The Decibels Foundation’s Annual Award Dinner Honors Excellence in Supporting Children with Hearing Loss and their Families

The Decibels Foundation’s Annual Award Dinner Honors Excellence in Supporting Children with Hearing Loss and their Families

On Saturday, September 17th, the Decibels Foundation hosted their annual Awards Dinner at Emerson College in Boston. The evening was filled with inspiration and small world connections. Fifty years ago at Emerson College, Dr. David Luterman founded the Thayer Lindsley Family-Centered Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants and Toddlers. A man ahead of his time, Dr. Luterman put forth the concept that for children with hearing loss to succeed in life their parents and caregivers had to be fully supported as well. This approach was groundbreaking at the time and the ripple effects of his vision were felt on Saturday night.

Every year the Decibels Foundation presents the Ellen Kurtzer-White Award to a person who has made a significant difference in the treatment of young children who are deaf or hard of hearing. A former colleague of Dr. Luterman, Ellen was a pediatric audiologist who worked with children and their families at the Thayer Lindsley Program, early intervention services for newborns with hearing loss in Rhode Island, and authored articles and books on young children with hearing loss. The award in her name is intended to recognize her remarkable contributions to the field.

On Saturday night, Decibels President, Brad Austin, presented Dr. Megan Ford, Aud. (shown above) with the 2016 Ellen Kurtzer-White Award for excellence in service to children with hearing loss and families beyond the traditional parameters of audiology. In addition to working in pediatric audiology for 17 years, for the last 10 years Dr. Ford has provided the Hear My Dreams (www.hearmydreams.com) support group to families and caregivers of children with hearing loss. Families travel from over 50 miles in every direction, including out of state, in order to attend the bimonthly meetings and annual picnic. Dr. Ford facilitates these meetings and invites professional guest lecturers to present. A Hear My Dreams family describes the importance of the support group and Dr. Ford in this way, “We owe our sanity to this group and Dr. Megan Ford. Dr. Ford has created and maintained a group the nurtures and heals parents who have a child with hearing loss. Dr. Ford has educated and empowered countless parents to be the most effective support system they can be for their loved ones. Without her and her tireless devotion to families of children with hearing loss, many overwhelmed, drowning families would likely be adrift.”

Dr. Ford ‘s work in pediatric audiology has taken her from Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston to Cleveland, Ohio where she was the Assistant Director of the Cochlear Implant Program at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital. She was a staff audiologist and the Clinical Coordinator of Cochlear Implants for the Sounds of Life Cochlear Implant Program at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, MA, and now is currently in private practice in Littleton, MA at HearSmart Audiology. When accepting her award, Dr. Ford shared that twenty years ago, when she was struggling to decide whether to pursue a career in audiology or speech-language pathology, she reached out to someone whose writing had inspired her – Dr. David Luterman. He strongly encouraged her to pursue audiology and many children and families are thankful for that!

After honoring Dr. Ford for her years of dedication to children with hearing loss and their families, attention was turned to recognizing a second year graduate student who is committed to a career in pediatric speech-language pathology. Since 2008, the Decibels Foundation has partnered with the Robbins Speech, Language and Hearing Center at Emerson College to encourage the best and brightest to pursue careers as pediatric Speech Language Pathologists through the Decibels Scholar Program. On Saturday night Lisa Baldini became the 9th Decibels Scholar in Speech Language Pathology. She received an $8,000 scholarship from the foundation and, over the next year, she will be interning at both Emerson's Thayer Lindsley Program and the Minute Man Arc EI Hearing Loss Program.

Lisa is a second-year Master's student in Emerson College's Communication Disorders Program. She received her undergraduate degree in Communication from Boston University in 2009 and worked in a different field before returning to school to become a Speech Language Pathologist. With a background in American Sign Language, Lisa became a graduate clinician in the Thayer Lindsley toddler program during the summer of 2016 and knew she had found her niche. After graduating, Lisa hopes to work in early intervention with deaf and hard of hearing children and their families. Upon accepting her award, Lisa shared that she was too was touched by Dr. Luterman. She was fortunate enough to take a class with him on counseling families of children with hearing loss. Dr. Luterman’s 50 year legacy continues and children with hearing loss and their families will continue to receive the supports and services they need to succeed.