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May 7, 2003

A mother spreads her knowledge to help others

From: Ipswich Chronicle, MA - May 7, 2003

By Faith Tomei / FTOMEI@CNC.COM
Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Joanne Travers has spent countless hours over the past seven years helping not only her own children, Matthew and Tori, but all children with impaired hearing.

She has talked to youngsters at Doyon School about Tori's experiences, but her educational effort extends far beyond Ipswich. Travers writes and edits a newsletter that goes out to hundreds of Massachusetts families who have children with hearing loss. She has also started up an organization to help deaf children and their families in developing countries such as the Dominican Republic.

Travers writes, prints, and mails a newsletter for Parent Connection, published four times a year. The mission statement at the top of the newsletter describes Parent Connection as "an organization for parents of deaf and hard of hearing children which supports parents and encourages a positive outlook on family interaction, mainstream education, and auditory oral/verbal communication."

Travers started the organization to let parents know that children like Tori can learn to speak clearly and fully participate in the hearing world through a combination of hearing aids or cochlear implants, and lip reading.

The newsletter announces upcoming events for deaf children and their parents across the state such as a Parent Connection Family Gathering June 14 at the Ipswich Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield. Travers plans most of the meetings and organizes programs for parents with guest speakers.

Social gatherings are important for children and parents. The older children serve as role models for younger children, and parents have a chance to discuss the challenges they face and solutions they've found to common problems, she says.

Her "Chatter Box" column passes on tips for parents and reading suggestions. In the Spring 2003 issue, she noted the technology available today. "We have been presented with a platter of great opportunities, and we need to continue this momentum, learning from those before us so we can pass on an even greater platter of opportunity to the next generation of parents," she wrote.

The spring edition also has a section explaining the Cochlear Implant Assistance Fund and eligibility requirements to get help in paying for the expensive operation; the push going on in Congress to fund captioning services for the deaf; tips on how to teach deaf children to have a full life despite their disability; and a preview of a conference for deaf parents to be held in Revere tomorrow, May 9.

Travers is also founder of a non-profit organization called Partners for a Greater Voice which sends missions to the Dominican Republic. Travers and other volunteers have toured schools for the deaf, met with more than 100 parents and professionals interested in the auditory-oral option, which encourages voice communication instead of sign language, and with government officials and community workers.

The organization is working with Por Cristo, a medical company, to acquire and distribute audiological equipment such as audiometers and sound booth rooms, and with Oral Deaf Education to supply schools with parent handbooks and videos.

Travers, a parishioner at Our Lady of Hope, got help from children at the church before Christmas. They wrapped 60 holiday shoeboxes filled with supplies and gifts for children at the schools for the deaf in the Dominican Republic.

"These schools have nothing. They were so grateful. They said the supplies would last for a year. In this country they'd last a month or two," Travers said.

Currently the organization is raising funds to develop a U.S.-based three-week training program for 10 parents and professionals to broaden their understanding of deafness and related technology, and to follow up with long-term help to build self-sustainable services and programs on the Caribbean island.

Travers was in the Dominican Republic last week, working with teachers and parents to train them in the auditory-oral method for deaf children and introducing them to the great advances in hearing technology have come about in the last 10 years.

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