To equip children with hearing loss and their families with a foundation for lifelong learning through listening and spoken language and to build productive partnerships in research, professional training, and collaborative outreach programs to promote best practices in language learning for children with hearing loss.
Who We Are
Chattering Children is a non-profit agency providing an array of services for children with hearing loss and their families. Programs are anchored by Auditory-Verbal Therapy both at our MacArthur Boulevard Center and throughout the Washington Metropolitan Region. The transdisciplinary staff includes professionals in audiology, deaf education, and speech language pathology with specific expertise in the oral language development of children with hearing loss. Team members are skilled in the use of state-of-the-art hearing technology and act as coaches and guides for families to support development of auditory skills, facilitate spoken language, create supportive listening environments, and integrate listening and language into the routines of family life. An Auditory-Verbal Approach relies on the natural developmental patterns of audition, speech, language, cognition, and communication, while promoting education in mainstream schools with typical hearing peers who have typical hearing and with appropriate services from early childhood onwards. Ongoing formal and informal diagnostic assessments are used to develop individualized treatment plans, to monitor progress and to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention for the child and family.
In addition to center-based therapy, Chattering Children partners with public and private agencies to provide children and families with innovative programs and to support professionals in the field of hearing loss. Educational services and early intervention are provided through contracts with school districts and local agencies. Expertise of the organization is shared through professional development program and parent workshops. Innovative programs to target listening and language for children with hearing loss include theater workshops for elementary students, music-based classes for preschoolers and parents, and targeted academic support for children with hearing loss. Chattering Children also works with leaders on the state and national level to advocate for issues related to early identification and intervention.
- Occupational Therapy
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Dr. Elizabeth Adams Costa is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Chattering Children. Dr. Adams holds a BA with Distinction from the University of Virginia, a Master of Arts in Psychology and a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Gallaudet University. Dr. Adams specializes in child development, and has expertise in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of children with behavioral, cognitive, and developmental differences. Dr. Adams provides training and education to graduate students in psychology and related fields, and is a certified Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) therapist and trainer. Dr. Adams is an active clinical researcher, and serves as a special population consultant for Pearson Clinical on the assessment of children with hearing loss. She has published on topics including parenting stress associated with a diagnosis of hearing loss, parent support in the intervention process, the cognitive assessment of children with hearing loss, and cognitive profiles of children with cochlear implants and hearing aids.
Dr. Addington holds a BA in Hearing and Speech Sciences and a Clinical Doctorate of Audiology (AuD) from the University of Maryland – College Park. She completed a second year clinical rotation and her fourth year clinical externship at The River School. Since the beginning, she appreciated the environment that was created between staff, students, and parents alike. In the first three years of graduate school, Dr. Addington worked in a cochlear implant lab on campus, where her love of cochlear implants grew. Dr. Addington’s specific interests in the field of audiology include: pediatrics, cochlear implants, and early intervention.
Ashley Bergesen holds a BA in Communication Sciences and Disorders from James Madison University and an MA in Speech-Language Pathology from The University of Maryland. She has worked in a variety of clinical settings including Montgomery County Public Schools in MD, private practice, and most recently, The Katherine Thomas School, a special education school in Rockville, MD. Having worked at The River School several years ago, Ashley is thrilled to return as a faculty member.
Shay Byrd is the Billing Coordinator at Chattering Children. She studied Nursing at Prince George’s Community College and has worked in the health field for over four years. Shay deals with all aspects of medical billing and coding and manages the patient intake process.
More info coming soon!
More info coming soon!
More info coming soon!
Brittany Hughes holds a BA in Communication Sciences and Disorders and MS in Speech-Language Pathology both from Nazareth College of Rochester, New York. In her Masters’ work, she participated in a grant from the Office of Special Programs (OSEP) that trained Speech-Language Pathologists to work specifically with the Deaf and hard of hearing population. Outside of The River School, Brittany is the DC chapter director for Visions Global Empowerment, a non-profit organization working to change patterns of inequality by supporting educational initiatives for youth affected by conflict, poverty, and disability. She is especially interested in creating an opportunity for speech and language services to become available to the Deaf community in Ethiopia, Africa. This is Brittany’s first year with Chattering Children.
Sarah Hughes holds a BA in Hearing and Speech Sciences and an MA in Speech-Language Pathology from The University of Maryland. Prior to working at The River School, Sarah worked as an early interventionist through the DC Strong Start Program and provided in-home speech therapy for infants and toddlers. Sarah’s specific interests within speech pathology include early intervention and early childhood. She loves being a part of the River School Community!
Nicole Hutchinson holds a BA in Linguistics: American Sign Language from the University of California, San Diego and a MA in Deaf Education: Family-Centered Early Education from Gallaudet University. She holds teaching licenses in Deaf Education, Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education. At The River School, Nicole coordinates the Parent-Infant Program for deaf and hard of hearing infants, toddlers and their families and teaches in a preschool classroom. Outside of The River School, she is co-chair of the Early Intervention Committee for the DC Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Advisory Board.
Allison Leasure holds a BS in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Penn State and an MA in Speech-Language Pathology from George Washington University. Throughout grad school, Allison worked at the Maryland School for the Deaf and at INOVA Health Systems. This is Allison’s first year at the River School and she is thrilled to join the team!
More info coming soon!
Jennifer has worked with Chattering Children since 2010 and has worked with The River School since 2003. She has over 25 years in independent school and non-profit fundraising. Jennifer has conducted major gift campaigns, and manages comprehensive fundraising programs, including grant writing, individual and corporate outreach and special events. Jennifer graduated from the University of Richmond with a BA in Political Science and Economics.
Julia holds a M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Delta State University and M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of the District of Columbia. She taught kindergarten for three years and English as a Second Language for six years before becoming a speech-language pathologist.
Nancy Mellon became Executive Director of Chattering Children in 2010 when Chattering Children partnered and co-located with The River School. Nancy founded The River School in April 1999 and has served as its Head of School since the School’s opening in January 2000. She earned a master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Johns Hopkins University. From 1994 to 2001, Ms. Mellon served as Clinical Coordinator of the Listening Center at Johns Hopkins, the cochlear implant program at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Nancy was a founding board member at The River School and currently serves as Vice-President; she also sits on the Board of Trustees of Chattering Children and River ACCESS. She served as the public member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Governmental Relations Public Policy Board for six years, and is currently serving her second year as Board President of the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington.
Will Mellon is a research and clinical assistant at Chattering Children. He holds a BA in Psychology and History from Skidmore College. Will mainly assists the Chattering Children audiologists with clinical operations and research involving children with hearing loss. He is a bilateral cochlear implant user who received his first CI at age two.
Gloria holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English Literature, as well as a Master’s of Education of the Deaf. She is a certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist and holds certification as a Teacher of the Deaf. She has worked with children and their families for more than fourteen years. Her experiences include supporting mainstream students with hearing loss in areas of language and academics, as well as individualized instruction in speech and auditory skills. Gloria has become a mentor to others in the field because of her expertise in the Auditory-Verbal approach to therapy for deaf children. Her interests include integrating technology into intervention and using a whole-child approach, and working with children with additional disabilities.
Dr. Sharlene Ottley obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology from Andrews University. After completing her masters in Speech-Language Pathology at Gallaudet Univeristy with an emphasis in Pediatric Aural Rehabilitation, Dr. Ottley spent time in Mexico as a missionary, where she taught English and courses and completed coursework in Spanish. Dr. Ottley has worked in variety of outpatient, early intervention, and school based settings providing services to children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including those with hearing loss and Spanish-English bilingual students. She completed her PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders, with focus on children with cochlear implants from bilingual Spanish/English speaking homes. Dr. Ottley recently lead the Intensive Literacy Enrichment Activities for Diverse Populations (I-LEAD) program, funded by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s Office of Multicultural Affairs. This program was designed to meet the needs of diverse populations from low-income backgrounds with hearing loss, with a goal of improving access to services in this population. The primary goal was to employ a variety of interactive reading techniques in an intensive summer program in order to improve overall receptive and expressive vocabulary and language skills. Dr. Ottley has overseen and conducted a number of research projects related to language development and use and literacy development in children with hearing loss.
Meredith Ouellette is the Director of Clinical Services at Chattering Children, as well as Assistant Head of School at The River School. Ms. Ouellette holds a BS from the University of Florida, specialized coursework in Communication Disorders from Howard University, and a Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology from Gallaudet University. She supervises all the clinical operations of both Chattering Children and The River School, has experience providing individual speech and language therapy to children with hearing loss, and participates in clinical research projects relating to outcomes in children with cochlear implants. Ms. Ouellette has certification/training in cochlear implant rehabilitation; PROMPT Oral Motor Training; and in the evaluation and treatment of children with Apraxia of speech. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Gallaudet University and The George Washington University.
Dr. Reid holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Communication Studies and a Clinical Doctorate of Audiology (AuD) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She participated in the OSEP Pediatric Training fellowship program, an interdisciplinary program focusing on the importance of facilitating relationships among speech pathology and audiology professionals when working with the pediatric population. Dr. Reid completed her externship at the Children’s Cochlear Implant Center at UNC, where her passion for early intervention and cochlear implants flourished. She serves as an American Cochlear Implant Alliance State Champion to advocate for cochlear implant coverage and best outcomes. Her areas of interest include: cochlear implant programming, expanded indications for cochlear implantation, and hearing aids.
Emily Waddington holds a BA in Hearing and Speech Sciences from The University of Maryland and an MS in Speech-Language Pathology from The University of South Florida. Emily has had experience working with children with hearing loss in a variety of settings including home health family-centered training, Maryland School for the Deaf, outpatient clinics, and providing intervention services abroad. Her experience consists of therapy approaches such as auditory-verbal therapy, ASL, and total communication. She has also conducted and published cochlear implant research throughout school. Emily is so excited to be joining the River School team this year!
Dr. Dorothy White is a clinical psychology Ph.D. at Chattering Children. Dr. White holds a BA, Master of Arts, and Ph.D. from the George Washington University. She is an experienced provider of psychological services to children with a variety of presenting challenges, specializing in developmental and behavioral concerns. Her training includes inpatient, outpatient, telehealth, and school settings, where she has worked with children across the age range. Dr. White has expertise in working with children who have hearing loss, specifically in cognitive assessment that is sensitive to the needs of cochlear implant and hearing aid users. Dr. White is an active researcher whose program of study has centered on behavioral genetic research in temperament and personality development. Her research has been presented internationally and published, most recently in The Routledge Handbook of Adoption (2020).
Board of Directors
Grace Mai, President
Hendi Crosby Kowal
“We chose Chattering Children because we believe a team approach is instrumental in identifying, developing, implementing and assessing short- and long= term language goals for Dawson. When you combine feedback and participation from your child’s audiologist, school educators, speech & language pathologist and the family, you have a recipe for success. Because of the efforts and dedication of this team, Dawson will mainstream into kindergarten in the Fall! Thank You Chattering Children for being an ongoing part of Dawson’s Journey to the hearing world.” – Michael