A place where the spirit of the season doesn't rely on sights and sounds

NEWMARKET, ON, Dec. 22, 2016 /CNW/ - Colourful Christmas lights, which adorn the city streets, sparkling freshly fallen snow, and the warm sound of carolers… These are just a few of the many sights and sounds that enhance the spirit of the season.

For those with a limited range of senses, like combined vision and hearing loss, the holiday season can be filled with silence and darkness.

Making Christmas meaningful was a challenge for John's family. Born several months premature, John was only given a fifty percent chance of survival. He spent his first 3 months in an incubator, fighting for his life in the neonatal intensive care unit. Doctors said John could have a number of birth defects including vision and hearing loss. At age two, John was assessed as deafblind.

Deafblindness is a combined loss of hearing and vision to such an extent that neither the hearing nor vision can be used as a means of accessing information, communication and mobility. In fact, 95 percent of what you learn comes from your eyes and ears.

Although deafblind and unable to speak, John enjoyed the holiday season during his childhood, sitting on Santa's knee, and feeling the textures of his long white beard and red velvet suit with curious little hands.

Growing up, John attended school for the deaf and blind. But, after high school, there was a void in his life. John's brothers had already moved away from home, and his parents wanted the same independence for him.

According to his Mom, Anne, "He became bored and depressed at home"… "Then, one life-changing day, I discovered DeafBlind Ontario Services".

In November of 2010, John moved into one of DeafBlind Ontario Services' residential locations in Jackson's Point. With the help of Intervenors, specially trained professionals who act as the "eyes" and "ears" of the individual who is deafblind, John was able to choose his own activities, learn valuable life skills, and gain work experience as a volunteer at a local restaurant.

However, John was eager to live more independently and take ownership of the place that he calls home. This dream was realized in the Spring of 2015, when John moved into his own apartment along with a roommate.

To communicate, John uses Facilitated Typing, where an Intervenor physically assists him by holding his hand or arm to use an augmentative communication system (either an iPad or Dynavox). He then uses one finger to type words on the keyboard. When asked about his apartment, John told his Intervenors "I am happy" and "I feel like a grown up like my brothers".

Over the years, John has always enjoyed bright and colourful Christmas lights. As a kid, he would sit mesmerized by the tree. Today, he says that Christmas lights are still one of his favourite things about the holidays, and that they make him feel "happy". He enjoys going on drives with his Intervenors, looking at the different holiday displays in the neighbourhood with a smile on his face. This year, John is looking forward to spending time over the holidays with his family and exchanging presents.

Founded in 1989, DeafBlind Ontario Services is a not-for-profit organization that helps individuals who are deafblind increase their independence and improve their quality of life through specialized services. With residential locations and community services programs across the province, their services extend into a wide range of communities in Ontario.

This holiday season, you can help make a difference in the life of an individual who is deafblind, like John. visit www.deafblindontario.com to learn more. 

Website: www.deafblindontario.com   

Facebook: www.facebook.com/deafblindontarioservices 

Twitter: @DeafBlindON

Instagram: @DeafBlindON

SOURCE DeafBlind Ontario Services

For further information: please contact: Director of Development and Communications, Susan Manahan at 1-855-340-3267 ext.228 or ddc@deafblindontario.com


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