UTPA program has students help the deaf community
June 28, 2009
Jennifer L. Berghom
EDINBURG — Shawn Saladin wants to level the playing field for people with hearing deficiencies.
Born hard of hearing, he had to go through speech therapy three times a week for the first five years of his life. And because he had trouble hearing, the schools thought he should take remedial classes, even though he could perform at a higher academic level.
“I’m hoping other people don’t run into the same issues,” said Saladin, now a University of Texas-Pan American professor and coordinator for the Department of Rehabilitation’s services for deaf and hard of hearing individuals concentration.
He also wants his students to learn how to help people with hearing problems.
In the spring 2009 semester, Saladin and the Communication Axess Ability Group started Valley Independent Confident Activities Network, commonly known as Valley-ICAN.
The program connects students who study services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing with people who need those services and with organizations and businesses that need help improving their communication with the deaf and hard of hearing.
Since the program began, students have helped deaf people learn how to read, prepare for and earn the general equivalency diplomas and study for their driver’s license test. They also have developed cards that list vital information and programs that help health providers, schools and other agencies to better track children who are diagnosed who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The program allows students, many of whom never had experience with the deaf and hard of hearing community, firsthand experience, Saladin said.
“It’s so mutually beneficial,” Saladin said.
There are many deaf and hard of hearing people in the Valley who did not go to school when they were younger and did not learn how to communicate with the outside world. But now those people are older and the people who cared for them growing up need to be taken cared of. And those people who have hearing deficiencies need to start communicating with the outside world, said Sonia Quintero, deafness resource specialist for Communication Axess Ability Group, provides interpreting and other services for the deaf.
The program hopes to help the deaf and hard of hearing become more independent, Quintero said.
Students helped one woman who had not been able to go to school as a child earn her GED.
Cristina Munoz’s experience in working with the deaf and hard of hearing has been an eye opener.
Munoz, who just graduated from UTPA in May and was involved in the ICAN program, worked with local hospitals, doctors, Region One Education Service Center and other institutions to improve information sharing so that children diagnosed with hearing deficiencies can receive the services they need.
“Just sitting there in meetings, the different resources that were out there, it was a big eye-opener,” Munoz said. “I didn’t know this part of the world existed.”
Jennifer L. Berghom covers education and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at (956) 683-4462.