Guide By Your Side


Hands & Voices without GBYS is like peanut butter without jelly….Brad without Angelina…Marlee Matlin without Jack Jason. Wondering what Guide By Your Side really is? Check out this amazing information straight from VCU themselves, or click here for more information

What It Is:

Guide By Your Side is a parent to parent initiative in Virginia that supports families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Approximately 100 children are identified as deaf or hard of hearing each year through newborn screenings. Virginia’s Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Program is identifying children with hearing loss at a median age of 3.8 months. However, only 70% of infants with permanent hearing loss are reported enrolled in early intervention services before six months. Through the Guide By Your Side program, a trained family guide will be matched with families of children diagnosed through the EHDI Program to provide emotional and informational support and to ensure families are aware of the supports and services offered by Virginia’s early intervention system.

The Guide By Your Side program is committed to supporting families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing without a bias around communication modes or methodology. The program is supported with funding from the Virginia Department of Health.

How It Works:

The Department of Health makes phone calls to families that have children that have been recently identified with a hearing loss. If the parent agrees to be matched with another parent, a fax with the parent contact information is sent to the GBYS Coordinator located at the Family to Family Network of Virginia. The F2F Network is a part of the Center for Family Involvement housed at the Partnership for People with Disabilities located at Virginia Commonwealth University (

The parent can request either a phone call or an email from the GBYS Coordinator. The Coordinator makes the initial phone call and then a decision is made if there is a Family Guide to match this family or have the Coordinator match herself with the family. This usually depends on location, degree/type of hearing loss, and communication modality. For example, a family may have a child who has a mild hearing loss and lives in Charlottesville. A Family Guide needs to be located within a reasonable distance and have experience with mild hearing loss. There is currently a shortage of guides covering all regions of the state.

Depending on whether the family requested phone or email contact, the GBYS Coordinator will attempt to reach the family several times over a two week period. For instance, frequently the first phone call results in an unanswered response but a message is left with GBYS Coordinator contact information. If the initial phone call results in an unanswered response, a follow up phone call is done within two to three weeks. If the family requested only to be contacted via email – an email is sent with information and contact numbers for the GBYS Coordinator. If there is no response from the email, then another email will be sent in two weeks. If there is no email reply, a phone call will then be initiated to the family.



Who To Contact:

* Dana Yarbrough, Project Director-

* Irene Schmalz, GBYS Coordinator –