Family-Centered Early Intervention Deaf/Hard of Hearing (FCEI-DHH)

Ubuntu” is illustrated by the story of an anthropologist who studied the customs of an African tribe. The anthropologist decided to play a game with the children of the tribe. He placed a basket of candies at the foot of a tree stating that the first to reach the tree would receive all the candy. The children stood in a line waiting for the anthropologist to tell them it was time to run to the tree. When the anthropologist gave the signal to go, the children held hands and ran together toward the tree. The children all arrived together at the same time and shared the candy. The “children” in this story are the many, many experts from all over the globe who contributed to the production of this special edition of the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education (JDSDE). The “candy” is the series of 8 articles you are about to read.

Bishop Desmond Tutu describes ubuntu as the essence of being human. Bishop Tutu reminds us that we do not exist in isolation, rather we are all connected. When we work together, our efforts benefit not only us individually, but the whole of humanity. The magic of ubuntu describes the elements of working together. “We are all in this together,” or ubuntu, is the theme that describes the multi-year journey that resulted in the creation of this Family-Centered Early Intervention special edition.

Ubuntu not only describes the process and product of this work, it is the essence of family-centered early intervention for children who are deaf or hard of hearing (FCEI-DHH). As you read each article, you will be reminded that FCEI requires the collaboration of many individuals working together toward similar goals. Humanity is at the core of early intervention, embracing respect for every child, family, and community member and ensuring infants and toddlers who are DHH experience the best possible outcomes wherever they reside.

The editor of this series, as well as the many reviewers who contributed, recognized the enormous undertaking of this international coalition and agreed that this work will leave readers in awe. This series of articles builds on previous work by a panel of experts that resulted in the publication of an international consensus document highlighting 10 evidence-informed Principles to guide the development and improvement of early intervention programs (Moeller et al., 2013). This special series edition is an expansion of the earlier work and the outcome of a process that was substantially more in-depth and inclusive. The current work reflects the increase in knowledge available in the field of early intervention and other related fields over the past decade, alongside guidance provided by an expanded pool of contributors. The international team of experts who participated in this work hold different views regarding the use of hearing technologies, language use, and communication access for young children who are DHH. Each article in this series was produced by a team of contributors including professionals from different disciplinary backgrounds, people who are DHH, individuals who have raised a child who is DHH, and experts from many countries and cultures.

Despite a worldwide pandemic that threatened to stall their process, the core team continued their work with fervor and a common goal in mind. Their purpose: to provide evidence-informed guidance to all who strive to provide young children who are DHH and their families the best available supports at the earliest possible time. Regardless of a community’s resources, priorities for funding, or current ability to provide each of the ingredients of a fully developed early intervention system for young children who are DHH, the evidence-informed research, recommendations, and resources provided in this series will move every program and system forward.

Readers of this special edition will benefit from this work in many different ways, applying the information to meet their unique cultural contexts and resources. While some readers will focus on the trove of new research unearthed that supports the effectiveness of early intervention, others will use the information to create, improve, or expand current program offerings. Readers will gain new perspectives on how family systems, cultural contexts, and home language(s) influence the delivery of family-centered supports.

The first section of this series provides an overview of the development of this project along with the values and cultural perspectives that underpin the development of the Principles presented. This section includes an article describing the methodology used to identify relevant evidence-informed research, the revision of the original 10 Principles, and the process to achieve consensus. The next section in the series describes the 10 Principles including Tables that operationalize the Principles by describing EI Providers’ actions and responsibilities in response to family members’ unique priorities and concerns. The series concludes with a Call to Action urging invested parties throughout the world to work together to optimize developmental outcomes for children who are DHH. The international partners creating this consensus work have illustrated the essential elements of ubuntu and remind all of us who strive to improve the quality of life for young children who are DHH, “We are all in this together.”

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