Sunday, January 8, 2012

What Is A Deaf Child's Bill of Rights?

Eleven states in the U.S. have already passed a Deaf Child Bill of Rights to ensure the choice of communication mode of deaf/hard of hearing children is respected and to ensure these children have fully accessible educational opportunities through an IEP focused on language and communication needs.
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Law requires an IEP team to consider the unique language and communication needs of a deaf/hard of hearing child including opportunities for direct communication with peers, direct instruction in the child’s language/communication mode; academic level; full range of needs and need for assistive technology/services. 

As a parent of a profoundly deaf teen, Terry Bedard understands many of the challenges facing those with hearing loss.  Professionally, Terry is an attorney and parent advocate who helps children with hearing loss get the placements and services they need to succeed academically.  Fueled by her passion to help deaf and hard of hearing children, as co-founder and President, Terry leads the Hear Here Hartford Chapter, A Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America helping others to overcome the challenges of hearing loss and realize their potential.

Terry and her team are advocating to legislators in there state of Connecticut to pass such a bill, “The Deaf Child Bill of Rights would require a Language & Communication Plan to be part of the child’s IEP and implement the requirement already under the federal education law.”

By requiring a Language & Communication Plan to be developed for deaf/hard of hearing children and attached to their IEP, the unique language and communication needs would be addressed. Specifically, the Language & Communication Plan would address:
·         Unique language & communication needs
·         Student’s primary language/communication mode chosen
·         Availability of peers and role models of the student’s language/communication mode
·         All educational options available for the student
·         Qualifications of teachers and other personnel and proficiency in the student’s language/communication mode
·         Accessibility of academic instruction, school services and extracurricular activities
·         Assistive devices/services; communication and physical environment accommodations

While there are several hundred deaf/hard of hearing students in Connecticut, it is considered a low-incidence disability with just a handful of these students spread out in any one district.   Many local schools do not have much experience with deafness and would benefit from a helpful tool such as the Language & Communication Plan to address unique language and communication needs.

Why is there a need for a Deaf Child Bill of Rights law in Connecticut?

An educational crisis is occurring in Connecticut based on the 2011 Connecticut State Department of Education data for CMT and CAPT scores.  These scores show deaf/hard of hearing children with IEPs are significantly behind in reading, writing and math as compared to their hearing peers.  Between 71% - 81% of deaf/hard of hearing children did NOT reach goal for CMT & CAPT assessments as compared to 35% - 58% of their hearing peers.  A Deaf Child Bill of Rights would require the IEP team to focus on the unique language and communication needs of these children and help to close this wide achievement gap by meeting these needs.
 
If you are an individual or group living in a state WITHOUT a Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights we want to hear from you. Does your state recognize American Sign Language for foreign language credit in grades K -12 and/or in Colleges and Universities? Please send an email to Kimberly McGuiness at kimberlymcguiness@gmail.com