The Power of Family Support, Connection, and Resources

Authors: Jennifer Peterson, Parent and Executive Director of Texas Hands and Voices (TXHV)

Keywords: family organization, deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, communication philosophy, peer support, educational outcomes, Guide by Your Side Program, GBYS, Parent Guides, Deaf/Hard of Hearing Guides, advocacy

Abstract: Learn about Texas Hands and Voices, the state chapter of Hands and Voices, a parent-led nonprofit organization that provides resources, peer support and advocacy in an unbiased manner to families with children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind.

A black outline of the state of Texas. A bluebonnet and a hand are shown inside the shape with the word “Texas” written outside it and “Hands & Voices’ written inside.

*Note: For the purposes of this article, please note that D/HH includes children who are also blind or have low vision (deafblind). 

Every year three in every 1,000 babies born are identified as deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH), with that number increasing to approximately five in every 1,000 babies by the time children reach the age of five. In 2022, there were 10,585 children and youth in the United States and 845 in Texas who had been identified as deafblind (DB). While the state and national counts continue to rise, there are many young people who are not recognized as DB. 

With any unexpected diagnosis or new identification, it’s not uncommon for parents to have concerns or feel overwhelmed. Where do I find guidance? How will I communicate with my child? Will they make friends easily, succeed in school, or even drive a car someday? Most parents reach out to neighbors, friends, family, or other new parents when they have questions about their child. But, for families that have children that are Deaf/HH/DB, there isn’t easy access to a roadmap for this unexpected journey or someone close to them that has a similar experience.

While these families are about to embark on a path that is often enriching, it’s not without challenges and it can feel very isolating. Finding support from families who have had similar experiences and creating opportunities for children who are D/HH/DB to connect with other children and adults who are D/HH/DB is critical to their future.

As an organization, Texas Hands and Voices (TXHV) is guided and inspired by the motto: 

“What works for your child is what makes the choice right.”

While this belief can be universally adopted and applied to all families, TXHV believes it’s even more critical to embody this when raising and supporting a child that is D/HH.

When empowered with unbiased information, matched with resources, and emotionally supported by other parents with shared lived experiences, families are the best advocates and primary teachers for their children. Partnering with organizations that support the need to think through their unique family situation and desire to make informed choices leads to better outcomes for children. 

While some children naturally self-advocate from birth, and no one knows a child better than their parents, more than 90% of children who are D/HH are born to typically hearing parents. This makes for a steep learning curve for most families and can bring on different emotions at different times throughout their journeys as they navigate complex medical, educational, and communication choices.

Texas Hands and Voices is a parent-led nonprofit organization providing resources, peer support and advocacy in an unbiased manner to families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Established in Texas in 2009, TXHV utilizes a multitude of methods and platforms to support families with the resources, networks, and information they need to improve communication access and educational outcomes for their children who are D/HH. As a state chapter of the international organization, TXHV was built on the foundation of diverse families coming together to share the experiences of raising children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Specially trained guides and families represent a beautiful tapestry of communication methods and modalities. 

Families with children who are D/HH can find community within TXHV and support through chapter membership, active and resourceful online communities, attending events, and requesting one-on-one support through the Guide by Your Side (GBYS) program. GBYS is a free family support program offered in English and Spanish that matches parents with specially trained parents of children who are D/HH. These Parent Guides offer unique support from someone who has walked a similar path and can share from direct experience and wisdom. In addition, families can request support from Deaf/Hard of Hearing Guides. These guides are deaf or hard of hearing adults specially trained to provide support to families and share their unique perspective growing up and living as a person who is D/HH.

Most organizations serving families with deaf and hard of hearing children rally around common interests that usually include a philosophy of communication that is promoted by that group. While Hands and Voices does not promote specific communication choices or methodologies, they do have information about them and can direct families or professionals to other fine support organizations such as the Alexander Graham Bell Association or The American Society for Deaf Children, just to name a few. Rallying points for Hands and Voices are areas of interest that are common to all people, especially parents who are connected by the interests of the Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Their values are: 

  • We all want the best for our children who are deaf or hard of hearing. 
  • We deserve respect and honor for our role as parents/families. We require a beneficial, successful educational experience for our kids. 
  • We need information from a wide variety of sources. 
  • We want to know about opportunities and resources. 
  • We need training and support to become effective advocates for our kids. 
  • We are more strongly united by our common interests than divided by differing communication choices. 
  • We must lend our organized support to all kinds of efforts that promote our common interests—strength in numbers!

Strong and supported families create powerful thriving communities enriched by each person’s unique contributions. Visit the TXHV website to learn more about our vision of a world where children who are deaf and hard of hearing have every opportunity to achieve their full potential and to connect with other families.

Two children wearing swimsuits smile while they sit on a beach with the waves and sand covering their legs. In the distance is a naval ship.

Enjoying a day at the beach

A child stands next to a table with arts and crafts. He grins while sticking his tongue out. Both hands are positioned by his ears with thumbs in them and fingers splayed.

Being silly

Two children wearing shirts that say, “Deaf Kids Rock,” lean against a brick wall and look at each other. One wears a hearing aid and the other wears a cochlear implant. They hold hands and sign “I love you.

Deaf Kids Rock!

A baby sits on an adult's lap at a table with dessert. They smile at each other. The man holds a spoon. The baby wears a headband with a cochlear implant attached. Her right hand makes the shape of “no.”

Snack break

A man and woman kneel outdoors with a girl standing between the man’s legs. The girl wears hearing aids, and they all smile at the camera.

Family time

A child and an adult sit at a craft table and smile at the camera. The child holds a black pen in the air with a coloring page open on the table before her.

Arts and Crafts

An adult sits at a picnic table with her arms wrapped around a child sitting in her lap. The child signs “peace.” People swing in the background.

Enjoying the playground

A toddler wearing a hair bow stands in the middle of a water splash pad with her hands raised. In the background are other children playing in the water.

Enjoying the splash pad

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