Mark Dunning's Posts

View all posts from Mark Dunning, father of a daughter with Usher syndrome type 1B:

Here in the world of Usher syndrome, we are torn asunder by the forces of the future. Everyone looks ahead to a time when there will be treatments, when there will be a cure, when things are fixed.

While we wait for treatments, the Coalition is what makes life bearable.

If you believe the Usher Syndrome Coalition has improved your life in any way, I hope you will join me in ensuring its continued existence.

jCyte is working on a treatment for the broad spectrum of Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Usher syndrome is, and will remain, a rare disease. Turns out it may be rarer than we thought.

Mark Dunning does the Usher Dance Challenge #usher4ushersyndrome.

So here we are, a group of diverse people, angry, frustrated, worried, and shocked. Yet, despite all of that, we here in the Usher Syndrome Community have NEVER been more united.

Mark Dunning describes how the one thing he did right as a parent is all the stuff he did wrong. He failed. Often miserably.

Good news! There are a LOT of potential treatments coming for people with Usher syndrome.

Mary O'Brien was not a doctor. She wasn’t a professional in the field. She didn’t even have a family member with Usher syndrome. But she had a knack for treating Bella, for helping her deal with Usher syndrome.

We live with Usher syndrome, and I mean live with it. Every day it is there, always there.

Walking or running isn’t your thing? Well, that’s OK. There are lots of ways you can raise awareness about Usher syndrome.

Break out the canes, harness up the dogs, grab an elbow and give a face to Usher syndrome.

Booked my flight to Australia. On Usher Syndrome Awareness day I will be Owning the Equinox with Usher families in Melbourne.

Last year we said we needed an Usher Syndrome Awareness Day. Then we went out, and with the help of Senator Wyden and his staff, we got one. The third Saturday in September was declared “Usher Syndrome Awareness Day” and written into the Congressional Record.

Our apologies to anyone who wished to attend the 2016 Usher Syndrome Family Conference in Seattle but has not yet registered.

The Usher Syndrome Coalition spent a busy two days in Washington, DC. For those of you in the US, stay tuned for a call to action very soon.

Mark Dunning describes his dream of the Usher Syndrome Coalition working with researchers and the National Institutes of Health to identify the most valuable research and the steps that will quickly deliver viable treatments to the Usher syndrome community.

Usher syndrome can mean a lot of things, including community and friendships and family. Wonderful uplifting exhilarating things. But Usher syndrome is also a place with bogs and lowlands where the mist gathers and the sadness pools.

Your participation in the Usher syndrome community is vital to us. The registry is a powerful tool for learning about Usher syndrome and could possibly be the first step to finding new treatments. All of that starts with you.

The Usher Syndrome Coalition provides critical support for research. The Usher Syndrome Coalition does not fund research or do research. But we provide everything else, literally everything else, that is necessary to bring treatments to the clinic.

Here in the U.S. we are coming up on our traditional Thanksgiving Holiday. I figured it was a good time to say thank you to everyone who has helped the Usher Syndrome Coalition and the Usher syndrome community this year.

The Usher syndrome community lost one of our best this week when Steffen Suchert passed away.

Bella is fine. Julia and I are both under strict orders to stop worrying. She doesn’t like seeing us sad or mopey. She doesn’t want us to ask how she is doing. The answer is she is fine.

There is a formula for finding treatments for Usher syndrome and getting them into the clinic. Mark knows because he just made it up.

With the autumnal equinox only two short weeks away, we need this Usher Syndrome Awareness Day. We need to Own the Equinox, push back the sunset, accomplish more than anyone thought possible.

It’s time for our grassroots efforts to go global. Let’s make our Usher Syndrome Awareness Day span the world. You can help in ways big and small. We have a size that fits you and whatever you give will help.

Maybe running isn’t your thing. Or maybe you have an idea of your own. Go for it! Create your own a-thon and help us Own the Equinox.

You want people to know about Usher syndrome, to understand it, to fund it, to cure it. But, boy, that mile a day seems like a lot of effort. You really just don’t feel like getting off the couch.

Finding treatments for the most common cause of combined deafness and blindness is extremely difficult. It seems insurmountable. But is it?

Did you know that regular exercise may actually help you keep your vision longer?

We need to cure the most common cause of combined deafness and blindness. And we can do it. On September 19th, Usher Syndrome Awareness Day, let’s demonstrate that power to make the impossible possible.

On September 19th, we want to Own the Equinox. We need a global Usher Syndrome Awareness Day and we're going to have one.

We no longer have to hope that someday there will be treatments. There will be. So it’s time to dream bigger than just treatments. It’s time to dream about treatments that come in time...

I have no qualms about sharing my deepest fears with people in this Usher syndrome community. But I don’t really like writing about myself. And I really don’t like asking for help. Today I am going to attempt to do both. Hopefully you will understand why.

The following speech was delivered by Mark Dunning at the dedication ceremony for the William J. Kimberling Usher Research Laboratory.

We are in the process of transitioning to a new website. The new platform will be more accessible and available in more languages. It will also undoubtedly come with some bugs so please bear with us during the transition. Oh, and shout out a big thank you to all the volunteers, high school and college interns, who have done most of the leg work setting up the site.

Science is trial and error. Only 1 in 12 potential treatments which are tested in humans actually make it to clinic. But that number is misleading. Those that don’t result in a clinical treatment aren’t necessarily failures. They are practice runs used to adjust dosage, delivery method, and measurement criteria. We learn something from every clinical trial, but we often need a lot of them to get a treatment to clinic.

Bill Kimberling is a man with stories. Hundreds of stories. Thousands of stories. All of them your stories. He compiled them over decades of working with Usher syndrome families. The data, the bland details, are cataloged in wrinkled medical records stuffed in thick manila folders. The good stuff, the touching, the compelling, the inspiring, well, that he keeps locked safely in his heart.

In honor of the dedication of the William J. Kimberling Usher Research Laboratory at the University of Iowa, I ask you, I implore you, to take a few moments and share your stories of Bill.

I had the honor of attending Deafblind Awareness Day at the Massachusetts State House recently. I have attended many of these days and they are always amazing. I would describe why I enjoy them so, but Carl Richardson, the State House ADA Coordinator, gives a much more eloquent description than I ever could: Humbled and awed.

A few years ago there was a 5.8 earthquake in Virginia that literally shook Washington, DC. For people with Usher syndrome, there has now been a similar ground shift in Washington. Yesterday, March 19th, 2015, we held a Congressional briefing on Usher syndrome. It was an incredibly busy and exciting day.

This blog has always been about families. Sure we talk about the science of Usher syndrome, the politics of Usher syndrome, the funding of Usher syndrome, but all of it, in the end, comes back to the impact of Usher syndrome on families.

Family has always been the way through this. Family is the treatment. Family is the cure. That’s how we survive Usher syndrome. We rely on family for support, for assistance, for a shoulder to cry on when things get hard.

On March 19th we will host a Congressional briefing on Usher syndrome. Edwin Stone, MD, PhD, from the Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research at the University of Iowa will be the featured speaker. Ed will be talking about the exciting state of Usher syndrome research and the need

There are several phases of a clinical trial but phase I is the hardest. It’s that terrifying and exhilarating moment when a potential treatment that has only been tried in animals is tried in a human being for the first time.

Let’s laugh for a little while. I want to laugh. I have clinical depression and laughing is hard. It feels like gargling glass. I used to have a great sense of humor. I want it back.

I have a confession. I hate asking for money. Despise it. The fact that I am doing so should tell you just how important I believe the Usher Syndrome Coalition is to finding treatments for Usher syndrome. I have estimated that we will need $50 million annually for each of the next 18 years if we are going to find treatments for every person of every age with every type of Usher syndrome everywhere.

It is Halloween week so it is a good time to write about something very scary. We are at a critical point in the search for Usher treatments. There are a number of promising developments in the lab that could lead to treatments. These are getting close to clinical trial but they may never reach the clinic for one very avoidable reason:

The Usher Syndrome Coalition's mission is to raise awareness and accelerate research for the most common cause of combined deafness and blindness. The Coalition also provides information and support to individuals and families affected by Usher syndrome.

Fifty million dollars is a big number, an intimidating number, a number beyond the imagination of most of us. Personally I think in hundreds and thousands. Anything larger than my mortgage is almost beyond comprehension to me. Oh, I dream of winning the lottery and I can imagine owning an island in the South Pacific. But that is fantasy. It’s not something that I can really see happening. No, fifty million dollars is forever going to be beyond my reach.

Whew. It’s been a tough year in the Dunning household. I’m not writing this to appeal for sympathy but rather out of exasperation. And, as always, it’s all about Usher syndrome even when it is not. In this case, it’s about Bella and her belly.

I have not read Rebecca Alexander’s new book Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found. Don’t get me wrong. I want to read it. I was even sent an advance copy by the publisher, which was very thoughtful. Problem is I haven’t seen the book since.

There is dog named Tater. And there is Bella.

Usher syndrome is about uncertainty. It is not knowing. It is fearing the future and desperately clinging to joyful moments in the present.

Though he desperately wanted to be there, Bill Kimberling could not attend the International Symposium on Usher Syndrome. Personally, I couldn’t get through one presentation without thinking about Bill. Seems like I wasn’t alone as his name and likeness were on a lot of presentations.

It’s over. The largest gathering of the Usher syndrome community in history. Three days, four nights, nearly fifty speakers, dozens of interpreters, and more than three hundred attendees. The International Symposium on Usher Syndrome, #USH2014, is now history.

When Bella was born she was bald as a cue ball. It took almost a year before she had any hair. I couldn’t imagine her with hair. That first year we went to a support group for parents (for deafness, not baldness).

I thought I would write one last time about mental illness and Usher syndrome. Then I’m done. It’s getting too depressing, pun intended (see, my sense of humor IS coming back!). One thing I’ve always struggled with is the difference between depression and anxiety. I tried to write about it a while back but I failed miserably. Now that I’ve been through this experience, I think I can both differentiate between the two and describe their impact a little bit better.

My wife Julia and I learned that our daughter Bella had hearing loss when she was an infant. She was identified through a pilot program for newborn hearing screening. We learned sign language. We tried hearing aids. When she was two, she got her first cochlear implant. There were a million otolaryngology visits. She had hours of speech therapy. We attended hearing loss support groups for parents. Our lives revolved around hearing loss.

I don’t know who you are but I know if you are reading this blog post, you should attend the symposium. You should attend because you are a member of the Usher syndrome community and this will be the largest gathering of the Usher syndrome community in history.

About a month ago I wrote that I was dealing with depression and anxiety. I wrote at the time that I would share my experiences in the hope that it inspires others to seek help. Well, we’re one month in and a lot has happened. It seemed like the right time to answer the question a good friend asked me:

My name is Mark Dunning from the state of Massachusetts. As Chairman of the Coalition for Usher Syndrome Research, I am here on behalf of the Usher syndrome community to respectfully request this committee encourage NIH to prioritize research that will eventually expand treatment options for individuals suffering from the severe hearing and vision loss related to Usher syndrome.

My son asked me last night what happened to me. He was crying his way to sleep. Again. He says he does so every night because he is worried about me. “You never laugh anymore,” he said, “I don’t understand. I just want things back to the way they were.”

Bella wants to drive. I knew this was coming. I’ve seen it on the horizon for the last eight years. I’ve put off addressing it as long as possible in hopes that some epiphany would strike me on how to handle the situation. It hasn’t happened. Bella turns sixteen in October and Bella wants to drive.

This post is about you. It’s a thank you. Your efforts are starting to have an impact on the federal funding levels for Usher syndrome. Now you may be thinking ‘he doesn’t mean me. I didn’t do anything.’ But simply by reading this blog, you have done something to help.

I have two children. If you read this blog frequently, you know about my daughter Bella. She has Usher syndrome and I write about her a lot. I also have a son named Jack who is now 12 years old. He does not have Usher syndrome and so I don’t write about him very often. He tends to be a supporting character in the stories.

We have big news on our efforts to raise the profile of Usher syndrome in Washington, D.C. The following language is included in the omnibus spending package that was sent to the President for his signature today:

In Part I, we talked about the need for increased federal funding for Usher syndrome research. Today we’ll talk about the process for getting that funding.

This year the Usher Syndrome Coalition went to Washington D.C. to seek increased federal funding for Usher syndrome research.

You know Grampa didn't want to be Grampa. Grampas were old and he wasn't old. He tried out a lot of names before accepting his fate.

So when I read Jennifer’s take on the current clinical trials for acupuncture I wondered if maybe a focus on the clinical impact, at least in this case, was missing the point.

Bella was twenty months old and had just come out of the surgery for her first cochlear implant. She was groggy and nauseous from the anesthetic. She had a tight wrap on her head. Tubes ran from her arms which were both wrapped to splints to keep her from fussing with her bandages. She was miserable.

Clinical trials and studies on retinitis pigmentosa usually exclude people with Usher syndrome, at least in the early stages. The reason given is often that people with Usher syndrome not only have RP, but they also have hearing loss.

Here we are four years later and the blog is still missing two key pieces. We need the perspective of someone living with Usher, not just an observant family member such as me. And though Jennifer and I have the United States pretty well covered (I am a proud New Englander and Jennifer is a West Coaster from Oregon), we still lack a regular international contributor. That will all change now that Kate Morrell is joining us.

We are going to Grand Cayman Island for Bella. When she was diagnosed six years ago, my wife and I decided to take her to see the world whenever the opportunity arose. It is insurance, in case the unthinkable happens and her vision fails. We want her memories filled with the world.

What I’m asking is, knowing now that you have Usher syndrome, knowing how it felt to find out, would you have wanted to have known the diagnosis earlier than you did?

Just a quick post today to give you an update on another important aspect of Usher syndrome research: Funding.

But we are NOT going to ignore the psychosocial impact of Usher syndrome on families. We are going to address it frequently and we are going to fight it with hope.

Two deaf twins in Belgium recently sought, and were granted, the right to be euthanized after learning that they would soon also go blind.

Here is something I wrote several years ago about a vacation with the family:
Taught the kids to fish yesterday. I didn't think they'd enjoy it, but they really did. I also thought that I would. I didn't. They spent five hours fishing. I spent five hours undoing tangles and pulling lures out of trees.

When I think of candy canes, I think of two things. One, they are kind of gross. The plastic wrapping seems to be part of the candy, nearly inseparable and almost as sticky. I remember growing up that I ate as much of the wrapper as I did of the candy. To this day, when I eat a candy cane, my palate expects the taste of plastic and of my fingertips as I scrape said plastic from my tongue. And a candy cane is the only sweet that can be sucked in to weapon form. Ten minutes in your mouth produces a shiv. I can still taste the blood in my mouth from my impaled gums.

Oh, the hormonal tempest that is a teenager. My daughter can argue about the color of the grass. She can break down crying over who was handed the dinner rolls first because, clearly, it was a statement on who among the children was more loved. I’m afraid to make eye contact with my daughter, so it’s hard to imagine the stress of discussing something difficult, like a new diagnosis of Usher syndrome with her.

What if my daughter Bella could have had normal hearing simply by receiving an injection shortly after birth?

During that time, I have gotten an education on teenagers, an experience cast by the prism of Usher syndrome.

It is not easy for a professional to deliver bad news to a family. Doctors and genetic counselors are people, too. They have parents. They have children. They understand the impact of a diagnosis like hearing loss or Usher syndrome. They don’t want to hurt or upset the family. It is human nature to try to soften the blow.

I was reading the last post from our guest blogger, Elise, and I was struck by one sentence in particular. Referring to about her son’s diagnosis, she wrote “Two weeks later, he failed the hearing test again.” To explain why that particular phrase stuck with me, let me tell you three quick stories involving some other well-meaning, kind hearted people:

The above scenario is an amalgam of discussions I have had with adults with Usher. They have asked me to write about it, to let people know it exists, to let others know they are not alone.

When someone is diagnosed with Usher syndrome, there are a lot of services offered to address the physical symptoms associated with the disorder. There are hearing aids and cochlear implants, speech therapy and ASL, FMs and loops and closed captioning for hearing loss. There is mobility training and tactile sign and braille and canes and guide dogs for vision loss. There’s physical therapy, and occupational therapy, and even hippotherapy for balance issues.

In this last post in the series, I’ll tell you what we ultimately did to help Bella resolve her problems at school.

Some of you have already noticed the little Facebook widget on the right-hand side of this page, but for those of you who haven’t, please join us in the colossal time vacuum that is social media!

My daughter Bella is thirteen years old. She is in the first year of middle school and has had a very hard time. With her permission, I have been writing about her experiences and what we did as a family to address the issues.

I'm 43 years old and smack dab in the middle of middle age. I can tell you from experience that middle age stinks. I don't see as well as I once did. I had the eyes of a hawk when I was younger. Now I need glasses. When I take Bella to one of her frequent ophthalmologist appointments, I have to squint just to read the same lines on the eye chart that she does.

That someone will not be my daughter Bella. Well, at least I know that someone won't be Bella before she is an adult. After that, it's her call. But while it's my decision, she won't be participating in a phase I clinical trial. I'll do a lot to support Usher syndrome research, but that is just a step too far for me.

My daughter, Bella, is thirteen years old and a good student. She has always loved going to school and was one of those kids that teachers described as a joy to have in class. She is even tempered and rarely gets upset.

I haven't been very active in writing for this blog recently. There are a lot of reasons involved, but the biggest has been my daughter, Bella. She's been having a tough time. I have spent a good amount of time trying to help her, which is part of the reason I have not written lately.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

It's hard to believe that I am afraid of a white folding piece of aluminum, especially when there's a little rubber ball on the end of it or maybe a tennis ball. Yet the cane scares me and it should scare you, but not for the reasons you think.

My apologies for not posting recently, but I have excuses (yes, not a single excuse, but multiple excuses):

"I like having Usher syndrome because I have gotten to see a lot of things." - Bella Dunning

I have a friend with Usher syndrome. She worries about it. I know she does. I can see it in the way her eyes brighten when we talk about potential treatments. I can feel it in her enthusiasm for knowledge about the disease. Yet she does not live like someone who worries about Usher syndrome. She stubbornly refuses to let the future decide her present. She lives for today.

What if Usher syndrome no longer existed? What if it went the way of Polio and Small Pox? But as with the Polio and Small Pox vaccines, this treatment would not change the fate of those of us who already have Usher syndrome. In short, we'd be the last, a people destined to be a footnote in the history books. How would you feel if no one was ever born with Usher syndrome again?

The Coalition for Usher Syndrome Research in conjunction with the Usher Syndrome Foundation and the Decibels Foundation will be holding a third annual Usher Syndrome Family Conference this July 8th in at the Host Hotel in Sturbridge Massachusetts.

You should take vitamin A. You should give it to your children. You should take it, of course, in a dose that is safe and prescribed by a physician, but you should take it. My daughter takes vitamin A and her vision has not changed perceptibly in the last four years.

My daughter has Usher syndrome because of me. She has my genes. I gave them to her. I gave her the mutation that causes a certain protein to be produced incorrectly. I am the reason she was born deaf. I am the reason she can't walk a balance beam. I am the reason her vision is getting worse.

Of course, when you do speak to your child about Usher syndrome, you don't want to freak them out. I can give you some guidelines on what to say, but I can't tell you the specific words or tone to take.

When should you tell your child that he/she has Usher syndrome and what, exactly, should you tell him or her?

The registry idea is clearly a hit. We've gotten more comments on this posting than any other. Rather than respond to each individual comment (and since I clearly forgot some important details), I figured I would do another post with answers to the most common questions.

There are a number of treatments nearing clinical trial that could potentially help people with Usher syndrome. There are an even greater number of areas of interest that researchers think might be the source of future treatments but which are as of yet fairly unexplored.

Last night was the first of those two times that we'll skate on our home rink. My daughter Bella and my son Jack spent a couple of hours on the ice. I mean that quite literally for Bella. Jack plays hockey. Bella plays Zamboni.

I spend a lot of time in this blog writing about the desperation of Usher syndrome. I write about the fear that we all feel, the fear of what the disease might one day take from us. But it's the holiday season s and for today, I'd like to talk about the flip side of that fear. I want to talk about the gift of Usher syndrome.

I see all of these things, I expect them, I internalize them, but somehow I don't believe them. My little girl can't really be losing her eyesight.

Well, it's November and we are still summarizing the International Symposium on Usher Syndrome and Related Diseases that took place in May. That should be heartening for our readers. Obviously a lot happened at the conference.

Thanks to Jennifer for carrying the blog while I procrastinated. I do have a partial excuse. I was in Denmark for a few days at the Usher Syndrome Working Group put on by Sense in conjunction with the Acquired Deaf Blindness Network conference.

'Why the heck didn't any doctor ever explain their opposition to vitamin A supplementation to me as well as Jennifer did?' I've talked to a lot of physicians that don't prescribe vitamin A, some who are strident opponents of prescribing it, and none of them explained their reasoning as clearly as Jennifer.

I need a vacation.

First, a quick update on the Usher Syndrome Family Conference held last weekend in Seattle Washington. In a word: Awesome. Some of the leading experts in the world spoke and they all did so at a level that was possible to follow even for the recently diagnosed. They were great. It was also terrific to see so many Usher adults in attendance.

Julia and I recently attended our first deafblind party and I thought I'd tell you about it.

This is a planned public debate between Mark Dunning and Jennifer Phillips, the two primary contributors to this blog. The ideas expressed in the posts during this debate will be purposely provocative and unfinished to invite a response from the other party. We hope you find the discussion valuable.

The family conference in Seattle on July 10th is a great opportunity for families not only to connect with other families, but also to meet and talk with some of the leading researchers and Usher syndrome professionals.

The conference was enlightening and, at times, exciting. I'll give you as brief a summary of the two and half days as I can, highlighting what you really need to know.

This is a planned public debate between Mark Dunning and Jennifer Phillips, the two primary contributors to this blog. The ideas expressed in the posts during this debate will be purposely provocative and unfinished to invite a response from the other party. We hope you find the discussion valuable.

It is also fact that while there are a number of potential treatments in development, none of those treatments have been used to successfully treat Usher syndrome. Not even in testing or clinical trials.

After writing in parallel for a while about either the science or the personal impact of Usher syndrome, Jennifer and I find ourselves at the interface of these two points of view.

Before I knew it, I was off the floor, able to go a breath, an hour, a day without fear of the future. We're now three years in to this diagnosis and the future looks less and less like it was supposed to be. I still don't like to travel without my kids. A week away still makes me nervous. I know it's unwarranted, but part of me will remain on the floor covered in orange Cheeto dust until we find a cure. But I can function now.

Every day people search the web and find the Coalition for Usher Syndrome Research web site because they have had reason to suspect that they themselves or a family member have Usher syndrome. They do so because they know nothing about Usher syndrome and, in most cases, have never even heard of it.

Still, I get a lot of questions from families about diet and its effect on the progression of Usher syndrome so it's worth discussing. It is something that intrigues a lot of researchers, but to date there has been little research done on the effect of diet on Usher syndrome.

You see there are no widely accepted, scientifically proven treatments for the vision component of Usher syndrome. So just about everything at this point is an opinion.

The point is that NONE of us should take the opinion of one person as gospel when it comes to treating ourselves or our children for Usher syndrome, whether that opinion is that of a trusted friend or that of a borderline science charlatan.

A few postings ago I asked that all Usher patients and their families spend fifteen minutes a day working on Usher related activities.

A compilation of blogs written by people impacted by Usher Syndrome

A few postings ago I asked for our readers to devote fifteen minutes a day to support the cause of Usher syndrome research. I've gotten a lot of inquiries since from people interested contributing the time, but not sure what to do. In today's post and in future posts, I'll give you some ideas on how to spend your fifteen minutes.

The Dunning's daughter, Annabella, has Usher syndrome. The rest of the family does not but they are no less effected by it. Even with the diagnosis, life still goes on and it's mostly unintentional comedy. Usher syndrome stinks, but you need a little fertilizer if you want to grow roses. Read all about it here.

But the truth is that we, you and I, hold the truly important titles. Being a Da.D. or an Mo.m. or having Us.h. makes you the unquestioned expert on Usher syndrome.

Among the many symptoms of Usher syndrome is guilt. Parental guilt, that is.

I find the weather to be a lot like Usher syndrome. It's this big mystery that I have no control over that affects my life every day

First up is why funding organizations would be wise to invest in projects aiming to improve early diagnosis of Usher syndrome.

I'm no longer alone. Starting tomorrow I'll be joined regularly by Jennifer Phillips.

I was a well educated, even tempered parent receiving expected information about my daughter in the best possible manner and I was still crushed.

I am not a writer. I am not a doctor. I am not an expert. I am just the father of a 10 year old girl with Usher syndrome.

One of the neglected aspects of Usher syndrome are the balance issues associated with Usher syndrome type 1. These are forgotten because 1) vestibular abnormalities are not associated in all types of Usher and 2) compared to the other symptoms of Usher syndrome (hearing loss/retinitis pigmentosa), balance on the surface is a relatively benign problem

Physicians worry about an Usher diagnosis. They know the emotional impact of the diagnosis on the family and those not intimately familiar with Usher know only that there is no cure. So they worry that a diagnosis of Usher syndrome might actually do more harm to a family than good.

In short, there is something that can be done. Lots of somethings. But you need the diagnosis and you need it as early as possible. Here's just some of the reasons why early diagnosis is a good thing for a family:

We need to identify all types of Usher syndrome as early as possible for the sake of the families.

To sign or not to sign is still the question before us, only this time we'll look at not to sign. This is generally represented by the Auditory Verbal Therapy approach.

To sign or not to sign is still the question before us, only today we'll talk about American Sign Language (ASL) as a management option for Usher Syndrome. Historically, this has been more than just ASL for people with Usher. Eventually, as their vision degrades, people with Usher who had used visual ASL turn to tactile sign. There are a number of different variations on tactile signing, but for most people with Usher it means one of two things.

To sign or not to sign, that is the question today, and it's a big one when we're talking about Usher syndrome. It's big enough that I spent nearly two weeks trying to find a way to express my opinion on the subject that wouldn't offend, well, pretty much everyone. Nothing is more polarizing in the Usher community or the Deaf community as a whole.

One of the topics of discussion at the conference was the emotional toll of an Usher diagnosis, particularly at a young age, and it's effects on our ability to identify children as early as possible.

The meeting was attended by a dozen researchers and a couple of observers. The goal of the meeting was to try to support the many upcoming clinical trials on Usher syndrome.

A dozen of the leading Usher syndrome researchers will be meeting in Boston on May 12th. It's a small group, but that's a good thing because the goal is to come out with some recommendations to present to the larger community.

What can I do to help my child? That's the first thing parents ask when their child is diagnosed with Usher syndrome. Given that there are no accepted treatments for Usher syndrome at the moment, parents are often encouraged, with the best of intentions, to support research.

One of the hopes of the Usher Syndrome Coalition is to create a community of families, researchers, caregivers, and fund raisers.

I'll post notes on what I hear and what I know about Usher syndrome research and hopefully that brings a little light in to lives of those coping with the diagnosis. We could all use a little hope.