Urgent: Deaf/Hard of hearing language acquisition bill

Dirk Hillard, Carly Armour, Robert Vizzini, and Vania Kassouf advocate for legislation designed to help Deaf and hard of hearing children be better prepared for kindergarten. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Did you know there are 28 million Americans and approximately 430,000 individuals in the state of Iowa who are Deaf or hard of hearing? Did you know that Iowa’s Deaf and hard of hearing children ages 0-5 are not showing up as kindergarten ready due to lack of language acquisition?

The Language Equality & Acquisition for Deaf Kids to be kindergarten ready (LEAD-K) bill is needed because a majority of Deaf and hard of hearing children are academically very far behind when compared with their peers. This is a serious national education concern, which some states are beginning to address. Iowa’s children are no exception, but the State Department of Education has a long way to go to make changes.

Senator Rob Hogg introduced Senate File 2076, and State Representative Art Staed introduced the companion bill, House File 2140. We are writing to correct some misperceptions about this bill, which have been brought to our attention.

Myth #1 – This bill is a mandate for American Sign Language.

Truth #1 – The LEAD-K bill does not require American Sign Language. The bill provides for language milestone information and assessments for kids who use one or both of the languages of American Sign Language (ASL) and English. For purposes of the bill, “English” includes spoken English, written English, or English with the use of visual supplements.

Myth #2 – The LEAD-K bill asks for Deaf and hard of hearing children to be prioritized over children with other disabilities.

Truth #2 – The LEAD-K bill focuses on Deaf and hard of hearing kids because it is the only group that has limited or no access to language growing up. A very small percentage of Deaf and hard of hearing kids access language early with speech or sign language. The majority of them begin kindergarten way behind their pre-school peers. Thus this bill addresses language deprivation that is exceptional among Deaf and hard of hearing children.

This bill will encourage assessments, provide data, and supply parents with the resources their children need. It will also help parents make informed choices, improving the chances Deaf and hard of hearing children will be kindergarten ready.

The window of language development is so crucial. Waiting another year for this bill to pass ultimately hurts our children. Join us in the movement and call to improve language acquisition and education for Iowa’s Deaf and hard of hearing children by contacting your legislators today. To clear the legislature’s “funnel” deadline, this bill needs approval in either the House Education Committee or Senate Education Committee by February 16. Please encourage your legislator to tell their colleagues to support this bill without further delay!

LEAD-K for Iowa

Dirk Hillard

Carly Armour

Robert Vizzini

Vania Kassouf

Contact info: dhjh24@gmail.com

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