About 95% of the children born deaf today have hearing parents. These parents are often unaware of the full range of approved resources, schools and programs available to them and their child.
Parents of a newly diagnosed infant/child frequently find themselves alone and anxious to find information on a topic they know little to nothing about. Countless parents and caregivers have reported that many of the coordinators at a local level have limited knowledge of communication options because hearing loss identification is such a low incident population, and as a result, families report they have not received information on all the programs available to their child including those that facilitate their child's ability to listen and talk.
To remedy this process, it will be accomplished through this bill 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 services in all communication modalities 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.
It is important to note that SB1240/HB1391 does nothing to impede the use of sign language or opportunities to choose sign language. It merely provides more complete access to information for parents to select an option that best fits the need of their child and choice of their family.
Furthermore, the bill supports the position statement of the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing by seeking to ensure that parents are equipped with information about the full range of options and can participate more meaningfully in the determination of a plan for their child.
• The Committee's Principle 4 calls for informed choice for families and access to information about all intervention and treatment options.
• Section 7 of the position statement states that families should be made aware of all communication options and available hearing technologies, presented in an unbiased manner, and that informed family choice and desired outcome should guide the decision-making process.
• In the section of the Committee's guidelines for EHDI programs regarding protecting the rights of infants and families, it is stated that families have a right of access to information about options, including potential benefits and risks.
In conclusion, parents and caregivers of children who are deaf and hard of hearing need to have rights to information and the opportunity for choice. If passed, SB1240/HB1391 would provide parents with a better understanding of the full range of resources available to them should their child be diagnosed with hearing loss. This legislation provides equality by enabling parents to have equal access to educational information from a broader range of public and private resources about what will best meet the needs of their child(ren).