Wisconsin Educational Services
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Outreach Program (WESP-DHH)
What is WESP-DHH?
WESP-DHH is an educational outreach program. It reaches out to children (ages birth-21) who are deaf and hard of hearing. They also offer support for families who have children with this specific type of sensory disability.
History of WESP-DHH
The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has always funded American sign language in the schools. Wisconsin recognized that the state needed to support individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. In 2002, there was a change in legislation that created this outreach program. The program includes two sub-programs which are The School of Deaf and WESP-DHH. The public also showed desire for this program in the state. WESP-DHH offers expertise in all areas of this particular sensory disability. Currently, there are fifteen full-time employees and 16 part-time employees who service youth and their families. WESP-DHH is funded through DPI and also is evaluated by DPI (interviewee did not provide any further information on how the agency is evaluated, I asked twice and she still did not answer).
Office hours are generally 8:00a.m. - 5:00p.m. WESP-DHH employees are often at schools servicing children or at conferences throughout the state of Wisconsin, so the hours are flexible.
Interactions with Youth and Their Parents
WESP-DHH provides supports for student's in the school setting and outside of school. Often times, students who have hearing difficulties have an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). However, since hearing difficulties is a sensory disability and it is such a low incidence, special education teachers do not know how to service these individuals. Students who have sensory disabilities are similar to an English Language Learner. Their disability is not brain related, it is in the hearing mechanism. WESP-DHH provides interpreters, special equipment for students who need it, and additional supports. WESP-DHH provides several opportunities for parents/legal guardians and family members to participate in support groups. They have a Deaf Mentoring Program (adults who are deaf teach families sign language in their home for free), Partners in Listening, and Guide By Your Side just to name a few.
Eligibility, Accessibility, and Transition Planning
In 1999, it was mandated in legislation that newborns must be screened for hearing impairment. If the baby does test positive for a hearing impairment, the Pediatric Audiologist sends a referral to WESP-DHH. They are given a parent guide and an experienced parent (a parent who has a child that has a hearing impairment) that supports the family and prepares them for what to expect. The person I interviewed just talked about the transition from high-school to college. WESP-DHH hosts a convention called College in Transition which is a fair for families. It informs them of their child's rights, guidance, and what to expect during this specific transition.