Colorado Families for Hands & Voices

Parents of babies who are deaf/hard of hearing often have no experience with deafness or hearing may affect a child's relationships, social and academic development as they grow. Donations go only toward just-in-time support for parents statewide. Your generosity improves a child's quality of life.

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Ambassador Program

Class

Education 

Beneficiaries

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years)
Deaf & Hearing Impaired
Families
Teachers
Hispanic, Latino Heritage

Description

The Ambassador Program extends the reach of the Guide By Your Side program with dedicated volunteers who are either parents of children who are deaf/hard of hearing, including those with additional needs, or Deaf/hard of hearing themselves. Ambassadors, whether parents of Deaf/Hard of hearing adults, have been carefully selected and oriented to working with the parents of young deaf or hard-of-hearing children, their teachers, and school programs. They share their diverse perspectives and communities with families through events, personal connections, or school or community presentations and articles. Every student and family should have a chance to meet Guides and Ambassadors. Get insights into daily life no matter what your situation is. We are looking to add more Ambassadors this year especially on the Western Slope and in the Spanish-speaking community. The next Ambassador training is January 2022!

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

One student said, "I had never met anyone like me before. I think she is cool. I will try not to be embarrassed about my hearing aids or want to sign now that I have met her. She can do anything, and so can I!" This student had previously not worn her hearing aids regularly at school.
A School District 11 teacher said, "The speaker had the students so engaged. I really do think this program will make a difference in how our students see people who are deaf or hard of hearing, including their classmate."
In a question to parents about acceptance of their child's hearing loss, meeting supportive deaf and hard of hearing adult mentors ranked as a primary reason that parents developed a positive outlook on their child's deafness for 45% of parents surveyed. Unfortunately, on March 31, 2019, grant funding for this project ended. We continue to fundraise for this important project connecting diverse families with Ambassadors from all backgrounds and areas of the state.

Guide By Your Side Program

Class

Education 

Beneficiaries

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years)
Deaf & Hearing Impaired
Families
Infants/Babies (under age 5)
Hispanic, Latino Heritage

Description

The Colorado Hands & Voices Chapter uses the highly successful and replicable family support program called Guide By Your Side to provide unbiased parent-to-parent support to families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The GBYS connects families with an experienced Parent Guide in their region or through specialty Guides who work directly with families. Support is offered through one to one home visits, phone calls, or online support customized to a family's needs and desires, informed by experienced parent leaders both nationally and internationally. Resources such as the 2018 CO Resource Guide for Families who have Children who are DeafHard of Hearing, The Parent Funding Toolkit, and the Bridge to Preschool are examples of free products designed to meet family's needs. Additionally, Parent Guides from a variety of backgrounds and areas of the state represent the health and educational needs of current families in the community and statewide to agencies such as the CO Dept. of Health, the CO Dept. of Education, local hospitals and audiology offices, school districts, recreational facilities, and more.

We have five GBYS staff, including guides representing families with Unilateral Hearing Loss, or Microtia/Atresia, Deaf/hard of hearing Plus, progressive loss or late identification, Spanish-speaking families, those attending or interested in the state school for the deaf, and regional guides with a variety of experiences, ethnicities, and family stories. All services are free to families from the time of identification to age 18.

Children who are early identified and receive intervention prior to six months of age have significantly better receptive language, expressive, language, personal-social skills, receptive vocabulary, expressive vocabulary and speech production. (Yoshinaga-Itano, C., Sedey, A., Coulter, D. & Mehl, A. (1998) Language of Early- and Later-Identified Children with Hearing Loss, Pediatrics, 102(5),1161-1171.)
On reflection of the early intervention years, a majority of families cite contact with other parents of children with hearing loss as the most helpful support they received after learning their baby was deaf or hard of hearing. Direct parent-to-parent support ranks as one of the strongest measures of family support. (Jackson, C. W. (2009). Family Support and Resources for Parents of Children who are Deaf or hard of Hearing. Jacksonville Florida: Florida State University.)
Social networks with other parents of children who are deaf were associated with less isolation, acceptance of their child, and improved interactional responsitivity (Hintermaier, M., 2000)
Families gain knowledge, insight, and experience by accessing resources as well as through participation in scheduled early intervention appointments including audiologic, medical, habilitative, and educational sessions. This experience can be enhanced when families choose to become involved with parental support groups, individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, and or their children's deaf or hard-of-hearing peers. (JCIH, Pediatrics, 2007; 120; 902)
Who do we serve?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, hearing loss is the number one birth defect in the U.S. This project will provide much needed funding to help support our target audience: Families and children birth -- high school that are deaf/hard of hearing. There is an estimated 1700 children in the state of Colorado who are deaf or hard of hearing. Through Universal newborn hearing screening efforts, between 125 and 200 infants a year are born in the state of Colorado with congenital hearing loss, (1.8 per 1000 births) and the same number acquire hearing loss during early childhood. This effort will support the families of these infants and children in order to create better health outcomes for children who are deaf/hard of hearing.
There is great need in the arena of hearing loss and deafness to bring in Deaf/hard of hearing culture and community along with the supports for early hearing screening, diagnostics and entry into early intervention. CO H&V is well aware of the non-medical aspects of our journey and takes an active role in the wellness and holistic model of understanding and anticipating the unique needs of families with deaf or hard of hearing children.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

A family at a North Denver picnic told us that they felt that the GBYS program and Hands & Voices had been critical to their ease of adjusting to life with a child who had a profound hearing loss. "Our questions were put to rest as soon as or even before we had them, with the Guide anticipating the next issue that might come up. We feel confident that our young daughter is going to be able to succeed in anything she wants to do."
A rural area mom of a newly adopted child who had hearing loss said, "I am so glad I called you! You are helping us get started on the right foot with this journey!"
A mom who interviewed for a board of directors position recently said that meeting a Parent Guide and later our educational advocate was a significant support to her family with a child who had needs in addition to deafness.

In 2019, Parent Guides met 174 families who were new to the world of deafness and would not otherwise have been offered parent-to-parent support specific to their child's unique needs. In 2020 and 2021, our numbers are smaller with COVID but we are working hard to make sure all families get connected.

Advocacy Support and Training Program (ASTRA)

Class

Education 

Beneficiaries

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)
Deaf & Hearing Impaired
Families
Teachers
Teachers

Description

This is one of our most cost-intensive and valuable programs for parents. We hosted a statewide training in April 2019 for the public and a second level for ASTra Advocates. This program was launched in 2011 to bring professional-level training to those wanting to learn more on behalf of their own child or the students they teach, birth to three or during the school-age years, and more intensive training culminating in a certificate for ASTra Advocates, who go on to support families at IEP, 504 or IFSP meetings and provide coaching as well.
Our Parent Guides all have received basic training in understanding the IEP or IFSP process, and now all four have completed Level 2 ASTra training by August 2020. We have 7 ASTra Advocates now, with a Coordinator. The Coordinator is the only currently compensated position, part-time. The program has served 17 families this year with direct advocacy services and held two workshops on educational advocacy and accommodations during COVID-19, as well as produced four extensive handouts on mask use, accommodations, parents' and students' rights, and tips for remote and in-person learning for children who are deaf/hard of hearing.
For 2021-22, we are looking for additional ASTra Advocates to join our team, including a Spanish-speaking advocate and deaf/hard of hearing advocates/

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

95% of families requesting support report satisfaction with Guide involvement and greater knowledge of advocacy process including tools to use next time. Families do not always achieve a complete "victory" in their discussions with schools but 100% felt that the ASTRA program was a significant assistance in building on advocacy skills for themselves and/or their children, and building positive relationships with their schools.
"Our advocate was quick to respond, professional and caring. Our team also learned from her. I did not feel alone for the first time in that meeting, and I am excited about our son's start to the school year next year." Parent in Cherry Creek Schools
"We were able to resolve our issue with the school district quickly and professionally with the assistance of our H&V advocate." Parent with an out of district placement at Rocky Mountain Deaf School in Lakewood.

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