Teri Ouellette is president of the board of directors of the AG Bell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language. She is the director of St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf – Indianapolis. Ouellette has degrees in Deaf Education from Eastern Michigan University and in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Kentucky. She has taught auditory-based programming for infants through middle school students in home-based early intervention as well as private and public school settings.
In this interview, she talks about the history and background of the newly released position statement “The Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certification: Designation.”
Why was this position statement “The Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certification: Designation” needed?
For many years there had been only one certification available, that of Auditory-Verbal Therapist (AVT), which was not accessible to professionals working in classroom settings. After launching an expanded certification process that involved one certification with two designations—LSLS Cert. AVT and LSLS Cert. AVEd—we became aware that there has been some confusion about the two designations. A formal position statement provided a document to clarify the AG Bell Academy’s position and gave the staff a basis for consistent responses to inquiries.
Tell us about the history of the document and how it came to be.
When the AG Bell Academy board of directors became aware of the number of inquiries AG Bell Academy staff had received about the specifics of the two designations, we appointed a committee to draft an official position statement and bring it to the board for approval. The position statement was formally approved by the AG Bell Academy board of directors at their March 2015 meeting. The document outlined the requirements for achieving Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS®) certification of either designation: the required training, the skill sets developed through the mentoring experience, and the examination that all professionals must pass. These consistencies illustrate the basis for the single certification with designations that indicate the work environment of the applicant.
Tell us about the significance of this document. How will it help professionals? How will it help consumers, parents and the general public as well as public awareness of the AG Bell Academy and its work?
We hope that the statement will form the basis for a greater understanding of listening and spoken language (LSL) practice, support professionals who choose to pursue the certification, and encourage families to utilize services from LSLS certified professionals of both designations. It should clarify for professionals the alternatives they have in pursuit of the LSLS certification and help them appreciate the similarities across the designations. For professionals who wish to refer a child or family to a LSLS certified practitioner, it will help them understand the specifics of an appropriate referral. For families and the general public, we hope the document will help families make decisions in seeking services for their child.
Tell us about your current involvement with AG Bell as President of the AG Bell Academy board of directors and your involvement with the organization over the years and how it informs your work.
I have been a member of AG Bell since 1988, which I believe was my first year of attending the AG Bell Convention in Orlando, Florida. In over 25 years I have only missed one convention due to a family commitment. The incident made me realize how seriously I valued the opportunity to meet with my professional colleagues, share and learn the newest ideas and techniques, brainstorm about challenges, and be refreshed for the coming year of teaching. Working in a field where there are so few quality professional resources available locally, and so many rapid advances in technology and practice, the conventions became my professional lifeline!
The opportunity to be a LSLS certified professional as an educator was significant for me. It gave me the opportunity to “document” my skill set in a formal way that, as primarily a classroom teacher, had not been available to me before. When I was asked to serve on the AG Bell Academy board, I was delighted. It has been both humbling and fulfilling to support the organization that has given so much to me over the years.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your professional background, and your work with children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Why and how did you become interested in the field of hearing loss, early intervention, and (re)habilitation? Tell us about your work as adjunct faculty through Ball State University and Smith College/Professional Preparation for Cochlear Implants (PPCI).
As I was growing up, my father gradually became legally blind. When I decided to become a teacher, I wanted to work with children who had sensory challenges. I registered in Eastern Michigan University’s longstanding “oral” Deaf Education program, with no real idea about what that meant. But the first time I worked with a child with hearing loss who was struggling to learn spoken language, I was “hooked.”
I have worked in many settings: public and private schools, preschool and elementary education self-contained classrooms and itinerant positions, birth-to-three services, and even ran my own private consultancy business for a time. Early in my career I worked in cued speech and “total communication” settings with children who had minimal access to sound, as well as in a variety of “oral” programs. Later, I had the privilege of working with some of the first pediatric cochlear implant recipients. It has been amazing to see the transformation in the field brought about by the advances in hearing technology. It caused me to take “refresher” courses in order to update my knowledge and skills to meet the changing needs of families and children. As I did so, it became clear to me how much that information was needed by other professionals in deaf education and related fields.
As the director of St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf in Indianapolis, the demand for professional training in the state was significant. Our team worked to develop graduate programming for Ball State University that specifically developed knowledge about listening and spoken language. Eventually that led to teaching the class in speech development for the deaf and hard of hearing here on our campus every fall. A few years ago we had the opportunity to work with the PPCI program out of Smith College, providing regional support for their graduate-level professional development. The opportunity to work with their well-developed team helped us to improve our skills in the area of adult learning.
How has the field of listening and spoken language changed since you’ve been involved in it? What do you see as challenges for professionals in the field of listening and spoken language in the future, and how can professionals address those challenges?
This field changes rapidly both because of advances in technology and changes in the political climate surrounding education and health care. The need for current and reliable information continues to increase exponentially. Within this field, as much if not more than any other, we must dedicate ourselves to be lifelong learners, and AG Bell and the AG Bell Academy continue to provide the resources we need.
What inspires you? Who are your heroes—from everyday life as well as public or well-known figures?
My heroes are the Sisters of St. Joseph—brave ladies who have pioneered so much in the field over the years—from early family-centered therapy, to curriculum addressing the needs of children with cochlear implants, to developing pedagogy for telepractice. It is an honor to serve with them and help to continue their legacy.