HIP HELP FOR KIDS WHO CAN'T HEAR
East Bay magazine unites children who use various ways to communicate

Lisa A. Goldstein

Friday, March 31, 2000

 

HiP Magazine is working to break the sound barrier.

The East Bay-based publication, created five years ago, is aimed at helping deaf and hard-of-hearing children, regardless of how they communicate: whether it is through sign language, lip reading or both.

HiP -- short for hearing-impaired, and, not by coincidence, the slang word for cool -- brings them together by showing readers what they have in common: They all face obstacles and discrimination and can be inspired by role models who share their disability.

It was founded by Ellen Dolich of Alameda and Robin Gladstone of Berkeley, both 50, who met in a support group for parents of deaf children at Children's Hospital in Oakland in 1994.

``Our goals upon setting out were the same as today: to reach all deaf/hard-of-hearing kids, regardless of school placement, communication mode, or deaf/hard-of-hearing philosophy,'' Dolich said.

Gladstone and Dolich had joined the Oakland group because, like other parents of deaf children, they needed information and support. Immediately following a child's diagnosis, parents are often flooded with information about raising a deaf child -- much of it conflicting.

While some deaf people identify themselves as being part of the ``deaf culture,'' which does not support the use of hearing aids and discourages speaking, others are ``oralists,'' who rely on lip reading and speech.

``I was being pulled from the two sides; I didn't like the culturally deaf or the strict oralists telling me their way was best,'' said Dolich, whose husband, Andy, is a former executive with the Oakland A's and Golden State Warriors.

Dolich didn't want the magazine, which is published five times a year, to take sides. She knew there were plenty of children -- and their parents -- who could use an impartial resource. Almost 9 percent of the U.S. population has a hearing impairment, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. More than 600,000 are under 18.

Although many people assume that hearing-impaired children rely on sign language, only 57 percent do so, a Gallaudet University survey found. These children are considered manual, relying on their hands to talk.

Of the others, at least 10 percent are oral, lip-reading and speaking to communicate. The rest are somewhere in between, including those who use total communication, a mixture of both sign language and lip-reading.

HiP tries to appeal to a broad range of readers between the ages of 8 and 14. Only 10 percent of HiP's subscribers are strictly manual. Many use total communication.

A WAY TO CONNECT

Teacher Joni Norris, 43, shares her subscription of HiP magazine with her deaf students in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.

``The kids I work with are usually the only deaf kid in their school. The magazine is a really nice way to connect them to other deaf kids,'' Norris said.

Norris likes that the magazine features deaf adults in a wide variety of careers, showing her students they needn't limit their aspirations.

The magazine looks like a tabloid newspaper but with glossy pages, bright colors and big photographs. The masthead defines hip and the synonyms for hip change for each issue. Bay Area artist Tom Fowler creates the graphics, which leap off the pages. Nothing is uniform; the lettering and font sizes, borders and backgrounds are all different and striking.

Most editions are eight pages and address a single topic. The latest issue, with a dog-and-cat theme, profiled Dr. Josephine Deubler, a hard-of-hearing veterinarian in Philadelphia, and Christina Wagner, a deaf freshman at Monte Vista High School in Danville who trains and shows dogs.

Christina, 15, subscribed to HiP for three years before letting her subscription lapse. Her full-time interpreter, Marian Tidwell, subscribes to the magazine and shares articles of interest with Wagner.

``I like the way they talk about how deaf people can do different things,'' Christina said.

Tidwell relies on the magazine to keep her abreast of what other deaf children are doing and issues affecting deaf students.

A GUIDE FOR PARENTS

Other features are HiP TiPS, a teaching guide for professionals and parents, and a pullout section called ``Fun Corner,'' featuring puzzles and games for kids. Kids' voices are prominent throughout, from contest submissions to artwork.

In order to make HiP more accessible to everyone, words that may be new or difficult to understand are highlighted and then described at the bottom.

Arriving at an appropriate language level is particularly difficult because deaf children raised to use American Sign Language often lag behind their hearing peers in English reading comprehension scores. That's because ASL uses a simpler grammar and syntax than English does. The average ASL student's reading scores plateau around fourth- or fifth-grade level.

With intensive work, oral deaf children push though that plateau and have English skills comparable to those of their hearing peers.

Kevin Mah, 18, a student at Piedmont High School who has been a member of the magazine's Kids Council since 1997, said, ``Sometimes, HiP is a little too easy (to read), but in a way that it's balanced. We don't want all the articles to be too easy or too hard to read, but a little bit of both. I think variety is important, so that it can contribute to a broad range of readers.''

HiP's paid circulation is currently 7,000. Of that number, 55 percent go to kids and teachers in schools, 35 percent go to kids and families at home, and the other 10 percent is divided between audiologists, speech therapists, other professionals and libraries.

When she met Gladstone, the petite, stylish Dolich felt she ``was hitting my head up against a cement wall. I was having trouble finding companies to do stuff for (hearing- impaired) kids.''

A GOOD FIT

Dolich and Gladstone's backgrounds made them naturals at their new endeavor. Dolich, who has a master's degree in educational technology from Columbia University, taught fifth grade for two years in New Jersey before moving to the public sector, writing and producing video and multimedia presentations for several federal agencies. She's done similar work in the private sector in the Bay Area for 20 years.

British-born Gladstone, whose son Daniel is 17, ran a computer consulting business from his Berkeley home.

The publishers' duties reflect their skills: Dolich does most of the writing, including fund-raising proposals and press releases. Gladstone does anything that involves computers, including crossword puzzle layouts, and he takes care of the production and billing. They try to find a balance among the points of view about communication methods; their board of trustees includes deaf and hearing people, who represent a variety of opinions.

``Anything that defines a population, then addresses it broadly, as HiP does, is likely to teach mutual acceptance and promote unity rather than splitting people,'' said Nancy Grant, 50, youth services supervisor at the Hearing Society for the Bay Area.

``HiP promotes self-esteem and presents role models who are deaf and hard of hearing, who make various choices in how they communicate,'' she said.

CRITICS WANT MORE

But the breadth of the magazine's mission inevitably leaves some people unsatisfied. Some critics say that the magazine's founders, both of whom have children who are oral, don't include enough stories about individuals who identify with ``deaf culture'' and use American Sign Language for all communication.

``I think it (the magazine) has identified itself with more of the hard-of-hearing population just by using the acronym HiP,'' said Ken Arcia, 37, a coordinator at the Deaf Counseling, Advocacy and Referral Agency in San Leandro. ``If you try to cover all the bases, you won't cover any bases very thoroughly.''

Erika Geiger, 16, who attends the California School for the Deaf in Fremont and signs, used to read HiP. ``When I read the magazine,'' she said, ``there was nothing on successful deaf people, as in those who are not good at speaking.''

Martie Martin, 47, a teacher of the deaf works with children who use all methods of communication, agrees with Geiger, to an extent.

``I believe that the co-editors, because they are not fluent signers, saw the communication obstacle as a barrier from time to time,'' Martin, a former member of the HiP board, said. ``Nonetheless, the magazine has made a good-faith effort and is enjoyed by children of all communication modalities.''

Dolich and Gladstone respond to their critics by saying that they do include stories about culturally deaf achievers but that there may not be something in every issue.

By having more deaf proponents on the board and Advisory Committee, Dolich and Gladstone hope to better the balance. The National Kids Advisory Council helps with perspective, giving HiP advice from all over the country.

SCRAMBLING FOR FUNDS

Constantly having to raise money for the nonprofit magazine prevents them from doing more, Dolich and Gladstone say. They say it would be easier to raise money if they were trying to serve only one segment of the hearing-impaired and deaf communities. Some organizations deny them funding, they say, because the magazine doesn't promote one view over another.

``We could raise more money if we weren't so busy putting out the magazine, but we cannot not put out the magazine, for obvious reasons,'' Gladstone said. ``Bit of a Catch-22, isn't it?''

The lack of money, Gladstone said, means that the magazine isn't as timely as he would like and that circulation is stagnant because they don't have enough money to do more marketing.

Ultimately, HiP shows how healthy balance and acceptance can be, said Ginny Maiwald, 37, a new board member from San Jose who has two deaf children.

``I believe the diversity of experience with deaf children to be enlightening and educational for my children,'' she said.

Norris, who works with students using a variety of communication methods, agrees.

``I like the fact that HiP includes all communication styles,'' she said. ``I think the deaf community is fragmented enough without us (adults) trying to separate the kids too.''


GETTING HIP

A subscription to HiP magazine costs $16.95 a year. Multiple subscription discounts are available. Write to HiP at P.O. Box 519, Berkeley, CA 94701-0519. (510) 848-9650, e-mail folks@hipmag.org or visit www.hipmag.org.

Lisa Goldstein is a free-lance writer. Please send comments to ebayfriday@sfgate.com.

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