Peer Learning Groups

Helen Keller National Center is pleased to offer peer collaborative virtual learning for individuals with combined vision and hearing loss, age 18 and older. Peer learning groups (PLG) are offered through ZOOM video conferencing. These support groups and/or active discussions are designed to cover a variety of topics with input from the participants at no cost. The peer learning groups started on November 25, 2020 and new groups continue to be offered.

Come join former HKNC students in an ongoing dialogue to share perspectives, experiences, and to support each other during these challenging times. The peer learning groups are 8 weeks long depending on the group, and they are to strengthen your knowledge and skills. 

These group discussions will be conducted using ZOOM videoconferencing, and participants are welcome to join by phone or video. The ZOOM link and call-in number will be provided when you register with Dora Carney, Admissions Coordinator. You can email Dora at Dora.Carney@hknc.org, 516-393-8145, with the subject line: “PLG Registration.” 

Please review the peer learning groups listed below and let Dora know which group you are interested in joining. In our effort to provide participants with attention and accommodations for full participation, group size is limited to 8 participants each and no more than 3 groups per person; first come first serve basis.

The groups that have session dates are those groups that are currently being offered.  You can add your name to any group you are interested in.   When a new session is scheduled for any of the PLG’s, you will be notified. 

Braille Buddies
(temporarily on hold)

Braille Buddies is a discussion group for braille users. Participants will share daily ways they utilize braille, experiences from learning braille, and explore creative ways to develop their braille skills. Additionally, participants will discuss braille resources and how to access them.  This peer learning group will be facilitated by the HKNC Communications Learning Center staff: Peggy Costello, Pamela Rothman, Kim Mockler and Garwin Posner.  

1:00pm - 2:30pm EST
Usher Syndrome Support Group 
September 14 - November 2, 2020

This support group is available for individuals with Usher syndrome (US) who use ASL to communicate. This will be an open ended dialog where participants will lead discussion topics along with identified topics by the facilitator; this style forum will allow the opportunity to discuss the impact US has on you, your family and your life as well as identifying coping strategies. This support group will be facilitated by HKNC’s Mental Health Coordinator, Lisa Catanzaro.

Taste of Tech
(temporarily on hold)

Are you curious about the technology other deaf-blind people use in their daily lives? Come join a weekly discussion that will review common technology available, unique ways technology can be used for accessibility, and where to find technology resources. This group will learn about braille displays, screen-readers, Sprint IP Relay and more!  This peer learning group will be facilitated by the HKNC Adaptive Technology Center staff: Bryan Ward, Megan Dausch, Bill Spagnuolo, Don Horvath and Rob Pena.

Banking and Budgeting
(temporarily on hold)

Money makes the world go round and in this group, tips and strategies will be shared and discussed for practical methods of making payments, finding out how much you need to pay, staying safe at the ATM, and information on debit and credit cards.  Other topics will include strategies for communicating and interacting with the teller at the bank, information about how to open a bank account, and how to plan a budget. This discussion group is facilitated by the staff in the Communications Learning Center with Peggy Costello, Pam Rothman, Kim Mockler and Garwin Posner. Come join us in an important discussion topic in these times.  

Wednesdays, 1-1:55PM EST
Understanding Nutrition
October 7 - November 25, 2020

Feeling sluggish?  Understanding nutrition is a great opportunity to learn how to boost your immune system to fight disease, learn healthy habits, and ask questions from our health experts.  This peer learning group will meet once a week for eight weeks and will be facilitated by HKNC Medical Director, Peg Herzberg, and HKNC Nurse Manager, Carol Petrilli. 

Emergency and Disaster Planning
(temporarily on hold)

Do you feel confident in your ability to respond to an emergency such as a house fire, a flood, an active shooter, or even a pandemic? The HKNC Emergency and Disaster Planning group will review ways to respond in the event of various emergencies, how to set up an emergency bag, how to prepare for communication and navigation in all situations, and how to alert family and/or emergency personnel for help. This peer learning group will meet once a week for four weeks and will be facilitated by Val Chmela and Jamie Schagat.  

2:00pm - 3:30pm EST
Advocacy in the Deaf-Blind World

Do you want to develop and enhance your ability and confidence to self-advocate? Advocacy in the Deaf-Blind World (ADBW) virtual classes are being offered over a period of eight weeks. Learn about your rights to communication access as it pertains to interpreting. The ADBW curriculum reflects the additional challenges experienced in many situations related to equal access common among the deaf-blind community. The classes will focus on strategies and opportunities for advocating for equal access to: communication, transportation, print/media and technology application. Emphasis is placed on understanding one’s own specific needs, being able to articulate these needs to others, understanding the laws that protect an individual’s rights to equal access, learning strategies for advocating for these rights and learning what steps to take if these rights are being violated. This course is facilitated by instructors who are deaf-blind themselves and are able to share personal experiences about their own self-advocacy. Facilitated by Megan Conway. This group is for individuals who utilize speech and are hard-of hearing. 

TECH TIME: Your Technology Questions Answered!
(temporarily on hold)

During these challenging times, we are all relying on technology more than usual. This peer learning group is an opportunity to ask your most burning questions about braille displays, iPhone navigation, screen readers and more!  ‘Tech Time’ will follow a question and answer format and will be facilitated by HKNC’s Adaptive Technology Center staff: Megan Dausch, Bill Spagnuolo, Don Horvath and Robert Pena.

Wednesdays, 11:00 - 11:55am EST
Internet Safety​
October 21 - November 25, 2020

The Internet Safety Group will provide tips and resources to give you skills to utilize the internet safely including social media, emails, online shopping, online banking, search engines, job searches, and more. We will focus on a different topic each week, such as: Do you know your social media privacy settings? Do you shop online securely? Do you use credentialed search engines? Do you use a strong password? 

We will share experiences and offer safety tips using both group discussion and question and answer formats. In addition, we will hope to provide resources for the consumers to use in the event of a security breach.  The facilitators are Bryan Ward, NY DBEDP Coordinator; Peggy Costello, CLC Supervisor; Megan Dausch, Adaptive Technology Instructor and Pamela Rothman, CLC Instructor.  It runs for 6 weeks.  Please contact Dora Carney,  Admissions Coordinator at Dora.Carney@hknc.org to sign up.  

Group Description 
The consumers will complete a pre-test prior to the Internet Safety Group 
First week – Introduction, pre-check, and password discussion 
Second week – Social media privacy settings
Third week – Online shopping and online banking
Fourth week – Search engines 
Fifth week – Open questions 
Sixth – Post-Check

2:30 pm-3:30 pm EST
Virtual Cooking

(temporarily on hold)

Come join a virtual cooking group while you are at home.   In this group, tips and strategies will be shared and discussed for safe cooking and food preparation.  Safe, adaptive and tactual techniques for food preparation tasks and kitchen equipment will be identified.  Favorite cooking projects and recipes will be shared.  The facilitators are the staff from the Independent Living department.  This group runs for 8 sessions from August 19-October 7, 2020.  Bon Appetit!

1:00pm - 2:00pm EST
Usher Syndrome Support Group 
September 9 - October 28, 2020

This support group is available for individuals with Usher syndrome (US) who utilize speech and are hard of hearing. This will be an open ended dialog where participants will lead discussion topics along with identified topics by the facilitator; this style forum will allow the opportunity to discuss the impact US has on you, your family and your life as well as identifying coping strategies. This support group will be facilitated by HKNC’s Mental Health Coordinator, Lisa Catanzaro.

Covid-19 Live Chat 
​(temporarily on hold)

Covid-19 Live Chat offers informational sessions to learn ongoing updates about the coronavirus and ways to protect yourself. Come share your experiences and support others with managing these new challenges in our daily lives.  This live chat will follow a question and answer format and will be facilitated by HKNC’s Medical Director, Peg Herzberg, Nurse Manager, Carol Petrilli, and Case Manager Valerie Chmela.          

This group will be on-going until there is no longer a need to continue. 

College Success
​(temporarily on hold)

The College Success Group is a good place to learn how to maximize your college experience whether you are a current college student or planning on attending this fall or another semester. College is a unique experience for all of us and it is important to experience success in academics and campus life. This group will discuss our experiences, tips and questions. After the group, you will have knowledge and self-confidence to begin a college journey or finish your college journey. This group will focus on accessing services, classroom learning, accommodations, campus life, on-campus jobs, internship/COOP, campus safety and housing. This group is facilitated by Bryan Ward, the Coordinator of the NY Equipment Distribution Program.

Advocacy in the Deaf-Blind World

Do you want to develop and enhance your ability and confidence to self-advocate?  Advocacy in the Deaf-Blind World (ADBW) virtual classes are being offered over a period of eight weeks. Learn about your rights to communication access as it pertains to interpreting.  The ADBW curriculum reflects the additional challenges experienced in many situations related to equal access common among the deaf-blind community.  The classes will focus on strategies and opportunities for advocating for equal access to: communication, transportation, print/media and technology.  Emphasis is placed on understanding one’s own specific needs, being able to articulate these needs to others, understanding the laws that protect an individual’s rights to equal access, learning strategies for advocating for these rights and learning what steps to take if these rights are being violated.  Facilitated by Ryan Odland and Sonia Hernandez. This group is designed for ASL users.

Savvy Shopper Virtual Group 
(temporarily on hold)

In this tight economy, it is important to make your dollars stretch. Do you have friends who always get the best deals? You can too! In this group, tips and strategies will be shared and discussed for smooth and effective food shopping. Topics including preparing to go food shopping, making a shopping list, using QR code reader apps to obtain information on products while shopping, setting up your support to go shopping, the differences between online and in-person food shopping, choosing items based on brands, and using customer service will be discussed. Individual assignments will be provided for identifying your best practices. Facilitated by: Maricar Marquez, Eleanor Coley-Brody and Lucia Trupin1:00pm - 2:00pm EST

Support Group for People who are Hard-of-Hearing 
(temporarily on hold)

This support group is available for individuals who are hard-of-hearing. This is will be an open ended group dialog where participants can lead discussions based on their experiences of living in “a hearing world” and learn effective strategies from their peers. This support group will be facilitated by HKNC’s Mental Health Coordinator, Lisa Catanzaro.

Thursdays, 1:00pm - 1:55pm EST
Mobility Support Group
 
October 22 - December 10, 2020

From the time you get out of bed in the morning until your head hits the pillow at night you are traveling.  You travel within your home, outside around your home, and for most of us to points beyond our home.  Since Covid-19 our travel routes, outside of our home, have been compromised greatly.  These new challenges impact us all and we are longing for a new way to connect.  HKNC is offering a holistic MOBILITY GROUP to discuss your travel challenges, find strength and solutions from deaf-blind peers, and more importantly find a way to MOVE FORWARD TOGETHER.  Join us for a live weekly discussion group with HKNC staff from the following departments: Mobility, Low Vision and Audiology.  Together we can move mountains but it all starts with the first step in supporting each other.

Living on Your Own
(temporarily on hold)

What is your dream for yourself for your future life? Do you want to develop the knowledge of what is involved with living on your own? In this group, tips and strategies will be shared and discussed for practical methods for living comfortably and safely at home. The topics of housekeeping, labelling and organization, food storage, alerting systems, living arrangements, and accessing one’s community will be discussed. Consumers will be invited to share their experiences about doing daily activities at home. Individual assignments will be provided. 

Facilitated by HKNC’s Independent Living department team: Maricar Marquez, Eleanor-Coley Brody and Lucia Trupin

Appy Hour for iOS Devices 
(temporarily on hold)

Join the HKNC Technology staff for a lively discussion about our favorite apps. We’ll explore applications that can help in your daily life by identifying that can of food in your kitchen, identifying who is in the room, or keeping you up to date on that latest best seller! This group is not a Voice Over training session for apps but information about different iOS apps for an iPhone or iPad will be discussed.   This peer learning group will be facilitated by HKNC’s Adaptive Technology Center staff: Megan Dausch, Bryan Ward, Bill Spagnuolo, Don Horvath and Robert Pena.