Meet Christine Griffin,
Program Coordinator, WA
H&V: So tell us about yourself, Christine.
Sure! I’m Christine Griffin, the new Guide By Your Side Program Coordinator for the state of Washington. My kids are both hard of hearing, and it’s been eight years since they were diagnosed; our son Sawyer was five years old and our daughter, Tess, was two. It’s been such a journey with IEP teams, LRE, sign language, hearing aids, FMs, therapy appointments, and more. Today, Sawyer is 13, plays and referees soccer, loves motorized vehicles of any kind, and hanging out with his friends. He is also playing basketball for his school this season. We are very proud of all his achievements considering he also has a learning disability in reading and language. Tess is ten and is an avid reader. She will sit and read an entire book in one setting! She, too, plays soccer and loves gymnastics. She is our fashionista as well. Both of our children attended a self-contained D/HH program for five years, our decision, and are now mainstreamed, also our decision. They are two incredible kids.
H&V: Were you mentally prepared to learn that your second child also had a hearing loss?
When Tess was born in October 1999, they had just begun hearing screening at our local hospital, which was the first in our state. She was screened at birth; when she didn’t pass we were scheduled to return two weeks later. We literally had no idea. The nurses told us there could be fluid still in her ears and by two weeks it would be cleared.
I was in the room while Tess was being screened, and they did fumble around with the probes a bit trying to get them to fit, questioning the equipment, etc. Then we were told she “passed” and we went on our merry way, never to look back until 18 months later when Sawyer was diagnosed with a bilateral sensorineural mild to moderate hearing loss. Six months later we brought Tess into the same ENT and were told then that she, too, had a bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. It took about a year for us to figure out it was a moderate to severe hearing loss. The audiologists had no idea that a child her age could speechread so well, so they thought she only had a mild loss.
I can remember the day they told me about Tess’s hearing loss. They put the audiogram in front of me, and I asked why they were handing me Sawyer’s audiogram, the audiologist said, “this isn’t Sawyer’s audiogram – this is Tess’.”
H&V: What’s life like aside from parenting and GBYS?
Before children I received a BA in Theatre performance and enjoyed performing on stage. Now, I live in beautiful Bellingham WA, with my husband Steve, who has worked as sales manager at the same small furniture store for 20+ years and is quite a craftsman, our two kids, one sweet geriatric dog, four chickens, various fish, and many stick bugs. I still enjoy performing when time allows. In fact, Sawyer and I performed in Fiddler on the Roof a few years ago. I also enjoy a fun game of soccer from time to time.
H&V: How did you get involved in family support and Hands & Voices?
In addition to GBYS coordination, I am also the Parent-to-Parent (P2P) Coordinator of Whatcom County, near the B.C. Canadian border. I enjoy my work very much, and I love talking and listening to other parents. But this all started for me way back when I first volunteered with P2P, and was involved with an interagency coordinating council, our local EHDI committee, and I coordinated the Whatcom County Families for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children. I also went through a few trainings learning a bit of the two volume SKI HI curriculum plus a course regarding outcomes with hearing loss where I was first introduced via an on-line course to Christine Yoshinaga-Itano, Ph.D., who provided such wonderful support and encouragement. Having that connection meant a great deal to me in those early days, and I learned from so many parents I also met.
When Hands & Voices first started up in Washington, I got involved. I first attended the Hands & Voices Leadership Conference when it was in Breckenridge, Colorado, in 2008, where I started hearing about Guide By Your Side (GBYS). Then last year our EHDDI team (the Early Hearing-loss Detection, Diagnosis, and Intervention program through the Washington Department of Health) asked for parents to go to the National EHDI conference in Texas, and I signed on. This role gave me an opportunity to be involved in writing the plan for Washington’s EHDDI goals for the year, so I dedicated myself to getting parent support included. We were rewarded with funding from our state department of health, and I was there ready and lobbying for GBYS.
I am the type of person who will go and find the answers to whatever I don’t know. This is how I have come to meet many people in Washington regarding hearing loss. I am always learning. I suppose the greatest gift I was given and am in the position of offering to others now is validation. Guide By Your Side and P2P give me the perfect opportunity to do just that!