Latest News

November 15 2017: The Cogswell-Macy Act (H.R. 1120, S. 2087 ) has been re-introduced to the U.S. House/Senate and there has been a push to contact your legislators on National Advocacy Day on November 15, 2017.

Current information on the bill can be found at:  

September 2017:
 Tennessee School for the Deaf and the TN Department of Education created a Parent Outreach birth-5 position to address the unique needs of families with young children identified as deaf, hard of hearing, deaf blind, or deaf plus. The expected timeline for the position to begin providing service could be as soon as Fall 2017. As seen on the TSD website, employment opportunities, examples of duties include, but are not limited to:
• Establish and coordinate parent support groups and other parent outreach activities
• Travel across the state organizing and coordinating activities and informational opportunities for parents
• Establish a positive relationship with Tennessee Early Intervention Services (TEIS) and other agencies and groups serving deaf, hard of hearing families
• Assess needs of parents of deaf and hard of hearing children and coordinate resources to meet identified needs.

July 31, 2017: 
Nancylynn Ward, Ph.D. letter to TSD / WTSD Parents – excerpt: “We will also be looking at how to develop and restructure our out-reach programming which will focus on early intervention (EI) services for families with deaf children ranging from ages 0 – 3; deaf mentoring services to families; training opportunities for public school mainstreaming programs serving deaf and hard of hearing learners; and tracking services for deaf and hard of hearing youth matriculated in educational programs within the State of TN. We will be partnering with TEIS to develop our 0 – 3 services for deaf and hard of hearing in the Knoxville area. We plan to expand those services across the State in the future.”

June 30, 2017: Save the date!
You don't want to miss-out on hearing Dr. Lynn Hayes's inspiring talk about accommodating students with hearing loss at #LeaderU2017. @MTSU

June 20, 2017:
TN-DeafEd arranged for several Legislators to meet D/HH students, mothers, deaf adults, CODAs, and other community members in their offices on The Hill. Legislators met with The Deaf Church at Brentwood Baptist / Camp Summer Sign ministers, staff, campers and their parents. This was a wonderful chance to directly connect Legislators and D/HH students: 10 D/HH students, 4 mothers, 1 Grandfather, 1 interpreter, 2 professional deaf adults, 2 CODAs.

Legislators listened to the D/HH students and mothers’ experiences. They expressed their enthusiasm for providing high quality education programs for children identified as deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind (D/HH/DB) birth to 21 years of age. Visiting the legislative offices during the summer break provided an opportunity for deaf and hard of hearing students, their mothers, Interpreters for the Deaf, Child of Deaf Adult (CODA), Deaf Minster, and support staff to compare and contrast the educational experiences in their public school and the 8 week intensive language – tutoring program at Camp Summer Sign.

Parents, D/HH students, and other members of the group requested the Legislators to continue representing their concerns and their personal experiences with educational programs. Legislators were commended for representing D/HH students on their Education Committees. The issues included, but were not limited to:

Provide educational programs with consistent interaction with peers who are also D/HH/DB or general education students using American Sign Language (ASL). This is a critical need for language and social-emotional skills to develop naturally.

Incorporate D/HH/DB adults into educational programs to serve as native language experts, role models, mentors, and cultural ambassadors

Instructional practice is provided by highly qualified professionals in the field of education of the D/HH/DB

Instructional time at school is designed for D/HH/DB children’s unique, individual needs. Mothers stated their students are exposed to and tested on grade level content and vocabulary, when their children are significantly language deprived. They fail. Based on these parents long term experience with Camp Summer Sign providing 8 weeks of direct instruction to their children, they learn the concepts.

Early intervention services or families must be delivered by highly qualified professionals in the field of D/HH/DB parent-child development, a Deaf Mentor Program, and given unbiased resources in an accessible, centralized location.

Full access to visual language supports to the family, from identification forward, will ensure age appropriate literacy skills and English mastery.

The TN-DeafEd grassroots movement and Camp Summer Sign/The Deaf Church at Brentwood Baptist Church representatives expressed their deep appreciation for the Legislators commitment to providing high quality educational programs to Tennessee’s D/HH/DB children 0 – 21. 

June 15 – 17, 2017:
Tennessee Association of the Deaf (TAD) and the Deaf Tennessean Expo are being hosted by the Jackson Chapter of TAD. Location – Jackson, TN. To learn more: 

May 17, 2017:
Tracy Duncan with the Strategic Planning Committee for TN Deaf Mentor Program and TN-DeafED participated in national CDC/P2P Deaf Mentor conference call scheduled each month. TN has been represented on this call since it began in October, 2016, by various members of the Strategic Planning Committee, TN Hands & Voices, Newborn Hearing Screening Program – UT-K Center on Deafness, and interested individuals. The product that will result from these meetings are designed to be distributed to parents, organizations, states, and other programs to help them during the development of a Deaf Mentor Program that best meets their needs. The product will provide detailed information, resources, identify criteria important to consider in a program, and present the material in a user-friendly manner. Projects sponsored by CDC / P2P in the past usually take 2 – 3 years. All interested individuals are welcome stakeholders. Integral in these meetings are parent involvement, Deaf Infusion, and collaboration of representatives across the USA.

May 15, 2017:
The TN Department of Education, Special Education Division, met with TN-DeafEd representative, Tracy Duncan, Tennessee Association of the Deaf - Legislative Liaison, Sharon Bryant, and parent/family representative, Jennifer Escue. Members of the TN DOE included: Assistant Commissioner, Special Education – Theresa Nicholls, Low Incidence Populations, Alison Gauld, Executive Director of Division Operations, Allison Davey, Director of Outreach, Partnerships, Special Populations, & Student Support, Ryan Mathis, and the Director of Data for Special Populations, Rachel Wilkinson. The meeting was accessible to all as a result of superior interpreting for the deaf and hearing communities. All benefited from the skill of this individual.

This meeting is the result of a recommendation to the Governor’s Council on Education for Students with Disabilities, Chip Fair – Chair. We were delighted with the opportunity to follow-up the presentation from April 10, 2017, with the first of many future conversations about Deaf Education. At the conclusion of the meeting it was decided to have the newly appointed Superintendent for the School for the Deaf (Knoxville & Jackson Campuses) assume a leadership role in the ongoing conversation. Hopefully the next conversation will take place in the fall of 2017.

Please read the letter written that summarizes the content of the meeting on this website under RESOURCES.

May 5, 2017:
The Strategic Planning Committee for TN Deaf Mentor met after the TCDDBHH. The input from those attending, as well as representative from pilot cities – Memphis - Deaf Connect, Knoxville - Knoxville Center for the Deaf, and Nashville – Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, was overwhelmingly positive. The discussion about logistics was very helpful in understanding the basics of centers becoming a base of operation for the Deaf Mentor Program. Funding is still a top priority. The Committee is awaiting notification from the Honorable Representative Joe Pitts on discretionary funds; available after the state budget is signed and approved. Many Committee members participated by ZOOM. The recording and copy of minutes will be distributed to all the committee members. Three new members were added to the Strategic Planning Committee. These three will contribute a lot to our endeavor! Welcome Hendersonville (Sumner Co.), Chattanooga (Hamilton Co.), and Library Services for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired (state representation)!

May 5, 2017:
TN-DeafEd representative Tracy Duncan presented an update during the Tennessee Council for Deaf, Deaf Blind, and Hard of Hearing (TCDDBHH) which included the proposal for a pilot Deaf Mentor program in 2017 - 2018, education and advocacy activities of the TN-Deaf Ed grassroots group, and events related to TN Hands &Voices – announced the CARE Project in September and provided information to the committee members to take back to their respective areas.

May 3, 2017:
TN-DeafEd representative Tracy Duncan and Kodi Ogle parent of children with hearing impairment and TN Hands & Voices presented an update during Tennessee’s Newborn Hearing Screening East Regional EHDI meeting in Knoxville.

May 2, 2017:
TN-DeafEd representative Tracy Duncan and Tennessee Association of the Deaf representative, Sharon Bryant, met today at the new location for Deaf Services with Partnerships for Families. They agreed to post TN-DeafEd poster in their hallway! We discussed the national effort by Hands & Voices / CDC / JCIH for Deaf Infusion in all programs offered to families and children with hearing loss. We encouraged Deaf Services to participate. The Deaf Mentor program was discussed in more depth. They will send a representative to the Tennessee Council for the Deaf, Deaf Blind, and Hard of Hearing quarterly meeting on May 5th in Nashville. That representative will stay after the TCDDBHH meeting to learn more about Deaf Mentor programs.

May 2, 2017:
TN-DeafEd representative Tracy Duncan, Sharon Bryant, Tennessee Association of the Deaf, and Brandi Groce parent of a child with hearing impairment and TN Hands & Voices, presented an update during Tennessee’s Newborn Hearing Screening South East Regional EHDI meeting in Chattanooga.

April 27, 2017:
A phone conference call was held with R. Hauan, PhD, Center for Childhood Deafness & Hearing Loss / Washington School for the Deaf. Rick described his role with Conference of Educational Administrators Serving the Deaf (CEASD) and Option Schools. He provided details about Common Ground and how this approach works within various states. Rick agreed to collaborate with TN efforts to establish a statewide, comprehensive language and literacy program. He offered to help TN Deaf with efforts to create a TN Deaf Mentor Program.

April 26, 2017:
The Senate and House Bills for making American Sign Language (ASL) an accredited foreign language in Tennessee high schools is on its way to Governor Bill Haslam’s office for signature! It is time to celebrate!! Many thanks to all those who put in the hard work to make this a possibility! … …

April 22, 2017:
TN-DeafEd reached out to Gallaudet Lead Deaf Mentor Trainer, Stacey Abrams. She read the TN Deaf Mentor proposal and commented, "This proposal for creating a TN Deaf Mentor Program is one of best I have ever read." Stacey said, “Gallaudet will support TN in getting the program ready for operation when it receives funding.

April 13, 2017:
A phone conference call was held with Stacey Tucci, Ph.D., Georgia Pathway to Language and Literacy and the Common Ground Mentorship Program, Sandy Cohen, Director of the Library Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing / ADA Accessibility, and Tracy Duncan, TN-DeafEd. We discussed the Georgia Literacy Curriculum, Language and Literacy Matrix, and Common Ground initiatives in Georgia. These ideas will be shared during the TN Deaf Literacy Initiative in June meeting. 

April 10, 2017:
TN-DeafEd representative, Tracy Duncan, Sharon Bryant, Tennessee Association of the Deaf – Legislative Liaison, and Tonya Bowman, parent of a deaf child and TN Hands & Voices representative, presented at the Governor’s Advisory Council for the Education of Students with Disabilities. At the conclusion of the presentation to the Council, members agree there are unmet needs in Deaf Education across Tennessee. Newly appointed Assistant Commissioner for Special Education, Theresa Nicholls, was present and we agreed to schedule a meeting to discuss concerns in more depth in May. Chris Fair, Chair of the Council, wrote a letter explaining the recommendation of the Council and sent it to: Governor Haslam, Sen. Delores Gresham, Rep. Harry Brooks, Representative John Forgerty, and TN Department of Education Commissioner, Candice McQueen. (All these documents are available to view on the Resources Page of this website) 

April 8, 2017:
TN-DeafEd participated in the Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Well Fest today. An information table was set-up featuring the SKI*HI Deaf Mentor Curriculum and the SKI*HI Curriculum for Families who have a child identified as DHH. It was a GREAT NETWORKING opportunity that included students, professionals, parents, deaf community members, and community organizations! The deaf and hearing communities are very interested and supportive of this program being implemented in Tennessee!

April 8, 2017: At the Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Well Fest today, representatives from TN-DeafEd, TN H&V, Bridges, Wilson County Teacher, and families brainstormed with National Deaf Infusion Director, Karen Putz. We talked about collaborating together on planning parent events in Nashville. Karen Putz provided lots of ideas, resources, and was very supportive.

April 7, 2017:
 Tracy Duncan, TN-DeafEd, and Sharon Bryant, Tennessee Association of the Deaf (TAD) Legislative Liaison, visited programs in Chattanooga. Our goal was to build bridges for communication, network, educate stakeholders about TN-DeafEd mission / vision, and exchange experiences related to services for DHH DB children (0-21years) & their families.
7:45: We visited with the elementary school teacher in the Hamilton County Deaf Ed. program. Our common concerns were: the need for more professional teachers, high quality programs, and program options for students who are DHH or DB.
9:00: We joined the Early Intervention / Home Based provider at Signal Center. The Signal Center contracts with Tennessee Early Intervention Service (TEIS). Our common concerns were: the need for professional teachers, high quality programs, unbiased presentation to families regarding language learning for DHH or DB children, a clear communication plan as an addendum to the IFSP so families and professionals can specifically monitor and direct instruction to language learning, implementation of a Deaf Mentor Program, and support for addressing diverse populations.
10:30: We were joined by a parent of deaf child at the Siskin Center. The Siskin Center is also an Early Intervention Resource Agency (EIRA). We toured the Siskin Center and met the administrators for the Early Learning Center and Early Intervention – Home Based programs. Each of us shared information about our areas. The parent described her experiences with early identification, access to services, and intervention options. We agreed, as EI leaders, the early identification WAS NOT ideal for this parent and we need to learn from this story. Our common concerns were: the need for professional teachers, high quality programs, and unbiased presentation to families regarding language learning for DHH or DB children
11:15: We enjoyed lunch with an independent advocate for early intervention / preschool services for children who are DHH or DB. We agreed that the need in the Chattanooga is employing high quality and specialty trained professionals, Early Intervention and preschool programs that are designed for children who are for D/HH/DB, and information that is presented and provided in an unbiased manner is critical.
1:00: At the Speech and Language Center we had a great exchange with their CEO, SLPs, and Deaf Educator. Sharon is well acquainted with the CEO. This is an amazing program focused on providing critically important services, supportive of families, collaborative with area professionals and school systems, and provides an unbiased program with options for families. The Speech and Language Center has recently opened a school for young children to serve the community. Our common concerns are the same as each organization visited thus far! We are all on the same page!
3:30 – Our last visit was at the Partnership for Families Program. This organization hosts and supports the Deaf Services program for Chattanooga. We arrived on moving day – leaving their office on Brianard Street. On May 2, 2017, we will return to visit the new location in the former West Shopping Center. Fortunately they were available for a brief conversation and shared their concerns about deaf education in TN. They expressed the same road blocks to high quality programs to children and families as those in Chattanooga we learned about today during our visits earlier in the day.

March 27, 2017:
TN-DeafEd presented information during the EHDI Tennessee State Meetings on Monday morning. Additionally, there were many opportunities to network with Gallaudet / Clerc Center, NAD, California LEAD-K representatives, and the many individuals from across the USA.

March 8, 2017: 
University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Center on Deafness, ASL Teacher Training Program: April Haggard produced this video to explain actions leading to the ASL bill that was passed. Remember that ASL is already recognized as an official foreign language in Tennessee. Learn more about the steps being taken to make it fully accredited and accepted for college admission. 

March 7, 2017:
 Thanks to Rep. Joe Pitts for his sponsorship and preparations of the Tennessee Deaf Mentor Program to possibly receive discretionary funds for a pilot. Pilot cities include Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville.

March 7, 2017: SERTOMA Club of Nashville welcomed TN-DeafEd presentation during their weekly monthly lunch meeting. Participants asked great questions and made excellent comments. Thanks to Les Hutchinson, Steve McCormick, and Tonya Bowman for sharing their experiences, testimony, and explanations. These three made the contents of the presentation REAL and not theory nor opinions.

March 7, 2017: TN-DeafEd, Sharon Bryant -TAD, and Steve McCormick - Sign Club Company went to The Hill today. We met with eight Legislators serving on the Educational Committees of their respective houses: Senator Gresham, Senator Massey, Senator Gardenhire, Senator Jackson, Representative Brooks, Representative Pitts, Representative Akbari, and Representative Butt. We had a great team and wonderful interpreters. These visits are so helpful in bridging communication while educating policy and decision makers!

March 7, 2017: HB 0426 – House of Representatives Bill: ASL as a foreign language in Tennessee had the second presentation today at 12:00 N. Sharon Bryant - TAD, April Haggard – UT-K COD, and Michelle Swaney – UT-K COD were present and were introduced. Thanks go to Rep. Roger Kane for his office working to help create the protocols, curriculum, and instructional materials that will accredit ASL in the public schools and be accepted as meeting the requirements universities have for foreign language! Tennessee will benefit from ASL as foreign language in many, many ways: accessibility to the world, expanded social interaction, career awareness and preparation for students interested in becoming Interpreters for the Deaf or Teachers of the Deaf create jobs for qualified Deaf Adults with degrees in ASL Instruction, and valuing ASL as an official language of the world.

March 6, 2017: SB 0524 – Senate Bill: ASL as a foreign language in Tennessee had the second presentation today at 4:30 p.m. The Senate Education Committee reviewed the required addendum on the ASL Bill again and it was passed. Testifying and attending today were the UT-K COD experts Michelle Swaney and April Haggard, ASL Teacher Training Program.

March 1, 2017: Both the Senate Education Committee and House of Representatives Education Committee continue to explore passage of bill for American Sign Language (ASL) as an accredited high school foreign language. Thanks to the Honorable Senator Becky Duncan-Massey and the Honorable Representative Roger Kane for doing this important work to benefit TN students and our community! SB 0524 – Senate Bill: ASL as a foreign language in Tennessee had the first presentation today at 5:30 p.m. Present for today’s testimony are the two Maryville students, Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (also provided four hours of interpreting), Sign Club Company, and TN-DeafEd. J. C. Bowman, Professional Educators of TN was also present. Thanks goes to Senator Massey for the addendum and bringing this important work to benefit TN students and our community.

February 17, 2017: TN-DeafEd and Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing jointly create a Vlog on how to be an advocate by effectively contacting Tennessee legislators, decision and policy makers. Follow the link on youtube which is fully accessible: ASL, spoken, and captioned. Be an advocate! … via @youtube

February 16, 2017: Thanks to Rep. H. Brooks for following-up from TN-DeafEd conversation on (2/8) by reaching out to the TN-DOE. He shared results of his TN-DOE conversation: highly qualified and certified professionals will be employed to work with children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind across TN, professional development will be extended to all TN teachers and service providers, and school systems will work to provide access to all students who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind. Rep. Brooks explains TN-DOE has begun these actions. They are in the process of implementation. It will take time before evidence may be seen. These are important steps toward improved results!

February 14, 2017: TN-DeafEd met with DeLinda Brite at Deaf Connect in Memphis. Great things are happening here! DeLinda is dedicated to the Memphis Deaf community, D/HH/DB children, and families in Memphis. Thank you for all you do DeLinda!

February 14, 2017: TN-DeafEd visited with Connie Robinson of the Deaf Family Literacy - Mid-South. We enjoyed an hour long conversation that included program description, evolution of the DFL-MS program, exchanged ideas, in depth discussion on the Statewide Strategic Planning Committee work for TN Deaf Mentor Program proposal, and identified areas to collaborate in the future. TN-DeafEd appreciates Connie’s commitment to Memphis families and children.

February 14, 2017: TN-DeafEd joined Teresa Schwartz at the Memphis Oral School for a special Valentine’s Day Celebration. We spoke about common goals, the Individualized Education Account (IEA) program she and Senator Gresham sponsored, Hearing Aid Bill legislation the MOSD helped pass, TN Deaf Mentor Program proposal, Statewide Deaf Literacy Initiative meetings, and the Listening Spoken Language Data Repository (LSL-DR) for 50 option schools across the USA. We agreed: It is all about language access and language acquisition!

February 11, 2017: TN-DeafEd connected with the newly hired Family Specialist for the TN DeafBlind Project: Angie Walton. This woman is an asset to the TN DBP! She is amazing! The first activity being sponsored for TN Deaf Blind Project is a family get-together on February 23, 2017, at 11:30. The location: Panera Bread - Smyrna.

February 9, 2017: TN-DeafEd attended excellent presentation by David Brown. He is a world famous speaker on individuals who are deaf-blind and their sensory systems. A huge thank you goes out to the TN DeafBlind Project and the Vanderbilt teacher training cooperative between TVI and THI programs. TN-DeafEd was able to distribute brochures, business cards, and buttons. A great opportunity to network!

February 8, 2017: HB 0426 – House of Representatives Bill: ASL as a foreign language in Tennessee had the first presentation today. Sharon Bryant - TAD, Paul Robertson - TNCDHHDB, DeLinda Brite – Deaf Connect, Steve McCormick – Sign Club Company, and Tracy Duncan – TN-DeafEd (along with Interpreters for the Deaf) were present . An Addendum for ASL books & curriculum was added. ASL as a foreign language in Tennessee is becoming a reality! Thank you Legislators!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017
8:00a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Legislative Plaza, Nashville, TN
Disability Day on the Hill

To find your Representative or Senator: 

February 7, 2017: 
Consulted with the State of TN Advisory Council for the Education of Students with Disabilities this morning. The Chair, Chip Fair, spoke with TN-DeafEd and agreed the Council is good forum to for discussion, although it does not have authority to act on specific needs. TN-DeafEd will request permission to present at the July 2017 Council meeting. Learn more about the Council by visiting the website:
February 1, 2017 (update): TN-DeafEd met with Rep. Joe Pitts. After the meeting was over the ProEdTN Advocate attending the meeting commented, “It was a pleasure to join TN-DeafEd and meet a few more members of your team. All of you are making more progress than it probably feels like, and the people of TN-DeafEd in particular have been a tremendous driving force in bringing everyone together! Thank you for including us in your mission to improve education for the deaf, hard-of-hearing and deafblind student population in our state.”

At the meeting, Rep. Joe Pitts stated there will be no bill introduced in the 2017 session. He encouraged TN-DeafEd to redouble its efforts and continue educating Tennessee policy and decision makers. We need to keep the momentum going and increase the awareness about our children who are D/deaf, hard-of-hearing, and DeafBlind, 0 - 22, unique educational needs.

Families, professionals, and D/deaf Community members have caught the attention of Tennessee Department of Education and 2017 Legislators! Because of face-to-face meetings, phone calls, letters, and email they know we expect:
• High quality deaf education birth to twenty-two
• Qualified professionals in deaf education
• Accountability for language access for our deaf, hard-of-hearing, and DeafBlind students birth to twenty-two

All Tennesseans concerned about the quality of deaf education and want to partner with the state to achieve common goals need to continue reaching out to their Legislators and TN DOE.

When speaking with Legislators, you may ask for the creation of:
• A tracking system in the Department of Education for deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf blind children, professionals, and school programs.
• A Commission on Deaf Education to study the collected data and make recommendations for implementation of actions based on the data.

Creating a bill that represents an issue effectively and builds a constituency to sponsor a bill requires careful, committed participation by all the stakeholders. Timing and ongoing effort will be crucial. The development of and passage of a bill in the legislature can take years. Since 2010, our grassroots movement has come together and made significant progress toward this goal. We are united on this issue. Let’s continue while the fire is hot!

February 1, 2017: On Wednesday, Steve McCormick - Parent of Deaf Child & Sign Club Co, Sharon Bryant - Deaf Adult –Tennessee Association of the Deaf, Audrey Shores, Advocate with ProEdTN, Bridges Interp., and Tracy Duncan - TNDeafEd. met with Rep. Joe Pitts. We discussed high quality deaf education, qualified professionals in deaf education, and related topics. Rep. Pitts serves as a bridge between the legislature, Tennessee Department of Education, and TNDeafEd grassroots members. Rep. Pitts supports our concerns for deaf education for D/HH/DB children & families.

Rep. Pitts was excited to learn about Tennessee’s statewide Library Services for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired (ADA) housed at the downtown branch of the Nashville Public Library. He was enthusiastic about the dedication of many families, professionals, and d/Deaf Community members giving their time to a Statewide Deaf Literacy Initiative. This initiative, sponsored by the TN Deaf Library, is to create a comprehensive literacy program for D/HH/DB children and their families.

The work of the SKI*HI Deaf Mentor Strategic Planning Committee was shared with Rep. Pitts. He was very supportive of this program being available to d/Deaf, hard of hearing, and DeafBlind children & their families! Rep. Pitts requested the Committee provide him with the proposal and budget so he could ask the 2017 Legislature to award discretionary funds for the pilot project. He understood the success of this program in other states is a result of both the SKI*HI Deaf Mentor and SKI*HI EI programs being provided in TN. Rep. Pitts comprehended that d/Deaf, hard of hearing, and DeafBlind children are born to hearing parents (90%) and that both programs are needed for success in language acquisition and lead to age appropriate literacy.

Our discussion included the work being done on American Sign Language (ASL) as a foreign language in the TN public schools and accepted as a foreign language credit by TN colleges and universities. Rep. Pitts commented on the work ProEdTN and Senator Gresham have been doing to make this a reality. Many other states accept ASL as a foreign language when applying to colleges and universities. Steve McCormick added that when public school students complete ASL courses it leads them into careers as Interpreters for the Deaf or Deaf Education. In TN, university training programs graduate about 4 – 5 deaf educators and 5 interpreters for the deaf annually. Most of those individuals stay in Knoxville, Nashville, or Memphis.

Sharon Bryant, TAD – Legislative Representative, shared the status of the TN Interpreter for the Deaf and Educational Interpreter for the Deaf Laws. Rep. Pitts understood that since the 1970’s IEPs have made the provision for Interpreter for the Deaf. However, qualified educational interpreters for the deaf are unavailable, for the majority of students, until the law is finalized and the process of phase in occurs over the next 5 – 6 years.

Also discussed were the Advisory Council for the Education of Students with Disabilities, appropriate assessments for d/Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind children 0 – 22, and what traits need to be tracked for d/Deaf, hard of hearing, and DeafBlind children, professionals working with d/Deaf, hard of hearing, and DeafBlind children, and schools serving d/Deaf, hard of hearing, and DeafBlind children.

January 16 – 20: Senator Massey, the Director of the Knoxville SERTOMA Center - a sheltered workshop for adults with intellectual delays, programs for children & adults w/ special needs – met with Susie McCamy and Ms. S. Smith. The meeting was extremely successful. Sen. Massey advocates for high quality deaf education, qualified deaf educators, and providing educational options in TN.

January 23: Rep. Eddie Smith, met with Susie McCamy and Kodi Ogle. Kodi is the mother of three deaf and hard of hearing children. Rep. Smith is already very engaged with the d/Deaf community in his area. He was very receptive and agreed to support whatever is needed to provide high quality deaf education to TN children and their families.

January 18: Dr. Airhart, A. Gauld, and others at the TN Department of Education, met with Steve McCormick – parent of a deaf child & Board of Directors president of Sign Club Co., Kodi Ogle – parent of three deaf and hard-of-hearing children & Director of TN H&V, Anne Ballard – parent of adopted deaf children, Gina Helms – Deaf Parent of a Deaf Child, and Ava Helms – Gina’s Deaf daughter. They discussed their concerns and requested continued communication. A very successful exchange of ideas and knowledge related to high quality deaf education.

January 13: TN-DeafEd collaborated with Steve McCormick, Board president of Sign Club Co. & parent of a deaf daughter about the upcoming Legislative Session! Great visit!

January 12: TN-DeafEd collaborated w/ VU-Mama Lere Hearing School on the topic of educating policy and decision makers about the critical ACOUSTIC listening environment that is necessary for all children to learn while in school. Marc Hayes – Mama Lere Hearing School and Vicki Powers – MNPS educational audiologist met with NSSLHA leaders, Rita, Megan, & Rebecca to discuss specific strategies to effectively address LISTENING TO LEARN for all. Anna Thorson was identified as an effective resource in connecting with the MNPS Board of Education.

January 6: TN-DeafEd consulted with Donna DeStephano with the TN Disability Coalition. Donna provided excellent information and resources. We also discussed the current legislative mood in TN with the super majority Republican party.

January 4: TN-DeafEd is grateful to Tennessee Association of the Deaf (TAD) for including our grassroots membership in planning for Disability Day Tuesday, Feb. 7th, and Wed., Feb. 8th, from 8-3pm. We will work together advocating for D/HH/DB children, their families, & education. It was great talking with Sharon Bryant on VP today. We planned, coordinated, & organized for Disability Day on the Hill.

December 9: TN-DeafEd presented information to the TN DeafBlind Project Task Force meeting today. These people are changing the lives of families and individuals who are DeafBlind! According to their December 1, 2015, census, they are serving 255 children birth to twenty-two (43 West; 138 Middle; 80 East): 47 children birth to three (2 West; 37 Middle; 8 East). TN DeafBlind Project provides workshops to the community, training and support to families in their community, school based support, transition support, and participates in the National Consortium for DeafBlind (NCDB) Early Identification and Referral ( They have Sibshops, Interveners, and Certification updates. The next training / conference is February 9, 2017, with David Brown, Texas Deaf-Blind Symposium.

December 7: TNDeaf-Ed participated in the Statewide Deaf Literacy Initiative, sponsored by the Library Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. This continues to be very productive. Twenty participants including parents, Deaf / Hard-of-Hearing adults, early intervention programs, professionals, and interpreters for the Deaf came from across TN to create a Statewide TN Deaf Literacy Program. This Initiative includes current literacy programs, parent to parent organizations, TN schools, TN universities, TN DeafBlind Project, and existing community resources. Thanks to the @tndeaflibrary staff and ADA office for spear heading this endeavor.

November 29: Lunch with SERTOMA Club of Nashville today with Tonya Bowman. We described the Statewide Deaf Mentor Strategic Planning Committee formed as a result of their grant. SERTOMA Club of Nashville provided funding to bring SKI*HI Deaf Mentor Program Presentors, Jodee Crace and Paula Pittman, to TN on Nov. 5. The first Statewide Deaf Mentor Strategic Planning Committee will meet on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Great things are going to happen!  

November 15, 2016:
Preliminary results from the Deaf Education Survey (October, 2016) follow.

A total of 573 individuals responded to the survey. A total of 430 participants classified themselves as teachers in General Education, Special Education, and Education Administrators. A small number of other participants responded to the survey that included Teacher Aides, Paraprofessionals, and students.

Teachers identified their degrees revealing over half of the teachers earned a Bachelors and / or a Masters. Additionally, almost half of the teachers had sixteen years of teaching experience.

The survey revealed most of the teachers are primarily in the school system, almost equally divided between elementary, middle, and high schools. A total of 299 respondents are certificated and 116 respondents identified as students, teacher aides, administration or paraprofessionals.

The survey included questions related to teachers’ knowledge and experience with the Education of the Deaf. Nine teachers indicated they have earned professional development credits in instructional practice / strategies in Deaf Education. The Tennessee School for the Deaf employs three of the teachers participating in the survey. And three of the teachers stated they are children of Deaf adults.

Out of 444 respondents, 426 identified their county, while18 reported as ‘unknown, independent school, or university affiliated’. A total of 67 county school systems, independent schools, and Achievement School Districts were represented on the survey. These counties include rural communities, cities, and metropolitan areas.

Results in brief: 40.84% (234) Teachers have had Deaf / Hard of Hearing / DeafBlind children assigned in the classroom over the past five years. 318 children were reported as wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants. 36% (318) children were reported as wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants. Teachers reported the schools they teach in provide the following supports:

• Deaf Educator – 35.94% (69)
• Speech Pathologist – 79.17% (152)
• Educational Audiologist – 17.71% (34)
• Paraprofessional – 45.31% (87)
• Interpreter for the Deaf – 38.54% (74)

General education teachers with D/HH/DB children assigned to their classroom described their instructional skill level as confident (37.31% or 75), uncertain / struggling (59.70% or 120), and frustrated (2.99% or 8).

Additional information will be forthcoming from this survey.

November 5, 2016:
 TN-DeafEd was represented at the Statewide Workshop held on Nov. 5, 2016, at the TSB in Nashville. The workshop was a great success! Many people stopped at TN-DeafEd exhibit table to pick up buttons, business cards, and a copy of the brief White Paper. All the chocolate candy was gone too!Thanks for all you do to ensure, "All Children Should Be Seen and Heard."

Also at the Nov. 5, 2016, Statewide Workshop, the SKI*HI Deaf Mentor Program (DMP) was presented. Implementing a DMP has been included as a key issue for TN-DeafED since 2010. In August 2016, this Grassroots Movement prioritized a DMP as one of the top seven actions to bring to the attention of Legislators in 2017. The SKI*HI DMP presentation was a HUGE success!

Thanks to TN Hands & Voices (TNH&V) for making the DMP a priority for the Statewide Workshop Parent Track. A huge thank you goes to SERTOMA Club of Nashville for providing the grant to TNH&V which paid for the presentation. Many people attended the DMP presentation. Those individuals represented families, TNH&V, TSD / WTSD, UT-K Center on Deafness, TCDDBHH, TAD, Camp Summer Sign representation from BBDC, STARS Literacy Program, Sign Club Company, the six statewide Deaf Regional Resource Centers, Mid-South Family Literacy Program, EHDI, and many others that may not have been overlooked in this account (apologies).

A strategic plan is beginning for statewide implementation. Grant writing has already begun.

November 2, 2016: Sharon Bryant, Poppy Steele, and Tracy Duncan met with Representative Joe Pitts from 10:30 - 12:00 in his office located at Legislative Plaza. The meeting targeted providing background information, concerns as well as hopes and dreams of families who have D / HH / DB children (0-21), and the top priorities to present to policy and decision makers during this upcoming legislative term (2017). Rep. Pitts was very receptive and engaged in the conversation. Another meeting is scheduled the last week of November.

October 24 & 25, 2016:
TN DeafBlind (TNDB) Project, hosts the Parents and Professionals Institute. The featured speaker is Dr. Jan van Dijk. He will present, "Functional Assessment of Children with Deaf-Blindness or Other Severe Challenges." The workshop will be held at the Embassy Suites in Franklin, TN. Registration Fee: $50.00. Parents attend at no cost. Lunch will be on your own.

TNDB is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Grant H326T130030 .

Dr. Jan van Dijk is internationally-renowned in the field of DeafBlindness,pioneering the assessment and teaching processes for children with dual sensory loss and other disabilities. Since 1958, the "Grandfather of DeafBlindness" and "Father of Coactive Movement Strategies" has helped families and professionals better understand and serve children with complex needs, autism and behavior disorders through child-guided assessments, communication anticipation cues and calendar systems.

Parents, caregivers and professionals will explore the van Dijkapproach to assessment which focuses on the student and follows his/her lead. Learn about brain research and understand the relationship between cortical functions such as language, concept formation, and emotions. Dr. Jan van Dijk will also address the importance of how meaningful assessment guides intervention.

To learn more about Dr. van Dijk go to

More information about registration coming soon!For questions contact Danna Conn at 615-936-0262 or

October 15, 2017:
National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Legislative Training opportunity, sponsored by Tennessee Association of the Deaf (TAD) & Sprint Relay, will be held on Saturday, October 15, 8:30 - 6:00. This event is free. Location of the event is at Bridges in Nashville. Kim Blanco-Major from NAD will present on legislative advocacy skills to use with Tennessee policy makers and legislators. These strategies are targeted specifically with respect to educating legislative officials on the needs and rights of D/HH or DB adults and children. She is the State Legislative Affairs Coordinator with NAD. For more information:

September 21, 2016: Statewide Deaf Literacy Initiative: Twenty professionals in the field of deaf education / literacy from across TN met at the Library Services for the Deaf / Hard of Hearing. Participants engaged in activities designed to help prioritize actions that they will begin to implement across the state. As a group they reached the consensus to implement specific action steps that will significantly improve literacy for the D / HH or DB children (birth - 21). All agreed on the following needs are CRITICAL AREAS for TN to address:Parent-Child Interaction ...with language from day one; D / HH DB children have access to highly qualified, certified professionals in the field of Deaf Education; Deaf Mentors engage with families from day one, and forward, to build long lasting relationships; Early Intervention services must be provided accross the state with programs designed specifically for D / HH DB infants - young children and their families and the EI services must be implemented by professionals in the field with specialized training in family systems, D / HH or DB infant / toddler, language, and assitive listening options.In November, the Deaf Literacy cohort will develop specific steps to address the action steps selected on (9.21.16).These endeavors are in keeping with the goals for TN-DeafEd.

September 9, 2016:
two mothers of D/HH children and I met with Commissioner McQueen, Allison Gauld, and Elizabeth Fiveash at the Andrew Jackson Tower. Commissioner McQueen received a copy of the White Paper (brief) prepared by Professional Educators of TN. The two parents provided photos of their D/HH children and described past and current experiences with educational services (0 - 21). Both parents represented TN H&V as well as Guide By Your Side. They shared stories of other families’ experiences in the Mid-TN region. The Commissioner spoke freely with the mothers and commented she learned from their shared stories.

The White Paper is available on the ProEdofTN website.

September 1, 2016: White Paper - Contents

Creating Opportunities for Tennesseans Birth to 21 who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind

Complied by Tracy Duncan

TN families with children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf blind (henceforth D/HH DB) are concerned with the access their children have to high quality programs and certified professionals, and their language acquisition as a result. Without consideration of communication and educational placements, D / HH and DB children’s cognitive, emotional, linguistic, social, and academic needs may be endangered. Thus, a persistent pattern of ignorance and oppression of D / HH DB children may exist, impede educational potential for excellence, and limit employment options. Families have expressed the need for TN to put into place a specific state law that recognizes the unique language needs of their children.Based on a survey of stakeholders and families with D/HH DB children and their children’s unique language and communication needs (August, 2016) they identified specific tenets must be included in TN’s educational / legislation:

1. Families must have easily available resources and access from the date of identification to quality language learning and fluid communication at home, in and out of the community, and full implementation in educational settings,
2. A formally constructed Language Acquisition Access Plan must be implemented as part of / in addition to their IFSP or IEP,
3. Language access and acquisition must become the top priority in educational programming (birth – graduation),
4. Children must have access in the home, community, educational settings, evaluations, to highly qualified, professionally trained, and certified individuals with fluent communication skills in the field of D/HH DB (birth through graduation) and
5. Educational placements must be reconsidered and reflect appropriate alternatives for their child.

The CDC has recognized and acknowledged this dilemma. Language is an essential component of normal development. Hearing loss interferes with the development of language. John Eichmwalk stated in 2010, “Undetected hearing loss can delay speech and language development and has been described as a neurodevelopmental emergency.” Evidence demonstrates that when infants with hearing loss are identified in the first few months of life and receive appropriate intervention services, 80% are able to maintain age-appropriate language and speech development in the first five years of life. If the brain is deprived of language exposure (visual and/or auditory) the child may have a difficult time ‘catching-up,’ negatively impacting the ability to engage with the world. The critical period for language development is early; if a child does not acquire language before age five, the child is unlikely to ever have native-like use of any language. Such language deprivation carries risks of cognitive delay and psycho-social health difficulties. Regardless of the method of language learning (visual / auditory), deaf and hearing children need to have consistent access to a natural language if they are to have the tools necessary for becoming literate, obtain a comprehensive education, and become employable citizens. Whatever language system a D/HH or DB child might experience at school, language learning cannot stop there. Unless D / HH DB children can bring language home with them and use it during play, to get help with schoolwork, and to communicate with their families, they cannot be expected to reach their full potential.

“Language is language, and the earlier it’s presented, the better. More importantly, the delay of language is costly, and the lack of language input during the first 4-6 years during audial and visual cortex pruning can cause irreparable developmental delay. The more opportunities our young children have to accessing early language, the more likely they are to fulfill their potential as successful human being who can connect meaningfully with others, succeed in school and career, advocate for themselves, and ultimately find a place of significance in the world. As long as they ARRIVE at that place, does it really matter how they got there? “Dr. R. St.John, MD, FAAP

According to Mark S. Gaylord, M.D., Newborn Hearing Chapter Champion, TN Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics, Neonatologist, University of Tennessee Medical Center, in TN one third of the babies that do not pass their initial hearing screen in TN are lost to further follow up, potentially delaying an identification of hearing loss and impeding communication development.

Despite decades of concerted effort, most D/HH DB children in this country still progress far more slowly than hearing children in learning to read. D/HH DB students leave school at a relatively greater disadvantage, lagging farther behind hearing peers, than when they entered. Deaf Education is a composite of special education, general education, communication adaptations, and curriculum additions. There is no single option that is right for all children born with hearing loss. Since the education of the deaf began in the late 1800’s until the present day what has proven to be successful is that D/HH DB children with D/HH DB parents are better readers and writers. They have language from birth. Today increased numbers of D/HH DB children are achieving grade level success due to early hearing identification, access to early intervention, early access to fluent language, and exposed to English. Families of children who are D/HH DB, professionals, and community members have expressed the need for TN to put into place a specific state law that recognizes the unique language needs of their children. Educational achievement for children D/HH DB, birth to 21, has improved for a few, while those students needing expanded access to language and fluid communication are not acquiring language at the same rate as their peers. Stakeholders and policy makers will work together to create educational policies that do not limit educational excellence nor employment opportunities for Tennesseans who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or DeafBlind.

August 29, 2016: SERTOMA Club of Nashville has funded two trainers to present on Deaf Mentor Program (SKI*HI) at the TN Statewide Conference for Teachers, Parents, and others working with Deaf Children. The conference is held in Nashville on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, at the TN School for the Blind campus. TN H&V is planning a parent track of the conference and choose the Deaf Mentor Program due to high demand by families with children identified as deaf, hard of hearing, or DeafBlind.

August 10, 2016: Prioritization Survey of Top Tenants Results by about 75 parents, professionals, and consumers - Top three Bill of Rights for D/HH or DeafBlind key tenants were selected. First choice: Access to highly qualified, professionally trained, and certified individuals with fluent communication skills in the field of D/HH or DB (parent-infant thru school age) in the home, community, classroom, evaluation, school settings, etc. Second choice: D/HH DB children (0-22) will have access to quality language acquisition, ongoing fluid communication, at home with their families, both in and out of the classroom, and in the community. Families shall have access to easily available resources to help their D/HH DB child develop at the same as their peers. Communities shall be inclusive of all individuals through: multi-lingual opportunities and activities providing access for all through communication. Third choice: D/HH DB children shall have a language acquisition access plan that shall be required as part of the students IFSP / IEP / IAE. Early, ongoing, and quality to planned or incidental communication opportunities in their placement that is best suited to each child’s individual needs including, but not limited to, language levels, social, emotional, and cultural needs, with consideration for the child’s age, degree of hearing loss, vision, academic level, language needs, style of learning, motivational level, and amount of family support.