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9/29/2017 Assembly to study early intervention for deaf, hard of hearing children
Creation of commission sponsored by Rep. Handy, Sen. Archambault
STATE HOUSE – A legislative commission will study early intervention services for  
Rhode Island children who are deaf or hard of hearing to identify gaps and room for improvement under legislation sponsored by Rep. Arthur Handy and Sen. Stephen R. Archambault and approved by the General Assembly last week.

The joint legislative commission is meant to determine whether and how Rhode Island could better serve deaf and hard of hearing children in their formative toddler years.

“While kids generally have a lot of eyes on them and a lot of services available to them when they enter school, there seems to be a lot of variation in whether younger children who are deaf or hard of hearing are getting all the services they need. The goal of this commission is to ensure that all kids in Rhode Island who are deaf or hard of hearing, regardless of socio-economic background, location or anything else, are properly connected to all the available services at as early as possible. They deserve to learn and communicate just as their hearing peers do, and access to programs at an early age is crucial for their development,” said Representative Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), whose parents were both deaf from birth and benefited from strong developmental and assistive services throughout their lives.

“No deaf or hard of hearing child in Rhode Island should suffer developmentally because there was no one telling his or her parents about the many services that are available and following up to make sure the child gets what her or she needs. There are many programs that help deaf and hard of hearing kids, but our concern is finding out whether every child who needs them is actually given real opportunities to use them. If there are children who are falling through the cracks, how can we improve our early intervention activities to close those gaps?” said Senator Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, Johnston, North Providence).

The Special Legislative Commission to Study an Early Intervention System for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in Rhode Island created by the legislation (2017-H 5668A, 2017-S 0646A) will have 24 members, including legislators, medical professionals and representatives from numerous organizations and agencies with roles in diagnosing and serving deaf or hard of hearing children in Rhode Island.

The legislation establishes that the commission must comprehensively study early intervention services in Rhode Island for children who are deaf or hard of hearing; identify the challenges and gaps that parents experience in the first three years of life for those children; identify the gaps of resources including personnel, expertise, professionals, and services for either or both English and American Sign Language and ensure that visual and audio supplements to either language are available in Rhode Island; create an effective protocol to ensure that information provided by early intervention professionals is updated and balanced and will be shared with parents; create or expand a centralized resource for all parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing; and present findings and recommendations for viable solutions concerning parents whose child is deaf or hard of hearing. The commission is scheduled to present its findings to the General Assembly by Feb. 1, 2018. 

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923