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Video: Donna Valverde, a member of the NAD Education Strategy Team (EST) shares an update regarding the NAD’s proposed amendments. If you’re reading this from your mobile, watch the video here.
Currently, the U.S. Senate is reviewing a bill to reauthorize the Senate Bill 2424, the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act, which was first passed in 2000. This law focuses on mandating newborn hearing screenings of all newborn babies in hospitals and triggers provision of early intervention services to babies who are identified as deaf or hard of hearing and their families. On February 23rd, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) sent a letter to the co-sponsors of the re-authorization bill, S. 2424, Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Kristen Gillibrand of New York. The letter, while recognizing the success of hearing screenings which is now at a 95% rate, points out that improvements are needed to early intervention services, which are not reaching up to 60% of families with deaf and hard of hearing babies. As explained in the letter, with the support of key community members across the country, the NAD provided recommended amendments to the Act urging a shift in focus on how the law is enforced and requesting changing the name of the law to the Family Support Act.
“Early intervention benefits many deaf and hard of hearing babies, but it has not reached its maximum effectiveness nor ensured that every baby has access to language,” said NAD CEO Howard A. Rosenblum. “Integrating positive terminology and shifting the focus from the baby’s ears to the baby’s success in life is a way for Congress to make a real difference for thousands of families with deaf and hard of hearing babies identified every year.
In addition, the NAD recommends amendments that specify providing infants with access to American Sign Language and English from birth, monitoring language development, and ensuring families’ access to deaf professionals such as Deaf Mentors. Moreover, the NAD also proposes a change of supervising agencies for newborn hearing screenings and early intervention services. Currently, two agencies, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and Center of Disease Control (CDC) oversee the implementation of the EHDI Act. NAD recommends that responsibility for early detection and intervention be transferred to the U.S. Department of Education for two reasons: 1) doing so would be more efficient given that the U.S. Department of Education currently has two similar programs for children ages 0-3, Child Find and HeadStart; and 2) educational success depends entirely on successful intervention in the form of language acquisition and development. NAD encourages all stakeholders, including parents, advocates, teachers, and more to send in letters to their U.S. senators supporting the recommended amendments.
About the National Association of the Deaf
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is the oldest national civil rights organization in the United States of America, with a mission of preserving, protecting, and promoting the civil, human, and linguistic rights of 48,000,000 deaf and hard of hearing people in the country. Established in 1880, the NAD was shaped by deaf leaders who believed in the right of the American deaf community to use sign language, to congregate on issues important to them, and to have its interests represented at the national level. These beliefs remain true to this day, with American Sign Language as a core value. The advocacy scope of the NAD is broad, covering a lifetime and impacting future generations in the areas of early intervention, education, employment, health care, technology, telecommunications, youth leadership, and more – improving the lives of millions of deaf and hard of hearing individuals. The NAD is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supported by the generosity of individual and organizational donors, including corporations and foundations.
- Tawny Holmes
National Association of the Deaf (NAD) NAD Education Policy Counsel
Amendments Recommended for the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2015