Shared Experience: Maryland

My Experience Serving on Maryland’s Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program’s Advisory Council

Mary Ann Richmond

It is important that deaf individuals serve on their state’s universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) programs advisory council.  (In some states the program may be called early hearing detection and intervention, and the state might have a panel, not a council, but they function pretty much the same.)  I have been on Maryland’s council for about three years now, as a representative of the Maryland Association of the Deaf.  This opportunity to be involved with the Maryland UNHS advisory council has broadened my awareness of what’s happening at the state and national level regarding early identification and intervention of deaf and hard of hearing babies.

Prior to my appointment to serve on the Maryland UNHS Advisory Council, I attended Gallaudet University and earned a Master of Arts degree in Family Centered Early Education.  This prepared me well to work with families of young deaf children.  And my current occupation working for Maryland School for the Deaf as a Family Education/Early Childhood teacher provides me opportunities to collect stories from the families I work with.  Some have positive experiences, and some have negative experiences when they discover their child is deaf or hard of hearing.  Parents have to deal with different professionals and doctors giving them advice.  Families say that early identification has given their child an early start with language development, especially when they use American Sign Language with their child.

The UNHS program advisory council meetings have given me opportunities to see the program at work, and how it tries to get all the birthing hospitals to screen all infants before discharge and send reports to the program for data collection.  About 90% (the percentage fluctuates from time to time) of babies born in Maryland have their hearing screened before discharge.  It becomes more difficult to get them back for a second screening when the first screening indicates follow up is needed.  It is even more difficult to get them back when the second screening indicates they need confirmatory testing.

I have attended one of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) conferences in Washington, D.C., two years ago.  This truly opened my eyes to the world of doctors and audiologists who want to focus on “curing” the deafness.  Not much information was shared about the success of using ASL with deaf and hard of hearing children, Deaf Culture or the Deaf Community.  I hope that the next meeting will bring in more balanced views on educating deaf and hard of hearing children and will include more Deaf Culture and Deaf Community topics.

We need more deaf people involved in early identification and intervention programs for deaf and hard of hearing children to make sure that parents receive balanced views on managing their child’s education and social needs.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the Maryland UNHS program:  [email protected].