In March, most schools and educational institutions across the country closed due to the impacts of COVID-19, forcing many students to finish out their school year online. This transition wasn’t easy for children, especially those who rely on additional academic assistance.
When schools shut down and these services came to a halt, WHOLE ME acted quickly to provide students who are deaf or hard of hearing with an accessible and digital learning environment.
“Deaf and hard-of-hearing students depend on in-person resources to excel and succeed in their academic coursework,” said Cecilia Clark, youth program coordinator at WHOLE ME. “These kids already experience communication barriers and the lack of in-person programming was a big issue we needed to address quickly.”
WHOLE ME provides mentoring, literacy, transitional life skills training, early intervention, advocacy, and rights awareness programs for deaf and hard of hearing children, adolescents, young adults, and their families. With grant funding from the Community Foundation, the organization was able to transition its in-person after-school program into a virtual program using video conferencing.
The online programming enables “face-to-face” interaction for students and their families enabling them to increase communication, improve literacy skills, and receive academic support. WHOLE ME is working closely with local school districts to intentionally mirror their students’ curriculum. In addition, they are offering interpreting services to students and their families.
Drastic life changes can evoke unfamiliar emotions and many families have felt frustration and hardship when trying to communicate with their children.
“The past few weeks have been an emotional experience for everyone but we are here to help ensure that our families and children have the resources they need to succeed and thrive,” said Clark. “We are so fortunate that we can continue all of our programming virtually during this time.”
The organization explained that 90% of deaf children are born into families that have never met and don’t know how to communicate with a deaf person. Only 10% of those families learn how to communicate through American Sign Language. During a time of uncertainty, WHOLE ME hopes that its after-school activities will provide opportunities to connect with one another for those who need it most.
“If there ever comes a time when your child is having difficulty understanding what is going on, please contact us,” said Clark. “We are here to support our families with any issues that arise.”
WHOLE ME is also publishing an online newsletter “WHOLE ME CONNECT” which includes information about COVID-19. Stories in American Sign Language, Idioms, Community Partners, and much more. To view WHOLE ME Connect please visit www.wholemeinc.com/wholemeconnect. For additional information about WHOLE ME, INC. and their programs, please visit www.wholemeinc.com.