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Deaf Mentors

The Deaf Mentor Family Program is a program that’s been in existence since 2007 and continues to grow as more families request both in-person and remote (electronic) connections to learn American Sign Language, Deaf culture and early language support for their children. Mentorship by adults, who have grown up in hearing families, helps support deaf/hard of hearing children’s identity development, self-esteem and strengthens family relationships by teaching ASL, knowledge about culture and life journeys.

Although the number of Deaf mentors has increased, it is still a challenge to support 100 children and their families, throughout the large state of Minnesota. Remote (electronic) ways of communicating through email, video calls and texting continue to be explored in order to reach children and their busy families. In addition, the Deaf Mentor Family Program continues to investigate how to measure how early instruction on ASL and Deaf culture affects early language development for children and families.

If you would like to see a family working with their Deaf Mentor, watch this video of a Deaf Mentor working with a child, his parents, and extended family members

Who this impacts

  • Children who are deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing
  • Families of children who are deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing
  • Teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing
  • School teams
  • Deaf community members


In order to provide families with some background and to maximize the in-person home visits from Deaf mentors when families are learning about American Sign Language, the program requires that 16-online sessions of the free Bravo: Beginning ASL Videocourse be completed. 

To help track the results of early language intervention by Deaf mentors, a partnership with teachers of deaf/hard of hearing is being piloted with 10 families. The Visual Communication Sign Language Checklist is being used to track growth in ASL skills for deaf/hard of hearing children.

Who is involved?

  • Kathy Anderson, Statewide Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Specialist
  • Ingrid Aasan, Director of Special Education, Regional Low Incidence Facilitator
  • Emily Smith-Lundberg, Deaf Mentor Family Program Manager
  • Deaf Mentors
  • Danelle Gournaris, Collaborative Plan Program Director
  • Laurene Simms, Gallaudet University
  • Teachers of Deaf/Hard of Hearing
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