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International Conference on Listening and Spoken Language for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Opens in St. Louis

Program Focuses on Executive Function and how Children "Learn how to Learn"

St. Louis, MO. - July 23, 2009 - A conference hosting leading experts in the fields of psychology, cognitive sciences, and speech and hearing sciences, today convened a three-day conference on the impact of executive function on education and developmental outcomes, specifically in children and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The conference, entitled the "Listening and Spoken Language Symposium," is sponsored by the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell). Established in 1890, AG Bell is the only national organization dedicated to supporting children and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing who use spoken language and hearing technology to communicate.

This year's symposium focuses on executive function which is defined as the cognitive, or thinking, process that begins in infancy and continues through early childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Executive function involves the global coordination, integration and functional connectivity of multiple underlying brain systems used in speech perception and production, and spoken language development.

"Executive function has become one of the most critical concepts to understand in the field of child development," said John R. "Jay" Wyant, president of AG Bell. "Recent developments in the research and medical fields have unlocked many secrets as to how the brain works and how we ‘learn how to learn.'"

AG Bell is hosting several hundred professionals from all over the U.S. and nine countries who work with children and adults with hearing loss who listen and use spoken language to communicate.

The symposium runs through July 25 and features two pre-conference short courses, two general sessions, two panel discussions and eight workshops focusing on executive function and the development of problem-solving skills, social competence and academic readiness. Topics to be covered include:

  • Relating measures of executive function to language and reading skills in children with cochlear implants.
  • Development of executive control in preschool children.
  • Speech and language outcomes in children who are deaf after receiving a cochlear implant.
  • Assessment of executive functions and applying the results in everyday practice.
  • Speech perception, language abilities and cognitive skills in children with cochlear implants and hearing aids.

Keynote speakers include two of the leading experts in the field: Dr. Kimberly Andrews Espy is the associate vice chancellor for research and a professor in the department of Psychology at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln; and Dr. David B. Pisoni is chancellors' professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, and director of the Speech Research Laboratory at Indiana University.

Symposium attendees include teachers of the deaf, speech language pathologists, listening and spoken language specialists, audiologists, and researchers and clinicians.

"This symposium is designed to first, educate us on executive function and the impact a hearing loss can have on how a child's executive function develops, and second, to exchange information about real-world applications," continued Wyant, himself born profoundly deaf. "We are very excited to be able to offer this high-quality program focused on one of the most cutting-edge issues in listening and spoken language development today."

The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing helps families, health care providers, educators and professionals understand childhood hearing loss and the importance of early diagnosis and intervention. Through advocacy, education, research and financial aid, AG Bell helps to ensure that every child and adult with hearing loss has the opportunity to listen, talk and thrive. With chapters located in the United States and a network of international affiliates, AG Bell supports its mission: Advocating Independence through Listening and Talking!

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