Welcome to the Hands & Voices Military Project! We’re glad you’re interested!
Military Families with Deaf or Hard of Hearing Children
GOALS OF THE HANDS & VOICES MILITARY PROJECT:
We aim to connect your family to your local Hands & Voices Chapter to help you feel prepared to navigate through each new duty station. Our hope is parents will find more ease in transitioning the medical and educational homes for their children with this connection.
We have a growing support group on Facebook, specifically for military families with children with hearing loss. (https://facebook.com/groups/
This virtual community is a place to share experiences, ask questions, and help others with questions. Learn more about duty stations, and create new and lasting friendships with families walking a similar journey. We search for resources to share that are beneficial to military families. General information about hearing loss is also shared to help grow your knowledge of your child’s hearing level.
Here at the Hands & Voices Military Project, we want to listen to your stories and know your successes and challenges. We want to address areas of concern and shine a light on the unique needs of your family. We strive to create a unique community to help you feel prepared to navigate through each new duty station.
Helpful Links for Military Families
Hands & Voices Chapters and Professionals
GOALS OF THE HANDS & VOICES MILITARY PROJECT:
Our main objective is to offer awareness and provide support to Hands & Voices chapters across the United States, as well as in remote and distant locations. We strive to help local chapters understand the impact the transient military lifestyle has on the family so they can better support the military population.
“Military children may change duty stations at least twice during their high school years and may attend six to nine different schools between kindergarten and 12th grade.” (Lewis-Fleming, 2014)
A few challenges related to these frequent moves are navigating new homes, neighborhoods, schools, separations from extended family, and the absence of a parent during times of deployments. Coping with the effects of a significant life change each time a family relocates is a common occurrence for our families. Consider how raising a child with a hearing loss in a military family requires extra effort when one must reestablish their child’s medical and educational team each time they move.
We consider it a privilege to connect families across the globe to their state’s Hands & Voices Chapters. We hope this will help alleviate some of the stresses and strains involved when navigating a new geographical area.
“Don’t ask us when we’re leaving; ask how long you have us for.” -A military spouse
Since the birth of this country, there have been service members fighting for our freedom. We are all probably familiar with the story of how our militia fought for our freedom and founded a new country. Through the bravery of men and the women and families who supported them fighting for our freedom, the United States was established. A lot has changed in 200 years, but one thing remains, we will always have servicemen and women fighting for our freedom. As times change, our Active Duty members’ responsibilities change, and as a result, the roles of military spouses have also evolved. Like many other cultures, we are a diverse group under an umbrella group called the Armed Forces. One thing we all have in common is we experience stressors related to frequent moves and deployment. Though there is much to celebrate about our resiliency, these situations are known to create challenges, stress, and anxiety.
TANGIBLE WAYS TO SUPPORT MILITARY FAMILIES WITH DEAF/HARD OF HEARING CHILDREN:
- Get to know your local Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) staff. EFMP is a program run by each military branch to ensure military dependents with special needs have access to all of the resources they need when they accompany their Service Member to a duty station. It is a mandatory program within the military. EFMP offices can give information to incoming families regarding local groups designed to support their children, so by connecting with your local office, you can raise awareness that you are a resource for these incoming families. To find contact information for your local EFMP office, search the web for “EFMP + the name of your closest military base”.
- Teach military families with D/HH children to advocate for their children and point them to advocacy resources, including local groups that advocate for D/HH children within educational settings. Because of the transient nature of military life, it is vital that D/HH children get the support and services they need quickly upon arrival at a new duty station. Parents who understand how to advocate are better able to ensure this for their child.
- Connect families with local resources for D/HH children and their families. Trying to find a new medical and educational home is much easier and faster when you have input from locals who understand the needs of a D/HH child. It’s also nice to be able to connect with other local families with D/HH children.
- Ensure that families of recently diagnosed children have unbiased access to information on all languages and primary modes/methods of communication with their D/HH child. Because the responsibility for maintaining continuity of the child’s communication access throughout multiple moves lies primarily on the parents, it is vital that they are empowered to make a truly educated choice that meets that particular child’s needs.
Helpful Links for Hands & Voices Chapters and Professionals Supporting Military Families:
Teaching Families to Advocate for Their D/HH Children:
Hands & Voices ASTra files:
Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3):
Wrightslaw on Military and Department of Defense Special Education:
PCS checklist: Checklist to organize your child’s transition to a new medical and educational home.
All About My Child: Document to introduce your child to his/her new provider to ensure all of their medical needs are met.
Lewis-Fleming, G, MSW, ACSW, FAHM, (2014) Reaching Across Boundaries: A Military Providers and Public Schools Partnership on Behalf of Children with Special Needs, Military Medicine, 179, 8:920.
The Hands & Voices Military Project Team:
LaShawna Sims – Project Leader (Air Force Spouse)
As the daughter of a retired Navy SEAL, LaShawna is no stranger to military life. After completing her Bachelors of Business Administration from Northwood University, she married an active duty Air Force Airman in 2009. Although Texas is where they both call home, the Sims have had many adventures relocating across multiple states. Their greatest adventure has been becoming the proud parents of two sons, one deaf and one deaf plus.
Upon learning more about her children, LaShawna realized her deep passion for supporting families as they navigated their unique journey of raising children who are deaf/hard of hearing (DHH). While living in Tucson, Arizona, she set up and hosted quarterly gatherings for families with DHH children. When the military relocated the Sims to Las Vegas, Nevada, she connected with the local Chapter of Hands & Voices.
Currently, LaShawna is thoroughly enjoying her position as the bilingual Parent Guide for Nevada Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side program. Combining her passion for military families and DHH support, she eagerly joined the Hands & Voices Military Project Leadership Team. In February of 2019, she was awarded the 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Nellis Air Force Base Military Spouse of the Year.
When she is not supporting families, LaShawna enjoys spending quality time with her husband and two sons, singing, sewing, crafting, learning American Sign Language and finding anything to add to her collection of cacti and succulent themed items.
Jennifer “ Jenny” Swan – Project Leader (Army Spouse)
Jenny holds a Masters in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix with undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Tech. She’s an Army spouse of 16 years. Jenny homeschools her five children, the youngest of whom is deaf. She has always been passionate about advocating for military families and since the birth of her youngest son, she has become passionate about supporting families of DHH children, as well, within the military community.
Jenny is thrilled to work with the Hands & Voices Military Project Leadership Team and hopes to bring awareness and support for the challenges military families of DHH children face. In her spare time, Jenny enjoys crocheting, learning about health/nutrition, and gallivanting around the country with her family in their RV tiny home.
Chelsea Hull - Project Leader (Navy Spouse)
Chelsea holds a BA and an MA in Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Deaf Education. She’s worked as Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at all levels from preschool to age 22. She’s co-coordinated grants for the Hawaii, Newborn Hearing Screening Program and provided Early Intervention Services in the birth to three, Part C programs. Chelsea has served on the board for Washington State and California Hands & Voices board as a regional representative. She believes deeply in the Hands & Voices motto as a professional. She also enjoys sharing her family's stories and experiences as a CODA.
Currently, Chelsea enjoys working with the Hands & Voices Military Project Leadership Team and planning project goals. She became a Navy spouse in 2011 and is the mother of two hearing children. In her free time, you can her find relaxing in a hot tub, and once in a while surfing warm waters.
Kristen Stratton – Project Advisor (Marine Spouse)
Kristen is a Hard of Hearing adult diagnosed at the age of 5 with a Bilateral Progressive Sensorineural Hearing Loss. She grew up completely oral and was unaided until the age of 15. When her youngest son was diagnosed with the same Severe Bilateral Progressive Hearing Loss, Kristen and her family decided to embrace Deaf Culture and learn American Sign Language.
Kristen and her husband, Jonathon who is a U.S. Marine, have been married for ten years and have three children. Two of their three children have hearing loss and their hearing child is on the Autism Spectrum. Their Deaf son has multiple disabilities and as a result, Kristen has spent the majority of her time advocating for the rights of DHH with Multiple Disabilities (sometimes referred to as Deaf Plus or Deaf Disabled).
She holds Bachelor Degrees from California State University, Long Beach in both Political Science and Sociology. She has been admitted to Liberty University School of Law to earn her Juris Masters in American Legal Studies in order to further her credibility and skill as an Advocate for the DHH and Disabled communities. Following the completion of her J.M. Degree, she plans to complete an apprenticeship with a law firm specializing in Disability Rights and Special Education which will qualify her to sit for the California Bar Exam and become a practicing attorney.
Kristen is serving as an Educational Advocate and Managing Director for Morton Advocacy Group which is an Educational and Disability Rights Advocacy organization serving families in Southern California. She has previous experience as the Chapter Director of a Consumer Advocacy organization as well as professional experience with business marketing and finance.
Kristen serves as an Advisory Board Member for Hands and Voices representing the Deaf Plus/Deaf Disabled families. She is the Project Advisor for the Hands & Voices Military Project and has recently had the privilege of training Military Program Specialists from EFMP about the Hands and Voices organization and the DHH community. She is also one of the seven ASTra Advocates for California Hands and Voices and donates her time serving local Hands and Voices families.
Amanda McGowen - Project Advisor
(Coast Gaurd Spouse)
Amanda graduated from the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon, in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration focusing on Economics. She also met her future husband, Nick, that year, and when he returned from an overseas tour in 2011/2012, they married.
Amanda is presently a stay at home parent to three Hard of Hearing children: Fitzwilliam as well as Cormac and Quaid. Cormac and Quaid are identical twins and were found to be Hard of Hearing after both referred from their newborn hearing screenings. Fitz developed his bilateral hearing loss during the summer of 2018 at age 3, after passing his newborn hearing screening and testing within average limits following his brothers’ diagnoses.
Following Fitz’ diagnosis, the McGowens started attending more of the local Hands & Voices events in Maine, and a short time later Amanda joined the Maine chapter of Hands & Voices as a board member. From there she was introduced to the Hands & Voices Military Project and is now a Project Advisor.
Amanda and Nick continue to take classes in ASL and hope their children will someday be bilingual in English and ASL; however, since the boys display different learning styles and strengths already, they may utilize additional communication methods in the future. The family currently lives in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, where Nick is stationed with the US Coast Guard. They have previously been stationed in Maine, Washington, Alaska, Vermont, and Oregon.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the board members and do not represent any branch of The United States Military, The Department of Defence, The Department of Homeland Security or The United States Government.