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EHDI Bill Moves Forward without Deaf

Right now SB 652,  Early Hearing Detection Intervention Act which was first established back in 2000 is now up for reauthorization to fund the next 5 years. The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) just passed the bill Wednesday morning, April 26th, to move forward to the full senate floor.

This bill is being pushed by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) with the support of Senator Portman from Ohio and Senator Kaine form Virginia.


When the EHDI Act was first approved back in 2000, 44% of newborns were screened for hearing loss. Now in 2017 with the support of congressional funding, this has increased to 97%.


While there are many in favor of the bill, two deaf organizations, National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and California Association of the Deaf (CAD) have expressed serious concerns that their recommendations from deaf experts are not included in the bill.  



You know, we do not support this bill as it stands right now. We simply do not. We will send a letter your office and send it to all the other senators.


Senator: You are right and our perspective is that this bill has to be approved again.



Tawny Holmes,  NAD’s Education Policy Counsel,  explains the difference between Early Language Intervention versus Early Language Services.


“NAD has had numerous conversations with multiple deaf community experts who are heavily involved with deaf mentoring and early education for deaf children across the nation.  These discussions have led us to realize that the word “intervention” is really the act of interfering.  The deaf community over time has modified the sign for intervention to “involvement” or “engaging” but despite our modifications, the english term for “intervention” still means interfering.

We disagree with this approach and believe that experts should support the family.  With this in mind, we believe that by changing the words to “Early Language Services” it will encourage and support families to be more involved learning both sign language and spoken language in support of the child --  this will provide the child with full access to language.  Those in the field of early language intervention often forget over time the main objective -- language for the child. Now 85% of families with deaf children are being told to not prioritize sign language and focus on listening and spoken language because of technologies like hearing aids and cochlear implants. But sometimes after years of this approach with no success families realize the child still can’t talk -- what can they do?  The child is without language. It’s too late. So what we are trying to do now is educate that language acquisition should be more broad including sign language, spoken language, home signs and so forth as part of the process for everyday early language services. This is not an intervention but an early language service that supports the family.  


The EHDI bill has been approved by the committee and will move forward to the full senate floor with all 100 senators soon casting their votes to pass it as it is or to amend the bill. This is where we need your support. NAD will be working on developing guidelines for letters and vlogs that can be sent to your senator.

Follow NAD for further information on this bill and what you can do to make a difference with your Senator.


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