December 21st, 2018

// Embodying the Spirit of the Season Year-Round

Embodying the Spirit of the Season Year-Round

NEWMARKET, ON, Dec. 21, 2018 /CNW/ - The holiday season is filled with distinct sights and sounds, imprinted in our memories and reinforced year after year. 

Neighbourhoods aglow with twinkling lights, trees adorned with beautiful decorations, the energetic 'jingle' of bells, warm laughter of loved ones, and the unmistakable murmur of countless shoppers echoing through the mall. These are just a few of the many sights and sounds associated with the season. 

However, for those with a limited range of senses, like combined vision and hearing loss, the holidays can be a time of darkness and silence. 

When Shannon was born, her parents knew before leaving the hospital that their new baby was blind. Soon after, they made another discovery. "One morning when Shannon was just an infant, she didn't startle at a loud bang…I thought of Helen Keller immediately," said Shannon's Mom, Kim.

After an MRI, doctors confirmed that this discovery was not a coincidence; Shannon was diagnosed as being deafblind.

Deafblindness combines varying degrees of both vision and hearing loss, impacting access to information, communication, and mobility. In fact, 95% of what you learn comes from your eyes and ears.

With no useable vision in her right eye and a little peripheral vision in the left, in combination with no cochlea in the right ear and normal hearing in her left, Shannon's needs are complex and ever-changing.

For years, Shannon's family struggled to integrate her into the nearby school system and even tried a special education placement outside of their district. There were lots of challenges and limited success.

When Shannon was 11, she toured Brantford's W. Ross MacDonald School, which has a deafblind program. She loved it so much that she wanted to start there right away. 

"As parents, our greatest fear was not finding the most appropriate and unique support Shannon needed once she graduated at 21. We started looking at supported living residences when she was 14. There were few options available, and, many would not have met our daughter's needs," said Kim.

"We found DeafBlind Ontario Services and added Shannon's name to their wait list right away. We really wanted Shannon to stay close to us, so we were thrilled when, in 2009, she moved into one of DeafBlind Ontario Services' locations in London."

Individuals who are deafblind have the capacity to build their life skills, gain independence, and contribute to the greater community with the support of professionally trained intervenors.

"With Shannon's unique needs, DeafBlind Ontario Services showed us that they too are unique and flexible in their approach."

Intervenors work with Shannon as a communication partner, bringing the world closer to her. "At this time of year, I am reminded of the time when Shannon did not want to take down her Christmas tree at the end of the holidays. The intervenors really embodied the spirit of the season and recognized that leaving it up would be more beneficial for her. That tree is now not only a Christmas tree, but Shannon's St. Paddy's Day tree, Easter tree, even a Halloween tree! This turned what could have been a negative experience, into such a positive one for Shannon."

"My family and I are grateful for the support Shannon receives from DeafBlind Ontario Services. They have made such a huge difference in our lives and Shannon's life. I don't think we would have all of the success that we've had without their great support and their expertise," said Kim.

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

To help support individuals like Shannon and make a difference this holiday season, visit

Twitter: @DeafBlindON
Instagram: @DeafBlindON

SOURCE DeafBlind Ontario Services


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