The American Cochlear Implant Alliance (ACI Alliance), a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization released a letter to LEAD-K on February 27, 2019. In this letter, they stated that they don’t agree with LEAD-K’s statement that all deaf and hard of hearing children should learn ASL and that parents should have the right to choice. This is a clear statement in terms of parents having the right to choose what kind of language modality they choose to utilize however, that is not what LEAD-K’s stance is.
In their letter to respond to Donna Sorkin, the President of ACIA Alliance, Sheri Farinha, Campaign Director, Julie Rems Smario, Public Relations Director; Co-Chairs and the LEAD-K National team clarify that their position is that they do believe in the right to choose for parents. That is not the main focus of LEAD-K. The main focus is clarified in their March 7 letter to ACIA Alliance, “The LEAD-K bill focuses on ensuring that Deaf children achieve language milestones. Language milestones are universal whether the language is ASL or English. With respect to language choice, the bill provides that the parent(s) have the right to select which language, (ASL and English, both, or one of the languages) for their child’s language(s) acquisition and developmental milestones (Section 1(a)(6) of the LEAD-K bill).” (Open Letter)
In ACIA’s general position statement, they list off several things that they oppose in terms of LEAD-K Bills.
Multiple parents report that ECFE (Early Childhood and Family Education) programs push for oral only methods and often hide ASL options until they realize the child is not benefitting from Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) methods and then they allow the parent to know about ASL. “I am angry, my little boy is three years old and have had to end support from the deaf mentorship program here because we chose mainstream for him. For that reason, my child has had access to only LSL. I have seen my child blossom more in the last six months than the last year and a half before when we were using ECFE teachers.” (Anonymous parent)
Nowhere in the LEAD-K bill does it say anything about assistive technology nor does it state what kind of auditorial training the child can or can not have. Their focus is once again on language to get children kindergarten-ready. This position statement is not all-inclusive with other programs and methods that the states employ to place services in homes of people in our community for they restrict parents from choice by excluding options. LEAD-K is trying to stop this by providing data and information to states that don’t have programs in place.
However, at the end of the letter, ACIA does state that they agree somewhat with LEAD-K on some stances:
Where we agree with LEAD-K proponents is the need to monitor the functioning of state offices providing early intervention and educational services, including the state schools for the deaf. We should be holding our state agencies accountable for improving services for our children. We believe that the best approach is to make our current processes work properly, not pass new redundant legislation. (ACIA)