March 8-10, 2020 • Kansas City, MO


The 2020 Antonia Brancia Maxon Award for EHDI Excellence will be presented at the 2020 National EHDI Meeting in Kansas City, MO. This award honors the life and work of Dr. Antonia Brancia Maxon to promote effective Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programs for all newborns, infants, and young children. Dr. Maxon was a pioneer in EHDI programs, beginning with her leadership in the Rhode Island Hearing Assessment Project in the late 1980's. She was one of the first to recognize the feasibility and value of universal newborn hearing screening and was a tireless advocate for connecting screening programs with timely and appropriate diagnosis and early intervention.

Her extensive contributions to creating excellent EHDI programs were abruptly ended by a tragic automobile accident in May of 2007. In memory of her contributions, an Award for EHDI Excellence is presented each year at the National EHDI Meeting to honor an individual who has made outstanding contributions to achieving excellence in EHDI programs nationally or in a particular state or region.

Presentation of the 2020 Antonia Brancia Maxon Award for EHDI Excellence will be made on Monday March 9, 2020 at the National EHDI Meeting in Kansas City, MO. More about the National EHDI Meeting, including past nominees and recipients can be found below.

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Sheri Farinha and Julie Rems-Smario

We would like to nominate Sheri Farinha and Julie Rems-Smario for the Antonia Braxton Award. Since 2012, Sheri and Julie have worked tirelessly on the Language Equality & Acquisition for Deaf Kids - Kindergarten - Readiness (LEAD-K) campaign, which they co-founded. The goal of this campaign is ensuring language acquisition for all deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) children in ASL or English, or both. This campaign has been hugely successful in getting legislation passed in different states to end language deprivation for thousands of DHH children. This is a direct response to the alarming number of DHH children entering kindergarten without a language foundation in either American Sign Language or spoken English. Each state's legislation differs based on the stakeholders involved. A key to their success has been their inclusive approach towards proponents of both American Sign Language and spoken English for DHH children. Julie and Sheri have brought together polarized organizations to focus on ensuring DHH children have a strong language foundation in at least one language, ASL or English. This is groundbreaking for EHDI.

In California the first LEAD-K law, SB 210, passed in 2015 and now is in full effect. The law requires teachers of DHH children ages 0-5 to assess each DHH child's language level in either ASL or English, or both. This provides information on whether the child is meeting the language milestones and making age-appropriate language growth. This information is shared with families on the Parent Profile, which easily lets families monitor their child's language level and Kindergarten readiness.

Sheri Ann Farinha is an accomplished leader, advocate and policy maker for improving the quality of life of DHH children. For the last 25 years as the Chief Executive Officer of NorCal Services for Deaf & Hard of Hearing, she has been actively involved in supporting families with DHH children. She headed the California Deaf Newborn Identification Advocacy Stakeholder Coalition, a group of advocates, leaders, CODAs, parents of deaf children, and grassroots supporters. NorCal provides families with Deaf mentors, ASL classes and educational advocates. Sheri was instrumental in passing the California Assembly Bill 1836, "The Deaf Children's Bill of Rights" in 1994. A product of mainstreamed education, she learned ASL and majored in Deaf Education when she attended California State University Northridge. She went on to receive her Master's degree in 1984. Her legislative and leadership skills have ensured that any California legislation pertaining to DHH children and individuals has representation from the DHH community.

Julie Rems-Smario, co-founder of Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K), has transitioned from her leadership roles in the Deaf Community to a leadership role as the California Department of Education's EHDI coordinator. She is now responsible for the implementation of the SB 210 law she helped pass while President of the California Association of the Deaf. During her tenure as the founding executive director of Deaf Hope she was nationally recognized with several awards, CNN Heroes, Pearls Award, and E-Women Network International Humanitarian Award.