ADVOCACY SUPPORT AND TRAINING
Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side ™ is a family support program that embodies the mission and vision of Hands & Voices ™, which is to provide unbiased support to families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Guide By Your Side (GBYS) does this through specially trained parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. These parents work as “Guides” directly with families who have just learned of their child’s hearing condition, or who have older children and are in need of the unique support that comes from someone else who has walked this path him/herself and can share from direct experience and wisdom. GBYS programs can also include an option for Deaf/Hard of Hearing Guides (DHH Guides) who are deaf or hard of hearing adults and specially trained to provide support to families.
The benefits of starting GBYS are that we will have trained parent leaders, incorporated parental and deaf and hard of hearing perspectives, and embedded parent/professional collaboration into our Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI), educational, and/or family support systems. Research acknowledges the role of parent-to-parent connections, and exposure to adult role models who are deaf or hard of hearing to increase overall parent involvement which has been shown to lead to positive child outcomes. (Eleweke & Rodda, 2000; Jackson, Becker, & Schmitendorf, 2002; Hintermair, 2000; Bodner-Johnson, 2001).
Many families struggle in their attempts to improve educational programs for their children, and the support they find is usually not experienced with the unique issues facing deaf or hard of hearing kids. Hands & Voices is often asked to provide educational advocacy support to families (and professionals) who have questions about special education law and its applicability to students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
In our H&V chapters, it's not at all uncommon to find an H&V trained advocate supporting a family who is struggling with their child's educational services and communication access. H&V chapters can provide families with advocacy resources, support, and in some cases, attend an IEP meeting with a family. While Montana Hands & Voices is still in its start up stages, we do have a optimistic goal of having our official Advocacy Support and Training (ASTra) program by 2020. In the meantime, we can still share our experiences and work with organizations such as Montana School for the Deaf and Blind to accomplish satisfactory educational programs for our deaf and hard of hearing children.
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GUIDE BY YOUR SIDE
O.U.R CHILDREN'S SAFETY PROJECT
Hands & Voices is working closely with researcher Harold Johnson, formerly at Michigan State University, to understand the scope of this problem, partner with supporting agencies (who often need to learn more about deafness), and teach ourselves how best to Observe, Understand, and Respond to our children. To keep them safe. To keep them free to grow up in the innocence of childhood.
We are challenging one another to spread the word about this important topic. Parent Guides from CO Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side are participating in a pilot project, keeping logs of the questions that arise, and sharing thoughts as they learn more about this topic.
There’s a lot more that we can be doing beyond wringing our hands in frustration. Below are resources that will be useful to parents in developing skills that will prepare us to share effectively with their own children. But don’t just stop at your own child or student. Here are some things that you can do to help others be prepared:
Pass-It-On: Share the articles, posted below, and its related resources, with at least one other parent, and then ask them to “pass-it-on.”
Share the Story: Have a conversation with your child about abuse and neglect (see attached “Helping Parents Talk to Children” below) then share the story of how it went so that other parents can learn from your experience.
Recognize the Best and Challenge Everyone Else: Ask the professionals who work with your child what they are doing to protect your child from abuse and neglect, then share the resulting reactions, information, resources, programs, and questions so that we recognize the best and challenge everyone else.
Join us on our wiki, i.e. http://deafed-childabuse-neglect-col.wiki.educ.msu.edu/