FCEI Africa 2017

Keynote Speakers

Roberta J. Cordano

FCEI 2017 - Roberta CordanoRoberta J. Cordano became the 11th president of Gallaudet University on January 1, 2016. During the announcement of her selection as president, Cordano was recognized as a "transformational leader who is the right person at the right time for Gallaudet."

Cordano brings to the Office of the President experience and skills built in both traditional and non-traditional settings. Prior to Gallaudet, Cordano was the vice president of programs for the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In that role, she was responsible for direct community-based programs to nearly 9,500 people in the areas of early childhood, community mental health, family supportive housing, aging and caregiver services, school reform, and food access. Her accomplishments range from managing and sustaining programs in a highly volatile revenue environment, providing community leadership, fostering innovation, strengthening and supporting diversity within the workforce, and structuring services for optimal alignment and collaboration.

Prior to her position at the Wilder Foundation, Cordano held several leadership roles in the health care industry. She served as interim president for the Center of Heathcare Innovation at Allina Hospital Clinics (now known as Allina Health), and as president of the Park Nicollet Institute and vice president of Park Nicollet Health Services. In these roles, she led initiatives focusing on organizational change, innovation, community-based health initiatives, patient education, and research.

Prior to her work in health care, Cordano held the position of assistant dean for the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota where she also served as the director of disability services in the Office of Multicultural and Academic Affairs (now known as the Office of Equity and Diversity). In those roles, she supported system-wide collaboration; navigated university budgeting processes; fostered innovation to strengthen access to higher education for people with disabilities, as well as people from different cultural and ethnic communities; and worked with faculty to structure and support academic and administrative initiatives.

Cordano began her career as an assistant attorney general for the State of Minnesota, where she actively represented the people of Minnesota, as well as other states, through numerous multistate cases to prevent and cease consumer and charities fraud. She served as an expert on the Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability-related laws. She was a frequent presenter on these issues, and helped lead a statewide training effort for all state agencies. During this time, she also served on the Supreme Court Advisory Committee for Court Interpreters and was a key author of the statewide rule that assures access for all non-English language users in the courts.

Cordano is a founding member of Metro Deaf School, a pre-k through eighth grade, a bilingual-bicultural charter school for deaf and hard of hearing children in St. Paul, and a founding board member of Minnesota North Star Academy, a bilingual-bicultural charter high school for deaf and hard of hearing students. Her 16 years of service to these schools culminated in the merger of both schools into one entity, with a significant building expansion for Metro Deaf School.

In 2003, Ms. Cordano, along with Vice President Walter Mondale and former Minnesota Governor Elmer A. Anderson, was a recipient of the inaugural Public Leadership Award from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. In 2005, she received the Access Award from the Minnesota State Council on Disability.

Cordano, who is deaf, is fluent in American Sign Language and English. Her parents are both Gallaudet alumni. Three generations of family have attended or are attending Gallaudet.

Snigdha Sarkar

FCEI 2017 - Singdha Sarkar
Snighda has a Bachelor Degree in Law and has a qualification as a Special Educator for children who are deaf.

Snighda is a Parent of a deaf youth and started the parent support group “Anwesha Kolkata” in 2004 and is currently working as its President. She has played a pivotal role in creating a state level federation of network of parents and has also worked as the Secretary of the Disability Activists Forum, a cross disability platform in West Bengal from 2009 to 2015.

Snighda is a member of the Expert Committee on guidelines for conducting written competitive examinations for persons with disabilities, which was constituted by the Govt. of India and is a member of the committee for curriculum adaptation for students with special needs in West Bengal.

Snighda also has key leadership internationally, as she is a member of the core committee of GPODHH – The Global Coalition of Parents Of children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

Christie Yoshinaga-Itano

FCEI 2017 - Christie Yoshinaga-ItanoDr. Yoshinaga-Itano is both a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing and an audiologist. She has conducted research in the areas of language, speech, and social-emotional development of deaf and hard-of-hearing infants and children for over 40 years. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Office of Education, Maternal and Child Health, the Center for Disease Control, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Education, and the University of Colorado.

Over the last 20 years, she has focused on the impact of early-identification and early intervention on the developmental outcomes of children with significant hearing loss. Professor Yoshinaga-Itano was the first to demonstrate that when infants with hearing loss are identified in the first few months of life and provided with appropriate intervention services, that 80% these infants/children with significant hearing loss and no additional disabilities are able to maintain age-appropriate language development and intelligible speech in the first five years of life. As a result of this research, universal newborn hearing screening programs were implemented in the United States. The only other newborn screening mandated in the United States is screening for phenyketonuria (PKU).

Professor Yoshinaga-Itano’s research demonstrated that it was critical that identification of hearing loss and early intervention must occur within the first six months of life in order for the majority of children with congenital hearing loss to maintain language development commensurate with their normal hearing peers, indicating that there is a sensitive period of communication development that requires access to language development early in life. She also studies the development of infants/toddlers and children with hearing disabilities in non-English speaking homes.

The impact of early identification and intervention on successful outcomes of children with hearing loss was found irrespective of the socio-economic status of the families, the method of communication, the race/ethnicity of the family/child, or the gender of the child. As a direct result of her research studies, universal newborn hearing screening programs have now been implemented in all 50 states and also in many countries throughout the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Japan, Poland, and Brazil.

Emily Vargas-Barón, Ph.D.

FCEI 2017 -Emily VargasEmily Vargas-Barón directs the RISE Institute, conducts research and consults internationally in the fields of education, early childhood development and early childhood intervention, focusing on national policy planning, analysis and research. From 1994 to 2001, she was Deputy Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development where she directed the Center for Human Capacity Development, dedicated to international education development, training and telecommunications. Previously, she founded and directed a research and development institute for early childhood development and early childhood intervention in Austin Texas; was the Education Advisor for The Ford Foundation’s Office for Colombia and the Andean Region; and served as a Program Specialist in Education for UNESCO. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Stanford University, with a secondary focus in educational planning. She is the author of many publications and has worked in all world regions.

Claudine Storbeck

FCEI 2017 -Claudine StorbeckProf Claudine Storbeck is the founder and director of the Centre for Deaf Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, which she founded in 1998. The Centre has in the 15 years since it was and initiated, the first professional teacher training programme for teachers of the Deaf in South Africa.

She is the founder and director of the HI HOPES programme, the 1st home-based family-centered early intervention programme for families of deaf infants in Africa and has been working in partnership with the SKI-HI Institute at Utah State University, USA to develop a South Africanized version of the curriculum.

Claudine has been named a world specialist in Deaf Education by the World Federation of the Deaf and has been involved in issues surrounding deaf education, teacher training and the education and support of young children who are deaf and hard of hearing and their families for almost 2 decades. She is a fluent user of South African Sign Language (which has included interpreting for the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela).

Lucas Magongwa

FCEI 2017 - Lucas MagongwaLucas Magongwa is the Head of the Deaf Education programme at the Centre for Deaf Studies, University of the Witwatersrand. He started his career in Deaf Education as the first Deaf teacher of the Deaf in South Africa afterwhich he became the first Deaf School Principal in South Africa.
Lucas was head-hunted by the University of the Witwatersrand to lead the Deaf Education programme and he currently teaches and coordinates Deaf Education and South African Sign Language within the Wits School of Education. Lucas is currently busy with his PhD in Deaf Education and his research interests include South African Sign Language as a medium of teaching and learning, the Deaf community and culture and the implementation of the South African inclusive education policy. Lucas is active at both local and international level debates on issues of Deaf Education, Sign Languages and the Human Rights of Deaf learners.

Lucas is a hugely respected member of the South African Deaf Community and currently serves as the Chairman of the Deaf Federation of South Africa and is a member of the World Federation of the Deaf Education Committee. Lucas has published chapters in books and most recently published his Masters disseration.

Guy Mcilroy

FCEI 2017 -Guy McilroyGuy Mcilroy is a sign bilingual lecturer in Deaf Education at the Centre for Deaf Studies. His research interests are Deaf and Hard of Hearing identity, sign bilingualism, translanguaging, narratives, psychology, anthropology and education. Guy has recently submitted his PhD. He is also a Deaf Mentor in the HI HOPES Early Intervention Programme, with a special interest in twins.

Lorna Jacklin

FCEI 2017 -Lorna JacklinProfessor Lorna Jacklin is a leading South African and International Paediatrician and Neurodevelopmental Specialist with significant experience in the Public Health sector as well as being a leading Academic at the University of the Witwatersrand. Lorna is a founder and board member of the Teddy Bear Foundation, an organisation for abused and neglected infants and children.

Her primary interests include children with a variety of developmental delays and disabilities including Autistic Spectrum disorder, visual impairments and child abuse. As such, she sits on Boards and Committees for various organisations as specialist consultant but at heart still loves working with infants and their families.

Jackie Oduor

FCEI 2017 - Jackie OduorJackie Oduor is a mother to three young deaf and hard of hearing children in Kenya. She leads the Parents Teachers Council of Jabali elementary school and kindergarten that integrates children with hearing loss in mainstream learning. She coordinates a support group for parents advocating for early hearing detection and intervention.

Alys Young

FCEI 2017 - Alys YoungAlys gained her PhD in 1995 from the Centre for Deaf Studies, University of Bristol, on the impact on hearing familes of sign bilingual approaches to early intervention, carrying out her fieldwork in both BSL (British Sign Langauge) and English. Author of over 100 academic publications, her main research interests are: (i) early intervention with deaf children and their families; (ii) improvements in the provision and effectiveness of health and social care services for deaf chidlren and adults across the life span; (iii) social science research methodologies in the context of signed languages and d/Deaf people. She currently leads the Social Reserach with Deaf People group (SORD) which comprises a multidisciplinary, bilingual group of Deaf and hearing researchers working on a range of applied social research projects connected with family, service and community contexts which involve Deaf people. Alys is a Senior Fellow of the NIHR School for Social Care Research. In 2015 was conferred FAcSS (Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences) for her contributions to social work and social research with Deaf people(s)

De Wet Swanepoel

FCEI 2017 - De Wet SwanepoelDe Wet Swanepoel is professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, University of Pretoria with adjunct positions at the University of Western Australia and at the Ear Science Institute Australia. He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, books and chapters and has received national and international awards in recognition of his work. He serves as president of the International Society of Audiology and is associate editor for the International Journal of Audiology.

Karen Putz

FCEI 2017 - Karen Putz Karen Putz is a deaf mom to three deaf and hard of hearing children who are now young adults. Karen is the Co-Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infusion for Hands & Voices.

Karen is the owner of Ageless Passions, providing coaching to help others unwrap their passions. She is the author of ten books, including the "Parenting Journey", "Raising Deaf" and "Hard of Hearing Children". For fun, she walks on water as a competitive barefoot water skier.

Talita le Roux

FCEI 2017 -Talita le RouxTalita is dually qualified as speech-language therapist and audiologist and obtained both her master’s and PhD degrees from the University of Pretoria. She currently upholds the position of lecturer in Audiology at the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria. She also completed the post-graduate training in cochlear implant Mapping and rehabilitation at the University of Stellenbosch and is clinically involved with cochlear implants since 2007. Talita is also involved as researcher at the University of Pretoria Cochlear Implant Unit and has published a number of peer-reviewed articles specifically in the field of cochlear implants and early hearing detection and intervention.

Bianca Birdsey

FCEI 2017 -Bianca BirdseyBianca is the National Coordinator of HI HOPES Early Intervention Programme and Founder and Chair of THRIVE Parent Support Group. Bianca qualified as a medical doctor in 2006 and has experience in Paediatrics and Emergency Medicine. Bianca is the mother to three deaf daughters, and former recipient of HI HOPES support. In January 2017, Bianca co-founded Quest Model Bilingual School. Bianca is also part of the Global Coalition of Parents of children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (GPODHH).

Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen

FCEI 2017 -WilmaWilma Newhoudt-Druchen, was elected as Member of Parliament from 1999, and in her second term, chaired the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Children, Youth, and Disabled Persons. She is currently serving her 4th term as Member of Parliament. She is a member of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration including; Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.

She was elected as a WFD (World Federation of the Deaf) Board member (2007-2011) and has been the President of the organising committee for the XVI World Federation of the Deaf Congress in Durban 2011 (2007-2011). In 2011 she was voted as the Vice-President of the World Federation of the Deaf (2011-2015), the first Deaf African woman to serve in that position.

Locally she was elected as the first women for two consecutive terms as the National Chairperson of the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA) during 2004 to 2008 and 2008 to 2012. She then served as the National Vice Chairperson of DeafSA during 2012 to 2016. She is currently serving as board member on DeafSA Management and National executive committees.

Wilma studied Social Work at Gallaudet University where she also completed both her BA degree and Masters in Social work. In 1992 when receiving her BA degree, she was also the commencement speaker. She then received her Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Gallaudet University in 2009.

She is married to Bruno Druchen, National Director of DeafSA, and is the mother of two children, Antonio and Nicole.

Marian Bailey

FCEI 2017 -Marian BaileyMarian is a qualified Remedial Therapist, Teacher and Mom with a passion for literacy. She has worked at a number of schools and run a successful private practice. Her qualifications are Honours in Educational Psychology (WITS), a Bachelor of Education in Pre-Primary (UNISA) and a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English and Psychology (UNIVERSITY OF NATAL).

Marian is the founder of RAISING READERS, which exists to empower parents & educators with knowledge, skills and tools to help them get their children ready for reading and to support their children as they learn to read & write.

RAISING READERS offers talks, parent workshops, teacher training and learning packs to promote letter, word and number recognition.

Please click here to view more information on Learning Kits available for purchase.

Debra Clelland

FCEI 2017 -Debra ClellandDebra is a mother to three daughters, two hearing and one deaf. She has been an active member of the Board of Directors for THRIVE since its inception in 2014 and more recently taken the lead in innovating a Child Safety Programme specific to the South African context. Debra is a Kidpower instructor who is deeply committed to impacting humanity through empowering children. She is also a Business Analyst and Project Manager with over 15 years of experience managing the operational and financial aspects of large scale projects in the Finance and Software Development industries, both locally and internationally. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce, Marketing Honours Degree and a Project Management Professional Certification.

Jan van Dijk

FCEI 2017 - Christie Yoshinaga-ItanoDr. van Dijk is one of THE world leaders in assessment and intervention of children with severe multiple disabilities. We are honoured that Dr van Dijk will come and share his years of experience using the now internationally referred to method, the "van Dijk Approach to assessing children or adults with multiple disabilities"

For a brief overview of his decades of work in the field, see his website:

Paula Pittman

FCEI 2017 -Dr Paula PittmanDr. Paula Pittman has been an early intervention provider since 1983 and has worked with families who have children who are deaf, blind or deafblind throughout her career. She is currently the director of SKI-HI and Deaf Mentor Outreach at the SKI-HI Institute at Utah State University, and is the director of the Utah Parent Infant Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind.

She has the privilege of working with early intervention providers in the US and around the world to support them in providing effective early intervention services to children who are deaf or hard of hearing through training workshops and one-on-one support services. In addition to her administrative and training responsibilities, she also continues to serve families directly in early intervention services.

Juan Bornman

FCEI 2017 -Prof Juan BornmanJuan Bornman (PhD in AAC; M Communication Pathology ; B Logopaedia) is a registered speech-language therapist and audiologist and professor. She also holds the position of professor and director of the Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, at the University of Pretoria.

For the past 25 years she has been actively involved in the disability field as trainer, researcher and activist for one of the most vulnerable groups within the disability spectrum: those who are unable to speak. Her training and research comprise a variety of topics within rehabilitation by exploring strategies that increase participation, have an evidence base and are sustainable with a long-term impact.

She also focuses on rehabilitation as a human rights issue for individuals with disability and how to ensure equal access to justice for those with little or no speech. She has published more than 46 papers in international peer-reviewed journals and book chapters (some with a research focus and some with a clinical focus). Besides this new edition of the book Believe that all can Achieve (co-written with Jill Rose), which is about increasing classroom participation in learners with special needs in an inclusive setting, she has published two other books: Just the same on the inside, which is aimed at demystifying the ten most common types of disability in children; and Stop the violence against people with disabilities: An international resource with Dr Diane Bryen, which breaks new ground in ensuring access to the criminal justice system for those individuals who require and/or use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).

She has done numerous presentations in South Africa and internationally on the topic of AAC, and has frequently been invited as a research fellow to more than 15 international universities. She has also participated in a number of large-scale international research projects on issues related to participation, multilingual issues in AAC assessment and intervention, and human rights. At the 2016 International Society for AAC (ISAAC) conference in Toronto she received the prestigious ISAAC Fellowship Award for outstanding and distinguished achievement in the field of AAC.

Alecia Samuels

FCEI 2017 -Dr Alecia SamuelsDr Samuels is a lecturer in the CAAC. Her research and teaching straddles the fields of Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) and AAC. She completed her PhD in adolescent co-parenting and is particularly interested in pursuing research focused on resilience and risk with respect to environments which enable or hamper children’s development.

Dr Samuels has presented her work at a number of national and international conferences. She is the programme manager of the master’s degree in ECI, a programme which has seen more than 200 health and education professionals graduate over the past 13 years. She is a member of the International Society on Early Intervention (ISEI).
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