Language Deprivation Taskforce

Video updatefrom Tim Riker, Taskforce Coordinator

Language Deprivation Taskforce Members

Kim Bianco Majeri holds an M.B.A. degree from North Park University with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management and a master’s degree from New York University. With this education and over 20 years of experience in nonprofit and corporate settings, advocacy has always been a core principle of her work. Recent events have revealed the need to increase legislative advocacy skills within our community especially with respect to educating legislative officials on the needs and rights of deaf and hard of hearing adults and children.  Kim works for the NAD as the State Legislative Affairs Coordinator and also serves as the chair of Legislative Advocacy and Outreach under the National Education Strategy Team.

Dr. Sanjay Gulati is a child psychiatrist and a specialist in Otolaryngology and Communication Enhancement at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program. He graduated from the Eastern Virginia Medical School Medical College in 1988. He works in Cambridge, MA and specializes in Psychiatry. He is affiliated with Cambridge Hospital. He also is the Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is well known for the groundbreaking presentation on “Language Deprivation Syndrome” as hosted by Brown University in 2014.

Wyatte C. Hall, Ph.D. is an NIH K12 research fellow in the National Center for Deaf Health Research at University of Rochester Medical Center. He has been active in Deaf mental health clinical work for approximately seven years through graduate studies at Gallaudet University, and his clinical psychology internship at the Deaf Wellness Center. He recently completed a clinical-research postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His research interest lies at the intersection of language and behavior with the study of language deprivation in the Deaf community. He is especially interested in the impact of language deprivation on behavioral health issues within the Deaf population, and language deprivation’s role as a potential cause of a unique mental health disorder.

Jonathan Henner, Ph.D. is a Visiting Lecturer in the department of Modern Languages and Literature at the College of the Holy Cross. He successfully defended his dissertation in Developmental Studies at Boston University’s School of Education in the fall of 2015. The focus of the dissertation is the development of language based analogical reasoning in signing Deaf children. For the past five years, Jon has been involved in a number of different projects, from developing L1 ASL assessments for Deaf children, to creating an online ASL-STEM content application.

Tawny Holmes, Esq. is a rare (if not the only) deaf attorney with a Masters’ Degree in Deaf Education and experience in teaching students of all grade levels. Born in West Palm Beach, Florida, she attended mainstream school there before graduating from the Alabama School for the Deaf. Tawny then obtained her degrees in Deaf Studies, Sociology, and Deaf Education from Gallaudet University along with receiving her law degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law. Tawny currently resides in Germantown, Maryland and works full-time as the Education Policy Counsel at the NAD. She also serves as the chair of the National Education Strategy Team and as the coordinator of the Education Advocates Program at the NAD. Tawny is the proud godmother of four deaf children: Avant, Leilani, Oriana, and Talon.

Dr. Petra Horn-Marsh is the Early Childhood/Elementary School Principal at the Kansas State School for the Deaf in Olathe, Kansas.  Before that, she was a Bilingual Specialist and also an AEBPD lead mentor for CAEBER.  She served as a school administrator at Jean Massieu School of the Deaf, a bilingual charter school in Riverton, Utah, for a year and at the California School for the Deaf, Riverside, for a year and a half prior to coming to Kansas.  In addition to teaching courses at Gallaudet as an adjunct professor, she teaches a variety of American Sign Language and Deaf Culture courses for 20+ years.  She is deaf with two deaf children and three hearing children.  Finally, she co-wrote an article, “Bilingual Students Publish Works in ASL and English”, with Kester Horn-Marsh in the spring 2009 issue of the Odyssey magazine.  One of her professional passions includes the legislation of ASL as a linguistic right of deaf and hard-of-hearing infants, toddlers and children.

Rachel Postovoit is a Mindfulness Educator; founder of AMAS, a LCSW & LISW, a writer,  and has been in the field of clinical mental health, counseling, social work, education, supervision, and community work since graduating from Gallaudet with a dual masters in Social Work and Administration and Supervision. Her range of experience includes working exclusively with deaf youth, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, hearing and diverse backgrounds, their families to hearing and deaf adults and co-occurring diagnoses as well as, non-clinical settings, such as education and government.  She has served on many boards, and worked in various capacities including government, clinical and therapy settings, nonprofit, schools, homes, and the community, as well as having private practice and consultation.

Ralph Reiser, Esq. was raised in Ridgetown, Queens, NY, and has deaf parents. He received a B.A. from Fordham University in 1973 and a Juris Doctorate degree from St. John’s Law School in 1980. He is admitted to the New York State Bar, the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, the U.S. Tax Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd and 4th Circuits. Upon his admission to the Bar, Ralph was promoted to Trial Attorney in the firm at which he clerked as a law student and eventually became a named partner in that firm. Ralph later established his own law firm in Syosset, NY practicing with his wife, Anne T. Breen, Esq. Fluent in American Sign Language and versed in deaf culture, Ralph is one of very few deaf attorneys in the country providing legal services to the deaf community. A member of the Board of Directors of the Lexington School & Center for the Deaf in Queens, Ralph also serves as General Counsel to the Mark 7 Deaf Foundation and Camp Mark 7 for deaf children at Old Forge, NY. He and Anne reside in Syosset and have three children and wo grandchildren.

Coming from a Deaf family, Wanda Riddle was raised in the South. A faculty member at Gallaudet University since 2009, she has taught General Studies, Advanced ASL and ASL major courses. In addition to her BA in ASL studies, Wanda received her dual MA degrees from Gallaudet University in Linguistics and Sign Language Teaching. Instructor Riddle coordinated the ASL Immersion Program 2011-2013, a program for emerging signers to enhance their sign language skills. Since 2011, she is the coordinator of ASL Placement Test, a test designed for the placement of incoming students in ASL classes. Her specializations are in ASL Depiction, Sign Language Acquisition, Language Assessment, ASL Elocution, Sociolinguistics in Sign Language Communities, Deaf Studies, and History of Sign Languages.

Tim Riker is a Lecturer of Language Studies at Brown University, where he teaches American Sign Language and Deaf Studies.   He also serves as Chair of the Rhode Island Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and a board member of the Deafhood Foundation.  Tim was born and raised in Maryland and is an alumnus of the Maryland School for the Deaf, Class of 1998.  Both of his parents and his brother are Deaf and use American Sign Language.   Tim earned his B.S. in Business Administration from Georgetown University and Masters in Sign Language Education from Gallaudet University.  He also completed graduate coursework at California State University, Northridge’s Masters in Public Policy. Since 2008, Tim Riker has been very active in Deaf language acquisition and education issues, advocating for all Deaf and hard of hearing children to develop a strong first language as a foundation for literacy and academic achievement.  As part of Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K)’s committee, Tim has focused his efforts to work with many stakeholders in Rhode Island with the goal to pass a bill requiring language assessments, tracking, and data collection to end language deprivation.  To raise awareness about language and literacy, Tim published “Kindergarten Readiness for Deaf Children”, a digital journal article in ASLized! Journal of American Sign Language and Literature.  He serves on the Editorial Board of the ASLized! Journal of American Sign Language and Literature to review submissions from various researchers and professionals in the ASL field.

Allison Schlesinger received her B.S. from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. as a Child Development Specialist and her M.A. from CA State Univ. Northridge in Educational Psychology and Counseling. She has been working in the field of counseling, child abuse and domestic violence since 1994. Allison worked with Child Protective Services Deaf Unit and Five Acres In-Home Counseling, in Los Angeles, CA. In 2004 Ms. Schlesinger, started San Diego Deaf Mental Health Services, a nonprofit mental health outpatient program that specialized in direct mental health services. In 2010, the organization name changed to National Center for Deaf Advocacy. In 2007, she was awarded a Behavioral Health STARS Award by the San Diego Commission on Children Youth and Families and was nominated as a Public Health Champion for the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. Allison was awarded the 2011 Laurent Clerc Award by the Gallaudet University Alumni Association, for outstanding social contributions by a deaf person in the interest of deaf people. Ms. Schlesinger is currently the Florida State Department of Children and Families – Statewide Community Relations Manager for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She serves as a subject matter expert and consultant to the department.

Irvine Stewart graduated with his master’s degree in social work from Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. Irvine has worked with children and adults who are deaf and hard of hearing in several different locations including community mental health centers and educational settings. He has been a social worker at Model Secondary School for the Deaf, Special School District and Deaf Community Services of San Diego, California. He has experience in both individual and group dialectical behavior therapy. Irvine currently works as a case manager for BJC Behavioral Health in St. Louis, Missouri.

Additional links related to the Language Deprivation’s work: