lecture giving first hand advice to these families as she is a mother of three deaf sons.
“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,” Sanchez said.
Some parents may not fully be aware of their deaf or hard of hearing child’s potential.
“If parents don’t know what deaf kids can do, they’ve come to the right place here at Fresno State so we can expose them to different options.” Ruiz said.
According to Ogden, 50-60 percent of deaf children in California are Latino. This lecture was crucial to bring awareness to deaf culture and the potential each deaf child has.
Ogden said himself, “Deafness is not a disability. It’s a challenge and that’s a challenge that we can overcome because we have so many role models who are deaf and successful.”