Public Comments for: HB649 - Children who are deaf or hard of hearing; language development, assessment resources.
Last Name: Walters Locality: Chesterfield

Please seriously consider passing HB649 for the educational success of Deaf/Hard of Hearing children in our country. They deserve to have a foundation for language on which to build there education. As an interpreter in the public school system, I have seen too many students come through the system without visual language support which is readily understood by the Deaf. Many Deaf/Hard of Hearing are born to hearing families that do not sign. We need proper assessment for equity and equality purposes. Young people who are Deaf/hard of Hearing have much to contribute to their country.

Last Name: Bateson Organization: Virginia Association of the Deaf Locality: Powhatan

Please vote support SB 265 and HB 649. Virginia's educational system is failing Deaf and Hard of Hearing and their families that choose to use visual communication in the form of American Sign Language. From VA DOE website: (https://www.doe.virginia.gov/special_ed/disabilities/sensory_disabilities/hearing_impairment/guidelines_working_with_deaf.docx) Revised 2019 page 15, paragraph 5 . "Formal standardized measures of ASL proficiency normed on children who are deaf and hard of hearing currently are not available. " This is inaccurate, but accurate for Virginia. There ARE tools available. Our bill ensures they are used and appropriate intervention when delays identified. Listen to the people who have experienced language deprivation firsthand, not the so called school administrators and professionals who do not want to be held accountable for this failure. Nothing about us without us.

Last Name: Cobb Locality: Richmond, Virginia

I support HB 649.

Last Name: Kim Locality: Fairfax

Please vote in support of HB649, which will ensure accessible communication for d/Deaf children in educational settings. Early exposure to sign language and learning concepts is key to cognitive development for deaf children.

Last Name: Lavelle Locality: Fairfax

Go for HB 649.

Last Name: Lavelle Organization: Vice President of Northern Virginia Association of the Deaf Locality: Fairfax

I am standing and support for HB 649. Don't give up.

Last Name: Hollowell Organization: Virginia Association of Centers for Independent Living Locality: Virginia Beach

HB649 would provide for the needed focus on language development of young children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The bill would also improve the resources needed by families of young children who are deaf. The Virginia Association of Centers for Independent Living asks that the Subcommittee support HB649.

Last Name: Conner Organization: LEAD-K Locality: Richmond

I am speaking in favor of HB649, The Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids bill. I am the parent of a Deaf preschooler enrolled in Richmond City Public Schools and also a PhD Candidate at William and Mary where I study disability history. My daughter uses American Sign Language as well as Cochlear Implants, meaning she communicates in both sign language and spoken English. HB649 would ensure that all parents of Deaf children, whether they choose to use sign language, technology, or both, all have access to resources for understanding the linguistic development of our children. My daughter's teachers and doctors have no resources to point them toward where my daughter's sign language and spoken English should be at. They can assess her spoken language against the standard of a hearing child, but they can't measure her progress against her peers, and they have no metric for assessing her American Sign Language development. Also important to this bill is the annual report to be produced on language development in per-kindergarten Deaf children. The state must know whether its serving or failing these children. If children arrive in kindergarten without language skills, the damage has already been done. Tracking and publicly reporting on these developments is an essential mechanism for ensuring accountability of the education system, but also serves to help all parents of Deaf children understand how their child is developing. This bill affects a small part of the Commonwealth, but it affects us greatly, please pass HB649

Last Name: Slone Locality: Fairfax County

Vote YES to HB649 - Signed and spoken languages are acquired by babies in the same way, on the same maturational timetable. A child will understand the power of non-verbal communication. Remember, American Sign Language is not just a language used by Deaf people; thousands of Americans use it to communicate (first responders, coaches, health professionals, neighbors, etc.).

Last Name: Choate Locality: Henrico

Please oppose HB333. Local school boards are charged with the mission of delivering public education in their districts. Time and resources should not be spent administering savings plans for any purpose. Please pass HB649. The provisions of this bill would be real assets to students and families of the deaf and hard of hearing. Please oppose HB873. While improved school security is certainly a desirable goal, school districts should not be bound as to how best to achieve this in their districts. The disparity in funding across Virginia school districts means that many smaller, rural districts have severely limited funding sources and consequently should not be hampered with staffing micro-management that may not meet their needs. Further, other school districts may find that the presence of local law enforcement in their schools does more to create tension and erode trust than alternative security measures may depending on the dynamics within their population. Please oppose HB1024. The state and local school boards are in the business of providing a high quality education to ALL of its children. Neither the state nor local school boards should dilute funding from this mission by diverting tax resources toward the pursuit of private alternatives. If localities would not divert public safety funding to citizens who pursue private security services, why would they consider doing something similar for education? Please pass HB1179. Asian American, Pacific Islander, Latino, and Indigenous peoples are only marginally represented within social studies curricula. The establishment of an advisory committee to the executive branch in improving the representation of these populations can only be helpful in closing this gap.

Last Name: Homeschooling Parent Locality: Loudoun

Education vouchers are desperately needed in Virginia. We should not be punishing parents who wish to educate their children outside the public school system. Currently, Virginia is withholding state tax funds for purchasing curriculum to homeschooling children or for enrolling them in private schools. The public school system has been overrun with social justice warriors and liberal indoctrination instructors. Parents who do not want their children groomed to be the next generation of freedom-hating socialist-worshiping liberal mouthpieces have the right to be monetarily compensated. If the public school system insists on supplementing educational curriculum with social emotional learning and critical race theory, making children feel ashamed for the color of their skin or where their ancestors came from, the state has a moral obligation to provide vouchers and funding to parents who are against this type of abuse.

Last Name: Downey Organization: LEADK VA Locality: Hanover, VA

I respectfully ask that you support HB649. This legislation is vital to changing the devastating statistics regarding language deprivation among d/Deaf, DeafBlind and hard-of-hearing children. Having access to language, ensuring resources are provided for parents and tracking their language acquisition to measure their language acquisition from ages 0-5 against that of their hearing peers are all key components for kindergarten readiness and towards a happy, productive future. Thank you for you support and voting YES for HB649.

Last Name: Golino Locality: Sterling

Please support these resources to help deaf and hard of hearing students.

Last Name: Bean Locality: South Riding

Please support this important bill to support out deaf/hard of hearing students.

Last Name: Witteborg Organization: VAD Locality: Rixeyville

Dear Delegates My name is Jenny J5 Witteborg of Culpeper County and I am one of the three Deaf women who started LEADK VA grassroot advocacy back in 2016 with blessing of Virginia Association of the Deaf. Three relevant data to know: *0.01% Deaf/HOH at Birth and as that population grows- the generation will have newly Deafened or newly identified Deaf children. When the average generation reaches their twenties, the percentage of Deaf/HOH is around 4%. This percentage increase drastically as the generation becomes older. *95% of Deaf/hoh kids are born to hearing parents and almost 100% of them never met a Deaf person before their own child. *52% of Deaf kids are language deprived at age 5 here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 2017 VDOE Eisenburg presented to the Virginia Disability Commission and said 52% of Deaf kids are language deprived at age 5. Language deprivation impacts is lifelong and irrevocable. Early Intervention and EHDI of Virginia has a strong institutional bias against American Sign Language and thus the services 'available' are only in spoken language. You will see/or have seen Ms Long share her 2022 experiences with her Deaf/Hard of hearing Grandson - That happened here in Henrico where VCU, EHDI, VDOE, VDBHDS, and VDDHH are within an hour's drive. What does it look like in the rest of Virginia? Let me give you some ideas: Local Education Agencies, and CSB who deal with Deaf and hard of hearing children are not required to track that Deaf child's language acquisition. Each locality will make their own decision, and NONE are REQUIRED to report to the state. So Deaf /HOH kids fall through the cracks. HB 649 requires accountability via specific English and specific ASL language acquisition assessments that the AD HOC committee will choose from EXISTING assessments in each ASL and English. HB649 AD HOC temporary for one year - is chosen by the AGENCIES not by us). Hb 649 requires that these Language assessments be offered to the Parents/families of Deaf and Hard of hearing children. ASL and English are languages. Cued speech and Listening/Spoken Language aka LSL are MODES/METHODS of visually showing English. These methods are considered tools for teaching English. Let me make it clear - HB 649 will NOT decide which language the Deaf and Hard of hearing kids are to use. This bill does not force families to do anything. Hb649 only tracks Language acquisition amongst Deaf and Hard of hearing babies until age 5 : THE CRITICAL YEARS for language acquisition. This is the first step to identifying strategies for improving Deaf kids' language acquisition. Please pass HB 649 LEADK Bill.

Last Name: Hill Organization: Lead-K Locality: Midlothian

am a Deaf person who is a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and a parent of a Deaf child. I am encouraging you to support HB 649/SB 265. Language tracking for Deaf and Hard of Hearing kids will enable them to be prepared to enter Kindergarten with the ability to be ready to learn. I have a Deaf daughter who is currently in college and she was fully mainstreamed and she had the same ability to learn as her hearing counterparts - she graduated #6 out of 536 students in her graduating class. The reason for her success is because she had early acquisition to language and was taught both in American Sign Language and English. Language tracking was very beneficial for her and as an educator here in Virginia, my students have come to my campus and they do not nearly have the same benefit to language acquisition as my daughter and this is heartbreaking. As studies show in 2017 that 52% of Deaf children at age 5 were language delayed and were not even prepared for Kindergarten. However, research indicates that Deaf and Hard of Hearing children have the same capacity for language learning as their hearing peers but yet they continue to arrive in Kindergarten with significant language delays. If we can provide tracking of early language acquisition for deaf and hoh children from birth to age 5, it can definitely prevent language delays and afford them the opportunity to be Kindergarten ready!!! In looking at the federal EDHI, they require all states to track language acquisition and by passing HB 649, it will be made available here in the state of Virginia. In passing HB 649/SB 265. it will comply with Individual with Disabilities Act and the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Language acquisition serves as the fundamental building block for literacy and kindergarten readiness. HB 649 will freely allow parents to choose and support which language to utilize with their child whether it be American Sign Language or English or both modalities simultaneously. The other component involves communication such as Cued Speech and l:istening and spoken language". This bill is about language acquisition as a fundamental building block for literacy and kindergarten readiness. American Sign Language (ASL) and English are both languages. Cued speech and “listening and spoken language” are communication methods for using English. As a parent and an educator, I stand firm with my beliefs in language tracking and ensuring that all Deaf and Hard of Hearing children are afforded the opportunity to be Kindergarten Ready and be able to learn alongside with their hearing peers who are Kindergarten Ready!! Depriving a child of language acquisition will impact them in the long run.. preserve the language that is made available to our Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and they will go above and beyond academically if we provide them with language acquisition from the time they are identified as Deaf or Hard of Hearing throughout their early intervention program, preschool and beyond. Do not deprive them of their opportunity to thrive in life. If my daughter was able to succeed because her parents made the choice to use both American Sign Language and English successfully, Remove that barrier and negativism that happens way too often in our Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in Virginia. You will see more success in Deaf and HOH children from birth to 5 by passing HB 649. Thanks for your time.

Last Name: Lavelle Organization: Virginia Association of the Deaf Locality: Fairfax

This is Jeanne Lavelle and am a Member at Large of Virginia Association of the Deaf. Please vote YES to HB649 bill. The LEAD-K campaign aims to end language deprivation through information to parents about language milestones and assessments that measure language achievements and data collection that holds our current education system accountable. Years of Research proved its finding that reason for illiteracy in Deaf population is the deprivation of language at age 0-5 when children’s brains are rapidly developing, but Deaf children were not given the language acquisition via ASL because parents were misinformed or never knew about the benefits of ASL. We need assessment of language acquisition to get outcomes to prevent language failure. Assessment will help parents get on the right track with their Deaf children’s language acquisition. Please support HB649 for the sake of Deaf children to assure they are Kindergarten-ready by acquiring language at the ages of 0-5.

Last Name: Hill Organization: Lead-K Locality: Midlothian

I am a Deaf person who is a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and a parent of a Deaf child. I am encouraging you to support HB 649. Language tracking for Deaf and Hard of Hearing kids will enable them to be prepared to enter Kindergarten with the ability to be ready to learn. I have a Deaf daughter who is currently in college and she was fully mainstreamed and she had the same ability to learn as her hearing counterparts - she graduated #6 out of 536 students in her graduating class. The reason for her success is because she had early acquistion to language and was taught both in American Sign Language and English. Language tracking was very beneficial for her and as an educator here in Virginia, my students have come to my campus and they do not nearly have the same benefit to language acquistion as my daughter and this is heartbreaking. As studies show in 2018 that 52% of Deaf children at age 5 were language delayed and were not even prepared for Kindergarten. However, research indicates that Deaf and Hard of Hearing children have the same capacity for language learning as their hearing peers but yet they continue to arrive Kindergarten with significant language delays. If we can provide tracking of early language acquistion for deaf and hoh children from birth to age 5, it can definitely prevent language delays and afford them the opportunity to be Kindergarten ready!!! In looking at the federal EDHI, they require all states to track language acquistion and by passing HB 649, it will be made available here in the state of Virginia. In passing HB 649, it will be comply with Individual with Disabilities Act and the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Language acquition serves as the funabdental building block for literacy and kindergarten readiness. HB 649 will freely allow parents to choose and support which language to utilize with their child whether it be American Sign Language or English or both modalities simultaneously. The other component involves communication such as Cued Speech and l:istening and spoken language". This bill is about language acquisition as a fundamental building block for literacy and kindergarten readiness. American Sign Language (ASL) and English are both languages. Cued speech and “listening and spoken language” are communication methods for using English. As a parent and an educator, I stand firm with my beliefs in language tracking and ensuring that all Deaf and Hard of Hearing chiildren are afforded the opportunity to be Kindergarten Ready and be able to learn alongside with their hearing peers who are Kindergarten Ready!! Depriving a child of language acquisition will impact them in the long run.. preserve the language that is made available to our Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and they will go above and beyond academically if we provide them with language acquisition from the time they are identified as Deaf or Hard of Hearing throughout their early intervention program, preschool and beyond. Do not deprive them of their opportunity to thrive in life. If my daughter was able to succeed because her parents made the choice to use both American Sign Language and English successfully, Removie that barrier and negativism that happens way too often in our Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in Virginia. You will see more success in Deaf and HOH children form birth to 5 by passing SB 649. Thanks for your time.

Last Name: Heller Locality: Alexandria

Hello I m writing to support HB 649 because language deprivation is life long impact. Deaf kids deserve to arrive to kindergarten with a full language .

Last Name: Hickey Organization: VAD Locality: Stafford

Please support HB649 as it is time to improve our language access to our young deaf children before enter kindergarten. I am deaf and married to deaf husband .

Last Name: Nicholls Locality: Chesapeake

Please move to report HB201, HB333, HB649, HB873, HB1024.

Last Name: Herberger Organization: Virginia Association for the Deaf Locality: Fairfax

Please vote YES for HB 649 My name is Lois Herberger and I live in Springfield, Virginia. I am a deaf mother of two deaf adults and a proud grandmother of three deaf granddaughters. I grew up being the only deaf oral child in a hearing family. My daily access to communication was quite limited. I experienced oral education, lip reading and speech during both elementary and high schools in Chicago’s public school system. Interpreters weren’t available in those days. Fortunately, I met some intelligent deaf college graduates who encouraged me to go to Gallaudet. It was where I really enjoyed my classes in a totally accessible environment My two adult children had every opportunity to acquire language since their infancy. They have been exposed to both ASL and spoken language to get the best of both worlds During the early 70’s, some hearing parents and I were concerned about the language acquisition problems with some of the young children. We noticed some children had both emotional and behavioral issues. As a grandmother of three deaf granddaughters, they have been exposed to all modes of communication since birth. They are thriving well both at home and schools. All three have received honors for their academic work. They continue to have full communication access in their deaf home with lots of lively discussions on many different topics. They are able to participate in hearing sport teams Qualified interpreters are provided for them at school and college as well as sports activities The first five years of a deaf child is critical in his / her language development Oral approach is not always effective, not everyone has the same skill like play the piano. More and more hearing parents are teaching their hearing babies ASL and research has proved that they can acquire more vocabulary than the non signers. This is long overdue , the sooner we expose the babies to ASL, they will also develop literacy skills at young ages

Last Name: Lavelle Organization: Northern Virginia Association of the Deaf Locality: Fairfax

Please support the HB 649 bill! It is critical that the bill be passed for the Deaf children to stop language deprivation and to have full access to American Sign Language in the state of Virginia! I agreed 100% with Tom Dowling's comments. I am a living proof of language deprivation. I delayed language acquisition for 13 years until I enrolled at a deaf school. So please support the bill.

Last Name: Nolte Organization: LEAD-K Locality: MECHANICSVILLE

Please vote yes to bill HB649 and create an equitable environment for children birth to 5 years of age.

Last Name: McKague Organization: Virginia Association of the Deaf - LeadK Locality: Danville

I am in favor of HB 649 Please provide zoom link for tomorrow morning. I am deaf and I am requesting ASL interpreter. Thank you

Last Name: Harris Locality: Brunswick County

Hello, I am a 5th grade teacher with a Master’s in Special Education. I have witnessed deaf children showing up to Kindergarten without the language to tell someone they are hungry or that they need to go to the restroom. I would like to see support for HB 649. Virginia needs to take action to make sure every deaf child has a strong language foundation. This bill will help start the process to ensure all deaf children are kindergarten ready! Please support HB649.

Last Name: Pauley Organization: Support Language and Literacy Development for Deaf Children HB 649 Locality: Richmond

American Sign Language (ASL) seems to be the only language in the USA that hearing people who are not part of the Deaf, Hard Of Hearing, and DeafBlind community has control over. Hearing people have passed laws and created policies to restrict and limit the types of people allowed to learn and use ASL. That’s the reason why a large percentage of babies that are born Deaf aren't taught a language between birth and 5 years old and tend to be not kindergarten-ready. This is especially true for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, who are more likely than white children to not have any language acquisition by the age of 5, automatically making them not kindergarten-ready. That also causes them to struggle in school, socially, and with mental health issues. With my experience around currently Deaf, hard of hearing, and DeafBlind children and adults into 2022, the struggles are still there. Vote Yes to HB649

Last Name: McKague Organization: Virginia Association of the Deaf - LeadK Locality: Danville

I am in favor of this bill. Please vote YES to HB 649 Language development for children who are deaf or hard of hearing: assessment resources. Thank you for taking this into consideration

Last Name: Williams Organization: Virginia Association of the Deaf (VAD) Locality: Centreville, Fairfax County, VA

Please vote YES for HB649. My name is Melanie Williams. I am president of the Virginia Association of the Deaf (VAD). Deaf children need every opportunity to acquire language as early as possible so they will be ready for kindergarten at the appropriate age and can go on to succeed on their chosen path. They should be given exposure to both spoken language and ASL so as to receive the best of both worlds. I want to present myself as an example. I went to regular public schools. I struggled at first in elementary school, but once I understood what school was all about, I hunkered down and did very well. I went on to graduate second in my high school class. I credit my parents with giving me all the support I needed, and I had an excellent role model in my older hearing brother who was himself an excellent student. I then went to Gallaudet University where I learned ASL for the first time. When I returned home for Christmas the first time, I visited my former high school. One of the librarians I used to work with told me, "you speak much better than before." I was taken aback, but then I thought, that actually makes sense. I was quite timid in high school, which probably made me harder to understand. ASL helped me to come out of my shell and to speak up more than before. You really can't be shy with ASL! It is my strong belief that ASL helps with both spoken and signed language. Once again, I ask, please vote YES for HB649.

Last Name: Stuffel Locality: Newport News

Please vote YES to HB649! This is long overdue and our Deaf/Hard of Hearing children need this support. Please do not ignore and begin acting as advocates for these children.

Last Name: Ruggiano Locality: Newfields,NH

The Deaf and Hard of hearing children should have an early access to sign language such as ASL. Same as any hearing babies have access to hearinf and learn spoken languages. I lost my hearing at age of one and lost a lot of languages for three years. I finally was able to learn sign language, have speech therapy, learning to lip read and be able to be in a class room setting. It was very frustrating for me as a child growing up and missing many of the spoken languages. Please recognize the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children to get the early services and to help them to be able to succeed in life.

Last Name: Volucris Locality: chesapeake

Vote YES to HB649. American Sign language is a critical part of our nations culture. Americans who are born Deaf and parents of Deaf children need this type of support to not only progress as individuals for a better future, but as protectors of this vital part of our nation's society.

Last Name: Boyd Organization: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Locality: Fairfax

Comments Document

On behalf of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, I write to express opposition to H.B. 649. This legislation would require the Department of Education and the Department for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing to select language developmental milestones for children who are deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH), create a parent resource, and select existing tools for educators to assess language and literacy development of children who are D/HH. The bill would also create an advisory committee to recommend milestones. This legislation aims to ensure that children who are D/HH are ready for kindergarten using either American Sign Language (ASL) or English. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 218,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Over 4,700 ASHA members reside in Virginia. ASHA strongly supports the intent of H.B. 649, which is to ensure young children who are D/HH have a strong language foundation for kindergarten readiness and academic success. ASHA also supports a family’s right to decide the most appropriate language(s) (e.g., American Sign Language, spoken language, or both), communication mode(s) (e.g., augmentative and alternative communication), and education plan for their child. However, H.B. 649 includes provisions that undermine these goals and create unnecessary and burdensome requirements that interfere with the decision-making authority of the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Current Services for Children Who Are D/HH As it stands now, children who are D/HH can receive services through Virginia's early intervention program, which includes a variety of communication methods that suit the individual child’s needs and the family’s preferences. Those methods could include ASL, but it could also include listening and spoken language (with assistance from a hearing aid or cochlear implant), cued speech or language, or another communication method with appropriate educational support. IDEA requires early intervention programs and schools to administer a comprehensive assessment to students suspected of having a disability. The assessment team must include qualified providers trained to assess the full range of the suspected disability, including communication disorders. Evaluators must administer appropriate assessments and recommend interventions and supports based on the child’s needs and their family’s priorities. ASHA recommends eliminating the proposed advisory committee, which would advise the Department of Education on the selection of appropriate milestones for the parent resource and language assessment program. Creating an advisory committee is burdensome, unnecessary, and costly and may undermine the decision-making authority of the IFSP/IEP team, which must include professionals knowledgeable about the assessment and services needed for children with disabilities, including those children who are D/HH and their parents.

Last Name: Good Locality: Glen Allen

As a deaf person, I grew up first being exposed to oralism and American Sign Language later. Because my parents were invested in my education and were overly involved, my language acquisition was better than most who did not have involved parents. However, as I lost more of my hearing (I was born Hard of Hearing but later became Deaf at 8), it became harder to exist with the oral approach as I was missing out on so much in school, family life and social life. It was not until I learned American Sign Language at the age of 10 where my world opened up. My vocabulary and language improved greatly. By learning American Sign Language, I was able to understand English better. I became more confident in myself and "found myself" by interacting with other deaf peers who communicated in ASL as well in a summer camp. I was one of the lucky ones, with my parents invested in my education and fighting for me. Prior to learning ASL, I had a life where I followed everyone, did not have my own opinion, and just took everything at face value. There was no real personality behind my face as I was closed off to access to all information. Everything was in a robotic fashion and I had headaches every single day. I remember coming home from school, crying, almost on a daily basis. Now, I have been signing ASL for approximately 40 years, give or take. It is my primary means communication. My hearing children sign. I am a licensed clinical social worker, working primarily with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing population. In my line of work, I have seen children and adults who come from all walks of life, and the one common thread I see is that the lack of language acquisition before the age of 5 makes a tremendous negative impact on their psychosocial and mental health. That interferes in the way these individuals navigate life, and contribute to society that is beneficial for everyone involved. Not to mention that there is a shortage of qualified mental health professionals who communicate in ASL, to help them navigate life. Fighting about how to educate Deaf and Hard of Hearing children is taking up a lot of the time that could be focused instead on providing ASL to DHH children first, so that these children can have access to learning what their hearing peers are learning in school. Then, you can focus on adding speech or whathaveyou, as long as they have a valid language, which has years of documents proving that ASL is the real language of deaf people. There are research papers and scientific facts that show the benefit of exposing DHH children to American Sign Language. Like it did for me, it opened doors. These DHH children need their doors opened. As a deaf child growing up isolated before learning American Sign Language,I beg you to sign this bill. There are many DHH adults like me, who have gone through similar experiences. Please know that there are people who claim that one can be successful being oral, without learning ASL and having great language acquisition. That is an exception, a rare exception. We should not focus on that exception, to generalize that it will work for all DHH children. Research and experience show us how learning American Sign Language early on, with parents' involvement (learning ASL too) has the most positive and beneficial impact. With language development, kids have better mental health. Thank you for reading this lengthy comment. Please pass this bill.

Last Name: Haynes McGee Locality: Henrico

I fervently support this bill for language access for Deaf and hard of hearing kids.

Last Name: Manfredonio Locality: Fairfax

PLEASE Vote YES on HB 649!

Last Name: Dietz Locality: Midlothian

I am a retired teacher. I came from a hearing family. They took me to a speech school at age of 3 and I learned to lipread. My parents did not k ow anything about sign language but ABC finger spelling only. We communicated by writing pad. I wish they knew sign language had somebody told them. Exposing sign language immediately to babies after birth is a best method because babies watch everything that move and visually. Their language acquisition pick up and as a result reading levels would be on right track, not delayed. Parents think their choice is to teach children speech. If they see data showing sign language is key to language development they would feel better for their children knowing that their children have tools to go out into the world independently . They can talk to hearing population through technology resources like texting. Because their language development is set to a good start. It’s important that sign language or American Sign Language as my preference is available , not just speech.

Last Name: Leitch Locality: Glen Allen, VA

I ask you to support HB649. Across the Commonwealth, there continue to be high numbers of deaf children at risk for language delays, and far too many deaf children arriving to kindergarten without a language foundation for literacy development. Birth to age five is a critical developmental period for a child’s brain development, and language delays during that critical time lead to poor reading outcomes, lower graduation rates, psychosocial problems, and higher rates of unemployment later in life. The statistics are there. Let this be the General Assembly that can do something about it.

Last Name: Edwards Organization: Voices for Virginia's Children Locality: Henrico

Greetings, My name is Chlo'e Edwards with Voices for Virginia's Children where our mission is to improve the laws of Virginia's children, particularly those at the greatest disadvantage. We are supportive of the following bills: HB1184 (Guzman), HB582 (Roem), HB 629 (Roem), HB583 (Roem), HB 587 (Roem), HB649 (Carr). As of 2020, the number of children (0-17) and young adults (18-24) in Virginia is just above 2.6M, and yet, too many children struggle to meet their basic needs. Poverty rates in Virginia remain unchanged in the past decade. Additionally, barriers to access to services and resources still persist for families of diverse identities and that face unique challenges. Voices believes in creating just and fair futures for Virginia's children as we know that children are the future. In creasing access to services and supports for Virginia's children today to ensure they live, thrive, and survive, we are creating a brighter future tomorrow. We hope that it pleases the member of the committees to support these initiatives as there are

Last Name: Jones Locality: Henrico

Please vote "yes" to HB649, D/deaf children need language access. If we don't assess milestones, how will we know they are receiving adequate access to language? The situation is a dire one that calls for intervention. Please vote "yes."

Last Name: Dunham Locality: Augusta County

Vote YES on this bill! As a deaf person and a recently retired teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for over 30 years, I have seen first hand the effects of language deprivation on my students as well as many of my peers, who were mostly brought up in an oral environment and not exposed to American Sign Language until their adult years . Early exposure to an accessible language will go a long way in giving our deaf children the ability to reach their full potential .

Last Name: Parker Locality: Virginia Beach

Hello. Please vote YES for HB 649. I am one of the deaf Adult with hearing parents. 95 percent who born deaf with hearing parents. I can not imagine if those who have language deprivation like me. It felt embarrassed. I don't want to see the kids are embarrassed if they are behind their language. When I took SOL test by third grade, I look up the strategy they brought up in the comments. I was struggled with it. It was lower than hearing kids. It should be equal with deaf or hard of hearing kids. It have to be taught earlier so those kids would be better and feel proud themselves. I think of the kids what they needs not just strategies or cost of the money. Again Please vote YES for HB 649.

Last Name: Pauley Organization: Support Language and Literacy Development for Deaf Children HB 649 Locality: Richmond

Language acquisition is definitely essential to lifetime success for ages 0 - 5 who are Deaf, hard of hearing, and DeafBlind. HB649 helps to bridge the gap for them to become successful in kindergarten-ready. Please vote YES for HB649.

Last Name: North Locality: Yorktown

To our delegates elected to represent the people of our state, I am writing in support of HB647 regarding language acquisition for deaf and hard of hearing children. As an Educational Interpreter for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in our state’s public school system, this is very near and dear to my heart, and to my profession. Every year I am tasked to work with students, most of whom are significantly behind their grade-level counterparts who have full language access in their homes and in the community. These deaf and hard of hearing students arrive to the public schools and are expected to learn language from their interpreter while being able to learn classroom content. It is unrealistic. It is a broken pathway riddled with added extras that the student who are learning in spoken English do not experience, such as the amount of time absconded from these students’ lives, academic classes, etc… regarding most speech therapy/hearing therapy sessions which, in my observations in over ten years in the schools, appears to set these students even farther behind as they miss content in favor of ‘speech.’ Speech is not equivalent to language, it is merely a modality for expressing language. Academic learning and social learning do not show progress until there is a LANGUAGE foundation to build on. As a community member, tax payer, voter, and professional in the field, I feel that HB647 is an excellent start to developing more equity in the education of the deaf and hard of hearing students in our state; academic education, linguistic education, and social education. Language deprivation has been shown over and again to have strong, negative impacts on overall happiness and success of those impacted. Please vote YES on HB647 and improve access to language, culture, life, education, and overall success of the deaf children in Virginia. Thank you., Debbie North

Last Name: Ford Locality: Henrico

I want to support legislation providing service to deaf and hard of hearing children, birth to 5 years, so that they can receive both oral and sign language opportunities and be prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn. Respectfully, Beth Tubbs Ford

Last Name: Thiss Locality: Richmond

I vote a resounding yes in support of HB649. Deaf and Hard of Hearing children need to have all opportunities possible for language acquisition so they can be on par with their peers upon entering Kindergarten.

Last Name: Lindsey Bomba-Holcomb Organization: Newport News Public Schools Locality: Newport News

VOTE YES - Language Deprivation is a serious problem with our Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. With the increase number of cochlear implants, that often discouraging sign language, we are seeing more and more kids 5-10 years behind on language. The first five years of a child's life is THE MOST critical time for them to acquire language. We are working twice as hard to try and catch them up with their peers but often it is too late because there are permanent gaps in their language that cannot be fixed. Please help support our kids and end language deprivation for our students.

Last Name: Corley Organization: LEAD-K Locality: Reston

Please vote YES on the bill HB649 to support all Deaf and Hard of Hearing kids to have access American Sign Language (ASL) for their education.

Last Name: Wells Locality: Midlothian

Comments Document

Vote YES to HB649

Last Name: Humphrey Locality: Henrico

I am in full support of HS 649. For too long we have neglected our Deaf and Hard of Hearing children's language development.

Last Name: Hardee Locality: Suffolk

To our delegates elected to represent the people of our state, I am writing in support of HB647 regarding language acquisition for deaf and hard of hearing children. As an Educational Interpreter for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in our state’s public school system, this is very near and dear to my heart, and to my profession. Every year I am tasked to work with students, most of whom are significantly behind their grade-level counterparts who have full language access in their homes and in the community. These deaf and hard of hearing students arrive to the public schools and are expected to learn language from their interpreter while being able to learn classroom content. It is unrealistic. It is a broken pathway riddled with added extras that the student who are learning in spoken English do not experience, such as the amount of time absconded from these students’ lives, academic classes, etc… regarding most speech therapy/hearing therapy sessions which, in my observations in over ten years in the schools, appears to set these students even farther behind as they miss content in favor of ‘speech.’ Speech is not equivalent to language, it is merely a modality for expressing language. Academic learning and social learning do not show progress until there is a LANGUAGE foundation to build on. As a community member, tax payer, voter, and professional in the field, I feel that HB647 is an excellent start to developing more equity in the education of the deaf and hard of hearing students in our state; academic education, linguistic education, and social education. Language deprivation has been shown over and again to have strong, negative impacts on overall happiness and success of those impacted. Please vote YES on HB647 and improve access to language, culture, life, education, and overall success of the deaf children in Virginia. Thank you. Tanya Hardee, Educational Interpreter for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, EIPA 4.3

Last Name: Lightbody Organization: Former teacher of the Deaf Locality: Charlottesville

It is imperative that deaf children be taught to communicate in an appropriate language (sign language and Cued Speech for example before entering Kindergarten. Currently, most are expected to learn lip reading which is rarely successful and then when they enter kindergarten and are expected to start learning academics they must also be learning language because they can’t use lip reading successfully as a means to understand everything that is going on in the classroom. That is not fair to these children. They have just as much a right to have equal access to education which means having the appropriate level of communication in order to start learning academics (aka SOLs). Lip reading can then be taught by the Speech and Language Therapist on a weekly basis.

Last Name: Macauley Locality: WINCHESTER

Language acquisition is essential to lifetime success. Those of all ages who are deaf or hard of hearing are at a disadvantage in an oral society. HB649 helps to bridge the gap for the youngest of those. Please vote YES for HB649.

Last Name: Matsh Locality: Prince william

Please vote for this bill. The training should be optional.

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

The Virginia Council of Administrators (VCASE) opposes this HB649. We respect the heartfelt and powerful stories that are provided to the committee regarding that challenges attaining language milestones, but the process in this bill is not the avenue that will provide a balance solution to these challenges. Please consider the following and ask that this bill be passed by indefinitely: THE JOINT COMMISSION ON HEALTH CARE IN 2020 STUDIED THESE PROPOSALS IN DEPTH AND THE STUDY SHOULD BE CAREFULLY REVIEWED BEFORE NEW LEGISLATION IS CONSIDERED Here is the FULL REPORT: https://rga.lis.virginia.gov/Published/2020/RD331/PDF THERE ALREADY EXIST ROBUST AND COMPREHENSIVE STANDARDS AND MILESTONES FOR DEVELOPMENT AND LANGUAGE There exist multiple resource regarding language & communication in “Virginia’s Unified Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS) (pp.37-47) provide all early childhood providers (i.e., parents/families, caregivers, educators, and program leaders) with a resource for understanding what children should know and be able to do as they grow and change from birth until they enter kindergarten.” VIRGINIA JUST TOTALLY REORGANIZED EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION TO UNIFY, NOT SEGREGATE CARE AND EDUCATION FOR OUR YOUNGEST CHILDREN In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislationThis link takes you out of the Virginia Department of Education website directing the Board of Education (BOE) to establish a unified public-private system for early care and education, administered by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). This included the requirement that the VDOE complete the following actions by July 2021: Move oversight for all early childhood care and education programs to the VDOE, Establish a new Early Childhood Advisory Committee, and Create a Uniform Measurement and Improvement System. The Advisory committee includes representatives from the disability community THERE ALREADY EXIST FORUMS THAT HAVE AND IN THE FUTURE CAN ADDRESS LANGUAGE MILESTONES AND THE NEEDS OF CHILDREN WHO ARE DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING> The Disability Commission provides a vehicle for advancing budget proposals and addressing policy issues within a vision for a service system that seeks to maximize the self-sufficiency of Virginians with physical and sensory disabilities. The Dept of Education The Department of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Because there already exist robust language and developmental milestones and because there are existing forums to advocate for children who are deaf and hard of hearing regarding how universal milestones can be attained, VCASE Opposes this bill. Thank you, Dr. Mike Asip

Last Name: Hammel Locality: Richmond

HB 649 is a great first step in combating language deprivation in deaf and hard of hearing kids. I fully support it.

Last Name: Eger-Klatt Locality: Winchester, VA

To Whom It May Concern, I am advocating the bill of HB 649 about the deaf children's natural language acquisition of American Sign Language (ASL). The role model of Deaf Adults is very important for a young Deaf child because they can relate to the experience of being Deaf and can easily learn ASL fluently. Who is better to assess the language acquisition of a young Deaf children? The Deaf Adult who can assess and are fluent in how far the child can progress the American Sign Language. Most professionals who are not Deaf and are not always fluent in ASL. It is a common knowledge that non-deaf who works with a deaf children missed several important steps. The first step - It is allowing a child to thrive in a environment that they can SEE and learn American Sign Language from the people they can relate to - the Deaf Adults. The second step - The Deaf children will learn more vocabulary of signs from Deaf Adults than non-Deaf professionals. The third step - The Deaf children will have a Deaf role model to increase their confidence as they become adult. The links below will help you understand the current research on young deaf child learning ASL. Also, it mentioned three discoveries that improves a young deaf children who exposed ASL very young to get a better education they deserve. https://vl2.gallaudet.edu/research Again, I cannot emphasize enough to have a Deaf Adult involve in assessing a young Deaf child language development and acquisition. The Deaf children will thrive in a education environment by watching the Deaf Adult who is fluent in ASL. It is accessible for the Deaf children's future education. Thank you for your time and attention.

Last Name: Malady Locality: Richmond, VA

Hello Chairman and committee members, I am a sign language interpreter and a member of Virginia Association of the Deaf. I am supporting HB 649 on behalf of the deaf children and young adults that I have met who did not have full access to language acquisition in their early years and as a result have struggles with reading, academics, communication, and self expression. Please vote yes on HB 649 to support early language learning for deaf and hard of hearing children in Virginia, so they can all arrive to kindergarten ready to learn and able to thrive! Thank you. Katherine Malady

Last Name: Dowling Organization: Virginia Association of the Deaf, Inc. Locality: Fairfax

My name is Tom Dowling from Fairfax VA. I’m a member of Virginia Association of the Deaf (VAD). I’m a proud parent of two deaf adults. Please support the bill (HB 649) which focuses on deaf and hard of hearing children between birth and age five years old. At a VA Disability Commission meeting in 2017, VA DOE Assistant Supt, Dr. Eisenberg testified that 52% of deaf and hard of hearing children were performing BELOW age expectation in acquisition of knowledge (such as literacy skill). 90% of all deaf and hard of hearing are born to hearing parents. Following the state data, I haven’t seen any progress to improve these outcomes since 2017, by either VA DBHDS or VA DOE. It is a great disappointment. While the majority of deaf and hard of hearing population are victims of language deprivation in early childhood, we see that deaf and hard of hearing children are still being ignored or neglected or abandoned by the school system today. We ask VA DBHDS and VA DOE together to track early language development through support to parents and professionals that work with Deaf/HH children! We will be proud to see if they reach their kindergarten level as their peer group. Show us the new data now!

Last Name: Witteborg Organization: LEADK VA Advocate and Member of Virginia Association of the Deaf Locality: Rixeyville

Dear Delegates My name is Jenny J5 Witteborg of Culpeper County and I am one of the three Deaf women who started LEADK VA grassroot advocacy back in 2016 with blessing of Virginia Association of the Deaf. Three relevant data to know: *0.01% Deaf/HOH at Birth and as that population grows- the generation will have newly Deafened or newly identified Deaf children. When the average generation reaches their twenties, the percentage of Deaf/HOH is around 4%. This percentage increase drastically as the generation becomes older. *95% of Deaf/hoh kids are born to hearing parents and almost 100% of them never met a Deaf person before their own child. *52% of Deaf kids are language deprived at age 5 here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 2017 VDOE Eisenburg presented to the Virginia Disability Commission and said 52% of Deaf kids are language deprived at age 5. Language deprivation impacts is lifelong and irrevocable. Early Intervention and EHDI of Virginia has a strong institutional bias against American Sign Language and thus the services 'available' are only in spoken language. You will see/or have seen Ms Long share her 2022 experiences with her Deaf/Hard of hearing Grandson - That happened here in Henrico where VCU, EHDI, VDOE, VDBHDS, and VDDHH are within an hour's drive. What does it look like in the rest of Virginia? Let me give you some ideas: Local Education Agencies, and CSB who deal with Deaf and hard of hearing children are not required to track that Deaf child's language acquisition. Each locality will make their own decision, and NONE are REQUIRED to report to the state. So Deaf /HOH kids fall through the cracks. SB 265 requires accountability via specific English and specific ASL language acquisition assessments that the AD HOC committee will choose from EXISTING assessments in each ASL and English. SB 265 AD HOC temporary for one year - is chosen by the AGENCIES not by us). SB 265 requires that these Language assessments be offered to the Parents/families of Deaf and Hard of hearing children. ASL and English are languages. Cued speech and Listening/Spoken Language aka LSL are MODES/METHODS of visually showing English. These methods are considered tools for teaching English. Let me make it clear - SB 265 will NOT decide which language the Deaf and Hard of hearing kids are to use. This bill does not force families to do anything. SB 265 only tracks Language acquisition amongst Deaf and Hard of hearing babies until age 5 : THE CRITICAL YEARS for language acquisition. This is the first step to identifying strategies for improving Deaf kids' language acquisition. Please pass SB 260 LEADK Bill.

Last Name: Pauley Locality: Richmond

Help us END language deprivation for all Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind Children in Virginia!

Last Name: Eubanks Locality: Mechanicsville

I agree with Ms. Alonzi's comments. In 2019, legislators made the decision to refer a previous but very similar version of this bill to the Joint Commission on Healthcare for a full study. At the conclusion of the extensive study, the Commission recommendation was that NO ACTION be taken. Links here: POWERPOINT: http://jchc.virginia.gov/Young%20Deaf%20Hard%20of%20Hearing%20Children%20Study.%20VDOE%20update.pdf FULL REPORT: https://rga.lis.virginia.gov/Published/2020/RD331/PDF Please vote NO on SB 649

Last Name: Alonzi Organization: Early Intervention Locality: Richmond

I am a Judy Alonzi and a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing in early intervention. I ask that you vote 'no' on HB 649. I thank you kindly for this opportunity to submit comments as I am working during the day serving this very population of young infants and toddlers with hearing loss with their families. I serve this population along with many other talented colleagues that use ASL and/or spoken English. We DO track the progress of each and every child with hearing loss along with their families at every visit, and are required to document in a child's file. We are also re-evaluating at every visit if adequate progress is being made and what additional supports are needed to help meet goals and outcomes that the families have identified supported by provider input. Hearing loss presents on a spectrum, I serve children with a mild, unilateral hearing loss all the way to bilateral profound hearing loss. This bill has been brought before the general assembly 5 times and each time 'no action' was determined. It was studied by the Joint Commission on Health Care in the summer of 2019, and that lengthy and costly study also determined that no action was needed. We also have 2 wonderful resources at our disposal that are state supported. *The Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (VSDB) has over a 10 million dollar state operating budget and they are solely dedicated to ASL. They provide not only services, but professional development, webinars, useful resources and *Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. (VDDHH) This agency is also dedicated to serving deaf and hard of hearing individuals that use ASL. Substantial money is already spent in the state of Virginia for ASL support, and for that we are very fortunate. We also have state support with the Partnership for People with Disabilities, The infant and Toddler Connection of Virginia, the Department of Education, and more. Thank you for the opportunity to present in writing and please vote 'no' on HB 649

Last Name: Jones Locality: Prince William county

Vote YES on HB 649

End of Comments