Idaho State Secures $2.2M to Train Specialists for Deaf/Hard of Hearing Children

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Idaho State University’s Communication Sciences and Disorders Department has been awarded $2.2 million in grants to bolster the Idaho Hearing Education and Aural Rehabilitation (IHEAR) program. This funding will help train 42 specialists in speech-language pathology and audiology, focusing on early support for Deaf or Hard of Hearing  (DHOH) children and their families.

Although Idaho boasts robust Deaf Mentor and American Sign Language (ASL)-Based Deaf Education programs, there’s a noticeable gap in the availability of specialized professionals, according to a university press release. This shortage includes speech-language pathologists, pediatric and educational audiologists, and early intervention personnel skilled in listening and spoken language techniques. The IHEAR Program aims to fill this void, enhancing the support network for these families and ensuring more comprehensive care and education for DHH children.

The initiative will be closely linked with the Helping Adults Talk to Children with Hearing Loss (HATCH) statewide family support program, currently led by Dr. Kristina Blaiser, speech language pathology professor and IHEAR principal investigator. Serving over 100 families across Idaho, HATCH uses technology like Zoom and newsletters to connect and provide crucial resources to those in rural areas.

“The model we have running family-to-family support through a university is unique in the country and comes with benefits that are particularly helpful in a rural state like Idaho,”  Blaiser said in the press release. “The integration of technology helps bring families together, regardless of their geographic locations. Instead of feeling isolated with a low incidence diagnosis, families feel connected and empowered.”