Photo Credit: Deaf Latinos Organization

The limited amount of services and resources to serve the Latino deaf and hard of hearing population will be the focal point of Fresno State’s fourth annual Lecture in The Silent Garden from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, in North Gym 118 (5305 N. Campus Dr.).

The free, public lecture, “Conversando en Familia (Talking with Family)” will feature resources, outreach services and a workshop for deaf Latinos and their families. Expected to be the first of its kind in the Central Valley, the lecture will be delivered entirely in Spanish with English captions available for non-Spanish speakers.

Leading the workshop will be Irma Sanchez, founder of Los Angeles-based nonprofit Deaf Latinos. Sanchez will share her firsthand account of raising three deaf children and discuss some of the challenges Latino parents of deaf and hard of hearing children face and how to look for and utilize resources.

“Providing parent-to-parent support to families who are raising deaf and hard of hearing children is crucial for the stability of a united family,” Sanchez said. “Research shows that more than 50 percent of infants diagnosed as deaf and hard of hearing are born into Latino families. Very few, if any, resources are available in the Spanish language, which is often times the primary language for these families. 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.”

Irma Sanchez and husband have three sons, all of whom are deaf.

Through the nonprofit, Sanchez and her husband promote awareness of the Latino culture to deaf and hard of hearing children and their families through events, workshops, presentations and American Sign Language classes for families.

She said a stigma the Latino community faces is the perception of deafness as a disability or impairment.

“Acceptance of the ‘disability’ (deafness) within the community is still an ongoing challenge, and more so within the extended family,” Sanchez said. “Another stigma is that a deaf and hard of hearing child cannot or will not learn Spanish. It is well known that children can learn many languages at the same time. I want parents to understand that they hold the key for their child’s success, and that is having communication.”

SG1Through the Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies at Fresno State, the University is addressing the need to provide more certified trilingual interpreters, especially for those fluent in Spanish, to work in the school system.

Dr. Paul Ogden, founder of The Silent Garden and professor emeritus of deaf studies at Fresno State, said the University has just begun training and recruiting interpreters, but there still much work to be done.

“The number of Latino professionals working with deaf and hard of hearing children is very low,” Ogden said. “Approximately 3 to 4 percent of teachers working with deaf and hard of hearing children are Latino. This is a stark contrast to what you see in California classrooms, where the percentage of deaf and hard of hearing children who are Latino is 50 to 60 percent.”

Ogden is the author of “El Jardin Silencioso: Criando a Su Hijo Sordo,” one of the first Spanish reference guides for deaf or hard of hearing parents. His book, as well as Lucas Soto’s “¡Dígalo en Señas!” will be free to all participants (pictured below).


Breakfast and lunch will also be provided, as well as a free tote bag of resources.

Two screens at the front of the room, displaying English captions for non-Spanish speakers, will ensure the event is accessible to all participants. Trilingual interpreters will also be present to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing guests.

The Lecture in The Silent Garden began in 2012 as a way to bring resources, workshops and outreach opportunities for alumni, friends, practitioners, educators and family members of the deaf and hard of hearing community. The Silent Garden, a program within the Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies department, fosters opportunity, understanding and awareness for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

For more information or to register for the Lecture in The Silent Garden, call 559.549.4218 or email Registration will close on Friday, Feb. 19.

View Univision segment below. Original air date: Feb. 15, 2016.