RD331 - Language Development Milestones and Parent Resources for Young Deaf/Hard of Hearing Children
Senate Bill 1741 (Senator Edwards, 2019) would have required the selection of language development milestones, creation of parent and educator resources, and implementation of annual language milestone assessments and results reporting for D/HH children zero to five years old. During the 2019 Virginia General Assembly session, the bill was Passed By Indefinitely in the Senate Education and Health Committee, with a letter sent to the Joint Commission on Health Care by the Senate Rules Committee requesting a report.
Childhood hearing loss – while affecting fewer than 200 children born each year in Virginia – has historically adversely impacted children’s language acquisition and development. Although a variety of communication options exist – including sign-based languages (e.g., American Sign Language, spoken (oral-aural) language with or without visual supplements, and written language) – no consensus exists on which communication choices are optimal for language development/literacy for the 95% of D/HH children born to hearing parents. A system of services and supports exist in Virginia for young D/HH children, anchored by universal newborn screening and Early Intervention services for children less than three years old, and Early Childhood Special Education Services for children two to five years old.
Recommendations were made to revise several provisions contained in Senate Bill 1741. With input from a stakeholder workgroup convened for the study, recommendations were made to: define key terms, identify an alternative implementing agency, modify the basis by which milestones can be selected, use existing resource guides as the basis for the parent resource envisioned by the bill, provide the implementing agency greater authority over the contours of the advisory committee envisioned by the bill, and task the implementing agency with determining additional data points for the annual report envisioned by the bill.
Additional recommendations were provided as legislative actions that could be considered instead of – or alongside – the provisions of Senate Bill 1741. These included: using an existing multi-agency data system to report on literacy outcomes of D/HH children; requiring State agencies to integrate language milestones into existing resource guides for this population; strengthening agency initiatives to allow Medicaid reimbursement of Early Intervention services delivered by telepractice, as well as increasing provider capacities in delivering Early Childhood Special Education services; and identifying opportunities to develop programs connecting families of D/HH children with D/HH adults, including Deaf Mentor programs.
Seven policy options were presented for consideration by Joint Commission on Health Care members and they approved the option to take no action at that time.