Position Statement on Early Hearing Detection and Intervention

Position Statement on Early Hearing Detection and Intervention1

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) strongly believes that early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI) systems, practitioners, and associated professionals must reflect a positive attitude toward deaf or hard of hearing individuals, the American deaf and hard of hearing community, and American Sign Language (ASL).

The identification of a child as deaf or hard of hearing is an opportunity for the family and professionals serving that family to take steps to ensure appropriate cultural and linguistic support for the child’s development. Research shows that early identified deaf and hard of hearing children perform significantly higher than late identified children in language, cognitive, and academic areas.2  Research also confirms that children with highly involved parents perform significantly higher in language and cognition than children with less involved parents.3  This research underscores the need for early identification and provision of appropriate family support through qualified providers and specialized early intervention programs.

Deaf and hard of hearing infants, toddlers and their families receive services in conformance with the Infant and Toddler Program, or Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1431-1444.4

Early intervention programs must provide a spectrum of language and communication opportunities to ensure age appropriate development of deaf and hard of hearing infants, toddlers and their families. Early intervention programs must also provide opportunities for infants, toddlers and families to learn ASL. Professionals conveying the results of hearing screens or evaluations must supply families with information on ASL and its positive benefits. Professionals must guide parents to information and resources from a wide range of viewpoints, including information and resources within the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Programs must also support families whose primary spoken language is other than English used in the home. Programs should provide the resources and support families need to make informed decisions about ASL, language acquisition and learning.

Early intervention programs must give families with deaf and hard of hearing infants and toddlers the opportunity to meet deaf and hard of hearing adults, including making available trained deaf and hard of hearing mentors. Mentors provide a unique perspective which can help parents make informed decisions. Mentors help families learn about the deaf and hard of hearing community and help families envision a bright future for their child.

Programs must empower families with deaf and hard of hearing children by establishing strong network and support system for language development using ASL with other families with deaf and hard of hearing children. Often those families have a wealth of experience and expertise to share with families of newly identified newborns.

EHDI systems at every level must seek out and hire qualified professionals who are fluent in ASL and familiar with techniques for teaching ASL to newly identified deaf or hard of hearing children and their families. These professionals bring unique insight and knowledge based on their experience and provide positive role models for children and families.

Respect for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, the deaf community, and ASL must permeate all aspects of EHDI programs. The concept that being deaf or hard of hearing is a difference, not a deficit, must serve as a foundation for services to children and families.  EHDI professionals should convey the expectation that deaf and hard of hearing children can and will develop age appropriate language, communication, cognitive, and social-emotional skills.

The NAD encourages members of the deaf and hard of hearing community, parents, and professionals to work together to ensure that EHDI programs incorporate all of the elements of this position statement.

Approved April 2010 by the National Association of the Deaf Board of Directors

  1. The NAD recognizes that families receive information and resources to address the health aspects of their child’s hearing, including information and resources related to technology, assistive listening devices, and auditory and speech therapies.  The NAD strongly supports informed parental choices.  Parents have the best interests of their children at heart and make the best decisions they can based on the information they receive.  However, many parents do not receive information about American Sign Language (ASL) and the American deaf community perspective from health and medical professionals.  For this reason, the NAD focuses this position statement only on these topics.
  2. Christine Yoshinaga-Itano, C., et al.  (1998). Language of Early- and Later-identified Children With Hearing Loss. Pediatrics, Vol. 102, No. 5.
  3. Moeller, M.  (2000).  Early Intervention and Language Development in Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  Pediatrics Vol. 106, No. 3.
  4. Part C is designed to enhance the development of these children and enhance the capacity of their families to meet their needs. Part C requires early intervention services to be provided that will address the child’s needs in physical, cognitive, communication, social or emotional, and/or adaptive development. For deaf and hard of hearing children, those services should include family training that includes training in ASL acquisition and usage, to ensure appropriate language development and optimal family communications.