The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) is important legislation (Minnesota Statutes, section 144.966) to identify newborn babies and children who are deaf or hard of hearing through universal screening. This data is shared with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The goal is to provide early access to language acquisition and social and cognitive development. Since 2007, the Newborn Hearing Screening Advisory Committee has advised and assisted MDH and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to support screening, rescreening and tracking infants and young children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The committee includes many different professionals, parents, and community members, including representation from one culturally Deaf person (typically from the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens), a hard of hearing person who uses spoken language, and the Minnesota Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing (MNCDHH).
However, the Advisory Committee needed more representation from the deaf and hard of hearing communities. The sharing of lived experience by representatives in those communities helps to guide the committee so the Advisory Committee recommended adding deaf and hard of hearing mentors to the committee.
In another area of concern, families from diverse cultures and languages did not necessarily have the same access to information as majority cultures. This affects how babies and families receive support.
Finally, when babies are identified, families receive a large binder of information from the Minnesota Department of Health. However, extended family members and community members also wanted copies, but that was cost-prohibitive. A downloadable version was needed, especially in Greater Minnesota.
In early 2019, MNCDHH met with legislators and included testimony about the importance of renewing EHDI from the Department of Education, the Department of Health, Deaf mentors, and the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf during the session. MNCDHH led the renewal and amendment to the statute to include Deaf mentors and board members from the Minnesota State Academies on the EHDI Advisory Committee in the Minnesota Department of Health.
MNCDHH also partnered with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHSD) and Minnesota Hands & Voices to create a one-hour video that gives information on the types of childhood hearing loss, the importance of early detection and the many resources and communication options available for children with hearing loss. The video, "Does My Child Have a Hearing Loss" can be viewed in ASL, Spanish, Hmong, Somali, and English. They are now on YouTube at this link, including English subtitles: YouTube videos: Does My Child Have a Hearing Loss? Twin Cities PBS. Also, MNCDHH participated with MDH with Wilder and journey mapping project was completed to be sure that families from diverse cultures have the same access as the majority cultures.
Finally, the binder of information for parents and families of newly identified babies and children was put into a downloadable format so that there is more support for a larger group of community members. This is the link: What You Need to Know: Resources for Families