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CREC Soundbridge’s New Director Updating Program’s Service Delivery and Vision
(Wethersfield, Conn.) CREC Soundbridge, a leader in teaching children with hearing loss to listen and talk, is under new guidance. Kelly O’Connell assumed the Director position on December 1st, replacing Dr. Elizabeth Cole who was the Director of Soundbridge for the past 16 years.
Soundbridge is a state-wide program that provides specialized expertise and technology to promote listening and speaking in children with hearing loss. Currently serving over 700 students throughout Connecticut, Soundbridge delivers a full continuum of services designed to meet the varied needs of children with hearing loss from birth to 21.
O’Connell’s qualifications for the position are myriad. She has a bachelor’s in Public Relations from Northern Arizona University, a master’s in Education of the Deaf from Smith College, and a Sixth Year Administrative Certificate from the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education. She previously worked as a Teacher of the Deaf at Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Mass. and Teacher of the Hearing Impaired at Soundbridge. She was the Soundbridge Teacher of the Year in 2010 and assumed her prior role as a supervisor at Soundbridge in 2013.
“We feel fortunate to have someone with Kelly’s expertise to take on the director position at Soundbridge,” said Deborah Richards, CREC Director of Student Services, the district leader to whom O’Connell reports. ”Kelly has worked over the past few years developing our capacity to serve students in their home districts so she really understands the work that needs to be done.”
O’Connell hit the ground running as the new director, and anticipates many exciting updates to Soundbridge’s offerings. She is in the early stages of working with CREC and the Soundbridge staff on refreshing the program’s mission, vision, and branding.
“While we are making programmatic changes, our focus will continue to be on developing the speaking needs of children with hearing loss through current research and technology,” said O’Connell. “Through compassion, collaboration, and expertise in auditory access, we serve as the bridge between listening and talking for students with hearing loss.”
One change that will affect a small portion of Soundbridge students being serviced is the dissolution of the Soundbridge Elementary and Middle School Academy programs. In the 2018-2019 school year, the Academy program consisted of only twelve students in total, representing 2% of the students with hearing loss serviced by Soundbridge across the state. The changes in the Academy, once considered Soundbridge’s its flagship program, are a result of advancements in newborn hearing screening, advances in listening technology, parent preference toward in-district services, and the educational trends towards integrated classroom environments.
“We look forward to continued growth in the provision of services from our consulting teachers of the deaf and audiology services to our districts,” said Richards. “Due to the large volume of students that we serve, Soundbridge is on the cutting edge of changes in technology. Hearing loss is such a low incidence disability, that it is difficult for districts to have the expertise when they may only have a few students with hearing loss at any point in time. ”
In response to changes in the field, Soundbridge has placed emphasis on its audiological, birth-to-three, and consulting teacher programs which have all seen tremendous growth over the last decade. Soundbridge will also continue to run their center-based Early Learning Center at the Wethersfield location. The Early Learning Center is an integrated preschool program for children with and without hearing loss.
CREC Soundbridge’s website is www.crec.org/soundbridge.