Public Comments for: HB1047 - Students who need or use augmentative and alternative communication; instruction, eligibility.
Last Name: Watkins Locality: Reston

To Whom It May Concern, Thank you for the opportunity to comment on HB 1034. As a public high school school teacher and parent of two young children (ages 5 and 2) in Virginia, I have serious concerns that this bill will wind up doing more harm than good for the children of our state. I have worked in two different public school systems in Virginia over 13 years, and I have seen first hand how beneficial counseling services can be to a wide variety of students. If parents are allowed to prohibit their students from accessing counseling services in the school, these students may be cut off from not only critical mental health support, but but also the academic, career, and community support that school counselors and mental health team members provide. All members of a school mental health team must undergo rigorous education before obtaining their licenses, and as such they should be trusted as the professionals they are to provide only services that they deem necessary for students well-being. I strongly urge you to let the trained mental health professionals do their jobs. Don't make students get tied in the mire of adult squibbles. Thank you, Sara Watkins Mother Teacher Concerned Virginia Citizen

Last Name: Watkins Locality: Reston

To Whom It May Concern, Thank you for the opportunity to comment on HB HB1032. As a public high school school teacher and parent of two young children (ages 5 and 2) in Virginia, I have serious concerns that this bill will wind up doing more harm than good for the children of our state. As VA Senator Peterson said on January 27 of this year, regarding a similar bill, "I don't think we should be involved in micromanaging school libraries...The problem is that you’re going to sweep up books that you don’t intend to sweep up" (Matthew Barakat, abcnews.go.com). I strongly urge you to leave the books in the libraries for the kids. They deserve to have the opportunity to decide with their own parents and personal support systems what books to read. Thank you, Sara Watkins Mother Teacher Concerned Virginia Citizen

Last Name: Asip Organization: Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE) Locality: Powhatan

HB1047 VCASE thanks Del. Tran for continuing a dialogue about this bill to assist students who use augmentative and assistive communication devices. VCASE has opposed HB1047 as originally drafted and opposed the substitute was shared this morning. VCASE would support a substitute that would have VDOE review, update, and disseminate AAC procedures that would emphasize compliance with the IEP that addresses assessment, access, supports, training, and least restrictive environment matters. In the original proposed legislation, the requirements that restrict the use of any evaluation tool in considering eligibility or services is contrary to IDEA and Virginia evaluation and eligibility guidance that the team review multiple sources of information about the student. VCASE supports practices that provide students access to general education classes to the maximum extent appropriate and is concerned about any particular claim that a student with an AAC may have a unique right in this consideration. Lastly, the IEP has the force of law. If an IEP includes the specifics of training, support, and least restrictive setting, then that IEP must be followed. If the service is delayed, the the student is qualified for compensatory services and the parents can lodge a state complaint or request a due process hearing if they claim an IEP violation has occurred. We hope to support a version of this bill that has a VDOE study of these services with reemphasis on IEP compliance with AAC procedures.

Last Name: Senter Locality: King George

I am reaching out in support of H.B. 1047, albeit with some concerns that I hope to see addressed through an amendment. As a speech-language pathologist, I am grateful to see legislative support for users of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Communication is a human right, and AAC facilitates communication for people who might otherwise be unable to request their basic wants and needs, make a comment, or tell their loved ones how they feel. School-based support for AAC will open the doors for hundreds, if not thousands of AAC users across the Commonwealth. My only concern regarding this bill is that it opens the door for pseudoscientific forms of communication. In particular, Facilitated Communication and the Rapid Prompting Method are forms of AAC that have been discouraged by numerous organizations over the years, including that American Speech-Language-Hearing Association that issues my credentials as a speech-language pathologist. Whereas "good" AAC allows the users to create spontaneous, novel, unique, and generative messages, Facilitated Communication and the Rapid Prompting Method have no evidence to support their efficacy; based on the lack of evidence, it is generally understood that the facilitators are creating the messages themselves, essentially "speaking for" the individual with a disability. This doesn't empower the communicator, it removes their autonomy. While I 100% support a bill that improves the availability and training of AAC in Virginia's schools, I hope to see this loophole closed before the passage of H.B. 1047. Perhaps wording might be added to stipulate that this bill supports "evidence-based AAC," or "AAC that has been generally deemed best practice," or perhaps wording that specifically excludes Facilitated Communication or the Rapid Prompting Method. For more information, please see the following link, which includes cautions against Facilitated Communication and Rapid Prompting Method from dozens of organizations, including the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, Association for Behavior Analysis, the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, and more. https://www.asha.org/slp/cautions-against-use-of-fc-and-rpm-widely-shared/

Last Name: Lutz Organization: National Council on Severe Autism (NCSA) Locality: Villanova, Pennsylvania

The National Council on Severe Autism (NCSA) enthusiastically supports efforts to increase accessibility to Alternative and Assistive Communication (AAC) for those with minimal or no language. But we have grave concerns that House Bill 1047, as it is written, will be used to support the use of pseudoscientific interventions that fall under what speech pathologists refer to as "facilitated communication," which includes but is not limited to Spelling to Communicate (S2C) and the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM). More than three decades of research has confirmed that the products of FC are controlled (usually unconsciously) by the nondisabled assistant or facilitator -- like a ouija board. That is why virtually every relevant professional organization -- such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Science in Autism Treatment and over a dozen other national and international organizations oppose all forms of FC. It is critical that the language of the IDEA, which requires that services and supports be evidence-based (meaning supported by peer-reviewed studies), be included in this bill. FC poses significant harm to students, most notably in terms of both financial and opportunity cost. A very recent study (January 2022) published in the journal Exceptional Children calculated that the Rapid Prompting Method costs school districts $32,159 per student the first year alone, and almost $28,000/year in ongoing support "with little evidence of positive outcomes." We thank you for your concern for our population, and urge you to amend this important bill to ensure that our kids receive only evidence-based interventions in Virginia schools. Thank you for the opportunity to submit comment -- Amy Lutz Vice-President, National Council on Severe Autism

Last Name: Halladay Organization: Autism Science Foundation Locality: New York, NY

We applaud the effort to ensure students who utilize AAC are included in general education. AAC is an evolving form of communication and there are problematic interventions that claim to be AAC that are not. That’s why it is critical that the language in IDEA, the requires services and supports to be based on peer-reviewed research as much as is practicable, be included in the bill. If controversial methods are implemented in general education classrooms, speech-language pathologists and behavior analysts could be in violation of their codes of ethics. Amendments: As used in this section, "augmentative and alternative communication" or "AAC" means any device, tool, support, or service, or any combination thereof, that facilitates any form of communication, other than oral speech, that can be used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas.. In accordance with with U.S.C. Section 1414(d)(1)(A), page 99, Services and supports related to AAC included in an individualized education plan shall be based on research-based methods as much as is practicable. No individualized education program team, member of such team, or school division employee shall solely utilize the results of any intelligence quotient test or any other test to measure intelligence or cognitive ability to determine a student with a disability's eligibility to be provided with and use AAC at school.

Last Name: Ton Locality: Virginia Beach

Comments Document

I am attaching a narrative in support of HB 1047. Thank you for your time- Crystal Ton

Last Name: Evanko Locality: Mechanicsville

I love the intent of this bill, but I am concerned that the ASHA definition that is used at the top is too broad and does not reflect best practice. I think this bill would better serve children if it used the definition that added the necessity of evidence-base for the communication types. Otherwise, well-meaning school systems could train people on limiting forms of communication, such as facilitated communication because that is the easier and cheaper thing to do rather than what is best for the student. Speech therapists would then need to go against their ethics code to train people on the chosen system. Thank you for your attention.

Last Name: Genelin Locality: Fairfax County

I am writing in support of HB 1047 which would require timely training needed to use AAC devices. Communication is a basic human need. My friend's child uses an AAC device and her teachers in Fairfax County do not receive adequate timely training in order to allow the device to be used effectively. All students need and deserve basic communication between teachers and peers. Acknowledging that a child needs a device to communicate but failing to provide the training to use the device properly or in a timely manner prevents that child from accessing a free and appropriate public education. Please vote in support of HB 1047. Thank you.

Last Name: Campbell Locality: Fairfax County

I urge you to support HB 1047 for my daughter and students like her. I sent an email to the subcommittee earlier this week describing the difficulties we had getting our daughter identified for speech services in the first place, as well as the difficulties in implementing the methods needed to support her AAC device with fidelity once she was assigned one. We have continuously worked collaboratively with our daughter's IEP team, and we have had a very supportive administration of which we are very appreciative - but that collaboration has not been enough to overcome the barriers to effective implementation of AAC that result from a lack of timely access to necessary training. We have had years where our child's teachers weren't able to access training on our daughter's device until mid-October or mid-November. Months of learning opportunities are missed because teachers cannot effectively communicate in the students' AAC language. This bill will address that, within the bounds of IDEA's existing regulations, to ensure that appropriate training happens before a child enters the classroom. This is critical so that, from the first day of school, AAC users have access to the same social and academic opportunities as their non-disabled peers. I have worked to remedy this at a local level for some time, in coordination with other local families, and it has become clear that the state must require these changes in order for systemic change to occur for all preK-12 AAC users. This bill also brings to the forefront what IDEA already requires - that students not be denied access to a general education classroom due to their AAC status, and that IQ tests not be used to deny a child AAC supports. Communication is the key to accessing education and unveiling a student's capabilities. Please support Virginia's AAC user population and pass HB 1047 today. Thank you.

Last Name: Rosenblatt Locality: Arlington

I strongly urge you to vote in favor of HB 1047. This bill is the right thing to do to support our most marginalized students. Some nonspeaking students in Virginia, like my 10 year old son, Nico, who has Angelman Syndrome, are fortunate to be born into families with the resources to seek out and provide them with augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) privately, and to fight for their right to be supported in regular classrooms. Unfortunately, the vast majority of students in Virginia who are unable to be understood using speech are never given the right supports to learn to communicate effectively using language. When a nonspeaking student isn’t given the supports and training necessary for them to “prove” they can understand and communicate with language, educators all too often give up and assume they simply are too disabled to use language. They are given IQ tests that are not designed for people who cannot either speak or do not have reliable fine motor control to point or use a pencil. When they get a low IQ score, that is used against them. Those low IQ scores are used to essentially “blame” the student for their failure to learn to use AAC, when all that is needed is better training and supports. Even students with significant disabilities, like those with Angelman Syndrome, are capable of understanding and using language. This bill is also important because, currently, if a student needs AAC but hasn’t been given access to it, they are nearly always placed in a fully segregated setting. I am aware of fewer than a dozen nonspeaking students in the entire state of Virginia who are fully included, and my son is one of them, thanks to the significant advocacy my wife and I have had to devote to fighting for him to be included with his non-disabled peers. Even with all of our advocacy, knowledge and resources, we have never had staff who are properly trained to support our son's communication needs on the first day they work with him. This is the equivalent of hiring someone to teach French who does not themselves speak the language, and simply expecting them to pick it up as they go along. Why is it acceptable to assign untrained staff to support students like my son, when this would never be acceptable in any other part of our education system? In my current role as the chair of my local Special Education Advisory Committee, I see how students of color and those from families with far less privilege than my own are more frequently segregated and never given the opportunities to live up to their potential. This bill would begin to address those inequities by ensuring that educators are provided the training they need to support ALL AAC users, not just the most privileged. Finally, because I understand that some are arguing that this bill would create an “unfunded mandate,” I want to conclude by pointing out that this bill does not, in fact, create any additional obligations on school districts other than to ensure that training is provided to staff when they need it, rather than after the fact. No additional spending requirements will be imposed on school districts as they are already supposed to be training staff to support students’ use of AAC, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. HB 1047 is the right thing to do to support our most marginalized students, most of whom continue to lack access to the AAC they need to communicate, learn, and be members of their school community.

Last Name: Szymanski Locality: Arlington

HB 1047 is supported by nearly three dozen state, local and national organizations, including major autism organizations (e.g., the Virginia Autism Project, Autism Society of Central Virginia, Autism Society of Northern Virginia, Autism Society Tidewater Virginia, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and NeuroClastic), Down syndrome and cerebral palsy organizations, and AAC-focused and disability-led organizations that are experts on AAC (e.g., the United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, the Association for Assistive Technology Act Programs, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America, CommunicationFIRST, and TASH). Virginia’s teachers unions support it, including the Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers Virginia. It’s supported by speech-language pathologists, teachers of students who need and use AAC, the Virginia PTA, and families of the most disadvantaged and marginalized students in Virginia. The Arc of Virginia and the Virginia Board of People with Disabilities support it. It’s supported by AAC users and other people with disabilities, who really should be the main stakeholders you listen to on this topic. And it is supported by allies of AAC users who believe that communication is a basic human right. This is an incredibly modest bill. To oppose it would send the message that the General Assembly and the people of Virginia believe the most marginalized and vulnerable students don’t have the same right to communicate as other students. It would send the message that the Subcommittee believes that people who can’t speak don’t have the potential to learn and succeed in life. It would convey that you don’t care whether people who can’t speak are ever given the tools and supports they need to communicate, to be educated, to be employed, and to live productive, meaningful lives. It would convey that you believe that people who cannot speak aren’t worthy of being seen or educated alongside nondisabled students. And if you oppose it because you buy into the lobbyist talking point that this would create an unfunded mandate, you’d be conveying that you aren’t aware that nearly all of the bill’s requirements – including the requirement to provide training to support educators who teach AAC users – are already embedded in existing federal law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s assistive technology provisions. This bill would simply ensure that the AAC and training are provided when teachers and the student actually need it, to avoid situations like Calvin’s, where school staff and students are set up to fail. As the House budget office has already determined, this bill would in fact have zero budgetary impact. Calling HB 1047 an unfunded mandate, as some lobbyists are doing, is both disingenuous and patently false. Read the bill. And support our most marginalized students in Virginia, the vast majority of whom are never provided access to robust, language-based AAC, are never given the opportunity to learn alongside and make friends with their nondisabled peers, are given IQ tests that simply are not evidence-based for them, and have low IQ scores weaponized against them to try to justify the denial of AAC and forced segregation. Students who need AAC in Virginia need this bill, and I encourage you to do the right thing for these most marginalized students and vote in favor of HB 1047. – Tauna Szymanski, JD, MPA

Last Name: Litton Tidd Organization: Neurodivergent Liberation Coalition Locality: Fairfax, Reston

HB 1047 must pass. Access to appropriate communication modalities is both a human right and a safety issue. Access isn't just handing a device to a child just as inclusion isn't just placing a disabled child in a GenEd setting with no supports. Inclusion is a verb, not a noun. Inclusion is action that makes learning accessible to an array of diverse learners. Inclusion is not where a child is sitting, but how a child is able to access learning. It is not possible for a nonspeaker with a device to learn in a classroom with a teacher who does not understand the child's language. One of the objections we hear relentlessly at NDLC is that when neurodivergent children are included in general ed classrooms, they distract abled students, as though classrooms are the providence of abled people that disabled children are invading. The reason disabled children sometimes distract abled children is the segregation paradigm pervasive in education. Neurodivergent children aren't inherently distracting, unless neurotypical children have no exposure to them. Anything one has not seen or experienced can be distracting. The answer to that is more exposure to nonspeakers in classrooms, not less. One of the arguments oft repeated by those who opposed racial integration in schools was concern White students would be distracted by Black students. We've hear this trope resurrected with every group society seeks to exclude. Nonspeakers are a group with some of the highest rates of restraint and seclusion. When a child isn't able to communicate, often they will the only way they are able, through behavior. Then, rather than seeing the adult failure to appropriately accommodate the child, the child is punished. Far too often, inability to use words to communicate is the impetus for excluding nonspeaking children from general ed. The choice to remove a child from the rest of us isn't determined on the child's needs, but adult decisions. My 15 year old son is autistic and was nonspeaking. He wasn't offered an AAC until 4th grade, and then when we sent him in with a device, nobody in his classroom understood his language. So he was hurt, then angry, then segregated, then locked alone in a seclusion cell hundreds of times. No problems were solved through that locked door. He wasn't seen or heard because the people around him couldn't understand his language. Then he was locked alone, without his device, in a void, punished for his teachers' inability to interact with him. These weren't bad people; they simply weren't trained. So he moved from one restrictive environment to more restrictive environments. He was alone, inside and outside of his seclusion cell. He was invisible. This is a common experience for this population. Communication is a fundamental human right, so is inclusion. We can't continue excluding nonspeaking children from education and life. They need us to see them, to hear them, to know them. Thurgood Marshall opined in the Brown v Board decision, "separate is inherently unequal." Nonspeaking children have a right to a fully supported inclusion education. That's not just handing them an AAC and sliding a desk into a room. Inclusion is helping them be wherever they are capable of being with whatever supports are needed. They shouldn't have to leave us to be supported. We need to keep nonspeakers with us, because they belong with us. They have a right to be seen and understood. Pass HB 1047. We stand with nonspeakers.

Last Name: Ashburn Locality: Virginia Beach

Please vote YES to HB 1047! I'm a former elementary school teacher and a mother of a child who uses AAC. I know all too well that students who cannot access communication are more likely to be segregated from their non-disabled peers. The inability to speak is often falsely equated to low intelligence. This bill will help guard against placing AAC users in more restricted environments. It will also ensure that our educators have the training they need (and often request), so they are able to appropriately include and support their students who use AAC to communicate. Thank you for making this happen!

Last Name: Latham Locality: Springfield

Please support HB 1047 and students like Calvin. Earlier this week, Lindsay and I sent the subcommittee personal emails describing our son’s experience in classrooms where his team was untimely and inadequately trained in how to support his use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). We have been advocating for change in AAC training at the local level for more than three years, and we come to this body for a resolution that we couldn’t obtain through repeated attempts at collaboration with Virginia’s largest school district. Through our advocacy with and for our son, we have learned that students in other districts often go without teachers and staff who are trained in a timely manner. In addition, we have learned that AAC users are often deprived meaningful educational opportunities because of unnecessary segregation and the use of intelligence-based testing to determine who needs and gets to use AAC. Passing HB 1047 would ensure that students who need and use AAC don’t experience these unnecessary barriers, and enjoy the benefits of a well-trained classroom team. As parents of a child who—based on his specific brain malformation—shouldn’t be able to communicate with language, we know that there is value in testing limits and changing expectations. Despite his diagnosis, Lindsay and I spent months learning and using American Sign Language to communicate with Calvin, with hopes that he would someday pick it up. And we remember the first time he used ASL spontaneously to comment that he saw a dog. From that point forward, we continued to push limits and change our own expectations, and Calvin accelerated in his expressive language skills at home via an AAC device and meaningful AAC experiences. But when he entered the public school system full time, he plateaued, and in some respects regressed, because he lacked access to well-trained teachers and staff who could provide meaningful language modeling. Lindsay and I enjoy collaborating with Calvin’s IEP team. But we don’t have access to staff training records. We don’t have access to a list of the training modules the school district provides its employees. And even if we had access to that information, we usually learn who is assigned to Calvin’s classroom only about a week before school begins. To expect us and other parents to be able to advocate for timely training for our children by using the IEP process—as some opponents to this bill have suggested—isn’t a fix and shows that some people don’t know how long the IEP process takes. By contrast, based on their knowledge of the school district’s training opportunities and the skill level of their teachers and staff, school administrators can ensure that appropriate AAC training is identified and scheduled when they make classroom assignments. There is no law or regulation that prevents school administrators from doing this and setting up their teachers, staff, and students for success. Finally, nothing in this bill requires school districts to spend additional funds to comply with its requirements—that is, unless a school division currently is shirking its existing obligations to train its teachers and staff to teach and support AAC users. HB 1047 simply requires school divisions to shift when they provide such training to a time that will ensure that teachers, staff, and students who use AAC benefit from our public school system, just like other students. We look forward to you voting in support of this bill.

Last Name: Altieri Locality: Radford

My name is Elizabeth Altieri and I am a professor of special education at Radford University in southwest Virginia. I have decades of experience training teachers how to teach ALL students, regardless of their support needs. I also co-direct the VDOE-funded Virginia Inclusive Practices Center, which provides training to teachers around the Commonwealth. In 2018, I was elected to and continue to serve on my local School Board. I strongly urge you to pass HB 1047. In my work with schools locally and around the Commonwealth, I have found that teachers are desperate to know how to better support students who need AAC, both with their communication and with their academic and social inclusion. I have also found time and time again that many educators automatically and incorrectly assume that people who cannot speak with their mouths can’t understand and learn to use language to communicate. IQ tests aren’t evidence-based for this population, and yet they are routinely given to nonspeakers, and the resulting low scores are used to deny both AAC and inclusion. Even though HB 1047 is a modest bill (I believe more is truly necessary to begin to level the playing field for the most vulnerable students in Virginia), I do believe it’s an important first step to supporting teachers. The bill is not onerous, is easily achievable, is NOT in fact an unfunded mandate (AAC training is currently required under the IDEA but often does not happen in a timely fashion, or at all), and is supported by families and teachers alike. This is the first bill in Virginia that will begin to address the significant unmet needs of students who need and use AAC. Please keep in mind that these students aren’t represented by expensive lobbyists. I strongly encourage you to support this very modest piece of legislation.

Last Name: Vavredge Organization: N/A Locality: Fairfax County

I am an elementary school special education teacher who supports HB 1047, because school divisions need to know that they can’t send teachers and staff into a classroom with an AAC user and expect everyone to just figure it out (like they did me). In addition, as someone who currently teaches an AAC user in the general education setting, I support this bill’s goal to ensure that AAC users are not unnecessarily segregated from their peers, and I support clarifying that intelligence-based exam results cannot be used in assessing whether students need or use AAC, as such results lack any evidentiary basis for use in students. In 2019, I was excited to teach an AAC user for the first time. What a fun and exciting challenge and a new way for me to learn to interact with people. I knew to request training in AAC because his parents told me I should request it. I got a few hours of training 4 days before school began on what core vocabulary was and a little bit of the philosophy behind AAC devices in general. I did not receive training on the specific device my student was using until November, nearly 3 full months into the school year. Further, the training I received was not at the level needed to provide a quality education to my AAC user from day one in the classroom. I had to figure a lot out as I went along. I was supposed to be educating this child, but instead I was experimenting on him to figure out what worked and what did not work in my attempts to understand and communicate with him. As an educator one of my top priorities is ensuring that my students feel welcome and have fun and meaningful experiences at school. How am I supposed to make a student feel welcome when I am not effectively communicating with them? It was hard and frustrating, and I felt like I wasted a good portion of the kid’s kindergarten year trying to learn what I needed to do to provide the high-quality education that other students were getting. I have gotten the opportunity to support this child again this year in 2nd grade. I think I have gotten a little better at it, after a year and a half of working with this AAC user, but, admittedly, it is his parents that provide me much of my useful training, not the school district. I cannot image what parents who do not have the means to advocate for their children with the school district or have the ability to provide on the job training to the teachers supporting their child must be going through. For them we need to make sure effective AAC training happens before school begins. What I want, more than anything else (including a raise) is to get the support I need to effectively do my job. It is hard and demoralizing to constantly tread water and to feel like you are wasting a child’s primary education. Educators want your help and support to teach all their students. That support must include effective training for AAC users. I ask that you support HB 1047 and its commonsense approach to ensuring that teachers and staff are ready to teach and support AAC users in our schools.

Last Name: Cooper-Gould Locality: Reston

Please support HB 1047 by voting YES! It is critically important that ALL students have access to communication and education. Those who require augmentative and alternative communication devices should not be prevented from education and access merely because they use a device to communicate. All students deserve an equitable education and all humans deserve to speak and be heard. Thank you, Diane Cooper-Gould

Last Name: McCaughey Locality: Reston, VA

Dear Members of the House Education- Early Childhood/Innovation Subcommittee, Please VOTE YES on HB1047. My three children are able to communicate without supports, and they struggle to get their needs met in school. I can only imagine how much harder the children who communicate in alternative ways have to fight to access their education and communicate meaningfully with their teachers and classmates. Every child, no matter how they communicate, has the right to access the school curriculum and communicate using their augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). This issue is important to me because our obligation is to provide FAPE to every child, and every teacher deserves the training and supports they need to best meet the needs of their students. Students who need AAC are often denied the supports they need based on unwarranted assumptions about their potential. This bill is a modest but important first step to ensuring that teachers get the resources and training they need to support all their students, including those who need AAC. It would help ensure that students who cannot speak have the same opportunities to reach their potential as all other students. I want all my children's classmates to receive true access to education, and having the ability to communicate back and forth with their teachers is crucial. Please Vote YES on HB1047. Sincerely, Lauren McCaughey, parent

Last Name: Erkkila Locality: Fort Belvoir, Virginia

Minimally or non-verbal students must be given access to communication from DAY 1. My son suffered a brain tumor surgery and chemotherapy, limiting his communication. AAC was an equitable way to demonstrate skills he could not through typing or writing. Of 54 teachers and staff members, 7 had experience or training on any AAC option. Even though included in the IEP, my son did not receive a device for 4 months after identification and purchasing individually is incredibly cost prohibitive. Despite many forms of therapy and accommodation, AAC was the essential to progressing. Virtual school was not possible without adaptive technology. Please vote in favor.

Last Name: Dressel Locality: ARLINGTON

My name is Janna Dressel and I live in Arlington. As a former special education teacher and a parent of a 6th grader who relies on multiple forms of AAC and has extensive support needs, I am writing to encourage you to vote in support of HB 1047. In both my professional and personal experience, including as past-president of the district-wide Arlington Special Education PTA, teachers receive insufficient training and resources to support and teach students who need and use AAC. I have had to learn a great deal about AAC as a parent, and my family is fortunate enough to have the resources to allow me to take time off from teaching so I can support my son's own education and inclusion in school. I spend a lot of unpaid time training and supporting the teachers and other educators who have my son in their classes. Students who need AAC who come from families who don't have the resources like mine to be able to learn about and provide their child with AAC and to train and support their child's school teams are often left behind. My son is currently enrolled in general education classes for all subject areas, but that unfortunately is still the exception rather than the norm for AAC users, even in Arlington. Most AAC users in Virginia that are fully included in regular classes are those from privileged families who have the resources to advocate and support the school teams teaching their children. AAC and inclusion opportunities for students who cannot speak should not be reserved only for the most privileged. This bill would begin to level the playing field for nonspeakers, and would begin to address teachers’ calls for the need for more training to support AAC users. I urge you to pass HB 1047. Thank you.

Last Name: Chung Organization: George Mason University Locality: Fairfax

Good morning. My name is Dr. Yoosun Chung. I apologize that I cannot present this testimony live this morning. I am an associate professor of assistive technology program in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University. I am also the past president of the United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. I live in Fairfax with my husband and two children. I came to America to study abroad after I graduated high school in South Korea. I was the first person in Korea at that time, who earned a doctoral degree, as a person with cerebral palsy. Without my AAC, I would not have been able to earn my doctoral degree, and, nor, teach students at a university. As both an AAC user, and, as a professional who focuses on researching and supporting the use of AAC for students who need it, I strongly urge, you to pass HB 1047. This bill is a very modest and achievable first step, for thousands of students in Virginia, who don’t yet have meaningful access to robust, language-based AAC, due to misguided assumptions about their capacity to learn and use language, and, due to lack of teacher training. This bill will ensure that, both educators and students receive the supports they need to communicate effectively, and, have the same opportunities at school as students without speech difficulties. HB 1047 is the right thing to do, and it’s achievable. Thank you very much for listening to my earnest testimony.

Last Name: rogers Organization: ARC OF VA Locality: blacksburg

Dear Members of the House Education- Early Childhood/Innovation Subcommittee Please VOTE YES on HB1047. Every child, no matter how they communicate, has the right to access the school curriculum and communicate using their augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). This issue is important to me because 1) Says that a student who needs or uses AAC cannot be denied access to regular classrooms or age-appropriate academic instruction on the basis that the student needs support with AAC; 2) Says IQ scores cannot be used to decide whether the student can be provided with AAC at school; and 3) Says that school staff will be provided timely training in how to support a student’s use of AAC, and in how to design instruction to accommodate their unique communication access needs. 4) As defined in the bill, "augmentative and alternative communication" or "AAC" means any device, tool, support, or service, or any combination thereof, that facilitates any form of communication, other than oral speech, that can be used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. 5) We believe any way that a student communicates should be supported. Students who need AAC are often denied the supports they need based on unwarranted assumptions about their potential. This bill is a modest but important first step to ensuring that teachers get the resources and training they need to support students who need AAC. It would help ensure that students who cannot speak have the same opportunities to reach their potential as all other students. Please Vote YES on HB1047. signed g-rod and arc of nrv advocates! \

Last Name: rogers Organization: ARC OF VA Locality: blacksburg

Dear Members of the House Education- Early Childhood/Innovation Subcommittee Please VOTE YES on HB1047. Every child, no matter how they communicate, has the right to access the school curriculum and communicate using their augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). This issue is important to me because,_____________(insert anything you want to add)_ Students who need AAC are often denied the supports they need based on unwarranted assumptions about their potential. This bill is a modest but important first step to ensuring that teachers get the resources and training they need to support students who need AAC. It would help ensure that students who cannot speak have the same opportunities to reach their potential as all other students. Please Vote YES on HB1047. signed, g-rod and arc of nrv aodvcates!

Last Name: Margin Organization: Washington Speech-Language Pathology Group PLLC Locality: Fairfax City is residence of organization

Washington Speech-Language Pathology Group supports both HB1047 and HB1246 because we believe both bills would provide benefits necessary to the health, safety and welfare of the Virginia disabilities community. HB 1246 would greatly benefit students by providing them with essential tools to further their learning. Our speech-language pathology practice treats many children and adults who would benefit from the passage of HB1047. AAC devices are an essential communication tool for those who are non-verbal and those whose ability to verbalize is significantly impaired. It is our experience that the use of AAC devices can motivate speech acquisition. This is well documented in the literature, On behalf of our patients, their parents or caregivers, we lend our support to both bills and encourage swift passage. Thank you for the opportunity to be heard.

Last Name: Jessup Locality: Hampton

We support HB1047 ! HB1047 Provides that no student who needs or uses augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), shall be denied the opportunity for inclusion in regular classrooms or the provision of age-appropriate instruction on the basis that such student may require support with AAC. 1) Says that a student who needs or uses AAC cannot be denied access to regular classrooms or age-appropriate academic instruction on the basis that the student needs support with AAC; 2) Says IQ scores cannot be used to decide whether the student can be provided with AAC at school; and 3) Says that school staff will be provided timely training in how to support a student’s use of AAC, and in how to design instruction to accommodate their unique communication access needs. 4) As defined in the bill, "augmentative and alternative communication" or "AAC" means any device, tool, support, or service, or any combination thereof, that facilitates any form of communication, other than oral speech, that can be used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. 5) We believe any way that a student communicates should be supported.

Last Name: Tolley Locality: Henrico

Despite the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), kids without spoken language are often not given access to alternative means of communication. HB 1047 will help assure that students, in accordance with IDEA, will be provided access to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC); that teachers/staff will receive the necessary training; that students will not be denied access to AAC based on IQ tests; and that these students will not be denied the opportunity for inclusion in regular classrooms or the provision of age-appropriate instruction because they may need support with AAC. Please vote yes on this bill. It is good for students and families and it is good for our communities! We need to hear the "voices" of all students, including those who communicate in ways other than the spoken word. You can "hear" some of these voices in this 5 minute video made by and with non-speaking autistic people. https://youtu.be/H7dca7U7GI8

Last Name: Whitt Locality: McLean

Dear Members of the House Education- Early Childhood/Innovation Subcommittee Please VOTE YES on HB1047. Every child, no matter how they communicate, has the right to access the school curriculum and communicate using their augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Students who need AAC are often denied the supports they need based on unwarranted assumptions about their potential. This bill is a modest but important first step to ensuring that teachers get the resources and training they need to support students who need AAC. It would help ensure that students who cannot speak have the same opportunities to reach their potential as all other students. Please Vote YES on HB1047. Sincerely, Erin Whitt

Last Name: Hall Locality: VIENNA

I feel it is long past time to consider the needs of students who need assistive devices in order to access a Free Appropriate Public Education. It is my understanding the Delegate's Tran's legislation would be instrumental in making sure that these students are fully considered throughout the Commonwealth's public schools. For too long, solutions for students with these needs have been determined by relying on voluntary efforts by educators and families alike. While the percentage of such students may seem small, the individual impact is what truly matters. I urge you all to move for passage of this bill and make sure it gets passed by both branches of the General Assembly and is then signed into law by the Governor.

Last Name: Turner Locality: Fairfax

I support HB1047, HB319, HB418, and HB419.

Last Name: Taylor Locality: Falls Church (Fairfax County)

Please pass this bill! Many students need augmentative and alternative communication if they are to learn. A little investment will have a big impact!

End of Comments