February 26-28, 2017 • Atlanta, GA


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Sara Kennedy

It is with the greatest pleasure that we nominate Sara Kennedy for the Family Leadership Award. Sara has been instrumental in the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program in Colorado. After her daughter was diagnosed with a hearing loss, Sara almost immediately became involved in Colorado's EHDI system. Her circumstances were unique at that time; her daughter was born at home, and did not have access to a newborn hearing screening test. When her daughter was diagnosed with a hearing loss, Sara immediately set out to assure other parents, whose children were born at home, that they could have a hearing screening. She went on to promote parent participation in hospital and midwifery meetings where EHDI services are discussed. This has fueled the passion of hearing screeners to share information accurately, in a timely way, and persuasively in order to encourage follow-up. This work has had an impact in many states.

Sara's determination to enhance services to all children under three years of age who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) is admirable. To date, Sara has notably supported two under-served groups of children. In addition to those born at home, she is an advocate for children with single-sided deafness (SSD). Under her leadership, Colorado Hands & Voices has maintained a program to support parents who have children with SSD and to assure access to Part C-funded services for those children who have a documented developmental delay.

Sara has been active in Colorado's Hands & Voices chapter. During her 16-year affiliation with Hands & Voices, Sara has served as the coordinator of the Guide By Your Side Program. Parent guides support parents statewide whose children have all types and degrees of hearing loss. Sara has served as the director of the Colorado chapter since 2011, following her six-year tenure as assistant director.

Sara's efforts have significantly influenced initiatives and programs in Colorado. Complementing this success, her work in Colorado has influenced initiatives in other states. For instance, she led an initiative to expand Medicaid coverage for the most current hearing technology. Her publications include co-authorship of Bridge to Preschool: Navigating a Successful Transition. This book is a natural segue for families of three-year-old children who are leaving early intervention and entering programs sponsored by Part B of IDEA. She serves as the features editor of the Hands & Voices Communicator, a quarterly newsletter published and widely disseminated by Hands & Voices, since 2000.

Sara's activities have fostered change in Colorado's EHDI system. She was a key member of the committee that passed Colorado's hearing aid mandate. And, quite notably, Sara has actively promoted more and/or enhanced services for children by participating in research projects that can contribute to system change. For example, Sara is a co-investigator with University of Colorado on a proposal that, if funded, will create a sustained support network for children with SSD and their parents and blend cutting-edge clinical services and translational research in SSD to inform our field. These are substantial accomplishments for one parent.