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The Importance of a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Role Model

Chelsea Paulson, D/HH Role Model Program Manager
Chelsea Paulson, D/HH Role Model Program Manager

By Chelsea Paulson

I am originally from a rural northeastern part of South Dakota. I grew up mainstreamed, attending public high school. It was important to have a Deaf/Hard of Hearing role model to help me navigate through life because my parents were hearing. (Before my parents met a Deaf person, they thought I would become a maid, or a housekeeper, let alone a Deaf professional with a Master's degree!) With the help of this role model, I knew I would be successful as a Deaf person.

Imagine hearing parents receiving the diagnosis that their child has a hearing loss. The first person they see is a hearing audiologist giving the diagnosis. Finding out that the child has hearing loss changes their expectations of their newborn or child. The family experiences a paradigm shift.

Then, the family meets a medical professional who is highly likely to be hearing. It is important to recognize that the professionals who the parents meet are hearing folks. Most likely, these professionals do not have the same experience firsthand of what it means to be a hearing parent of a child who is deaf or the experience of being deaf themselves. 

We are so fortunate in Minnesota to have Minnesota Hands & Voices where parents are connected quickly with a parent just like themselves who has raised a child with a hearing loss – someone to share the road, offer support and has walked in their shoes, so to speak.

The Deaf/Hard of Hearing Role Model Program provides additional support for these parents and families. Through this program, parents and family members get the opportunity to interact with an adult who is deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH), ask questions, and learn from someone firsthand about what it was like growing up with a hearing loss. 

Parents are given a new vision for the future and gain a sense of optimism. Talk about putting hope within reach! The Deaf/Hard of Hearing Role Model provides a “fast forward” vision for the parents to see what to anticipate with their child. Research shows that parents who connect with Role Models who are deaf or hard of hearing develop more trusting relationships with their child, learn successful coping strategies and develop a stronger sense of competence in raising a child who is deaf or hard of hearing. 

Currently, in our Deaf/Hard of Hearing Role Model services, we have a team of 8 members, who are honored to have the opportunity to make a positive impact. A Deaf of Hard of Hearing Role Model can have a lasting, positive effect on a child's life! 

To learn more or participate in the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Role Model program, visit www.lifetrack-mn.org/rolemodel. 

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