AG Bell and LEAD-K Reach Historic Agreement: Key Legislation Will Help Ensure Language Acquisition for Children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
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Contact: Christopher Gensch, AG Bell Communications Director
Contact: Julie Rems-Smario, LEAD-K PR Director
Phone: 925-209-3537 (text)
AG Bell and LEAD-K Reach Historic Agreement
Key Legislation Will Help Ensure Language Acquisition for Children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Sacramento, Calif. (October 26, 2018) -- Five representatives from Language Equality and Advocacy for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K) and five representatives from the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) recently held a historic meeting to discuss shared goals related to language acquisition and literacy. Both organizations recognized the need to work together to benefit children who are deaf and hard of hearing in the United States, whether through American Sign Language (ASL) and English, Spoken English or both, and agreed to amend LEAD-K’s model bill. Both groups have held opposing views on how language acquisition should be approached, making this historic agreement a way forward for more than 12,000 babies identified each year as deaf or hard of hearing.
Working from the original LEAD-K bill modeled after California Senate Bill (S.B. 210), both groups agreed on amendments to strengthen services for all children who are deaf and hard of hearing. With the amended bill, parents will not only receive information about language milestones to work with their child’s language development but will also continue to receive balanced and comprehensive information about language acquisition in ASL and Spoken English. Both organizations will work together to support state initiatives and promote critical elements of the model bill to include in a proposed federal law.
LEAD-K leaders developed the model bill in 2015 to promote language acquisition and developmental milestones so parents and early education teachers can work together to monitor and track the progress of children who are deaf and hard of hearing with their receptive and expressive language from birth until kindergarten. The focus is on successful early language acquisition and development for children ages 0-5.
In its mission, AG Bell works globally to ensure that children and adults who are deaf and hard of hearing can hear and talk, a mission that remains since 1890. It focuses primarily on raising awareness about the importance of early intervention and early language development, with emphasis on learning through listening and spoken language.
Leaders from both groups weighed in on this historic agreement and its significance for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.
“This meeting was transformational in realizing that our goals are more alike than different. We want children who are deaf and hard of hearing to be on pace with their hearing peers in language development. We recognize and support diverse approaches to language acquisition, and both parties firmly believe in parent choice and disseminating unbiased information to them so they can make an informed decision on behalf of their child(ren). I am confident that this collaborative effort with LEAD-K will provide a greater voice in the legislative process, and I cannot express enough our enthusiasm and optimism for working together,” said Catharine McNally, AG Bell’s board chair.
“It’s an exciting time to see two otherwise polarized groups come together to focus and support a legislative initiative aimed at changing the landscape of Deaf children’s language acquisition rights in ASL and English. All stakeholders are now at the table to get the LEAD-K bill passed in their states. With language acquisition accountability and data in place, we can now develop resources for each Deaf child to arrive at kindergarten ready for literacy, reading, and writing. Meeting the language acquisition and development for all Deaf babies is a basic human right,” said Sheri Farinha, national LEAD-K campaign director.
About AG Bell: The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) helps families, health care providers and education professionals understand childhood hearing loss and the importance of early diagnosis and intervention. Through advocacy, education and financial aid, AG Bell helps to ensure that every child and adult with hearing loss has the opportunity to listen, talk and live a life without limits. With chapters located in the United States, AG Bell International in Europe and a network of international affiliates, AG Bell supports its mission: Working Globally to Ensure that People Who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing can Hear and Talk. Visit www.agbell.org.
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About LEAD-K: Since 2012, the Language Equality & Acquisition for Deaf Kids – Kindergarten - Readiness (LEAD-K) has been making headway with introducing legislation in different states to end language deprivation. The LEAD-K campaign is a direct response to the alarming number of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children arriving at school without language. Language deprivation has irreparably catastrophic consequences on the educational, social, and vocational development of Deaf and hard of hearing children. When provided with access and opportunities, the Deaf child has the ability to develop language normally. The Deaf child who has the foundation of language will acquire English literacy. At LEAD-K, we believe that Deaf children benefit from American Sign Language (ASL), a natural visual language. However, our goal is language acquisition regardless of the language used, ASL and English, or either one. (www.lead-k.org)