Recognizing and Celebrating Deaf Education in Ohio
Opportunities to build our understanding of equity and access, and what that looks like for each person, includes reflecting on our history. Having the chance to participate in activities that acknowledge and celebrate various groups through awareness months provides a space for students, families, educators, and community members to explore the contributions made by many represented and underrepresented groups. Building more inclusive environments means that we are intentional about offering a wide range of representation as we work to understand the experiences of one another. Honoring the diverse backgrounds, the unique identities, and the lived experiences that make up who we are as a society.
Each year, Ohio Deaf History Month is celebrated from March 13–April 15, and allows us to look back at our past and reflect on how history has shaped our education in Ohio. This month came to be through the collaborative work of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the American Library Association (ALA), and was signed into Ohio law in 2017. The conversation started in an effort to make libraries more accessible for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing within communities by providing resources to learn about Deaf culture, American Sign Language, and the Deaf community. In early March 2022, NAD announced a shift in dates for National Deaf History Month, which will now be observed from April 1-April 30, effective this year.
What We’ve Learned About Language Development
When exploring language development, it’s important to identify what languages are being used and that there are many different modalities to express and receive language—speaking, signing, reading, writing, or drawing. Early communication skills and language development are strongly correlated.
“When a child is born, there is a window of time up to age five or six, where children will be able to pick up language, so having the opportunity to pick up that language and have language acquisition at that time is really valuable,” shares Julie Stewart, ASL Specialist, Ohio School for the Deaf. “When we don’t do that, we would consider that language deprivation.”
When students are able to focus on language, it creates a valuable connection, and it helps them with their expressive functional skills. It’s also important to understand that learning to read and decoding English and hearing spoken language are all different functions. For example, if a student speaks English, it does not necessarily mean that they can read English. That’s why it is necessary to have explicit instruction for all learners, and to understand that all of these skills are independent of each other. Simply put, access for every learner, in whatever format that takes, is essential.
Not All Students Are the Same
All Deaf and hard of hearing students are not the same. Sometimes, there are students who prefer to only communicate using a signed language, some who use a spoken language, and some who prefer a mix of both. Sometimes a student’s preference is determined by their environment.
“I prefer to use American Sign Language, I can see the entire scenario of what’s happening around me and not be distracted by the noise that is in the background,” explains Stewart. “It’s often a very individualized preference.”
Resources and Support Available in Ohio
The need for mental health services for Ohio’s students has been on the rise, particularly since the pandemic, including Deaf and hard of hearing students.
“Trained mental health services for Deaf learners are in high demand right now, and Ohio is building capacity for that need,” shares Jason Franklin, Director of Social Emotional Learning and Child Nutrition, Ohio School for the Deaf. “What we’re seeing is that what worked before is not the same. We need to be flexible and recognize that each child is an individual and may need different supports.”
Parent mentorship has also been instrumental at the Ohio School for the Deaf and the Ohio State School for the Blind. Both schools coordinate with statewide parent mentors for training, which is designed to empower parents to feel confident and safe to ask any questions.
If you are looking to be connected to resources in any area of your student’s development, learn more at Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness.
Get the Details
These are just a few of the topics explored in the recent InspirED Virtual Learning Series episode, Ohio Deaf History Month: Recognizing and Celebrating Deaf Education in Ohio. Explore Deaf culture by honoring Ohio’s contributions as we celebrate Ohio Deaf History Month.
Happy 10th Anniversary, Employment First: Celebrating Every Person. Every Talent. Every Opportunity.
On March 19, 2012, Governor John Kasich officially launched Ohio’s Employment First Initiative to establish statewide collaboration and coordination for community employment to become the preferred outcome for individuals with developmental disabilities. The Employment First Taskforce is charged with expanding community employment opportunities by reducing barriers and aligning state policy.
Community employment brings so many benefits—from greater independence and wealth building potential to improved self-esteem and personal satisfaction. And that’s just the beginning: Employers and co-workers benefit through more diversity and a broader range of capable employees available; while society at large benefits when all citizens are able to participate in and contribute to their communities in all the ways they can.
“Over the years, through the work of Employment First and its partners, we have seen an intentional increase in raising expectations for community employment and more and more employers engaging, which has been wonderful,” shares Alex Corwin, program director for the Lifespan Transition Center at OCALI. “There are so many success stories of people with disabilities positively contributing to the community and the workforce, and we want nothing more but for that to continue to grow.”
Shifting Expectations to Cultural Transformation
Every person has abilities, skills, and talents to enrich the community and people around us. The Employment First Taskforce envisions a time when every working-age adult with developmental disabilities has opportunity to explore their career options and seek jobs that fit their skills and interests.
This starts by shifting expectations. Young people with developmental disabilities learn about employment options and planning during their school years. Adults with developmental disabilities should have support teams that assist in learning more about how abilities and interests can match opportunities in with workplace. Every person should expect that community employment is the preferred outcome for working-age adults with developmental disabilities.
Every agency, school, organization, and individual within Ohio’s developmental disabilities system plays a role by focusing on what everyone can do and providing the best supports and services to enable people to choose and succeed in community employment. We’re transforming to a system culture that creates opportunities and pathways for integration, independence, and full community participation.
Supporting Successful Transition Planning
The Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI works to equip communities to support the successful and unique transition of individuals with disabilities to ensure they can live their best lives for their whole lives. The Center does this by being agency-neutral, outcome-focused, and person-centered in offering resources, training, and technical assistance to create successful support systems that incorporate community living and employment.
“We have partnered with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and the Employment First Taskforce over the years to create resources that support the transition process,” says Corwin. “By partnering together, along with other agencies, to discuss how to sequence services and supports or talk about best practices in a productive way, we are better able to support youth and adults with developmental disabilities, along with their families, service providers, and employers.”
Since partnering with the Employment First initiative, the Lifespan Transitions Center has worked with local county boards of developmental disabilities, school districts, youth with disabilities, families, and other agency partners on various projects to promote best practices for transition from school to adulthood. These projects have led to the development of various resources and tools, which can be found on the Employment First website. Resources like the Vocabulary Crosswalk and Agency Navigation Tool, help families understand the language and vocabulary associated with transition, along with the services those partner agencies offer youth with disabilities. The Multi-Agency Planning Tools help agency partners like schools, county boards of developmental disabilities, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, and more plan together in a way that is efficient and seamless for the youth and family to plan and build toward their employment goals.
“By helping transition-age youth and families explore careers and employment before school, we exponentially increase their chances to obtain community employment as adults and fully realize the Employment First vision,” shares Corwin.
To learn more about resources you can use to celebrate Employment First’s anniversary, explore this kit with helpful resources: https://dodd.ohio.gov/about-us/communication/DODD-Kits/employment-first-kit.
Source: Portions of this article were used from www.OhioEmploymentFirst.org
What’s New at OCALI
March 28, 2:30 p.m.: Journey Webinar Series: Functional Behavior Assessment for Youth with Complex Needs – Beyond A-B-C
Youth with complex and intensive needs often present with distressed behaviors that are difficult to understand. A Functional Behavior Assessment or FBA is helpful to determine the root cause of these distressed behaviors, however, the assessment must take into multiple factors. Join us for a discussion of the type of FBA that goes below the surface and beyond the typical Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence model. Resources to assist in this process will be introduced.
NEW: April 6, 10-11 a.m. & 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Introduction to Functional Listening and Vision Assessments
When hearing or vision loss has been identified for a learner, the next important step is to look at how each learner uses their hearing and/or vision in the environments where they live, learn, and play. Join the Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI on April 6 for a new webinar series, Introduction to Functional Listening & Vision Assessments.
NEW: Tuesdays in April, 3-4 p.m.: ID Early for Autism Spectrum Disorder
Make plans to join the Center for the Young Child at OCALI every Tuesday in April from 3-4pm for a new series, ID Early for Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you’re a professional working with families and young children at risk and/or suspected of ASD, this series is for you. Hosted in partnership with the Center for the Young Child at OCALI and Ohio Early Intervention, this series will provide information, resources, and tools professionals can use to help identify autism earlier.
NEW: April 21, 4-4:30 p.m.: New InspirED Session
The Earlier the Better: Recognizing Autism in Young Children
The earlier young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are identified, the more opportunity early childhood professionals have to provide services and supports that will benefit children for a lifetime. Gain a deeper understanding of ASD diagnosis and educational eligibility determination, insight into differences in presentation of ASD in boys and girls, and considerations for making decisions about services and supports.
New: Myths and Misconceptions in the Educational Identification of Autism
Intended for district evaluation teams, but also helpful to families, community clinicians, and other partners, this document was created to address the common myths and misconceptions surrounding the educational identification of autism.
Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners
Check out this video-based learning series that explore practical, easy-to-use resources designed to ensure ALL learners have access to the general curriculum.