PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND — In legislation approved by the Rhode Island General Assembly, a joint legislative commission has been established to determine whether and how the state can better serve children with hearing loss.
The special commission will be made up of 24 members, including legislators, healthcare professionals and representatives from organizations and agencies that serve children with hearing loss.
“While kids generally have a lot of eyes on them and a lot of services available to them when they enter school, there seems to be a lot of variation in whether younger children who are deaf or hard of hearing are getting all the services they need. The goal of this commission is to ensure that all kids in Rhode Island who are deaf or hard of hearing, regardless of socioeconomic background, location or anything else, are properly connected to all the available services at as early as possible. They deserve to learn and communicate just as their hearing peers do, and access to programs at an early age is crucial for their development.” —Rep. Arthur Handy
According to the legislation, the commission is charged with several tasks:
- Comprehensive evaluation of early intervention services in Rhode Island for children who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Identification of the challenges and gaps that parents experience in the first three years of life for children with hearing loss
- Identification of gaps in resources, including personnel, expertise, professionals, and services for either or both English and American Sign Language (ASL), and ensure that visual and audio supplements to either language are available in the state
- Create an effective protocol to ensure that information provided by early intervention professionals is updated and balanced and will be shared with parents
- Create or expand a centralized resource for all parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Present findings and recommendations for solutions to parents whose child is deaf or hard of hearing.
“No deaf or hard of hearing child in Rhode Island should suffer developmentally because there was no one telling his or her parents about the many services that are available and following up to make sure the child gets what her or she needs. There are many programs that help deaf and hard of hearing kids, but our concern is finding out whether every child who needs them is actually given real opportunities to use them. If there are children who are falling through the cracks, how can we improve our early intervention activities to close those gaps?” —Sen. Stephen Archambault
The commission is set to present its findings to the Rhode Island General Assembly by February 1, 2018.