Event to benefit center that aids deaf children

The SEE Center for the Advancement of Deaf Children, located in Los Alamitos, will present a night of Bunco and dinner on Saturday in Rossmoor to raise money to continue its work on teaching communication skills such as signing for the deaf.

“With all the cutbacks in school districts, funds are needed for scholarships to provide improved communication skills for those who live and work with deaf children,” said Dave Zawolkow, whose wife Esther started the program with Dr. Gerilee Gustason.

The SEE Center (Signing Exact English Center) for the Advancement of Deaf Children was started in 1984 in Los Alamitos as a source of help and support for family and professionals who interact with deaf and hard of hearing (D/HH) children.

“Hearing parents of deaf children (who constitute more than 97% of that parent population) are suddenly faced with a tremendous communication obstacle,” Zawolkow said. “How can they determine their mutual wants and needs?”

The SEE Center provides information and training to help that group provide an environment that promotes ready English communication between hearing and deaf family members. Hearing children from birth are surrounded by language. In the United States that is mostly English.

With that exposure, children virtually absorb the English language. Deaf children need corresponding exposure. One function of the SEE Center is to provide the home with the same language bombardment through manual signing using Signing Exact English.

“Another significant SEE Center activity relates to the formal education of D/HH children. Some of these students attend state residential schools for the deaf,” Zawolkow said. “However, the vast majority of those students attend regular schools in mainstream classes.”

In classes with those students are Educational Sign Language Interpreters. Their function is to manually transmit everything that goes on in the classroom using sign language. Interpreting in this situation requires substantial development and significant skill.

The SEE Center conducts training sessions to improve the individual skill level and the general understanding of the value of capable Interpreters that work in the educational setting (K-12).

The state of California requires that Educational Sign Language Interpreters in the public K-12 schools be certified. The SEE Center is one of three accredited certifying bodies. It is also a (501) (3) (C) non-profit corporation.

The organization was primarily started by Dr. Gustason and Esther Zawolkow.

Dr. Gustason is deaf, holds three Masters Degrees and a Ph.D. At the time of the SEE Center birth, she was a professor at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the only university specifically for the deaf. Zawolkow, whose parents were deaf, is a long time Rossmoor resident. She was one of the very first Educational Sign Language Interpreters in the United States to work in a public mainstream program. That program was in the Anaheim Union High School District and later opened at Los Alamitos High School.

The Bunco and dinner fundraiser is meant as an evening of fun for the dedicated staff of The SEE Center and to raise some of the money needed to keep the program going. The event will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Montecito Center, 12341 Montecito Drive in Rossmoor (near Copa de Oro.)

The Suggested donation is $25 per person. Reservations are required. For information and reservations, call the SEE Center at (562) 430-1467.