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.