Melinda was an invaluable resource to our family, helping us navigate the confusing terrain of the LAUSD system to help secure the appropriate services for our hearing impaired daughter, Juliana. I was sold on Melinda the moment I heard about the journey of obtaining services with her own child, and knew her interest in advocacy came from a deeply personal place. She is passionate and relentless, exactly the kind of person you want in your child’s corner.

Even more important than those qualities, Melinda understands the particular needs of each family, and fights to respect the family’s own cultural identity throughout the process. For us, as a family that uses both American Sign Language and spoken English, Melinda fought for our daughter to have a full time sign language aide in her oral classroom, to make sure Juliana develops in both languages simultaneously. She helped to craft our goals and frame the narrative of the collective discussion with the school district to ensure that central goal was never forgotten in the tumult.

Juliana is now growing and thriving, gaining confidence every day in the bi-lingual world she now knows will always be available to her.

Thanks Melinda!

Josh Oppenheimer

Melinda’s understanding of the needs of DHH students combined with her skills in working with staff helped the Laguna Beach Unified School District put structures and systems in place to create an exemplary High School experience for one of our DHH students. Her expertise and collaborative nature assisted our IEP team in making solid decisions as well as provided the parents with a comfort level in knowing that their child’s needs were truly understood and being addressed.

Irene White

Melinda was referred to me by my son’s therapist when he was in 4th grade.  At the time, my son was diagnosed with ADHD.  Then in middle school, with Mood Disorder and now in high school he has an added diagnosis of Mild Autism.  It is only by having Melinda on our side that he was transferred to the appropriate elementary school, junior high school and now a Residential Treatment Center.

Melinda is extremely knowledgeable in education laws for California and in working with several school districts in and out of LA County.  I always felt well prepared before going into IEP’s.  She understood what I was hoping to accomplish for my son’s education, what the arguments might be from the district and what the law allows.  She redirected the district when they weren’t in compliance; made recommendations for support and accommodations; insisted on accurate notes and thorough review before agreeing to anything.

She’s very professional, diplomatic and pragmatic.  She strives for a win-win situation but will not compromise the needs of your child.  In addition, two different school districts plus the residential treatment center in Utah have commented on how impressed they are with Melinda’s style and problem solving abilities.

It’s very unusual to see someone outside the family put so much time and effort into ensuring your child is in the most appropriate environment getting the support they need.  Melinda has been my guardian angel on earth.

Not only is she a life saver, I also consider her my friend.

Sandy Kurt – Mother of a High School Student

Melinda is instrumental in helping us with our child’s educational needs. She has helped us navigate our way through the I.E.P process and is currently working with us to obtain the services our child needs with the school district. She is extremely knowledgeable in the area of cochlear implants and child’s needs for specific services. She is well informed and understands how the school district works. She has a take charge attitude and personality and really fights for your child. She even addresses the school district for you when needed. She has extensive experience and knowledge in educational rights for your child. She has been God sent for our family. She will continue to be a part of our child’s educational direction. She has a vision and we are very happy to to have her on our side. She is sympathetic and willing to help fight for you and your child. We are so excited to have her on our team! She is fabulous!

Tiffany and James Barnes

As a parent of a hearing impaired child, you are thrown into a world of the unknown. IFSP’s, IEP’s and just struggling to get the appropriate services for your child can be overwhelming. Once you start advocating for your child, you realize the lack of information that you have.

Our meetings with school districts were very stressful and we were often told what was best for our child. We seldom felt that we were offered the appropriate services for our son. We often felt like it was two of us versus a lot of them, and they had all of their experts on their side.

Melinda changed this for us. We now had an expert on our side who would be proactive in advocating for our son to get the appropriate services that he needed. Working with Melinda evened the playing field. Her expert level knowledge allowed us to go toe to toe with the districts. Melinda brings a wealth of knowledge based on her experience working with many school districts and her knowledge of the rights of kids with disabilities. We were able to get more appropriate services than we would have been able to without her. We will forever be grateful to Melinda for her hard work and dedication to our son and our family; for keeping us composed when we wanted to fall apart; for keeping us educated in all of the different aspects of our child’s academic life; for being our strength, our voice and a steady guidance for all the challenges that we faced.

Our son will have a higher quality of life due to the advocacy Melinda has provided.

Jim and Wanda Reyes and Family

Melinda tiene una gran sabiduría de cómo navegar el proceso del Programa  educativo individualizado (PEI) con respeto a estudiantes con deficiencias auditivas y como maximizar adaptaciones que son personalizadas apropiadamente a las necesidades de cada estudiante individual.  Tenemos dos hijas con deficiencias auditivas y Melinda nos ha ayudado desde el comienzo de su educación a optimizar las mejores condiciones educativas para nuestras hijas. Al principio de nuestra propia investigación sobre cómo crear a un hijo con deficiencias auditivas, encontramos que muchos profesionales dudan de la habilidad de que un niño con deficiencias auditivas hablen dos idiomas. Con el apoyo de Melinda, nuestras hijas están desarrollando el habla y comprensión de los dos idiomas muy bien en una escuela bilingüe. Melinda sabe cómo monitorear el ambiente acústico del salón de clases para asegurar que el sonido ambiental  no interfiera con el proceso de aprendizaje de un estudiante con deficiencias auditivas. Melinda también está familiarizada  con el uso del equipamiento que apoya la amplificación. Lo más importante es que Melinda es juiciosa y honra los deseos de los padres en como ellos quieren crear a sus hijos que tienen deficiencias auditivas. Melinda analiza cuidadosamente cada uno de sus clientes para crear un plan de educación único e individuo para que cada estudiante pueda ser exitoso en su búsqueda de una buena educación. Melinda no es controvertida, pero es muy persistente cuando se trata de conseguir adaptaciones apropiadas para necesidades individuales.

English:

Melinda has incredible knowledge on how to navigate the IEP process concerning hearing-impaired students and maximizing accommodations that are appropriately tailored to the educational needs of individual students.  We have two children with hearing impairments, and Melinda has helped us from the beginning of their education in optimizing the best educational conditions for our children.  In the beginning of our personal research on how to raise a child with an hearing impairment, we found many professionals doubted the ability of a child with an hearing impairment to speak two languages.  With Melinda’s support, our children are thriving in speaking and comprehending two languages at a bilingual school.  Melinda knows how to monitor the acoustical setting of the classroom to ensure that ambient noise is not interfering with the  learning process of a student with a hearing impairment.  Melinda is also familiar on how to use the equipment that supports amplification.  Most importantly, Melinda is nonjudgmental and honors the wishes of the parents in how parents want to raise children with hearing impairments.  Melinda really analyzes each of her clients individually and creates a unique individual program that each student can be successful with his pursuit in education. Melinda is non-confrontational, but she is very persistent in getting the appropriate accommodations for individual needs.

Tobias and Shannon Cabrera

I commend Melinda because she is a highly-esteemed resource for ensuring students with hearing loss a positive and smooth transition to inclusion in the general-education classroom.  She quickly establishes supportive relationships as a liaison among educators, service providers and parents of students with hearing loss which are based on first-hand experience, trust, and deep respect. For the eight years that I’ve known her, she’s provided group in-services for general-education teachers and staff working with Deaf/Hard of Hearing students using listening and spoken language to various districts within our SELPA.  Her workshops empower staff with the knowledge, understanding and tools to provide access to hearing and listening as a strong foundation for educational success.  Melinda’s classroom presentations educate typically-hearing peers about their classroom friend who uses hearing aids or cochlear implants to access listening and spoken language.  Through Melinda’s effective communicative style, she enriches all those involved with serving the needs of students with hearing loss in the educational setting; she’s an essential link encompassing the child, family, classmates, teachers, service providers and district administrators.

Della Topham

My son was in SDC since kindergarten. We always believed that he is very high functioning and the SDC is not a challenging environment for him. We also had concerns about the services he was receiving from school. Every time we brought up these issues in the IEP, we were given some vague answers. We did not know the law and so have to take what the school staff was saying. One good day, through one of other parent’s referral, we met Melinda Gillinger and then our son’s life changed for good. Thanks to Melinda’s, he is in the general education class and receiving appropriate services. Even Melinda’s presence is just enough to get things done. She is very well known for most of the school staff and very much respected. Melinda is very knowledgeable, an excellent communicator and uses her skills perfectly to highlight parents concern, negotiate and gets the perfect result. In all the IEP we had in the presence of Melinda, things were quite stress free and unusually positive results for us.

Logesh Vardan

As an audiologist in the educational and in the private sector I have had the ongoing pleasure collaborating with Melinda on various clients. Melinda continues to advocate and demonstrate her leadership and knowledge for recipients of cochlear implants, hearing aids, as well as individuals within the special needs community. Her passion, support, and expertise is essential for families and clients seeking her guidance and support navigating the educational and or private sector’s potential obstacles.​

Dr. Corinne Mann, Au.D., CCC-A

I have two children with hearing loss and met Melinda six years ago while attending a workshop she conducted on writing IFSPs and IEPs. We were very new to special education, feeling alone and overwhelmed. I knew within minutes of listening to her speak that I would be luring her into our life.

Like others in her profession she knows special education law inside and out, but it is her background in deaf education, specifically listening and spoken language, as well as having a daughter who is deaf that makes Melinda very unique. Melinda has a long history personally and professionally of bridging the gap beyond the clinical audiologist to the family and the educational providers in knowing what it takes for our kids to be successful with the access they are given through their hearing aids and implants.

When we met Melinda we had a very broken relationship with our District, we had no idea how to fix it and felt desperate at the prospect of years to come of such ineffectiveness. We started bringing Melinda to all our meetings. She worked with a delicate hand diffusing tension, building bridges, and helping us with the nitty gritty of writing our kid’s IEPs. It was her strong yet non-confrontational presence that helped us transform what had been an adversarial relationship into a collaborative and respectful partnership with our District that we continue to enjoy today.

It is a huge weight lifted to have this alley who alleviates the stress generated by my fear of making avoidable mistakes in this critical process, a process and area of expertise I haven’t spent my adult life performing or studying. She will be an irreplaceable member of our kid’s special education teams until graduation day. The debt we as parents and our kids (unknowingly) owe Melinda cannot be repaid financially.

Kille Knoble

Melinda has been an angel sent from above. I believe I met her when I was 18 or 19. I was a single teen mom with 2 deaf children already bilaterally implanted with cochlear implants and I was lost. Thankfully, she helped me tremendously with getting my boys everything they needed to be able to succeed. She never made me feel less than a person or treated me any differently than she would with other clients. She always made sure the boys came first even when I could not pay her. My boys would not be where they are today if it wasn’t for Melinda. She saved their future. The boys and I will forever be thankful for all Melinda has done and if you are a parent of a special needs child and have no where to turn…Melinda is the person to go to .

Justine Penunuri