Connecticut just joined 11 other states when it passed a Deaf Children’s Bill of Rights. This bill assures that deaf children can receive an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that specifically includes a language and communication plan.
Why is this a good thing?
Most children with hearing loss are now educated in mainstream settings. With recent advances in newborn hearing screening where children are identified with hearing loss in the newborn nursery, and improvements in hearing technology, most deaf children do hear well enough to be educated in mainstream schools. This is great for kids with hearing loss because they have typical language models and the academic expectations are higher than they would be in most schools for the deaf. The problem is that there are not many children with hearing loss in any one school district. As a result, most districts really do not have experience planning for these children, and the speech-language pathologists in the districts don’t have a lot of experience with children with hearing loss.
What will the law do?
In Connecticut, it has been determined that more children with hearing loss are significantly delayed in reading, writing and math than their typical hearing peers. The reason for this is their delay in language skills. The law requires that a specific language and communication plan be developed that ensures that children can obtain the services necessary for them to develop the language skills they need to learn well in the mainstream settings.
How will it work?
The information I have seen does not make this clear. I am sure that some of the people involved in this program will want sign language and staff will have to be brought into schools to assist in providing signing services to them. Other families, who choose spoken language (more than 90% of families), should now be able to request auditory verbal therapists to help build the skills required to help these kids succeed. Right now, speech pathologists who are working in schools see children with hearing loss, children who stutter, children with articulation errors, etc. They are generalists. Most have little or no specific training or experience in working with children with hearing loss and learning to maximize auditory performance. There is a lot to learn about working with children with hearing loss. The way I read this law (or at least the summary of the law I found online), schools will have to step up to the plate and perhaps share staff who are experienced with hearing loss with nearby schools to provide services to these kids.
It will be an interesting journey. The goal is a great one. We will have to see how this develops.