Sample opinion editorial (op-ed) for ASHA members to submit to their local newspaper or other publication opposing LEAD-K legislation introduced in the states.
Legislation recently introduced in [state] through the [insert name of bill] sounds great in theory: it will ensure that children who are deaf or hard of hearing have access to language and are kindergarten-ready when they start school. Part of a broad national effort spearheaded by the Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K), the bill, if enacted, would actually do a serious disservice to children who are deaf and hard of hearing and their families by restricting parental choice. It also will cost the state a lot of money to fix something that isn’t broken.
LEAD-K’s intent is to promote the acquisition of American Sign Language (ASL) over all other forms of language or communication for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. As it stands now, children who are deaf or hard of hearing can receive services through the state’s early intervention program via a variety of methods that suits the individual child’s needs and the family’s preferences. It may be ASL, or it may be listening and spoken language (with assistance from a hearing aid or cochlear implant), or cued speech or language, or another communication method—with appropriate educational supports.
This choice is critical. Over 90% of children who are deaf are born to parents who can hear (Mitchell and Karchmer, Gallaudet Research Institute, April 10, 2002). For some of those parents, ASL may not be an ideal fit. This is a highly personal choice for families—and one method should not be promoted over the other, particularly when other methods are currently available.
In addition to restricting parental choice, the proposed legislation will have real costs in dollars and cents. It establishes costly state committees that impose additional prescriptive assessment and data collection requirements that duplicate requirements already mandated through federal law. The legislation calls for additional funding to support the state committee, develop a parent resource, and implement the committee’s recommendations.
As an [audiologist/speech-language pathologist], I want parents to know that there are multiple options available to help your child communicate. Early intervention programs already provide support for various communication methods—including ASL.
When children enter kindergarten, there is a federal program in place called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to support them and their families. Children who need additional services to help them succeed in school will have a team of professionals, including parents, working on an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and Individualized Education Program (IEP).
You see, there are options for children to help them communicate. And, there are options for parents to help them make informed choices about what’s best for their child and their family.
I support effective communication for all. I also support a parent’s right to choose what’s best for their child and their family.
I ask my policymakers to oppose legislation introduced that would require costly state committees to mandate overly prescriptive practices and undermine the decision-making authority of the IFSP/IEP team. It’s just another state bill that requires duplicative efforts to supports that already exist at the federal level.