As of August 11, 2019, twelve states have passed laws based on the LEAD-K state model bill to ensure that Deaf* children are kindergarten-ready with language acquisition. Last year also saw unsuccessful attempts to pass similar laws in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, Connecticut, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia (Susie Tiggs). The Coronavirus pandemic has suspended or postponed legislative activity in all but eight states, and you can check out the National Conference of State Legislatures’ page for updates on your own state.

LEAD-K’s platform is mainly focused on language deprivation, which is defined as the child’s missed opportunity of the cognitive development that needs to happen from being exposed to and picking up language early on during the child’s first five years.

AG Bell, ACIA, and ASHA are three key organizations that have stood in opposition to LEAD-K’s platform with AG Bell being the most prominent. AG Bell’s platform has an emphasis on what they call “auditory deprivation.” Much of AG Bell’s work is centered on convincing parents to believe that auditory deprivation is an important priority for their child’s health and well-being.

Auditory deprivation describes the longstanding argument doctors, audiologists, and speech-language pathologists have used and continue to use: Children “act out” and have behavioral issues because they do not have the ability to hear.

Even though there is factual research to prove that language deprivation leads to delayed cognitive development, weakened communication and language skills and less capability in socioemotional regulation (see Dr. Sanjay Gulati’s presentation for more), AG Bell pushes the agenda that auditory deprivation is the correct explanation.

Much of AG Bell’s self-published research and grant requests highlight the idea that hearing aids or cochlear implants and speech therapy are the only effective solutions in addressing the socioemotional needs of children (i.e., Coulter & Goodluck, 2015). Another way AG Bell pushes this agenda is through its outreach and educational programs.

Other researchers have perceived, and continue to perceive, AG Bell’s work as biased because their research does not consider other possible factors behind the behavioral issues children experience, such as language deprivation (Hall, Eigsti, Bortfeld, & Lilio-Martin, 2017).

AG Bell applies the “cookie-cutter” stages of speech and hearing development that is standard for hearing babies in their work with deaf babies in making the point that auditory deprivation exists and is damaging. What AG Bell and other similar-minded organizations refuse to share with families is the fact that a Deaf* baby’s brain develops differently compared to a hearing baby’s brain.

Put in other words, the hearing model of a child’s speech and hearing developmental timeline should never be applied to a Deaf* child because it is not compatible for the Deaf* child. You cannot compare apples and oranges.