An Inspired Psychologist

 Speaking from the Volta Bureau Autumn banner

Emilio Alonso-Mendoza summerDear Alexander Graham Bell Community,

A great part of AG Bell's mission is to constantly expand its reach to help even more parents and children with hearing loss. Dr. Alexander Graham Bell was born in Scotland, adopted the United States and Canada as his new home, and travelled the world well into his seventies. This constant study of new and diverse cultures and language acquisition is ingrained into AG Bell's history. One of the reasons I came to AG Bell is to make sure all families are comfortable asking AG Bell for assistance in helping their children to hear and talk. This expands beyond just addressing the needs of the English-speaking world. I speak multiple languages, and have lived in multiple countries - creating an inclusive association is a familiar task for me. Inclusion not only means creating an association where all culturally diverse members feel comfortable, but also includes creating a board where board members with different skills and understanding are welcomed.

Dr. Ivette Cejas represents a part of our new board membership that brings this kind of unique understanding to our association. Her work as Director of the Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation represents a level of personal character that I've long treasured in members of the association environment. When I asked her about her work with the Foundation, she responded:

"I meet with all of the families of children with severe to profound hearing loss and establish relationships right from the beginning, no matter if the technology is hearing aid or cochlear implant. I learn more about the family. Listening is important, as is providing education and empowerment for the family. The goal is to not rely on the therapist as providers. The parents are in the driver's seat. The parents manage the child's progress. They are the key to a child's success."  


Dr. Cejas with a client at the University of Miami
Dr. Cejas with a client at the University of Miami.

Her approach is effective, and as in addition to her research-based training in pediatric language outcomes for children, she is also educated in clinical psychology. This brings her closer to the roles that listening and spoken language specialists play in the family's response to a diagnosis - she has always expressed her own belief in the primary influence of the parents in bringing their child to the desired language outcome.

"LSLS take into consideration that providers must empower parents, as parents are with the children. That philosophy route aligns with my approach. I use psychology to help families who are grieving more or where there are barriers to a child's success. I question what is getting in the way and use my clinical skills."

At the University of Miami, Ivette teaches her audiology students or speech-language pathology and psychology students about more than just hearing loss and amplification. She also instructs them to take note of how external influences affect therapy. Nearly 60 percent of the population in Florida have a Hispanic background or speak a language other than English at home. Also, some clients have greater basic needs, which can include food and shelter. These obstacles impact their level of access to therapy. Ivette advises her students to be mindful of these influences in their approach:

"Instead of judging the parents, learn about what is in the way of them participating or attending the sessions. When students are aware of the other barriers to treatment, they help the family transition better, and the child may have greater success when entering school. Instead of just thinking about the progress in hearing, if you are helping the family you are helping the child as well."

Dr. Cejas with a client who has cochlear implants attending a baseball game.
Dr. Cejas with a client who has cochlear implants attending
a baseball game.

Ivette works with families so that they are intimately familiar with how their child's development can accelerate. She looks at the process from a whole-child perspective - not just focused on the child's hearing loss, but also working to help the entire family.

Ivette's level of dedication and mindfulness is something that resonated with me almost immediately. Her energy and worldview is something from which we could all gain insight. I eagerly look forward to the valuable perspectives she will bring to our board and the future of our association.

Part of Ivette's study involves how managed care affects children's access to hearing technology. Ivette is passionate about serving children who are underserved by healthcare, and finding ways to reduce the financial barriers to hearing technology. Please consider supporting AG Bell's advocacy efforts so that together we can ensure that every child receives the hearing technology that they need to access the world of sound.

Until next week,

 

Emilio Alonso-Mendoza
[email protected]

 



Diversity in the world is a basic characteristic of human society, and also the key condition for a lively and dynamic world as we see today.
- Jinato Hu