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Rep. Frederick spearheads effort to promote language options for children who are deaf, hard of hearing
RELEASE|April 14, 2022
Contact: Ben Frederick

Plan ensures resources are available for students who communicate with ASL

State Rep. Ben Frederick this week led the House in approving a plan to offer additional learning resources for Michigan children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Frederick, of Owosso, said the state does not currently have a system to monitor, track and report a child’s language benchmarks in American Sign Language. Michigan also lacks a statewide ASL language assessment for children who are deaf or hard of hearing from birth to age 5. The lack of early intervention resources has resulted in a high rate of children who communicate through ASL who are not prepared for kindergarten.

“Imagine the unnecessary stress that is placed on young children who have the means to communicate but not necessarily the access or the opportunity to do so,” Frederick said. “My goal is to give parents access to more tools, so they can help their children communicate more effectively and understand how their child is progressing in the language acquisition.”

House Bill 5777 establishes a 15-member advisory committee within the Michigan Department of Education that is made up of parents, educators and advocates who will consult with the department on creating ASL language milestones and assessment tools for children age 5 or younger. The milestones and assessments would be made available to parents to monitor and track their child’s expressive and receptive language acquisition and developmental stages toward English literacy using ASL, English or both, and may also be used when developing a child’s individualized education plan.

Frederick’s measure will also ensure the language milestones and assessment tools are distributed to intermediate school districts, public school academies and the Michigan School for the Deaf.

“Presenting training in ASL as an option at an early age ensures the best possible outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing,” Frederick said. “By producing more resources for parents and ensuring that districts have the ability to help with these early assessments, we can create more opportunities for children who use ASL to thrive.”

Frederick noted that the new resources could have an added benefit for Michigan’s special needs community by helping students who are non-vocal.

“For thousands of students with special needs, ASL offers the possibility of expressive language,” Frederick said. “My 11-year-old daughter can hear and understand the spoken word yet does not speak. She has instead been communicating increasingly through ASL. It has been a joy for my wife and I to see her stress wane considerably as she is able to express herself in this manner. ASL has become her language.”

The plan now advances to the Senate for further consideration.

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