When Jill Scott first heard the news her son was profoundly deaf, she was in the neonatal intensive care unit. 

“Not only is my baby trying to breathe, my baby couldn’t hear me,” Scott said, recalling the day several years ago. “I still get emotional.”

Today, the newness of the situation has worn off, but that day still stings in her head. That sting is driving Scott to help connect other parents like her to much needed resources for their children and remind them that they’re not alone in their journey.

She’s one of four mothers starting a new statewide chapter, Hands & Voices-South Dakota, which is part of a national nonprofit with the same name focused on supporting families with deaf and hard of hearing children, from birth to 18 years of age , without a bias that can often surround communication modes or methodology. 

“Now, if there’s a new parent who says, ‘Hey, I just found out my child is deaf,’ I can say I’ve been there, but this is where we can go and this is going to be OK,” Scott said. “Five years ago, I was not there. I’m still new enough to this that I can really relate with you, but yet I can show you five years down the line my son is thriving. He’s surpassing what people said was possible.”

The mothers behind the local Hands & Voices chapter are all from the Sioux Falls area and all have profoundly deaf children. They have known each other for about six years after meeting through the South Dakota School for the Deaf, which provides outreach services to families and local school districts.

They established the group in June after one of them attended an early hearing detection and intervention conference in February in Chicago, they said.