Archive for August, 2010

AB 2072: A Seedling

August 5, 2010

The California bill AB 2072 has undergone a second reading and was recently passed as amended by an Assembly majority vote on August 2nd.

The bill has been determined a fiscal bill, meaning it will require an appropriation of funds, and has been referred to the senate appropriations committee.  The amended bill calls for a fund, called the Language and Communication for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Fund.  This fund will be based on donations and perhaps federal funds to be placed in the State Treasury for the implementation of new sections 124121 and 124122, which AB 2072 will become if enacted, of the California Health and Safety Code.  No state funds will be used for this new law.  The appropriations committee is likely the source that will determine the amount required to implement the new law.

After this committee does the bill’s fiscal review, AB 2072 undergoes its third and final reading.  Whether it returns to the Assembly for its third reading or goes to the Senate floor is something I don’t know for certain, but we’ll know more after the committee review.

As one can read from the 8-2-2010 amended version, (strike-through’s are deletions, italics are additions to the language of the bill since the last 6-9-10 amendment), AB 2072 contains many changes but still retains its original intent:  to inform parents of deaf and hard of hearing newborns or infants of all options available,  “visual and auditory communication and language options”, as the new wording goes.

124121.  (a) The department shall develop an unbiased,
comprehensive, evidence-based informational pamphlet for newborns and
infants identified as deaf or hard of hearing about visual and
auditory communication and language options including, but not
limited to, American Sign Language (ASL), and Listening and Spoken
Language, that is sufficient to allow a parent to make an informed
decision on which options to choose for his or her child.

Note that “…including, but not limited to” means that the parents can choose one or more options.  Also note in that last sentence that the word “options” is in plural form.

ASL is not the only visual language used in this country, just as English is not the only spoken language in this country.  For example, an immigrant family may speak Spanish or sign SSL, Spanish sign language, as their primary language.  There are deaf Americans who sign PSE or SEE.  And then there’s spoken Spanglish, si?  😉

Take notice of the above phrase “…newborns and infants identified as deaf or hard of hearing”.  I recall that some ppl objected to newborns or infants as  “diagnosed with a hearing loss” as it connoted the medical view.

The words “informed decision” in that paragraph describes in a nutshell what this bill is all about.

The reference to “department” is the Dept. of Education.

To continue:

The pamphlet shall
contain both benefits and risks of all options, convey educational
attainment outcomes, and clearly convey that those options may be
used simultaneously.

There’s more meat to the pamphlet info, that realistic pro’s and con’s of each option need to be mentioned, the benchmarks at which a child should start to communicate spoken words or signs with family members, to grasp sentence grammar, syntax and context, to read and write,  and more advanced educational goals that a child should achieve at certain ages.  Lastly, options can be used simultaneously.  California sends notice to any oralist program that prohibits the use of ASL because of AVT that parents can indeed choose to allow the use of ASL with their implanted child, if that’s what they want for their child.   Just as deaf parents who use ASL at home can also choose a speech program for their hard of hearing or implanted child, if that’s what they want for their child.

The amended version stipulates that the informational pamphlet be presented to parents by:

(1) By an audiologist immediately upon identification of a newborn
or infant as deaf or hard of hearing.
   (2) By a local provider for the Early Start Program, provided for
pursuant to the California Early Intervention Services Act (Title 14
(commencing with Section 95000) of the Government Code) upon initial
contact with the parents of a newborn or infant newly identified as
deaf or hard of hearing.

Yup,  the audie’s still there, as is the Early Start provider as well.   The point here is to get info to the parents as soon as possible after the baby is identified as deaf or hard of hearing.  Any more time lost inevitably will lead to language delays.  Some newborns don’t get detected after birth for other reasons, such as home delivery or other situation, and this is where Early Start providers play a role in followup screening.

(c) (1) The department shall convene an advisory stakeholder panel
to contribute to the development of the informational pamphlet
required pursuant to subdivision (a).

This amended version will establish a panel of eleven members, of which the eleventh member is the Secretary of Education, an ex-officio member, to develop and revise the pamphlet when changes may become necessary.   The panel will consist of deaf/hh individuals, parents of deaf children, educators, non-profit organizations, and researchers who come from or study different communication modalities, both visual and spoken.  All ten members will be appointed, most by the Governor and two by the Speaker of the Assembly.   There is an even spread of both visual and spoken modalities among the panel members.

(4) The department and the panel shall consider written input and
information submitted by members of the general public in the
creation of the pamphlet

The amended version allows for public input in the pamphlet’s development as well.  How will the public find out about a specific address?  Through Dept. of Education’s website or other?

e) The pamphlet developed pursuant to subdivision (a) shall be
made available in Cantonese, English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The
pamphlet developed pursuant to subdivision (a) shall be made
available on the department's Internet Web site and the
Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Board's Internet Web site.

California is home to a number of minorities, and it makes sense to convey the pamphlet info into several languages.   And that it be also conveyed on the Department of Education’s and the Audiology Board’s websites.  Many audies and Early Start providers have office computers/laptops that personnel can use to point to the info online as well as provide the printed version.  Some parents can refer to these websites on home computers at their leisure as well.

(f) (1) There is hereby created the Language and Communication for
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Fund in the State Treasury. The
fund shall contain donations that have been collected and deposited
for the purposes of this section, as well as any federal funds made
available for purposes of this section.

And also:

(3) No moneys shall be expended from the fund until the Director
of Finance determines that sufficient money is in the fund to
implement this section.

A fund will be established for the purpose of implementing this bill if enacted into law.   The amended version stipulates that no state funds will be used and that the fund is to come from donations and possibly federal funds.   The money cannot be released until it is determined that there is enough to meet the appropriations required for the fund.

As I understand it, the panel has to be formed within the next year (2011) and commence operations by Jan. 1, 2012, (assuming that AB 2072 passes this year and gets signed by the Governator by Sept. 30th)  meaning there is one year during which to build this fund.   How will donations be solicited, through fund-raisers, or what? And donations from whom? Would entities/corporations that represent different communication modalities be acceptable donors?  What happens if the fund’s amount isn’t met in time?  Back to square one?

The panel, once it commences operation, has 6 months to submit recommendations on the pamphlet’s development.   I suppose that since the bill specifies that panel members don’t get renumeration, but do get their travel expenses covered, that some of the appropriations will have to cover this minor detail as well.  Multiply that by 10x, ten ppl, that is, then multiply that by the number of meetings per year ’til 2017, when the panel’s term ends.

The start of a seedling, folks.  I know that some of you readers have been opposed to this bill due to the bill’s language and sponsorship.  But the sponsors of this bill have come around to see your side and included some of the things, if not every thing, that the opponents have requested to be included in this bill.

The supporters got some of what they wanted, full disclosure of info on all options  and immediately upon identification for the parents to make an informed decision, not later down the road at 18 months, which is today’s typical “discovery” period.  With full disclosure, there are no surprises later down the road about discovery of other options and that eliminates bias either on the part of the audiologist or Early Start providers or the Dept. of Education.

The opponents got some of what they wanted, less of the medical view’s terminology and more emphasis on language acquisition for the infant as well as the Dept. of Education instead of the Dept. of Health Care Services as the source of info, and a pamphlet that will reflect a realistic balance of visual and spoken modalities, the pro’s and con’s of each option, and educational goals for the growing child.

Gardeners say that some hybrids grow into better, stronger, or pest-resistant plants.   AB 2072 may become that kind of hybrid, for the deaf community’s future.

Give it plenty of water and the right nutrients in the soil, as green thumbs say.  😉


Update:  Senate appropriations committee meets every Monday, meaning the next meeting will be on Aug. 9th.  And the last day for the fiscal committees to report a bill to the Floor will be Aug. 13th.  The California legislature will be in session for the last time this year from Aug. 16-31 before it goes into final recess.