Deaf Leadership International Alliance

DLIA Webinars

Visual Strategies Webinar 

June 15, 2023 3-4 pm EST

Click the following link to register 

Deaf Leadership International Alliance (DLIA) will be presenting a webinar focusing on visual strategies used by deaf adults with young children. During the webinar a panel of deaf professionals from Ghana, Iran, New Zealand, and United States will share visual strategies from the tip sheet that was released September 23, 2022.  

This event is made possible with support from the Hunter College School of Education

Richard Doku


Richard Doku holds Bachelor degree in Special Education from the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), Ghana. Richard is Deaf. He is a mathematics teacher and also the sign language project officer with the Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD).

Richard’s experience as a deaf teacher and many years of working with the GNAD led to his role as Research Assistant in a British Academy Global Challenges Research Funded research on Early education for young deaf children and their caregivers in Ghana which is a collaboration between the University of Leeds, UK and UEW.

His research interests are in early education for deaf children, inclusion for special needs individuals and sign language recognition in Ghana.

Richard is currently a final year Master of Philosophy in Special Education student. He hopes to build his research network with academics across the globe to support early education for deaf children in Ghana (particular).

Joseph Lopez


Joseph Lopez aka “JoJo” born and raised in Riverside, California. He is a California School for the Deaf Riverside (2004) and Gallaudet University (2010/2017) alumni. He has a B.A in Communication Studies and M.A in Sign Language Education. JoJo currently lives in New Mexico and is working as a Deaf Mentor for Early Intervention & Developmental Services at New Mexico School for the Deaf. He is an Adjunct Instructor for ASL Levels 1 & II at New Mexico State University. He is also a Family Language Connector Program for Gallaudet University. He's passionate about interacting with family members and seeing families communicate with their Deaf/Hard of Hearing child/ren. He is an active advocate in his communities and is on the board of New Mexico Association for the Deaf, Raíces del Rio Grande, New Mexico Mano A Mano, and Council de Manos.

Shida Shahidi


My name is Shida Shahidi, I am Deaf. I was born in a Deaf family in Tehran, Iran. All of my parents, my siblings, my husband, my sister-in-law, my several aunts and uncles are Deaf. 

I worked as vice president of Iranian National Centre of the Deaf (INCD) in Tehran to support Deaf community and to increase the the awareness level in the society in Iran, I joined in several meetings and cooperation projects with the Deafness and Hearing Loss Studies committee in Early Intervention field for Deaf children. I also worked with the Parvaneha Association of Iranian Parents with DHH Children. In addition, I worked as a story teller in Iranian sign language for Deaf children. I collect historical books and documents in Deaf history field to publish in text format in Farsi and English and to made videos in Iranian sign language for several years. I am a member of the founding board of the National Sign Language Association of Iran. As my advocacy for Deaf community in Iran, I joined in many cultural and social activities and I joined in several international conferences and seminars for Deaf in world and in Iran. 

I am interested in many field such as Deaf history, Deaf associations, Sign languages, Cultural and social activities, and travel.

Janelle Smith


At age 3 not hearing and speaking at all, my mom took me to an audiologist. Found out I was hard of hearing. I was fitted for my very first hearing aids and learned ASL as well took speech. I went to Indiana School for the Deaf for the first 5 1/2 years from pre-school to 4th grade. During my 4th grade year, I did 1/2 day of deaf school and mainstreamed at another school. After that, my 5th grade year all the way through my senior year in high school, I went to hearing schools. My father is hard of hearing and I have family members on my father’s side who are deaf and hard of hearing. 

In 2005, I returned to Indiana School for the Deaf and became Residential Advisor working with students in various grades for six months. After that, I left and went to college to major in Health Science field. After graduated from college, I worked about 18 years of various roles in the medical field as pharmacy technician, medical lab scientist, phlebotomist, nursing assistant, home health aide. In 2010, I facilitated an ASL program at St. Philip Episcopal Church and taught ASL for a year. I joined Deaf Mentor Program 6 years ago and absolutely love what I do. I am also a Deaf Interpreter, interpreting for deaf and hard of hearing clients from time to time. I am an ASL Instructor for Indy Language Center in Carmel, IN and do Support Service Provider work, providing guidance and services to Deafblind community

Growing up with great exposure to deaf culture and deaf community, I realized my love for that world has never left me. I decided I wanted to become Deaf Mentor helping families learn ASL and share the love exposing them to deaf culture and community, as well breaking language barriers.

When I am not busy trying on different job hats, I love to dabble in photography, dancing, cooking and traveling. I currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana as well was born and raised there.

Cheryl Spykerman

New Zealand

Recently, Cheryl was employed as a Child & Youth team leader after many years of excellent practice as a facilitator. She is currently managing a facilitator role as well as team leader. We await a new facilitator to take over as soon as possible.


Cheryl is passionate about her work, supporting families with Deaf or hard of hearing children to develop and acquire language using New Zealand Sign Language and to connect with Deaf role models and the Deaf community. She uses her wealth of experience on the job to inform her practice as a team leader, offering mentorship to other facilitators to further develop themselves and the delivery of the First Signs service. Deaf adult role models play a significant role for families with young Deaf children, they provide a rich and natural NZSL model.

May 12, 2022 EST

Collaborating with Deaf Adults Webinar 

Deaf Leadership International Alliance (DLIA) presented a webinar focusing on tips for collaborating with deaf adults in early intervention. During the webinar a panel of deaf professionals discussed deaf adult involvement in early intervention programs from China, Iran, New Zealand, and United States.  

This event was made possible with support from the Hunter College School of Education 

Natasha Cloete

Natasha is the First Signs team leader at Deaf Aotearoa. First Signs was established in 2014 and Natasha was one of the first Facilitators conducting home visits and supporting families with deaf /hard of hearing children 0-5yrs.

Since then Natasha has moved into a leadership role and is now leading a team of Deaf staff throughout the country. Natasha also collaborates with health and education providers to ensure the families receive a wraparound service. Natasha is dedicated to seeing the First Signs service go from strength to strength to ensure that all families with deaf children are able to access NZSL in the early years and that Deaf adults are provided training and employment opportunities to share their knowledge and skills with families.

Jodee Crace

Jodee Crace carries with her a motto in her daily life: Adapt. Resilience. Acceptance. Celebrate! This personal motto has carried Jodee throughout her professional career in providing resources for families learning, navigating, and embracing the world of raising their deaf babies and young children.

Previously, Jodee started-up and coordinated ASL Connect | Families at Gallaudet University. Meanwhile, Jodee continues to provide direct deaf mentoring services in Indiana as well as coach several states' Deaf Mentors. In addition, she serves as adjunct instructor for Gallaudet's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants, Toddlers, and Families: Collaboration and Leadership Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate Program.

Jodee holds a B.A. in American Studies and an M.A. in School Counseling with Deaf Students, both from Gallaudet University. Jodee then began her professional career as a therapist for a mental-health agency in Indianapolis, where she worked with deaf children and their families.

From 1992 to 2013 Jodee performed several counseling and early intervention roles at the Indiana School for the Deaf, her high school alma mater. Throughout her career, she has served in a number of roles dedicated to enhancing Early Intervention services for families with Deaf children. She is one of three national trainers for the SKI-HI Deaf Mentor program. Also, Jodee participated on the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing, representing the Council on Education of the Deaf. She was instrumental in ensuring that the JCIH Best Practice document reflected a holistic approach for the families and that the ASL is included as a visual language in its publication.

For self-reflecting moments, Jodee enjoys walking, reading and being with her family.

Rouzbeh Ghahreman

I am Deaf from birth. I grew up in an educated family; my father was a well-known poet and researcher in Persian literature and my mother is a retired well-known teacher of the deaf for 30 years. I completed my master's degree in history in my homeland. I enjoyed the opportunity to be a member of the research group of Persian Sign Language (PSL) at University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences (USWRS); the research group successfully published the dictionary of Farsi words and signs (volume three) in 1999. I authored several articles include sign language studies for the first Encyclopedia of the Deaf in Iran after research, analyses and evaluation for several years - all three encyclopedia volumes (1420 pages) published in 2005. I have worked extensively as an educator with elementary and secondary Deaf students and their families in Toronto, Ottawa, and Edmonton since 2004. I attended University of Alberta in 2009 and I completed my master's degree in special education with a focus on Deaf education and completed all of requires courses in Special Education - PhD level. From 2009 through to 2015 I gained university teaching experience as the Sessional Instructor for teaching the course of Introduction to Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, a senior level undergraduate course in the Faculty of Education. This course is focused on providing pre-service teachers with an understanding of the educational needs of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. I was awarded the Graduate Teaching Award from the Graduate Students Association (GSA), University of Alberta in February 2012. Additionally, I have taught as a full-time LINC ASL instructor to teach ASL and English as second language to Deaf newcomers to Canada at NorQuest College in Edmonton for two years. These experiences have provided an excellent opportunity for me to act as a Deaf role model as I teach hearing students about a variety of topics, foremost of which are language and culture.

Sheng Li

I am identifying myself as a Deaf Asian man because I was born in Shanghai, China and I grew up as a Deaf male for whole of my life. I was born to a full Deaf family except my mother. When I was nineteen years old, I decided to attend Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. after I completed my high school studies at Shanghai Youth Technical School for the Deaf in China. I obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Graphic Design in May 2005 and a Master of Education degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Deaf Education in May 2007 there. After my studies at Gallaudet University, I began my teaching journey at Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, D.C., then moved to Virginia School for the Deaf in Staunton, VA, and Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia, PA. In summer 2015, I decided to relocate to New Mexico for a fulltime teaching position to teach art classes for early childhood education to twelfth grade students at New Mexico School for the Deaf (NMSD) in Santa Fe, New Mexico.