Iona College Awarded $1.25 Million Grant to Train Specialists in Early Childhood Deafness, Filling a Critical Need

Federal grant addresses a scarcity of early intervention specialists for deaf and hard of hearing children

Academics News

Dr. Michelle Veyvoda signing with students at Iona University.

Dr. Michelle Veyvoda, center, signing with students at Iona College.

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. —The United States Department of Education awarded a $1.25 million grant to Iona College to train 40 early intervention specialists to work with deaf and hard of hearing children over the next five years.

With input from the deaf community, Iona faculty in the Education and Communication Sciences & Disorders departments have created an Interdisciplinary Advanced Certificate in Deafness to equip graduate students with the needed skills. The new certificate program is unique in the New York City metro area.

“When a family finds out that they have a deaf child, they are referred to early intervention providers. Those professionals may not have any experience with deaf or hard of hearing children,” said Dr. Amanda Howerton-Fox, who with Dr. Michelle Veyvoda designed the certificate program and applied for the grant.

The federal grant will support 40 Iona graduate students over the next five years starting July 2022. Each year, four graduate students from the Communications Sciences & Disorders program and four graduate students from the Special Education program will enroll in the certificate program, which lasts two summers and an academic year.

Most of the grant funds will go toward scholarships to encourage enrollment in the certificate program. After the graduate students receive their certificates and master’s degrees, they must work with deaf children for two years or repay the scholarships. The program will be 100 percent, fully financed with federal funding through U.S. Department of Education.

One reason there is a scarcity of early childhood specialists to work with deaf and hard of hearing children is that deafness is a low-incidence disability.

“This certificate program is a good example of something that really needs government support because while there are relatively few deaf and hard of hearing children, those who do not have access to high-quality specialists may experience profound linguistic, social and cognitive delays due to lack of language access,” said Veyvoda. “These children deserve professionals who are specifically trained to work with them and their families."

Howerton-Fox’s work, “Deaf Children as ‘English Learners’: The Psycholinguistic Turn in Deaf Education,” published in the journal Education Sciences in 2019, inspired some of President Joe Biden’s federal disability policy.

Quoting the paper, the Biden campaign noted that “language deprivation for children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in the early years of life can have a lasting impact on a child’s language and cognitive skills.” Biden’s platform stated that his federal policy would “provide parents, health care providers, and early childhood professionals the resources needed to support these children.”

Howerton-Fox stressed the importance of intervention at the earliest ages for deaf children.

“Deafness is one of very few disabilities that can cut you off from language completely and the people around you won’t realize that it’s happening or know the effects of it until you are older,” said Howerton-Fox. “So, it’s important to have specialists who understand the effects of language deprivation.”

Founded in 1940, Iona University is a master's-granting private, Catholic, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. Iona's 45-acre New Rochelle campus and 28-acre Bronxville campus are just 20 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. With a total enrollment of nearly 4,000 students and an alumni base of more than 50,000 around the world, Iona is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona is highly accredited, offering undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona students enjoy small class sizes, engaged professors and a wide array of academic programs across the School of Arts & Science; LaPenta School of Business; NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences; and Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Iona is widely recognized in prestigious rankings, including The Princeton Review’s 2024 national list of “The Best 389 Colleges” and The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse’s “2024 Best Colleges in America,” which ranked Iona at #66 in the nation overall and #8 in the nation among Catholic schools. Iona’s LaPenta School of Business is also accredited by AACSB International, a recognition awarded to just six percent of business schools worldwide. In addition, The Princeton Review recognized Iona’s on-campus MBA program as a “Best Business School for 2023.” Iona also offers a fully online MBA program for even greater flexibility. In July 2021, Iona announced the establishment of the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences, which is now principally located on Iona’s Bronxville campus in collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian. Connecting to its Irish heritage, the University also recently announced it is expanding abroad with a new campus in County Mayo, Ireland. A school on the rise, Iona officially changed its status from College to University on July 1, 2022, reflecting the growth of its academic programs and the prestige of an Iona education.