Study looks at ways to Better Help Deaf, Dyslexic Minority Students

Mike Seals - October 1, 2020 10:52 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Education Committee held an interim study Thursday which looked at approaches for helping minority students who may struggle in school because of hearing loss or dyslexia.  The hearing was requested by Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, and included representatives of two companies that utilize diverse techniques and specialists to give those students the tools they need to succeed in school and throughout life.

Presenters from LCDD-Smith Program Management Consult LLC shared information about their online videos and services for deaf and hard of hearing students. Triple A Educational Services presented information on best practices for better screening and assisting students with dyslexia, a language-based learning disability that may cause difficulties with certain language skills, especially reading.

Matthews said addressing each area was critical for helping children reach their full potential.

“During this study, we heard how deaf people in Oklahoma and nationally tend to attain lower levels of education, and that means they are not able to earn as much when they enter the work force.  That doesn’t just impact their economic security, but it impacts our state as well,” Matthews said.  “Another issue is that assessments commonly used to accurately assess learning disabilities assume language fluency, but there’s no assessment for dyslexia appropriate for deaf children who don’t have the necessary language skills.”

Matthews noted the passage of House Bill 2804 this past session.  Beginning in the 2022-23 school year, the legislation requires screening for dyslexia for students from kindergarten through the third grade who can’t read at grade level.

“We just need to examine the best way to assist children in disadvantaged communities who may have far fewer resources than others.  We heard in this study that two out of three African American men in prison can’t read.  I think that underscores how important it is to better identify and help students with learning disabilities like dyslexia.”

Committee members were also told about the advantages of early exposure to a variety of sign language models.  While people may be familiar with American Sign Language (ASL), just with the spoken word, there are dialects of sign language, such as Black ASL that developed within historically segregated African American deaf communities.

Matthews said it’s important to ensure the specialists that work with children and the materials used represent diverse perspectives.

“Race, gender and ethnicity impacts the way we learn, but there may be very little opportunity for children who are deaf or who have dyslexia to access diverse learning experiences,” Matthews said.  “I plan to use the information presented in this study to develop legislation creating a pilot program in north Tulsa to determine whether the approaches we discussed today could produce better educational outcomes for children in underserved areas.  With the right tools, more Oklahoma students can succeed in school and have a brighter future.  That’s something that will benefit our entire state.”

For more information, contact Sen. Kevin Matthews at 405-521-5598, 918-955-2283, or email [email protected].


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