A deaf television actress appeared at Forestview Middle School in Baxter Saturday, to advocate for improved early childhood education for deaf children.
Deanne Bray, star of the 2002-05 show "Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye," told an audience deaf children need better support early in life to learn sign language. Bray is a spokesperson for Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids, or LEAD-K.
"Research has shown that when deaf children are exposed to a rich visual language environment (American Sign Language), they are provided the foundation for a first language and school readiness," an information sheet distributed at the event stated. "The focus of LEAD-K is to promote language equality, a basic human right for all deaf babies, by advocating for deaf children to have access to both American Sign Language and English."
A quarter of a million U.S. children are deaf, LEAD-K notes. Most of these deaf children enter kindergarten without language, yet by age 5, 90 percent of a child's brain is developed. This has several effects on deaf children: by age 18, the average reading level is third to fourth grade; 6 percent of deaf students scored "proficient" in English; and 51 percent of deaf students scored "far below basic" in English, which is the lowest level of performance.
Delays in the early childhood of deaf children can have an impact on the rest of their adult lives, LEAD-K states.