Dana Halvorsen: Choices for deaf children

Published: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 3:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 3:37 p.m.

When it comes to educating our children, parents want the best educational choices available to them. In the case of parents who have a child with hearing loss, every choice becomes more important. Unfortunately, parents with deaf or hard of hearing children in Florida have not been presented with options that will help their child listen and talk, forcing them to doubt and question if they made the right decision for their individual situation.

Today, about 95 percent of children born deaf have hearing parents. Because of their unfamiliarity and unawareness of the full range of approved resources and schools available to them, more than a thousand Florida parents have reported that they were not always been presented with auditory oral education program options that could drastically improve their child’s ability to enter a regular kindergarten.

This legislative session, both the House and Senate have sponsored legislation that would make parents aware of all educational options available. If passed, SB 1240/HB 1391 would allow parents who opt in to understand all of the choices available to their family should their child be diagnosed with hearing loss and would help them be able to make more fully informed decisions about what path is best for their family. This is accomplished by providing families with an opportunity to access educational resources from a Florida Department of Health list of approved public and private early intervention providers and schools as soon as hearing loss is identified.

It will also provide equal access to information and services by utilizing existing funding streams to address the needs of all children who are deaf—including those who use listening and spoken language/auditory oral education as their preferred method of communication.

Florida has embraced educational choice options for students who require an alternative school setting, and the Legislature should extend those opportunities to deaf and hard of hearing children to ensure the best educational outcome. As session draws to an end, we hope members of the House and Senate will support lifting the existing barriers which block parents from understanding the full range of choices that are available to them.

Dana Halvorsen is the President of the Have a Heart for Hearing Florida Coalition, a grassroots group that believes every family with a deaf child should be provided with all of their options.

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