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EHDI: Early Hearing Detection & Intervention

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Using Deaf Mentors to Support Reading in the Home

Presented by: Karla Giese, Michelle Mendiola, Karen Aguilar

When: December 10, 2020 | 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm MT


In this interactive session, we will discuss the role of a Deaf Mentor or Deaf Adult Role Model in the home and how they can be used to foster a love of reading from the start. In the book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon, Solomon talks about how important it is to connect with others of the same identity. When supporting learning how to encourage fun and interactive reading experiences, it can be beneficial to have a Deaf Mentor's support. Using a Deaf person's point of view, a Deaf Mentor can point out subtle cues that naturally engage the child, no matter the age, with books and teach parents and providers how to capitalize on those cues. We will also present specific strategies that anyone can use when preparing to read with a deaf infant or toddler and we will provide books for hands on practice in applying these strategies. In addition, we will share specific templates and resources for families and providers to use to create READ Kits that can be used to foster a love of reading in any home.

Learning Objectives:

  • The participant will be able to explain the role of a Deaf Mentor and how a Deaf Mentor can support reading/language development.
  • The participant will be able to identify 3 strategies to use when reading with their deaf child.
  • The participant will be able to develop a plan for activities to correspond with a chosen book.


Karla Giese, Illinois State University: Karla is a deaf adult, experienced in many modes of communication: written, spoken, signing, and cueing. She is an active advocate for deaf education and access to literacy for all deaf children and passionate about comprehensible communication access. Currently, Karla is the Coordinator of CHOICES for Parents, a statewide information, advocacy, referral and resource program for families of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Karla is also a doctoral candidate at Illinois State University with a focus on deafness, early intervention, and parent support. Karla has worked with deaf and hard of hearing children of all ages, from birth to age 21, across all educational settings, and using all modes of communication. As a student of deaf education programs, a teacher in deaf education programs, and an administrator of deaf education programs, Karla has come full circle and enjoys sharing her experiences with others.

Michelle Mendiola, Chicago Hearing Society: Michelle Mendiola is a Deaf adult and is married to Jason McKinnie with three daughters, including Jayla and Jaede who are both hard of hearing. She is the Manager of the Community Outreach & Advocacy at the Chicago Hearing Society, a division of Anixter Center. Michelle oversees the Youth Program, Adult Role Models in Education of the Deaf (A.R.M.E.D.), and a statewide Deaf Mentor Program. Michelle's other job duties include providing counseling, crisis intervention, advocacy, information & referral to appropriate community resources for services, coordinating income tax assistance program and overseeing the Illinois Telecommunication Access Corporation (ITAC) Program and also CHOICES for Parents. Michelle has given numerous trainings and presentations on different Deaf-related topics. Michelle is personally and professionally active in the Deaf Community.

Karen Aguilar, Chicago Hearing Society: Ms. Aguilar is the Director of the Chicago Hearing Society, a division of Anixter Center, that provides social services and advocacy, youth programing and mentoring, a hearing health clinic and interpreter referral service throughout Illinois. CHS houses the CHOICES for Parents Coalition, Deaf Mentor Connections Program and Youth Program. Ms. Aguilar's past work includes creating a center based early intervention program for families and providing developmental therapy, service coordination and family support. Ms. Aguilar has a Masters of Jurisprudence in Health Law from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and has trained the legal community on the rights of persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, and educated the Deaf Community about their rights under state and federal laws. Ms. Aguilar has been signing since childhood and is a nationally-certified state-licensed sign language interpreter.