Renewing Ties

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Emilio Alonso-Mendoza summerDear Alexander Graham Bell Community,

As the summer ends and a new season begins, AG Bell welcomes back a professional who has dedicated the past 20 years to helping children hear and talk. Gayla Hutsell Guignard, M.A., CCC-A/SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, has joined AG Bell as the organization's Chief Strategy Officer where she will partner with me to develop AG Bell's focused strategy in serving families and professionals, and serve all our members as a subject-matter expert. Gayla has presented and published extensively on Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) systems and strengthening systems of care and support for families.

Gayla and I were introduced through people committed to our field. AG Bell is focused on creating more family-friendly programming to support our mission and support children who are deaf and hard of hearing, and Gayla's extensive experience will be very helpful in building and achieving our goals.

GHG head shotIn 2003-2007 Gayla served at AG Bell as the organization's Deputy Executive Director of Education and Professional Outreach. When Gayla was asked what made her decide to return to AG Bell she replied, "I came to AG Bell to be part of guiding and working with others to maximize the positive impact many are trying to have on the lives of deaf and hard of hearing children, teens and adults. I know AG Bell well - its history, its inner workings and its ability to make things happen, and so I am here."

The fact that Gayla has experience in supporting EHDI is timely for AG Bell. In a recent, "AG Bell eNEWS," the feature story was a request for you to contact your representatives to support the legislation that reauthorizes the federal portion of EHDI for the next 5 years. We are confident this legislation will pass if AG Bell members take action and send a strong message that this legislation is important to us as well as the parents of newborns. Click here for contacts to your elected officials, and click here for a sample letter to send to your representative.

2015 South Carolina Chapter Scholarship Recipients
2015 AG Bell South Carolina Scholarship recipients:
Back row: Dianne Dixon, Haley Wightman, LIsa Jolly,
Mariann Carter, Todd Fields, Meredith Holcomb,
Dale Jackson (Daley's father)
Front row: Elise Forsberg, Heather Anderson,
Daley Jackson (scholarship recipient),
Velma Jackson (Daley's mother),
Sarah Gaddy-Williamson

AG Bell continues to reach out to advance listening and spoken language, but we couldn't get far without our chapters which led me to visit our South Carolina chapter. Charleston is one of those cities filled with history and romance - the antebellum architecture, the cobblestone streets and the verdant Spanish moss and magnolia slow life down to a pitch where you can reflect on times past. But Charleston has also moved into the 21st century, and it was there that I attended AG Bell South Carolina's 2015 Annual Fall Conference with AG Bell Board President-elect, Ted Meyer, M.D., Ph.D.

Chapter President, Meredith Holcomb, Au.D., CCC-A, along with President-elect Heather Anderson and Sarah Gaddy-Williamson organized this half-day conference for parents, professionals serving children with hearing loss, pre-teens, older children and adults with hearing loss. The event addressed self-advocacy, coping strategies and social-emotional issues related to hearing loss. Meredith was also one of the speakers at the recent 2015 AG Bell Listening and Spoken Language Pre-Symposium Workshop, "Cochlear Implant Cases: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."

The keynote speaker was Josh Swiller, who spoke humorously, yet seriously, about living with hearing loss and finding happiness. Josh recounted his personal experiences and shared sound advice for children with hearing loss and their parents. Josh has previously been a well-received speaker at other AG Bell Conventions; he is the author of, "The Unheard, A Memoir of Deafness and Africa," a New York Times bestseller, and he is a dedicated advocate for the deaf and disabled, and for cultivating a peaceful and playful mind.

Dinner after 2015 SC Chapter Conference
At dinner after the 2015 AG Bell South Carolina Conference
Back row: Me with Matt Anderson, Ted Meyer
Front row: Haley Wightman, Heather Anderson, Josh Swiller,
Meredith Holcomb, Sarah Gaddy-Williamson, John Williamson

Helping your children to be self-advocates empowers them, and directs how they view challenges throughout their lives.

AG Bell is proud to bring you resources to help your child understand what they need to succeed including, "Empowering Your Child," "Education Advocacy Resources," and the "Parent Advocacy Training Course," a free online course to help parents and educators build knowledge and confidence as they become advocates for their children living with hearing loss.

To all parents, may this beginning of the school year be filled with the wonderful adventure of learning with your child. Let us know how your child is doing and how AG Bell can help and celebrate your child's success at

Until next week,

Emilio Alonso-Mendoza



When you're surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.
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