A Family-Centered Program Presented in the Natural Environment for Children Birth to 5 Years Old with Hearing Loss
The Deaf Mentor Program includes a curriculum designed for Deaf adults to work with families of young children with hearing loss. The services focus on Deaf adults or mentors who make regular home visits to children and their families, sharing the Deaf Mentor’s natural language and experiences in the child’s natural environment.
The SKI HI Institute at the Utah State University investigated the efficacy of their services in a matched study over a three-year period. Their results found that children in their bilingual-bicultural program made greater language gains, had considerably larger vocabularies, and scored higher on measures of communication, language, and English syntax.
Goals of the Program
One of the guiding principles of the program is the importance of developing a whole, well-adjusted child with a strong sense of identity and self-esteem. The Deaf Mentors assist children and families in learning Early Visual Communication (EVC) and American Sign Language (ASL), which enhances the learning of English.
The primary goal is to help the child acquire a strong language base, which equips them to enter school with the necessary language to become successful learners. Ultimately, the child and family develop positive attitudes about deafness and learn to respect and appreciate both Hearing and Deaf cultures.
Who is the Program for?
A child between the ages of birth and five years who:
- has parents/family who want to actively provide access to visual language for their child,
- and has parents who are interested to learn what Deaf culture can offer their family and their child.
Who are the Deaf Mentors?
The Deaf Mentors are Deaf adults with college degrees who have been trained using the Deaf Mentor curriculum and who have an interest in guiding young children. They serve as role models for children who are deaf/hard of hearing and introduce the family to the culture and history of Deaf individuals. Deaf Mentors serve as a bridge for the family to Deaf community activities. The mentors teach ASL to family members for the purpose of helping families to become visual language models/teachers for their children.
If you are interested to train to become a Deaf Mentor with Georgia PINES, clickfor more information.
Deaf Mentor Visits
Deaf Mentors offer hour-long weekly visits, during which time they share their experiences of growing up as a Deaf person in a hearing world. They prepare a variety of fun activities for the deaf or hard of hearing child using ASL and show family members how to use ASL in their daily routines. Deaf Mentors help family members understand and appreciate Deaf culture, as well as participate in the local Deaf community. One additional visit per month can be provided in order for the Deaf Mentor to accompany the family to a Deaf culture event.
Deaf Mentors and Early Intervention Specialists
The Deaf Mentor works in cooperation with an Early Intervention Specialist in coordinating services. The Early Intervention Specialist provides families with information regarding:
- their child’s hearing loss,
- early communication and language development,
- hearing aids and cochlear implants,
- auditory skill development,
- and speech development.
Deaf Mentors and Early Intervention Specialists sometimes make joint visits, and are in regular contact with one another. Through this bilingual-bicultural environment, the deaf/hard of hearing child and his/her family become comfortable interacting with both Deaf and Hearing persons and optimize the ability to learn and grow in both cultures.
What if I'm using signs in English word order with my child?
The philosophy of Georgia PINES is to support the decisions made by the families we work with. Families who use signs in English word order can still gain a lot of information from a Deaf Mentor. While the Deaf Mentor’s role is to further educate families regarding Deaf culture and American Sign Language, all Georgia PINES professionals are expected to respect family decisions.
Georgia PINES and AASD also offer Toddler Classes: