D/HH Mentor/Guide/Role Model Programs
Where do I find Deaf/Hard of hearing Mentors?
State and Territory Listing of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Mentors/Guides/Role Model Programs
D/HH adults who act as mentors, guides or role models are uniquely qualified to provide families with a positive and hopeful perspective from their day-to-day, real life experiences as a D/HH person living in a predominantly hearing world. In sharing these experiences and insights, D/HH mentors/guides/role models may be able to articulate what a young child cannot, which brings an important perspective and credibility to discussions of the child’s needs. These guidelines are intended to offer suggestions for EHDI systems as to recommended practices in provision of D/HH mentor/guide/role model services to families/children. These recommendations are advised by the FL3 D/HH Advisory Committee and contributed to by members of the NCHAM Adult Involvement Learning Community and other community stakeholders.
The Value of Deaf or Hard of Hearing Adult Involvement
Adults who are deaf and hard of hearing (d/hh) play an important role in the journey of families with children who are d/hh. The level of involvement and services vary from state to state. The goal of the Family Leadership in Language and Learning (FL3) Cooperative Agreement is to develop strategies to support meaningful inclusion of adults who are d/hh within EHDI systems, integrate new knowledge of mentor programs, and develop training and resources for states and family-to-family support organizations serving the deaf/hard of hearing community.
For many of us, the first time we had a conversation with a deaf or hard of hearing adult, especially one who has received training on supporting families with young children who are deaf/hard of hearing, was a welcome revelation. Suddenly, we had a much better idea about what life might be like for our child in the years to come. The FL3 Cooperative Agreement recognizes the value of connecting families and their child who is deaf or hard of hearing early and often with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. Such individuals are typically trained adults who interact with the family and provide mentoring, modeling, and information through one-on-one interaction. A variety of terms are used to describe such individuals: deaf mentors, deaf guides, role models and partners.
In 2014-2015, the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM) facilitated a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Adult Involvement Learning Community. This learning community identified eleven examples of Deaf/HH Mentor/Adult Involvement Programs in the United States. The lack of programs is a barrier to families trying to access these programs. The FL3 is designed to improve parent awareness and access to these valuable services as well as encourage systems to develop programming.
The Value of Deaf Adults in my Family's Journey:
I remember very early in our journey I asked my friend what it was like growing up as a child who was hard of hearing. All these years, I am thankful that she took the time to share with me her experiences.
It was her ongoing support that helped me realize that I needed to raise my son just like ANY of my children. I never lowered my expectations because of his needs...but always made sure he had the support he needed to succeed. Even though at the time our family didn't FEEL normal...I came to the understanding that we were in the midst of creating our new "norm". Most important ...I learned that just because his needs were different than hearing children...it did not make him any MORE special than MY other children. But him being deaf DID make him MY son...and it IS my job to make sure he has every opportunity to be the person he is meant to be!
~ Rosabel Agbayani
Do We Need to Meet Deaf/hh Mentors?
The importance of Deaf Mentor programs was demonstrated in a study by Jackson (2011). Through a survey of 456 parents of children who were deaf or hard of hearing, 56.2% indicated that deaf role models and mentors were very important, while 27.9% more indicated that it was moderately important; 47.9% indicated that access to adults who are deaf or hard of hearing was very important, and an additional 27.1% indicated that it was moderately important.
In August, 2016, Wilder Research released a report entitled, Lifetrack’s Deaf Mentor Family Program An Evaluation of the Experiences and Outcomes for Participating Families (Peterson 2016) to evaluate the Minnesota Lifetrack Deaf Mentor Family Program. The program matches families with young children who are deaf and hard of hearing with an adult who is Deaf (called a “Deaf Mentor”). Key findings included: A majority (85%) of families felt their child’s quality of life had “improved” as a result of participating in the Deaf Mentor Family Program; Two-thirds of respondents (68%) said that communication with their child had “gotten much better.”; Nearly all (96%) received information on Deaf culture or the Deaf community during their sessions with their Deaf Mentor; of those, three-quarters (76%) found the information “very helpful.” The study went on to say families desired more diversity in adult role models, including those who use listening and spoken language and Cued Speech.
The National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM) has conducted a nationwide survey to gather information about programs that involve D/HH adults as role models, guides and/or Deaf Mentors. For information about Deaf and hard of hearing adult involvement and programs, follow this link and click on a state on the map. If you are aware of additional programs, please contact NCHAM through the link on this page:
Another resource is Deaf Mentor Experimental Project by Watkins, Pittman, & Walden (1998): https://muse.jhu.edu/article/383859/pdf