Awareness of ASL Grows at 2011 EHDI Conference


The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) participated in the 10th annual Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Conference, February 20-22, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. NAD representatives had productive conversations with various stakeholders of early intervention programs from all over the country, including local and federal EHDI professionals, educators, advocates, audiologists and parents about the benefits of American Sign Language (ASL). Debra Patkin, staff attorney at the NAD, and Roberta Mather Brown, volunteer advocate and parent of deaf children, took part in workshops and provided their insights to attendees on behalf of the NAD.

Howard Rosenblum, the next NAD Chief Executive Officer starting on April 1, 2011, was the conference’s second plenary speaker.  His presentation, “It’s All About Expectations!”, shared success stories of deaf and hard of hearing individuals and the formula behind their achievements. “We need to raise expectations, and instill expectations in deaf and hard of hearing children to dream of becoming of something,” said Rosenblum. His remarks garnered countless chuckles and rounds of applause from the audience.

Patkin provided two workshop presentations and led one workshop panel discussion. The first presentation outlined the importance of deaf mentor programs to introduce parents to the deaf experience, and to cultivate the bond between parents and their deaf children which is necessary for successful language acquisition. The second presentation underscored the importance of American Sign Language (ASL) as a foundation for acquisition of English by exploring emotional, cognitive and social development studies. The third workshop featured a panel where parents of deaf and hard of hearing children addressed the importance of parental involvement with early invention programs by sharing their stories and experiences.

These presentations also reflect the commitment of the NAD to ensure that parents of newly identified deaf and hard of hearing infants receive accurate information about the benefits of acquiring and developing proficiency in both ASL and English. Click here to view “EHDI Programs and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community: Working Together” which includes descriptions of each initiative listed above. Early language advocates are encouraged to share this document with EHDI professionals in their states.

The NAD also participated in “Our Town,” which provided attendees with the opportunity to learn the benefits of ASL and meet deaf and hard of hearing individuals, including students from the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf.

“We made inroads at the 2011 EHDI Conference. Our presence continues to grow and EHDI professionals understand that we are here to stay, and will continue to promote greater awareness about the benefits of ASL,” said NAD President Bobbie Beth Scoggins. “While we are heartened to see a larger number of deaf and hard of hearing advocates attend this year’s EHDI conference, we must have more ASL-friendly advocates, professionals, and parents at the 2012 EHDI conference in St. Louis, Missouri.”