Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech to Host 38th Mainstream Conference for Professionals and Parents

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Event scheduled for Oct. 19 and 20 in Marlborough

MARLBOROUGH—Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech will hold its 38th Annual Conference on Mainstreaming Students with Hearing Loss on Thursday, Oct. 19 and Friday, Oct. 20 at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel.

With the theme “Supporting Listening, Language, and Literacy in the Mainstream Classroom,” the event is one of the only conferences of its kind in the country that offers resources and support to professionals who work with students who are deaf or hard of hearing—and their parents—who are in mainstream settings with peers with typical hearing.

Over 20 professionals in the field of listening and spoken language will deliver presentations and workshops, covering a broad scope of topics from “Single Word Vocabulary Practice” to “Foundations for Literacy” and “Identifying Student Needs.” The material is suited to teachers of the deaf, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, professionals in inclusive settings, and students who are deaf or hard of hearing and their parents. CEU and professional development points are offered.

“The conference’s focus is on the students in the mainstream classroom, as opposed to those in schools specifically for students who are deaf,” said Claire Troiano, director of Mainstream Services at Clarke Northampton who has been involved with the conference since its inception and has held a lead role in planning the event for at least 20 years.

“It’s a very unique conference,” said Troiano, who also serves as the educational administrator of Clarke Northampton’s Kindergarten through Eighth Grade Program. “We always try to have speakers who are deaf themselves and have gone through the mainstream. These presenters can speak about their own experiences and how they’re living their lives today. Conference participants love that because they get to ask them questions about their experiences and how they can help their students.

“Setting up the academics for students who are mainstreaming is the easy part,” Troiano noted. “What’s more important are the social and emotional challenges. These speakers, because they’ve gone through the mainstream themselves, can speak directly to these issues. Parents get a lot out of these sessions as well.”

The conference will have three keynote speakers: Dr. Carol Flexer, an international lecturer in pediatric and educational audiology, who will open up the event with a talk highlighting the pivotal role of auditory brain development in children’s acquisition of spoken language and literacy; Sara Novic, who will share her experience as a mainstream student and writing professor at a public university; and drummer and songwriter Sean Forbes, co-founder of the Deaf Professional Arts Network.

An entire day of the conference is also dedicated to the students themselves. “Making Connections!” on Friday is designed specifically for teens in grade seven through 12 who are deaf or hard of hearing. “The day-long program will create a safe and nurturing environment in which students can hear and share their personal experiences in the mainstream,” Troiano said, noting parents will also have the opportunity to attend the conference for professionals as well as have time to network with other parents.

Troiano said Clarke has long provided training for classroom teachers of students who are deaf or hard or hearing, and that training began with Clarke professionals visiting teachers in their own settings. “When we couldn’t get to all the teachers in their different locations, we decided to bring them together and train them as a group, and that’s how the conference got started,” Troiano said.

Over the years, the conference has grown to include speech-language pathologists and parents. This year, Troiano expects about 250 attendees. “People come from all over the country now,” she said.

There is no deadline for registration; and walk-ins are welcome. Enrollment for the “Making Connections!” program, however, is limited to 30 students.

For more information or to register, visit

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