A Visit to Orlando to Advance Listening and Spoken Language

 Speaking from the Volta Bureau Spring banner

Emilio Alonso-Mendoza in front of Volta BureauDear Alexander Graham Bell Community,

We've all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. That's really just an affirmation that in a civilized society, we all bear responsibility to the future by ensuring that children receive the education and support they need to reach their potential. This is especially true of the work of professionals in the field of listening and spoken language who are critical to the development of children with hearing loss. But their work isn't always the beginning of serving children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Physicians, physicians assistants, nurses and other health care workers are often the first point of contact when a parent has a concern that their child may not be hearing well. Their role is often vital in encouraging new parents to follow-up on the results of a newborn hearing screening or in exploring whether a very young child is on track with language development.

Last week I had the great pleasure to reach out to nurses and physician assistants at a professional development conference, "Skin, Bones, Hearts & Private Parts," held in Orlando, Florida. Chuck Dillehay, the creator of the conference, invited AG Bell to speak to an audience that we don't usually reach directly. Our exhibition and communications teams created a wonderful booth set-up to highlight the features and benefits of the work of AG Bell as we support families and professionals who help children with hearing loss. It was wonderful to talk with allied health professionals about early hearing detection and intervention and to speak with them about their important role in addressing pediatric hearing loss.

What I emphasized to these health professionals was that children with hearing loss are being identified in the first days of life through newborn screening. Hearing technology has advanced tremendously and families have options including high-tech hearing aids and cochlear implants to enable their children to hear. Family-centered early intervention makes a difference. Today, children who are identified early and receive early intervention can enter kindergarten with language development on a par with their peers.

Healthcare professionals play an essential role with children with hearing loss.  

  • They are vital to ensuring that children with hearing loss are referred to professionals who can help them and support their language development.
  • They can guide parents with a positive perspective.
  • They can reassure parents and children that the possibilities are endless for children who are deaf and hard of hearing to achieve their dreams.

Turn It Up! LogoI was truly excited to meet Chuck Dillehay and learn about the Dillehay Management Group. We met near the Atlanta airport earlier this year on a cold and dreary day and spoke of our vision for how our two organizations could work together to support children with hearing loss.

Little did we know that this meeting would be the beginning of something marvelous at the conference, which is a great testament to how Chuck defines "giving." During my presentation, I was pleased to announce the establishment of a donor-advised fund at AG Bell called the Turn It Up! fund. This fund was created in honor of Chuck's son, Caleb. Caleb is deaf in both ears. His hearing loss was identified early in life and he has benefitted from early intervention. Today, through the miracle of cochlear implants, he is able to hear and speak and lead a full and productive life. He is now an eighth-grade student who participates in Boy Scouts and in his church as an active youth group member. Beyond that, Caleb is also an accomplished musician who plays both percussion and piano.

 Turn It Up Donation
Chuck Dillehay receives the donation on behalf of 
Turn It Up! with his daughter, Emmi, his wife, Kim, 
his sons, Jonah and Caleb, as well as 
staff members Natasha Colledge and Carol Paul 

Turn It Up! will provide funding for children who are deaf and hard of hearing to pursue music. Chuck recognizes that among children who are deaf and hard of hearing there is a growing number who are using their hearing technology to enjoy and to make music. Turn it Up! will provide funding for their musical pursuits so that they can participate in piano lessons, band and orchestra, and express themselves through music.

This is a similar vision to the one that Dr. Alexander Graham Bell had when he founded the AG Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing 125 years ago - that all people regardless of their ability to hear should be able to participate in society and achieve their dreams. AG Bell advances that vision, and has published many articles that highlight the benefit of using music as a literacy tool including, "Music as a Teaching Tool," "My Story, My Song," "Encourage Musical Journeys" and a personal story by Delanie Harrington about connecting through music. 

Support for the Turn It Up! fund has been very successful! A $5,000 check was awarded to Turn It Up! at the, "Skin, Bones, Hearts & Private Parts," conference held in San Diego earlier this year and provided through the generous donations of attendees.

Turn It Up! is one model to help children with hearing loss enjoy success in a field that once was generally closed to them. I am challenging you to expand your definition of giving and think of how AG Bell can provide a vehicle for you to help children who are deaf and hard of hearing enjoy what's important to you. AG Bell offers any donor multiple ways to contribute through the online donation webpage, and you can designate your gift to a particular area of support like LOFT or financial aid to families, or you can make a gift in memory or in honor of someone important to you. AG Bell's financial aid programs support arts and sciences as well as education and listening and spoken language services. I hope that you will consider how you can make a difference for children with hearing loss to pursue their dreams and achieve their full potential.

Until next week,

Emilio Alonso-Mendoza
[email protected]

I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music. 
- Billy Joel