A small group of people are upset that the efforts of LeadK are making its way into many states. I think those that are afraid do not understand the core value of the initiative and find what it stands for intimidating based upon unfounded beliefs. I personally was there when the outlining of the first bill began in California. ALL school and state leaders, including Oral Schools, Deaf with special needs schools, SEE signing schools and yes the California School for the Deaf were present. All of those individuals wrote this bill together. Unbelievably to me, they all came together for one common goal. A child being ready for kindergarten and that is it! I was truly surprised to see the head of the Oral school in the same room with the representative from the Deaf school ( ASL & English ). What it showed me is there is an educational issue for children who arrive to kindergarten without the foundation they need to succeed. Whether they are Oral or signing, all educators want the same thing for these children and that is preparing them for life with a foundation of a rich language. If that mean spoken English, then that is what it means. If that means ASL and English, then that is what it means. However, parents have the right to know if their children are at risk before it is too late.
What LeadK is not… is the Deaf communities’ avenue to force hearing parents to sign with their children. Let us dispel that myth again for the umpteenth time! What LEAD-K IS…”is a goal to show accountability with the states tracking and monitoring the language acquisition process for deaf kids between the ages of 0-5. The purpose of this law is to ensure that all deaf children have the foundation of language acquisition ready for kindergarten and lifetime academic achievement. Additionally, the goal is to inform parents whether their deaf children are acquiring language through IFSP and IEP meetings. The parents have the right to know if their child is not meeting the language acquisition milestones so they can have a plan of action while the deaf child is very young.“ (Credit Julie Rems Smario ) EQUAL ACCESS… THAT IS IT!
Now, with that said. Many are also afraid because ASL and English bi-lingual Deaf people now have a well-known spokesperson, Nyle Dimarco, to raise awareness of the language deprivation occurring throughout our nation. It is an epidemic and teachers of the deaf are seeing the results of children not having early access. While technologically advanced hearing devices have made it easier for deaf children to hear English, let us face the facts, it does not work for everyone. Despite how many people like to spin it, not everyone qualifies for these advanced technological devices and sometimes they do not work. So then, the questions are as follows, what happens to those kids whose technology fails them? What happens to those whose technology does not work despite their years of efforts? What happens to those children unqualified for the advanced technology who are stuck in the middle? If those children’s assessments continue in the same way as they have been in years past then they will not be ready with a solid language foundation that is critical.
This spokesperson, Nyle Dimarco has captured the hearts of many Deaf and hearing people alike and he has become a tremendous role model for all children Deaf and hearing. Again, I think people are afraid of what Nyle’s foundation and LeadK together can do to bridge the gap and focus on what is important to the child’s well-being, love and language.
We had the privilege of being a part of the first annual fundraiser for this collaboration and seeing what it has been able to accomplish is unbelievable. We are truly excited and look forward to seeing this cause grow and flourish as it brings awareness to the language deprivation in many of our deaf children.
Now, let us be honest about where our family is, we do not hide it. We chose not to provide our child with technological advancements despite qualifying for them and many have said that we are limiting his options, narrowing his view of life, requiring him to use interpreters for his entire lifetime, limiting his family members who can communicate with him, and forcing him to struggle in this hearing world with communication. Some have gone as far to say that we are abusing our child and endangering him by not giving him every opportunity. And I would say you have a right to that opinion. It is your right to feel that way. However, there are those who feel the exact opposite. And that is their right to feel that way.
Nevertheless, for our family, and us the way of life that we have chosen works. It more than works, our Deaf child thrives in it. In addition, we do not judge families who have taken the route with technology because we understand, as we have been there ourselves. We have had all the same concerns as many. We have done the research, weighed the pros and cons, and for us it just did not feel right. We took what we call the holistic approach to life and just wanted to see what the child could do without going to doctors regularly trying to fix his problem, going to speech therapists regular trying him to get to say words that may or may not mean anything to him. We decided to let him be different yet surround him with people exactly like him to build the confidence in who is as a person. We decided to let him not feel like there is anything wrong with himself and that he’s just fine the way he is. We decided to give him the mindset that despite his Deafness he can do and be anything he wants to be. And we are so glad we made the decision we did in the way we did it because we have seen him month after month, grow just like hearing children and children with technological devices that work. He’s learning his ABC’s, counting, spelling names, being conniving as he tries to get out of timeouts, being stubborn, and overall just being your average 4 year old! When Nyle came along it was just icing on the cake! We feel every accomplishment Nyle makes in the public’s eye continues to prove to us that the decision we made and continue to make for our family is a good one. Seeing our child with Nyle himself communicating with the confidence and joy as any other Deaf child from Deaf parents again proved to us that hearing parents could do this. While our journey is not over and we have a long road ahead of us, we know that we have a foundation of love and language to build on which is what is best for our Deaf child.
Finally, we feel that every hearing parent needs to know that there is this rich amazing community of people who are just like their deaf children and they need to know that this community exists, is flourishing and has an amazing group of individuals to get to know. Once a hearing parent has had the opportunity to know a Deaf person in the Deaf community, then we feel you have a full spectrum of choices, not just, what your physicians are telling you. There is group of people just like your deaf child and they are there waiting to accept them if the time comes. Why not look at it a different way and give the Deaf community the first chance rather than the last. What is the harm? They can offer your deaf child something you cannot as a hearing parent… knowledge and understanding of what it is like to be a Deaf person.
And that is my perspective.