Welcome to the Hands & Voices Military Project!  We’re glad you’re interested! 

The Hands & Voices Military Project believes that together through awareness, collaboration, and support, we can aide in the timely support for active duty and the retired armed forces community.  Active duty and retired families understand what it means to serve our country.  We hope that you will join us in “Serving the families that serve our country”!

If you would like to reach out with any ideas or comments, we would love to hear from you!

Email: handsandvoicesmp@gmail.com 
Military Families (Click here)
Hands & Voices Chapters & Professionals (Click here)
Hands & Voices Military Project Team Bios (Click here)

H&V Miltary Project

Military Families with Deaf or Hard of Hearing Children

Family

GOALS OF THE HANDS & VOICES MILITARY PROJECT:

We aim to connect your family to your local Hands & Voices Chapter to help you feel prepared to navigate through each new duty station. Our hope is parents will find more ease in transitioning the medical and educational homes for their children with this connection.

We have a growing support group on Facebook, specifically for military families with children with hearing loss. (https://facebook.com/groups/
HandsVoicesMilitarySupport/
)

This virtual community is a place to share experiences, ask questions, and help others with questions.  Learn more about duty stations, and create new and lasting friendships with families walking a similar journey. We search for resources to share that are beneficial to military families. General information about hearing loss is also shared to help grow your knowledge of your child’s hearing level.

Here at the Hands & Voices Military Project, we want to listen to your stories and know your successes and challenges. We want to address areas of concern and shine a light on the unique needs of your family. We strive to create a unique community to help you feel prepared to navigate through each new duty station.


Helpful Links for Military Families

Holly Henry

Find a Local Hands & Voices Chapter

Military OneSource: Support for Families with Special Needs Resources

Extended Health Care Option (ECHO)

Overview of the major communicating options

Know your options.  This Language and Communications chart describes the significant communication modes/methods so you can make the best choice for your child.

Tricare

H.R.2670 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024

The newly passed NDAA, which provides hearing aid coverage for some children of Retirees. Found under Title VII Health Care Provisions, Subtitle A Tricare and Other Health Benefits, Section 703 (about ⅕ of the way down the page)

Learning to advocate for your child during transitions

Hands & Voices ASTra files

Many families struggle in their attempts to improve educational programs for their children, and the support they find is usually not experienced with the unique issues facing Deaf or Hard of Hearing kids. Hands & Voices is often asked to provide educational advocacy support to families (and professionals) who have questions about special education law and its applicability to students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

In our H&V chapters, it's not at all uncommon to find an H&V trained advocate supporting a family who is struggling with their child's educational services and communication access.   H&V chapters can provide families with advocacy resources, support, and in some cases, attend an IEP meeting with a family. If you would like to request support, complete the H&V Educational Advocacy Request Form.

Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3)

The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3) provides consistency across states and was drafted with the intent to avoid conflict with existing state codes where possible. It replaces widely varying policies that affect transitioning military students and supports uniform treatment for military-connected students as they transfer between school districts and member states. While the Compact is not exhaustive in its coverage, it addresses the key issues encountered by military families:in the areas of eligibility, enrollment, placement and graduation.

Wrightslaw on Military and Department of Defense Special Education

Overview of current Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) school special education policies for those whose children are using schools located on their installation

Partners in Promise

Exceptional Families of the Military

PCS checklist: Checklist to organize your child’s transition to a new medical and educational home.

All About My Child: Document to introduce your child to his/her new provider to ensure all of their medical needs are met.


Hands & Voices Chapters and Professionals

GOALS OF THE HANDS & VOICES MILITARY PROJECT:

Dogtags

Our main objective is to offer awareness and provide support to Hands & Voices chapters across the United States, as well as in remote and distant locations. We strive to help local chapters understand the impact the transient military lifestyle has on the family so they can better support the military population.

“Military children may change duty stations at least twice during their high school years and may attend six to nine different schools between kindergarten and 12th grade.” (Lewis-Fleming, 2014) 

A few challenges related to these frequent moves are navigating new homes, neighborhoods, schools, separations from extended family, and the absence of a parent during times of deployments.  Coping with the effects of a significant life change each time a family relocates is a common occurrence for our families. Consider how raising a child with a hearing loss in a military family requires extra effort when one must reestablish their child’s medical and educational team each time they move.  

We consider it a privilege to connect families across the globe to their state’s Hands & Voices Chapters.  We hope this will help alleviate some of the stresses and strains involved when navigating a new geographical area.

“Don’t ask us when we’re leaving; ask how long you have us for.”  -A military spouse 


MILITARY CULTURE:

helicopter

Since the birth of this country, there have been service members fighting for our freedom.  We are all probably familiar with the story of how our militia fought for our freedom and founded a new country. Through the bravery of men and the women and families who supported them fighting for our freedom, the United States was established.  A lot has changed in 200 years, but one thing remains, we will always have servicemen and women fighting for our freedom.  As times change, our Active Duty members’ responsibilities change, and as a result, the roles of military spouses have also evolved.   Like many other cultures, we are a diverse group under an umbrella group called the Armed Forces. One thing we all have in common is we experience stressors related to frequent moves and deployment.  Though there is much to celebrate about our resiliency, these situations are known to create challenges, stress, and anxiety.


TANGIBLE WAYS TO SUPPORT MILITARY FAMILIES WITH DEAF/HARD OF HEARING CHILDREN:

Family

Helpful Links for Hands & Voices Chapters and Professionals Supporting Military Families:

Military OneSource: Support for Families with Special Needs Resources

Tricare

H.R.2670 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024

The newly passed NDAA, which provides hearing aid coverage for some children of Retirees. Found under Title VII Health Care Provisions, Subtitle A Tricare and Other Health Benefits, Section 703 (about ⅕ of the way down the page)

 

Extended Care Health Option (ECHO): This is additional insurance offered Exceptional Family Members to help cover costs of equipment not covered by Tricare.

List of Military Acronyms

Soldier

Teaching Families to Advocate for Their D/HH Children:

Hands & Voices ASTra files

Many families struggle in their attempts to improve educational programs for their children, and the support they find is usually not experienced with the unique issues facing Deaf or Hard of Hearing kids. Hands & Voices is often asked to provide educational advocacy support to families (and professionals) who have questions about special education law and its applicability to students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

In our H&V chapters, it's not at all uncommon to find an H&V trained advocate supporting a family who is struggling with their child's educational services and communication access.   H&V chapters can provide families with advocacy resources, support, and in some cases, attend an IEP meeting with a family. If you would like to request support, complete the H&V Educational Advocacy Request Form.

Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3)

The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3) provides consistency across states and was drafted with the intent to avoid conflict with existing state codes where possible. It replaces widely varying policies that affect transitioning military students and supports uniform treatment for military-connected students as they transfer between school districts and member states. While the Compact is not exhaustive in its coverage, it addresses the key issues encountered by military families:in the areas of eligibility, enrollment, placement and graduation.

Wrightslaw on Military and Department of Defense Special Education

Overview of current Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) school special education policies for those whose children are using schools located on their installation

Partners in Promise

Exceptional Families of the Military

PCS checklist: Checklist to organize your child’s transition to a new medical and educational home.

All About My Child: Document to introduce your child to his/her new provider to ensure all of their medical needs are met.

References:

Lewis-Fleming, G, MSW, ACSW, FAHM, (2014) Reaching Across Boundaries: A Military Providers and Public Schools Partnership on Behalf of Children with Special Needs, Military Medicine, 179, 8:920.

The H&V Military Project Team:

LaShawna

LaShawna Sims – Co-Lead (Air Force Spouse, Retired)

lashawna.hvmp@gmail.com

The daughter of a retired Navy SEAL, LaShawna is no stranger to military life. She is a co-lead for the Hands & Voices Military Project and former bilingual Parent Guide for the Nevada Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side program. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Northwood University. She and her husband have been married since 2009 and are the proud parents of two sons, one deaf and one deaf plus.

Recognized for her work supporting military families by the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Program, she was awarded the title of 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Nellis Air Force Base Military Spouse of the Year.

When she is not supporting families, LaShawna enjoys spending quality time with her family on the golf course, homeschooling her sons, singing, sewing, learning American Sign Language and adding to her collection of cacti and succulent themed items. 

 

Jenny

Jenny Swan – Co-Lead, Founding Member
(Army Spouse - Retired)

jenny.hvmp@gmail.com

Jenny is a Co-Lead and Founding Member of the Hands & Voices Military Project and a Guide-By-Your-Side for Maryland/DC Hands & Voices. She holds a MA in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix with undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Tech. Jenny and her husband Jon, who is a Retired Servicemember from the Army, have been married for 22 years. Jenny has homeschooled their 5 children, one who is a cancer survivor and another who is deaf, for the past 13+ years. She loves figuring out what works for her children and watching them thrive. 

Jenny has been passionate about advocating for military families since she became part of that community. Through the identification of her youngest son as deaf and her middle son’s battle with cancer, she found she really enjoyed supporting families of Deaf/Hard of Hearing children and helping them figure out what works for their children, especially within the Military and pediatric cancer communities. Jenny is thrilled to work with the Hands & Voices Military Project Leadership Team and hopes to bring awareness and support for the challenges military families of DHH children face.

Amandas Family

Amanda McGowen - Board Member
(Coast Guard Spouse) 

amanda.hvmp@gmail.com

Amanda graduated from the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon, in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration focusing on Economics. That year she also met her future husband, Nick, and when he returned from an overseas tour in 2011/2012, they married.

Amanda is the parent of three Hard of Hearing children, including a nine-year-old and seven-year old identical twins. The twins were found to be Hard of Hearing after both referred from their newborn hearing screenings; the oldest developed bilateral hearing loss at age three, after passing newborn hearing screening and testing within average limits in booth testing following the twins’ diagnoses.

Following their oldest child’s diagnosis, the McGowens started attending more of the local Hands & Voices events in Maine, where they were stationed at the time, and a short time later Amanda joined the Maine chapter of Hands & Voices as a board member. From there she was introduced to the Hands & Voices Military Project and is now a Board Member. 

Amanda and Nick have taken classes in ASL and hope their children will continue to be interested in ASL in addition to their main method of communication (AVT). However, since the kids display different learning styles and strengths already, they may utilize additional communication methods in the future. The family (and their two cats!) recently left the suburbs of Philadelphia to head back to Burlington, VT, where Nick was stationed for the second time with the US Coast Guard. They have previously been stationed in Pennsylvania, Maine, Washington, Alaska, Vermont, and Oregon.

Board Member (Navy Spouse) - Vacant

Board Member (Marine Spouse) - Vacant

Board Member (Space Force Spouse) – Vacant

*Interested in a position on the board? Please contact us at:

handsandvoicesmp@gmail.com.

Advisory Board Members

Chelsea

Chelsea Hull - Co-Lead, Founding Member (Navy Spouse)

chelsea.hvmp@gmail.com

Chelsea Hull is a dedicated educator and advocate with a strong background in deaf education and special needs support. With a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Deaf Education, Chelsea has made significant contributions to the field through her work at all levels, from early intervention to high school. Her expertise extends to supporting individuals with a range of needs, including Autism and the Deaf Plus.

As a certified American Sign Language interpreter, Chelsea has been able to bridge communication gaps and foster inclusivity within diverse communities. Her commitment to educational advocacy is evident through her certification at level two with the Advocacy Support and Training (ASTra), where she continues to champion the educational rights for military families within the Hands & Voices community.

Since 2010, Chelsea has embraced the role of a military spouse, demonstrating resilience and adaptability in various settings. As a mother of two children with Autism, and ADHD, she brings a unique perspective to her work, combining professional expertise with personal experience.

Chelsea's involvement with Hands and Voices since 2003 and her early engagement in Early Hearing Detection and Intervention in Hawaii reflect her longstanding dedication to improving the lives of individuals with atypical hearing. Her specialization in literacy development for the Deaf and hard of hearing, as well as behavioral support for the Deaf plus population, underscores her commitment to empowering and advocating for those with diverse needs.

Chelsea's multifaceted experiences and unwavering passion for inclusive education make her a respected figure in the field, and her work continues to positively impact the lives of many.

Kristen

Kristen Stratton – Project Advisor (Marine Spouse)

Kristen is a Hard of Hearing adult diagnosed at the age of 5 with a Bilateral Progressive Sensorineural Hearing Loss. She grew up completely oral and was unaided until the age of 15. When her youngest son was diagnosed with the same Severe Bilateral Progressive Hearing Loss, Kristen and her family decided to embrace Deaf Culture and learn American Sign Language.

Kristen and her husband, Jonathon who is a U.S. Marine, have been married for ten years and have three children.  Two of their three children have hearing loss and their hearing child is on the Autism Spectrum. Their Deaf son has multiple disabilities and as a result, Kristen has spent the majority of her time advocating for the rights of DHH with Multiple Disabilities (sometimes referred to as Deaf Plus or Deaf Disabled).

She holds Bachelor Degrees from California State University, Long Beach in both Political Science and Sociology. She has been admitted to Liberty University School of Law to earn her Juris Masters in American Legal Studies in order to further her credibility and skill as an Advocate for the DHH and Disabled communities. Following the completion of her J.M. Degree, she plans to complete an apprenticeship with a law firm specializing in Disability Rights and Special Education which will qualify her to sit for the California Bar Exam and become a practicing attorney.

Kristen is serving as an Educational Advocate and Managing Director for Morton Advocacy Group which is an Educational and Disability Rights Advocacy organization serving families in Southern California. She has previous experience as the Chapter Director of a Consumer Advocacy organization as well as professional experience with business marketing and finance.

Kristen serves as an Advisory Board Member for Hands and Voices representing the Deaf Plus/Deaf Disabled families. She is the Project Advisor for the Hands & Voices Military Project and has recently had the privilege of training Military Program Specialists from EFMP about the Hands and Voices organization and the DHH community. She is also one of the seven ASTra Advocates for California Hands and Voices and donates her time serving local Hands and Voices families.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the board members and do not represent any branch of The United States Military, The Department of Defense, The Department of Homeland Security or The United States Government.