Uma Soman is an educator of students who are deaf or hard of hearing and Listening and Spoken Language Specialist, Certified Auditory Verbal Educator. She is Co-Founder and Director of Professional Development at Listening Together. She leads the Professional Enrichment Program and provides individual observations and coaching to professionals engaged in listening and spoken language intervention.
How did you get into this field?
When I was 8 years old, my younger sister was diagnosed with bilateral profound hearing loss. As a child I participated in my sister’s therapy sessions, and watched my mother get her diploma in deaf education. Those experiences inspired me to become a teacher for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
In 2001 got my Diploma in Special Education (Hearing Impaired) from the Central Institute for Teachers of Deaf, Mumbai, India. The next year, I receive a scholarship to attend the Smith College / Clarke School for the Deaf, Masters in Education of Deaf program in Massachusetts, USA. I worked as a teacher of the deaf at the Clarke program in Jacksonville, Florida, and then at the Mama Lere Hearing School at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
What excites you about working with children who are DHH and their families?
Over the past 15 years, and even before that through my family’s experience, I have seen that when families are truly empowered, and coached by skilled professionals, children can achieve their full potential. Being a member of a family’s journey and see the transformation that happens in the child and the family is what is most exciting to me.
What is your motivation behind Listening Together?
As I mentioned in the previous question, a knowledgeable, skilled, and ethical professional can have a positive influence on a child’s listening and spoken language journey. However, there is an acute shortage of professionals trained in high-quality listening and spoken language intervention and auditory verbal therapy in the world, especially in countries other than USA, UK, and Australia. For many children around the world, finding such a professional is linked to where they live, what services they can afford, and who can help them connect with this professional.
We have observed that many professionals around the world are interested in advancing their knowledge and skills, but are limited by their own geography, finances, and English language proficiency. Supporting these professionals so they can support children and families is our biggest motivation behind Listening Together.
As Listening Together’s Director of Professional Development what are your goals?
Our first goal is to build capacity, i.e., we want to see more professionals develop essential knowledge and optimum skills to guide and coach families of children who are DHH, and provide therapy and education to the children.
Our second goal is to create professional learning networks within the communities we serve. When professionals who work in a specific region, or with families who speak a specific language, learn with and from each other they can create techniques and strategies that are appropriate for their setting. We want to support development of intervention that is culturally and linguistically appropriate.