The majority of us have five senses: taste, sight, touch, smell and sound.
But what if you were missing one? Specifically, sound. And you didn’t hear anything or barely anything at all?
This week, September 23 to September 29, is International Deaf Awareness Week.
The Barber National Institute has offered programming for the deaf for over 40 years. In fact, it was one of the first programs Dr. Barber started with the support of the Duchini Family in the 50s. As a college student, I volunteered a summer in our Hearing Impaired classroom, it was my first experience and it couldn’t have been a better one!
Did you know roughly 3 out of every 1,000 children in the US are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears, with over 90% of those children born to parents who can hear? And that 95% of babies have a hearing screening before they leave the hospital, but unfortunately not all of the children receive the follow up evaluations that they need to confirm their hearing status? The early identification of children who are born deaf or hard of hearing is critical to ensuring that their families have the resources they need to help their children acquire and achieve age appropriate language skills across all developmental domains.
In 2000, the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act passed which established federal funding for newborn hearing screenings in hospitals. Prior to this bill, most children were not diagnosed until two and a half years of age. Could you imagine not being able to hear for the first two years of your life?
Inclusion is key for those with special educational needs to help them grow, thrive and reach educational benchmarks. Today, the Barber National Institute offers a total communication preschool program based on the strengths and needs of our children and their families. We offer this program in an inclusive setting where other typical preschool children are enrolled in the same classroom. At a very early age, these children start to learn how to communicate with other typical children and adults. The unique advantage of this setting is typical children serve as both language and social role models for the children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Conversely, these children help introduce ideas related to acceptance and inclusion regardless of differences to typical children.
For the future, educators need to advocate for the re-authorization of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act, and ensure that all of the deaf and hard of hearing students across the US experience the same kind of language development, social interaction and academic opportunities experienced by their typical hearing peers.