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March 16, 2004

Deaf and hard of hearing find a way to communicate

From: Thief River Falls Northern Watch - Thief River Falls,MN,USA - Mar 16, 2004

by David Hill


Words weren't necessary. Anyone who watched the children at play at Seven Clans Casino Water Park knew they were having fun.

About 30 children associated with a loosely knit group of individuals representing deaf and hard of hearing individuals in northwestern Minnesota spent a weekend at Seven Clans Casino Water Park near Thief River Falls last week. While the entertainment in the Water Park on Thursday provided the children an opportunity to socialize, it prepared parents for deeper discussions about deaf and hard of hearing issues the next day.

Carla Hruby said about 15 or 16 years ago the first socialization day for deaf and hard of hearing children in the region was held in Warren. Ever since then they've held events in the fall and spring, alternating between Warren and Bemidji. The event held last week, beginning on Thursday, was the first time the group held a mid-winter event, and it's the first time the event has been held in Thief River Falls.

Hruby was pleased with the response. It seemed to be the mid-winter getaway that everyone was looking for. In fact, the organizers of this event, Hruby, Karen Dvergsten, teacher of deaf and hard of hearing with NWRIC, and Brenda Ackerson, assistant technology coordinator for the region, established "Cabin Fever Getaway," as the theme for this year's first event.

"These events really bring children and families closer together," said Hruby, who is a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing in School District 564.

The children range in age between 2 and 14. All swam with a partner, parent or volunteer from the Lincoln High School National Honor Society. In addition to swimming, the children were able to ride snowmobiles courtesy of Arctic Cat.

Hruby said these events really give the children an opportunity to bond. These events also serve as an opportunity for parents to share information, and learn more about deaf and hard of hearing issues.

Deaf and hard of hearing children face many educational and social challenges. This year, the group from northwestern Minnesota brought Dr. Ron Lybarger, Ph.D., licensed psychologist with Kansas School for the Deaf. During the follow-up workshop for parents on Friday, Dr. Lybarger addressed some of the unique dilemmas that deaf and hard of hearing children and their families confront. He discussed ways to effectively overcome educational, social and emotional development obstacles that they encounter.

Hruby noted that events like this give parents an opportunity to ask specific questions and share their personal experiences with a group of individuals who understand the issues.

Jerry Pouliout of Minnesota Relay was also a guest speaker at the event. Minnesota Relay provides telecommunications access for Minnesotans who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, speech impaired, deaf-blind, or mobility impaired. With the use of specially trained communication assistants, and specialized equipment, Minnesotans who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech disabled can communicate with users of standards telephones. Either party can initiate calls through the relay.

Communication is important in any environment. Hruby encourages the public not to be afraid to attempt to communicate with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. One of the things the hearing public can do to facilitate that communication is to face the deaf and hard of hearing person (many read lips), and to use notes.

Hruby said they are already planning next year for a socialization day in Thief River Falls. The next socialization day for this group, however, is May 7 in East Grand Forks.


* The Kansas School for the Deaf, has been a resource on deafness since 1861. It can be reached at: 450 East Park Street, Olathe, Kansas 66061; or 913-791-0573; or by fax at 913-791-0577; or at

* Minnesota Relay Consumer Relations office can be reached at 651-602-9005; or 1-800-657-3775 Voice, TTY (Greater Minnesota); or at the Minnesota Department of Commerce Web site.

© 2004 Thief River Falls Northern Watch