How a Son Inspires and Motivates a Mother to Achieve Excellence.

 Speaking from the Volta Bureau Autumn banner

Emilio Alonso-Mendoza summerDear Alexander Graham Bell Community,

This week I would like to celebrate a great individual in our community, Judy Simser. Judy's dedication to teaching deaf children and developing improved resources for hearing and speech education overseas has prompted AG Bell to award her with our first-ever Presidential Award of Recognition. Judy credits Dr. Daniel Ling and his wife, Dr. Agnes Phillips, for setting her on the path that led her to contribute significantly to the world of listening and spoken language. She also credits her son Scott, her husband Ray, AG Bell, VOICE for Hearing Impaired Children in Ottawa, "and all of the parents and colleagues that I have shared with around the world who are also my heroes."

In 1965, Judy's life was forever changed when her firstborn son, Scott, was diagnosed with bilateral profound hearing loss at the age of 8 months. Dr. Ling and Dr. Phillips worked actively with her son, fitting him with two body worn Vocalizer hearing aids designed by Dr. Ling in conjunction with the Zenith Corporation. Scott was the first child with a profound hearing loss to be integrated into a classroom of children with typical hearing in Ottawa. Scott began hearing and speaking at an early age and received a cochlear implant at age 31.

Under the tutelage of Dr. Ling and Dr. Phillips, Judy moved from her previous profession of high school education into auditory-verbal therapy. Dr. Ling and Dr. Phillips had just launched the McGill University Project for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in Montreal. Judy found kinship with the two doctors in that they "believed as we did - that children with hearing loss should grow up within their family environment and learn to talk."

Judy Simser
Judy Simser

Judy's career progressed rapidly as she successfully supported deaf children in using listening and spoken language. From her early years at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Judy remembers a 3-month-old baby with a profound loss who was fitted with hearing aids whose family participated in the auditory-verbal program. Judy told me that when she showed a video of the child at 2 1/2 years of age during a presentation at an AG Bell Convention, "The audience was amazed that she could talk in short phrases and had a three item memory!" In the 1960s and 1970s, many in the field of deaf education did not believe that deaf children could learn to hear and talk.

Judy and Ray worked with the early pioneers of listening and spoken language - Doreen Pollack in Denver, Helen Beebe in Pennsylvania, and Drs. Ling and Phillips in Montreal - all of whom resolutely turned a "deaf ear" to those trying to convince them to use a visual approach. "Many of our practices in those days have since been reinforced and verified in current research results. Today children with all degrees of hearing loss are listening, speaking and talking freely on the telephone, proving the success of this technique."

Judy with a 6-month-old cochlear implant recipient
Judy with a 6-month-old cochlear implant recipient

Judy's work in advancing listening and spoken language in these early years helped to further education for deaf children immeasurably. She received her official Auditory-Verbal Therapist certification in 1994, and then moved the following year with her husband to Taiwan and Singapore in order to develop Auditory-Verbal Therapy there. Her goal was to train listening and spoken language professionals and establish parent guidance clinics that would assist parents with at-home support for their child. She worked with two parents, Joanna Nichols and Kenny Cheng, to create and develop the Children's Hearing Foundation in Taiwan. The Children's Hearing Foundation, now a key AG Bell International Affiliate, established an Auditory-Verbal Program that would train therapists to teach children to listen and speak. Over a period of six years, Simser would train 36 teachers and helped establish two auditory-verbal centers that have served over 1,000 families. In 2001, Judy and Ray moved to Singapore to continue their work training auditory-verbal therapists, this time with the Singapore General Hospital. They developed the Listen and Talk Program in the ENT Centre at the Hospital. "In 2001 participants from Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Indonesia were accepted into our auditory-verbal training program for one year, and afterwards they returned to their countries to set up their own auditory-verbal practices." Judy's work in both Singapore and Taiwan has moved forward listening and speech therapy by leaps and bounds.

Scott Simser at 10 months old
Scott Simser at 10 months old

Judy has long been an active participant of Auditory-Verbal International, and served a term as its president. She worked to establish the guiding principles for auditory-verbal practice and its certification exams in the early 1990s. She also served as a Global Ambassador for AG Bell while abroad, spreading the word about programs of the organization. "AG Bell Conventions are professional development opportunities and the work of the AG Bell Academy is important in developing and maintaining the knowledge and skills of certified Listening and Spoken Language Specialists," she stated.

Asked about her inspiration for her work, she immediately responded, "Scott." She credits his drive to advocate and assist for those with hearing loss in the public realm as a primary motivator for her own efforts. "Armed with his degrees in law and an MBA, Scott has advocated on behalf of many with hearing loss. He was instrumental in having open captioning and/or Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) available in Canadian courts, in communicating with our public service personnel, as well as in movie theatres across Canada."

AG Bell is honored to present Judy Simser with our inaugural Presidential Award of Recognition, and I am personally grateful that she continues to serve as a beacon of inspiration for all Listening and Spoken Language professionals around the world.

Thank you, Judy, for your service.


Emilio Alonso-Mendoza
[email protected]


Desire is the key to motivation, but it's determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal - a commitment to excellence - that will enable you to attain the success you seek.
- Mario Andretti