Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech to Host 39th Mainstream Conference for Professionals and Parents

 In Client Press Releases

Event scheduled for Oct. 18 and 19 in Marlborough, Massachusetts, will support students who are deaf or hard of hearing and feature American Ninja Warrior Contestant Nolan Gardner

MARLBOROUGH—Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech (Clarke) will hold its 39th Annual Conference on Mainstreaming Students with Hearing Loss on Thursday, Oct. 18, and Friday, Oct. 19 at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel.

This year’s event carries the theme “From Access to Achievement: Empowering Every Child to Succeed in the Mainstream,” and, for the first time, it will include a Mix & Mingle Social Hour for conference attendees, presenters and exhibitors.

Clarke’s Mainstream Conference is one of the only conferences of its kind in the country that offers resources and support to professionals who work with, and parents of, students who are deaf or hard of hearing who are in the mainstream—meaning they attend school with peers with typical hearing.  

The materials and topics are 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.

“What’s unique about the conference is our focus on students in mainstream classrooms—as opposed to those in schools specifically designed for students who are deaf or hard of hearing,” 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 more than 20 years.

“Best practices and stories shared by our conference presenters really resonate with those in our audience,” said Troiano, who also serves as the educational administrator of Clarke Northampton’s Kindergarten through Eighth Grade Program. “We try to have speakers who are deaf themselves and have gone through the mainstream. They can speak about their own experiences and how they’re living their lives today. Conference participants also have the opportunity to ask questions.”

More than 20 professionals in the field of listening and spoken language will deliver presentations and workshops, covering topics related to the academic, social and emotional challenges that arise for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and are learning in typical classrooms.

The three keynote speakers are:

  • Mary Ellen Nevins, professor and director of Auditory-Based Intervention at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, who will speak on “Effective Communication Skills for Interprofessional Conversations: What’s in YOUR Toolkit?”
  • Rebecca Alexander, a psychotherapist and the author of Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found, who will present “Not Fade Away.”
  • Nolan Gardner, a teacher specialist at The Help Group in Sherman Oaks, California, and the first competitor on the television show “American Ninja Warrior” to compete while using cochlear implants. Gardner’s talk is entitled “Trekking Through the Hearing World.”

“I am looking forward to meeting all the parents, educators and professionals that will be present during the conference, sharing my experience with them, and also hearing any suggestions or making new connections from all I meet,” said Gardner.  

An entire day of the conference is also dedicated to students from across the country, many of whom are the only students in their schools with a hearing loss. “Making Connections!” is designed specifically for teens in grade seven through 12 who are deaf or hard of hearing.

This year, the program will be co-led by Gardner and Emily Plant, a Clarke itinerant teacher of the deaf. “The day-long program will create an engaging, safe and nurturing environment in which students can hear and share their personal experiences in the mainstream,” Troiano said, noting parents will also have time to network with other parents.

“I am also looking forward to co-leading the ‘Making Connections!’ and meeting the younger teens with CIs and hearing of their successes!” noted Gardner.

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,” she said.

The conference will also feature 16 exhibitor booths, showcasing the latest products, technology and services supporting students who are deaf or hard of hearing. This year’s exhibitors include several conference sponsors as well: Gallaudet University, Hearing Our Way, Oticon Pediatrics, Cochlear, MED-EL, and National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Over the years, the conference has grown to include speech-language pathologists and parents. This year, Troiano expects about 250 attendees from across the country.

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 Connect with Clarke and other attendees of the Mainstream Conference on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #MainstreamConf18!

About Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech

Since 1867, Clarke has provided children who are deaf or hard of hearing with the education needed to succeed in a hearing world, evolving to best meet the needs of children and families today through Infant-Toddler, virtual tVISIT (teleservice), Preschool, K-8, Mainstream and Summer Programs, as well as through hearing centers, comprehensive educational evaluations and research and professional development.  Annually, more than 1,200 children and their families benefit from programs and services at five campuses: Boston, MA, Jacksonville, FL, New York City, Northampton, MA and Philadelphia, PA. Learn more at

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