Iowa will be the 19th state to adopt a readiness-to-learn program for children with hearing loss | Government and politics


DES MOINES — Legislation to provide new resources for deaf and hard of hearing children was approved by the Iowa House on Wednesday and is on its way to the governor.

House File 604, sometimes referred to as LEAD-K – Language, Equality, Acquisition for Deaf Kids – is the result of more than a decade of work by lawmakers, educators, and families of deaf and hard of hearing children.

LEAD-K is a national initiative to raise awareness of the experiences of children who are deaf or hard of hearing in language learning.

He works on school readiness, ensuring deaf children have access to both American Sign Language and English.

Iowa will be the 19th state to adopt LEAD-K.

Rep. Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids, said when he started meeting with members of the deaf community, they would hire an interpreter to help them communicate with lawmakers.

“Imagine being a parent of a family with a child who is deaf, unable to communicate, no language acquisition from birth…not knowing what to do, how to communicate with their own child,” he said.

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The state Department of Education in 2018 reported that 2,800 Iowans under the age of 21 were deaf or hard of hearing. Many deaf children may be the only ones in their classroom or school to have hearing problems, face barriers to learning, and often live in loneliness.

The House bill calls for the development of language milestones for each age, from birth to age 8, in American Sign Language, English and other languages, as well as assessments of steps.

It obliges the Ministry of Education to develop parental resources for deaf or hard of hearing children. And he calls for the creation of a family mentorship program to match families with a deaf or hard of hearing adult mentor to provide support.

The bill provides for the creation of a group of stakeholders to advise the Ministry of Education.

Although the Legislative Services Agency projected the costs of implementing HF 604 to be nearly $200,000 in the first year, the bill did not include funding.

“This bill will speak to deaf and hard of hearing children and their ability to learn,” said Rep. Molly Donahue, D-Cedar Rapids, special education teacher.

The bill was approved 96-0 by the Iowa House in 2021, 48-0 by the Senate with an amendment, and the amended bill, 97-0, by the House on Wednesday.

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