EHDI 2019- By Senior ASTra Advocate-Vicki Hilpp

EHDI 2019
Chicago was COLD!
This year’s National Early Hearing Detection and Intervention conference was held in Chicago. Let me tell you that it was COLD in the Windy City, especially for this southern girl from Georgia! Temperatures were in the single digits, and we could see our breath as soon as we walked off the plane and onto the gangway into the airport. We had a fabulous group to travel with, including some of our Parent Guides, ASTra Advocates, our H&V Board President and even a Georgia Pines Early Intervention Specialist. After checking in, we headed out into the COLD for lunch, and were lucky enough to get the shuttle driver to drop us off close to our restaurant. However, we had to use foot power to get us back to the hotel. It was so COLD that we decided to double time it back and I think we made the 15-minute walk in less than 10.

Did I mention that Chicago was COLD?!? I think when I look back on that trip being “COLD” will be one of the things that stands out to me, so that will be my theme for describing this whirlwind of a conference. You may have figured that out by now ๐Ÿ˜Š. Here are the COLD things that I took home from the conference:
Caring: Beyond the chilly temperatures, and in the confines of the beautiful (and warm) hotel, the Conference got kicked off with a great reception that evening. Catching up with old friends and mingling with new ones was such fun. The local H&V chapter hosted an incredible parent gathering that evening as well, and I think there were probably more than 100 parents in attendance! It was amazing to hear the stories from each family, hear about their journeys, challenges and successes. I have to say that I am moved to tears each time we have parent gatherings. The strength and understanding that we can give one another never ceases to tug at my heart. I’m so thankful to be part of such a caring, loving community of parents who all share a love for someone who is D/HH.
Optimism: One of the focuses of our ASTra program is engaging families who are transitioning from early intervention into preschool. I attended several sessions that taught about this ever-important transition period. There was some great information in the sessions, but what makes me so optimistic for our transitioning families in Georgia is the phenomenal collaboration between our stakeholders. At the Georgia Stakeholders meeting we had EHDI coordinators, early interventionists from GA Pines, Hands & Voices Guides and Advocates, and wide range of professionals around the state whose purpose is to enhance the lives of our children with hearing differences. Listening to each person describe what was working in their own job, what we can improve upon, and then brainstorming ideas to work together to make services and supports even better was truly amazing to me. I left the meeting feeling very optimistic about the working relationships in our state. Great things are continuing to come for our children!
Laughter: Well, there was a LOT of laughing going on at EHDI this year. Its wonderful when you work with a group of people who you truly like and respect. Although the days were packed with information, we still made time to enjoy each other’s company and made some new friends as well. I have to say I probably laughed the most during the Dad’s panel Lunch, which was also hosted by H&V. I always look forward to panel discussions involving Dads, because they have such a unique (and funny) perspective on life and this journey we all share.
Determination: I heard from and met professionals who are dedicated and on-fire for our children. I believe there were about 1000 people attending the conference this year. That’s a lot of determined people committed to ensuring positive outcomes for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. As a community, we are a force to be reckoned with! Another favorite session I attended included college students who are also D/HH. Hearing their stories, you could feel their determination to have the lives they choose for themselves. They inspired me to dream big for my own daughter! The best quote of the whole conference was given by one of the students to a mom who was having to continuously fight for her child in school. She gave her some tips and ended with “Don’t give up! Be that mom from hell.” So, if you’re reading this post, and you’re feeling tired, or down, or just plain frustrated, listen to the words of this very wise young woman, and “Don’t give up!”
Also, you might want to steer clear of Chicago in early March, because its COLD there!
                                                -Vicki Hilpp, Sr. ASTra Advocate and lover of all things warm ๐Ÿ˜Š

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