BEGINNINGS for Parents of Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in North Carolina

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The Volta Awardi2012 Recipient

On April 26, AG Bell presented the 2012 Volta Award to BEGINNINGS for Parents of Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in North Carolina.

The Volta Award is given to individuals and/or organizations that have made a significant contribution to increasing public awareness of the challenges and potential of people with hearing loss. Past recipients include world-renowned audiologist Marion Downs of the Marion Downs Hearing Center; Hearing Loss Association of America's Rocky Stone; the Oberkotter Foundation; Joanna Nichols and the Children's Hearing Foundation in Taiwan; and Karl R. White, Ph.D., founder and director of the National Center for Hearing and Assessment Management at Utah State University, among others.

For 25 years BEGINNINGS has provided an impartial approach to meeting the diverse needs of families in North Carolina who have children who are deaf or hard of hearing and the professionals who serve them. And for more than a decade, BEGINNINGS has collected data on parents' communication choices for their children to support its advocacy efforts. This data shows that 90 percent of parents are now opting for a listening and spoken language outcome for their child, reflecting a changing landscape in North Carolina and across the nation. BEGINNINGS received their award during an anniversary gala in North Carolina celebrating their many years of service.

"This award recognizes BEGINNINGS for its efforts to provide information and support to families of children with hearing loss, and educational opportunities to the professionals who serve them," said AG Bell President Kathleen Treni. "By providing these valuable services, BEGINNINGS has ensured that each child with hearing loss born in North Carolina has the opportunity to receive appropriate intervention services immediately, ensuring that both the child and his/her family receive support throughout the child's educational journey."

BEGINNINGS was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1987 to provide emotional support and access to information as a central resource for families who have children who are deaf or hard of hearing, ages birth through 21. These services are also available to parents who are deaf and who have children with typical hearing.

BEGINNINGS believes that parents, given accurate, objective information about hearing loss, can make sound decisions for their child. These decisions involve placement, communication methodology and related service needs. BEGINNINGS staff is committed to providing services in a family-centered atmosphere to facilitate active involvement of parents in their child's social, emotional and educational growth. Most recently, the organization worked to pass a statewide hearing aid insurance mandate in North Carolina, which took effect in 2011. Volta Voices sat down with Joni Alberg, the executive director of BEGINNINGS, to discuss the impact of the organization and future plans.

Congratulations on receiving this award. What does this mean to you, personally, and to BEGINNINGS, as an organization?

Receiving the Volta Award is such an honor. I am so very proud of the BEGINNINGS staff and our board of directors. And I am proud of what we have, together, accomplished over the past 25 years. Of course, I also must recognize the parents whose efforts more than 25 years ago launched this amazing organization.

BEGINNINGS has strove to provide impartial and complete information to new parents. How has your organization adapted to the changing landscape of hearing loss and communication options as a result of early detection and intervention as well as advanced hearing technology?

The mission of BEGINNINGS, since its inception, has been to provide impartial, comprehensive information about all communication options for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, emotional support and technical assistance to access appropriate services. …