Language Readiness


Hi My name is Liz Hill. I am a PSAD Board member and Chair of the PSAD Education Committee. For this month’s vlog, I want to take the opportunity to talk about PSAD’s initiative called “Language Readiness for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children.” This initiative is an effort to address language delays and/or language deprivation experienced by some deaf and hard of hearing children. We want for all deaf and hard of hearing children to acquire and develop language at the same pace as their hearing peers so that they are ready when it is time to enter school. Language delays and/or language deprivation can have life-long effects.
To kick-off this initiative, we hosted stakeholder forums across the state – Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh. Key stakeholders were identified and invited to participate in a location that was most convenient for them.
At the forums, stakeholders were able to really look at the system and collaborate on the issue of language delays in some deaf and hard of hearing children. We first looked at what Pennsylvania (PA) already has in place. There are some things that PA has that are really working well, and serves our families well. We are fortunate to have some things in place here that other states do not. We then looked at some possible gaps in the system that may be contributing to language delays in some of our deaf and hard of hearing children regardless of the method of language acquisition that is being used.
In the discussion at the forums, it was acknowledged that PA has a unique structure. For example, we are a county-based system. Early intervention (EI) services are contracted through the counties and we have 67 counties in this state. Some areas may have more services available and more providers than other areas. Other states may have a more centralized system rather than going through the counties.  Another thing that was pointed out was that PA’s deaf schools are all private and are managed by private boards. We have no state-supported school for the deaf. That is pretty unique as most states have at least one state-supported deaf school.
We are so proud of the diverse mix of stakeholders that attended the forums, particularly the participation of parents. We had parents of children who use only Listening and Spoken Language and also parents of children who use American Sign Language (ASL). In addition to parents, there were representatives from state agencies, hospitals, service providers, deaf community members, and schools for the deaf that use ASL, and schools that serve deaf children via Listening and Spoken Language. Despite coming from very different backgrounds, everyone was able to really have an honest and thoughtful discussion of how we can work together to improve the system.
After the forums, we summarized the feedback from all three sessions and sent out the summary to stakeholders. It seemed to be representative of the themes that were consistent across all three forums. The themes that came up on the forums were consistent with federal guidelines and recommendations of best practices for early intervention services. These guidelines are considered the ideal for us to aim towards in fixing the gaps in our system.
Below is the link to the summary of the three forums for your review. Also, I have attached a link to an article that was written by Mr. Mark Drolsbaugh. Mr. Drolsbaugh attended the Philadelphia forum and it is mentioned in this article. His view on what’s missing in early intervention is definitely worth a read! And finally, there is a link to the federal guidelines and best practices in early intervention for those who are interested in this as well.
For those who are interested in learning more about the summary of the forums and recommendations for best practices, I am happy to come to your group or organization and talk more about this. Any parent organization, deaf community group, or others can contact me via email at and I would be happy to arrange a time to come talk with your group.
And on a final closing note, the forums were so successful and positive because everyone recognized that we want for deaf and hard of hearing children to acquire and develop language at the same pace as their hearing peers. That is our unifying goal. And most importantly, everyone showed respect to parents. Parents are at the heart of this and a lot of respect was shown to the parents who attended the forums.
Thank you for watching (and reading!)
Summary of Language Readiness for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Stakeholder Forums:
Something’s Missing in Early Intervention for Deaf Children by Mr. Mark Drolsbaugh:
Principles and Guidelines for Early Intervention after Confirmation that a Child is Deaf or Hard of Hearing by Christine Yoshinaga-Itano:
Elizabeth Hill
PSAD board member