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Beth Benedict
Early-intervention mentor

Nowadays, with the widespread employment of accurate, noninvasive infant hearing-screening tests in neonatal units, babies who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are identified quickly, and parents are informed even before they leave the hospital. What happens next?

What does happen after the parents bring home their deaf child can have a profound and lasting effect on the child's academic success, cognitive development, and mental health . . . as we all know. The most urgent task is to get language to the child immediately. But how? That's where an early-intervention professional comes in.

Beth Sonnenstrahl Benedict is a longtime mentor to families with deaf children. A Gallaudet alumna (Class of 1980), she's a professor in Gallaudet University's Department of Communication Studies, where she teaches courses on Family Communication, Non-Verbal Communication, Public Speaking, and other topics. She's also serving as President of the American Society for Deaf Children, which supports parents and families with deaf children, advocating for their language rights, including their right to have early exposure to ASL. She has advocated for collaboration between parents of deaf children and hearing professionals, is a member of several major governmental and non-governmental organizations, and has presented and published widely. She has developed courses for professionals who work with Deaf/HoH children, and serves as a consultant on early intervention and family involvement.

On March 1, Dr. Benedict received the Antonia Brancia Maxon Award for EHDI Excellence. The Maxon Award is presented annually by the National Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Conference to honor a person or group "who have made a noteworthy accomplishment in achieving excellence in EHDI programs" nationally or regionally. (It honors the memory of an early-intervention pioneer.) Dr. Benedict has been a "key figure in EHDI conference planning," and has brought Deaf adults into the EHDI agenda, preventing it from being focused on a narrowly oralist perspective. There's a wide range of communication options available to families, and she wants all families to take advantage of this.

Photo (above and flashbox): Cloe Canela/Gallaudet University

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