American Sign Language for Interpreter

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Provide Access to Mental Health

October 29, 2021

Volunteers of America places a high value on meeting people where they are and helping them connect better with the world around them. A good example of this is in our Deaf and Hard of Hearing services at Vona Center for Mental Health.

Vona provider Nicki Melby specializes in services to children from newborn to age 5 who are either deaf, hard-of-hearing, or have deaf parents. As someone who is deaf and uses American Sign Language (ASL) as her primary means of communication, Nicki can open communications channels more fully, offering parents and children the ability to communicate more clearly what they’re thinking and feeling.

“The biggest question is, how is their mental health going to be improved if they don’t have access to their language? I mean, communication is the most important thing, right?” Nicki asked. 

Last year, Nicki began working with a hearing child of a deaf parent. Responding to difficult changes within the family, the three year old child had exhibited behavior such as frequent crying, fear, irritability, and aggression. Nicki used “Theraplay” techniques which helped the parent and child engage with each other and communicate love, joy, and safety. The parent made a better connection with their child, resulting in lower levels of aggression. 

Feeling support from someone who knows the culture and can bridge communications challenges, and having someone who understands us can be a very impactful experience. That’s why VOA’s services in this area are so important. 

“I think maybe as a child, it would be really powerful to have the ability to finally communicate with someone — to have someone understand me,” Nicki said.