Celebrating 60 Years of LSL in Argentina
Dear Alexander Graham Bell Community,
One of the great opportunities I've enjoyed in my life is the ability to travel, to meet new people and to exchange ideas from diverse cultural perspectives. Of course, this has been a wonderful benefit for my own growth as a person, but it has also allowed me to bring different philosophies and experiences back to the people with whom I work to improve how we interact with others.
You may have noticed that I haven't published this column in a while, and the main reason for that has been a whirlwind of recent travel. I've been called to several cities in the United States, to three countries in Europe and, most recently, to Argentina as the guest of Percival "Percy" Denham, the Director of the Instituto Oral Modélo (IOM). Percy and I met at an OPTION Schools meeting in 2015 and again at the 2015 AG Bell Listening and Spoken Language Symposium, where we organized a forum for our international attendees. There, I met nearly 30 participants from around the globe and learned much about the challenges in each country to support listening and spoken language. It was obvious from our discussion that nearly everywhere, the shortage of LSL professionals is affecting children's access to necessary services to learn to listen and speak. Those who are practicing in our field are making valiant efforts, but the lack of advocacy and qualification of professionals to support listening and spoken language is a serious matter.
My trip to Buenos Aires was focused on the services delivered by IOM. It was Percy's mother, Sara Polito Castro de Denham, along with three other American-trained teachers of the deaf - María Haydee Cáceres, Obdulia García Castro Pico and Julia E. Polito - who were the pioneers of establishing listening and spoken language in Argentina and founded the IOM in 1956. Originally serving 13 students and their families, the IOM now regularly provides services and education to over 200 children.
The IOM is a comprehensive program delivered from three structured programs. The Centro IOM provides services from early intervention to assistive hearing to neurolinguistic therapy, and includes a cochlear implant team. The Colegio (School) IOM educates more than 150 children from preschool through high school using listening and spoken language. The Escuela de Capacitación (professional development program) offers full courses in the preparation of professionals. The IOM is focused on ensuring that children who are deaf and hard of hearing receive the medical, technical and educational support they need to excel in listening and spoken language, making it a natural partner for AG Bell. Each child served by the IOM has an individual intervention plan and is support by a transdisciplinary team of 50 professionals throughout his/her journey to literacy.
During my visit to the school, the children were working on and delivering projects that celebrated the IOM's 60th anniversary. From youngest to eldest, the children used their speaking skills to share the IOM's story, regaling me with songs and stories. The passion of each professional to ensure that students receive the best possible education and opportunity to excel was evident everywhere, and the children were all genuinely engaged and happy.
Click here to watch the IOM video.
Our relationship with the IOM has been advancing as part of a key initiative to increase the number of LSL professionals serving children who are deaf around the world. Growing out of our 2015 international meeting are a number of agreements for the exchange of information and resources, but key among them is a focus on serving Spanish-speaking countries including Spain, Argentina, Mexico and the 27 other countries of Latin America. Through our relationship with the IOM, AG Bell has benefited from outstanding translation of important resources, many of which can be found on the AG Bell website in both English and Spanish (click the "en español" button in the top right corner).
For those of you participating in the 2016 AG Bell Convention at the end of this month, you'll have the opportunity to meet Percy and other professionals from the IOM staff who will be attending. There will be a reception for international attendees to continue the dialogue we began in 2015. As the convention nears, I am filled with anticipation of interacting with each of you and learning more about how you see the future of listening and spoken language.
If you haven't registered yet, there is still time. Click here for more information about the Convention.
In the spirit of celebration,
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.
- African proverb