The Learning Center for the Deaf Supports Proposed ‘Language Readiness’ Legislation; Releases Position Paper

The following is a media release submitted to SOURCE by The Learning Center for the Deaf.

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FRAMINGHAM – The Learning Center for the Deaf (TLC) has released the attached position paper in support of H.3550 | S.350 sponsored by representative Brian Ashe and Senator Eric Lesser, “Language Readiness for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children Entering Kindergarten.”

The proposed legislation seeks to improve systems coordination and early intervention resources available for parents and families of deaf and hard of hearing children to ultimately support children’s educational, academic, and social development and outcomes.  

A hearing of the bill has been scheduled for Tuesday, July 23, 2019 at 10 a.m. at the State House, Gardner Auditorium.

“TLC runs two accredited schools, Marie Philip School and Walden School, and offers early intervention services through our Badavas Parent Infant Program, approved by the Department of Public Health. Based on years of working with families and children, we recognize and respect that the most important learning environment for children during their early years is the one created at home,” explained TLC CEO Sarah Glenn-Smith, MBA, Ph.D. “We are dedicated to helping families understand the various options available for early learning and understand the importance of regular assessment in the language chosen by a family to ensure that their young child is progressing. This proposed legislation will support families’ capacity to understand the extent to which children are meeting language milestones, and support families in understanding if additional intervention may be needed.”

Position Statement in Support of H.3550 | S.350

The Learning Center for the Deaf (TLC) endorses H.3550 | S.350 sponsored by representative Brian Ashe and Senator Eric Lesser, “Language Readiness for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children Entering Kindergarten.”  TLC is proud to support the proposed legislation, which seeks to improve systems coordination and early intervention resources available for parents and families of deaf and hard of hearing children to ultimately support children’s educational outcomes.

The Learning Center for the Deaf is a multi-service agency that is coming upon its 50th anniversary.   In 2010, TLC received full accreditation from The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), The Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD) and the Council on Accreditation (COA). TLC is the only organization in the nation to be accredited by all three organizations, exemplifying our commitment to high-quality service provision. The Learning Center for the Deaf was selected in 2019 as Outstanding Organization of the Year by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and our outpatient audiology clinic was recently voted “Best Audiologist” in the 2019 “Best of MetroWest” poll conducted by MetroWest Daily News.

We have two accredited schools, Marie Philip School and Walden School.  Among our programs, we offer early intervention services through our Badavas Parent Infant Program, approved by the Department of Public Health.  As a state-approved early intervention provider, The Learning Center for the Deaf recognizes and respects that the most important learning environment for children during their early years is the one created at home. We are dedicated to helping families understand the various options available for early learning.  In our early intervention program and in our schools, we offer instruction in American Sign Language and written English, and, where families request and as indicated on children’s IFSP/IEP, also in spoken English. 

Three key reasons drove TLC’s decision to publicly support this legislation:

  1. The need for public education  –  This legislation has been misrepresented in some media as requiring all deaf and hard of hearing children to learn American Sign Language.  This simply is not true.  The bill explicitly affirms parental choice of English, American Sign Language, or both.  The focus of the bill is not on which language, but instead on assessment of achievement of milestones in the chosen language to ensure young children are progressing.  Nothing in the bill restricts parents’ right to choose the language or communication program that works best for their child and family.  No specific intervention services are prescribed or recommended.  The bill does not discourage use of cochlear implants or other amplification technology.  The bill does not interfere with the IFSP/IEP process.  Instead, the bill proposes much-needed systems-wide coordination among the Departments of Public Health, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and parents of deaf and hard of hearing children in order to recommend early language milestones and assessment tools.  This coordination will support families’ capacity to understand the extent to which children are meeting language milestones, and if additional intervention may be needed.
  1. The need to empower families of all educational, economic, and social circumstances –  Language deprivation has lasting, negative impacts on education, social, and behavioral health outcomes of deaf and hard of hearing children.  Language deprivation can be mitigated by assessing children’s language milestones and providing families access to resources to improve their child’s language learning.  We believe that families of deaf and hard of hearing children, regardless of economic or social circumstances or educational attainment, have the right to know, access, and understand critical information and resources related to their children’s language development.  Further, we believe parents have the right to be represented in state agency decisions regarding resource allocation to improve educational and health outcomes for deaf and hard of hearing children in their early years.
  1. The need to safeguard rights of children – Deafness is a low-incidence occurrence.  Approximately 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard of hearing, according to the NIH[1].  Children who are deaf and hard of hearing are an especially vulnerable population educationally and socially.  Early years are critical for all children’s development, and additional resources are needed to protect the rights of children who are deaf or hard of hearing, and also support their families, early education providers, and communities in doing so.

We are proud to be located in Massachusetts, a state that is leading the nation in education.  States including California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, and Texas have passed similar legislation, and we hope others will join us in this endorsement of legislation to support early language learning for deaf and hard of hearing children in Massachusetts.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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