In early March, a team of four embarked on flights from Guam to Kansas City, Missouri to attend the 2020 Annual Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Conference. The Guam Team consisted of Guam EHDI staff and a parent from Guam’s Positive Parents Together, Inc., the non-profit organization which provides Parent-to-Parent Support for families with children identified with a hearing loss. The Annual EHDI Conference gives participants the opportunity to learn new and relevant information related to EHDI, network with other professionals in the EHDI system, and participate in face to face meetings with each EHDI’s Project Manager and Quality Improvement Technical Assistance provider.
The four-day conference began with the Islands/Outlying Territories Meeting held on March 7. Representatives from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Palau, Hawaii, Virgin Islands, Marshall Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam presented on their respective program successes for the grant year. Tony Ronco, a parent with California Hands & Voices facilitated a discussion on website development in preparation for the new EHDI grant year. Also present at the meeting were Leticia Manning representing HRSA; Marcus Gaffney representing Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and Karl White, and Alyson Ward representing National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM).
Over the next three days, the Guam EHDI Team planned their schedules to attend plenary and topical sessions that would assist the Guam EHDI Project in meeting its goals and objectives. While at the Conference, the team met with Bethany Applebaum, HRSA Project Manager for Guam EHDI, and Alyson Ward, Quality Improvement Director at NCHAM, to discuss the progress of the Guam EHDI Project and to provide guidance on how to address data concerns for new grant objectives in light of the loss of CDC funding for territories not meeting the minimum birth rate requirements for continued grant funding.
The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services Project Bisita I Familia, in collaboration with Guam CEDDERS, began facilitating a series of focus group meetings with parents of children birth to five years and early childhood providers to pull together data and information about home visiting services for the updated Needs Assessment. First conducted in 2010, the Needs Assessment identifies communities with concentrations of defined risk factors, assesses the quality and capacity of home visiting services in the territory, and assesses the territory’s capacity for providing substance abuse treatment and counseling services.
The purpose of updating the territory-wide needs assessment is for grantees to gather more recent information on community needs and ensure that Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) programs are being implemented in areas of high need. The 2010 Needs Assessment identified the areas of Dededo, Yigo, and Mangilao as areas of high need and as such home visiting services are offered to families residing in these villages. Updates to the needs assessment will determine if home visiting services should continue and/or expand to other villages around the island.
The focus group meetings, facilitated by Early Childhood Consultants Mary Kidd and Elaine Eclavea, provided parents and early childhood providers the opportunity to examine and assess services currently being offered in the community. Parents provided feedback on the types of questions and modes of delivery to garner feedback from families receiving early childhood services. Early Childhood providers were given the opportunity to discuss current services and gaps in training, acceptance of services, and job satisfaction. The completed 2020 Needs Assessment will be submitted in September.
On February 25, Mary Kidd, Early Childhood Conusltant, facilitated a stakeholder input session with parents enrolled in Project Bisita I Familia, Guam Early Intervention System, Early Childhood Special Education Preschool, and Head Start Program at the Dededo Farmers’ Market Complex. This group of parents provided suggestions on the types of questions necessary for garnering feedback about home visiting and early childhood services on Guam.
On February 25, Mary Kidd (standing right), Early Childhood Consultant, facilitated the first focus group meeting with parents receiving services from early childhood programs at the Dededo Farmers’ Market Complex.
Two years of preparation and hard work to bring the SKI-HI Institute’s Deaf Mentor Program to Guam came to fruition. On January 15, SKI-HI Institute Deaf Mentor trainers, Paula Pittman and Jodee Crace met with Cathy Tydingco, Guam Department of Education Part C Coordinator – Guam Early Intervention System (GEIS) to discuss the critical role GEIS holds in the development of a Deaf Mentor Program for the island’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) children birth to 5-years-old and their families. The success of the program relies on the partnership between the GEIS Service Providers and the Deaf Mentors working together to provide families with the best services possible.
SKI-HI lead trainer Paula Pittman is no stranger to Guam. Her last visit was about 10 years ago when she conducted SKI-HI training for teachers and service providers of DHH infants. This was Ms. Crace’s first trip to the island as a SKI-HI trainer for Deaf Mentors. Ms. Crace is a DHH adult and one of a team of three trainers for the Deaf Mentor component of the SKI-HI curriculum. SKI-HI programs can be found throughout the United States as well as countries such as South Africa, England, Poland and a few areas in China to name a few. The unique aspect of the Deaf Mentor Training compared to other trainings is that the entire training is done in American Sign Language (ASL). Participants are required to be fluent in ASL to attend the three-day training. From January 16-18, 13 deaf adults participated in the rigorous training to build the island’s local capacity of Deaf Mentors at the Guam System for Assistive Technology (GSAT) training room located at the University of Guam. Of the 13 trainees, 11 completed the program.
To better understand the SKI-HI Deaf Mentor Program, Guam CEDDERS’ Guam Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Deaf Mentor Program invited GEIS and Guam Positive Parents Together (GPPT) staff to participate on the first day to receive an overview of the program. Two ASL interpreters were present on day one to interpret for the hearing attendees of the training.
This was a first for both interpreters and hearing adults present during day one of training. GEIS, GPPT, and EHDI staff, as well as interpreters gained the unique experience of the communication challenges DHH adults face on a daily basis in the hearing world. Interpreters shared that they are used to and most comfortable when interpreting in ASL for DHH community; however, when voicing the signs from DHH individuals to hearing individuals, the task was more challenging in conveying the message that the DHH speaker intends to relay. The completion of this training forged stronger connections between the Deaf Mentors and GPPT. The GPPT Parent Support Group is currently planning activities to bring the deaf adults in contact with families of children identified with a hearing loss. Guam CEDDERS continues to work with Guam’s Special Education personnel to develop an approach to utilize and maximize the skills acquired by the identified Deaf Mentors.
The SKI-HI curriculum for early intervention and training began in 1972. The institute is currently part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. Families are given choices, illuminated to possibilities, given information and skills and are strengthened in confidence, appreciation and love of their child, as well as envisioning a future full of hope for their child.
Guam’s Positive Parents Together Inc. (GPPT) the non-profit parent driven organization responsible for facilitating the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Parent Support Group for Guam’s families with children identified with a hearing loss has had an exciting and busy September!
GPPT hit the ground running in September with a Deaf Awareness Proclamation signing at the Governor’s Conference Room on Monday, September 9, 2019.Present at the signing was Governor Lourdes Leon Guerrero, Senator Kelly Marsh (Taitano), Ann Marie Cruz, GPPT Board President, Mary-Therese, GPPT Board Vice President, Evelyn Claros, GPPT Board Treasurer, Trisha Suzuki, Parent Mentor, Margarita Gay, DPHSS Nursing Administrator, Kirsten Rosario, GCC ASL Instructor, Terrie Fejarang, retired Guam CEDDERS Associate Director, Marie Wusstig, Guam CEDDERS Training Associate along with numerous supporters present to witness the inaugural declaration of Deaf Awareness Month for the month of September.
As part of celebrating Deaf Awareness month , GPPT spearheaded activities to promote Deaf Awareness in the community with a WAVE at the Paseo Loop on Friday, September 13. Then on Sunday, September 15,members of the community were invited to show their support by participating in first Deaf Awareness Outreach held at the Agana Shopping Center.The group also organized a special Sunday Mass for members of the DHH Community and their families on September 22 at the Our Lady of Purification Church in Maina.Family members and friends attended to celebrate September, Deaf Awareness Month.
GPPT also organized its first Deaf Awareness fundraising dinner.The purpose for this event was to bring awareness to the community of the issues that DHH families and their children face.Funds raised were identified to support DHH families with hearing aids and other necessities families may require such as adequate health and or educational resources for their DHH child.
GPPT continued to meet with Guam EHDI and The CARE Project of North Carolina, via Zoom to finalize plans for the first Guam CARE Project Family Retreat. In November, the collaborative efforts between Guam EHDI – Fitme Project , GPPT and The CARE Project from North Carolina, held its first Guam CARE Project Family Retreat on November 8 – 10, 2019.Members from North Carolina’s CARE Project, under the direction of Johnnie Sexton, Executive Director of The CARE Project facilitated the three-day Family Retreat at the Lotte Hotel Guam.Day one was an informal meeting with the families to meet with the volunteers, The CARE Project Team and Guam EHDI staff and allow for questions families may have regarding the retreat.On day two, the team presenting included Pediatric Audiologist, John J. (JJ) Whicker, Director, Inspirational Speaker, Katie Whicker, Parent Mentors Bo and Jessica Peterson and their sons, Oscar and Magnus.The families experienced a motivational seminar facilitated by Katie Whicker, a woman with Treacher Collins Syndrome and has grown up with a hearing loss.Parents, engaged in a focus group facilitated by JJ Whicker, “The Emotional Journey” which allowed parents to share their stories related to their children’s birth and diagnosis of deafness and hearing loss. This focus group allowed for the parents to openly express their grief among a safe group of listeners who understood and had shared experiences. In the afternoon, two families volunteered to be recorded sharing their stories to provide The CARE Project footage to share as they conduct sensitivity training with hearing screeners and health care professionals.The rest of the afternoon was spent with the main focus group split in two smaller groups (mothers and fathers) to further openly discuss their experiences and challenges in a more private and intimate setting with parent mentors Bo and Jessica Peterson.Parents spent the final morning in two seminars led by JJ Whicker, “Understanding Your Child’s Hearing” and “Disability Law:Knowing Your Rights and Advocating for Your Child”.The group convened for one last photo before departing.