For the first time, Missouri will develop language standards for children, birth to age 5, who are deaf or hard of hearing. In an effort to better communicate with others, parents will be able to monitor and track milestones in the language development of their child with hearing disabilities.

Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, sponsored the provisions that will become law next month.

“Only one in 1,000 children who are born or become deaf or hard of hearing actually have a parent who knows sign language,” said Razer. “So, if you are born deaf, you may have no language interaction with your parents, or probably anyone in your life, for the first two or three years.”

Razer added the language to an education bill that made it across the finish line.

“So, what we’re hoping with this legislation, and this isn’t going to fix everything, but it’s a good start – is that we have milestones that the parents know where their kids should be compared to their peers and they can watch where they are now and get the appropriate help,” said Razer.

An advisory committee will be created to ask for input from experts on the selection of language development milestones. The panel will then work with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to finalize the standards.

The committee will be made up of teachers, parents, speech-language pathologists, and others who work with children who are deaf or hard of hearing or who are themselves deaf or hard of hearing.

For the 2024-25 school year and all subsequent school years, the state agency must come up with an annual report that is specific to language and literacy development of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Razer said there was push back on the bill only being based in English, but he said there may be some work in the next legislative session to include other languages.

This is the first year Razer sponsored the bill. Passing legislation the first year it has been introduced is uncommon.

To see the bill, click here.

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