RSD's Family Instructional and Resource Service Team (FIRST) provides for the needs of Deaf and hard of hearing infants, toddlers, and twos, newborn to age three. The FIRST team delivers a comprehensive array of services, including a Teacher of the Deaf (TOD), Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), and Audiologist using a variety of assessment and curriculum materials to meet the needs of Deaf and hard of hearing children. We work with children and families in their homes and at our Early Childhood Center (ECC) on the RSD campus.

For assistance in applying to RSD, to arrange for a campus tour, or for general intake referral information, call 585-336-5854; 585-286-2806 (VP) or e-mail:

Our home-based program (birth to 18 months) includes:

    • Support for families as they adjust to the unique communication and socialization needs of their children
    • Regular visits from specially certified preschool and speech teachers who are bilingual and fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and English, and who work with children using all types of assistive devices including hearing aids and cochlear implants
    • Opportunities to network with deaf and hard of hearing members of the RSD learning community who may provide:
      • Access to other role models who are deaf and hard of hearing
      • Insights into Deaf Culture
      • Assistance with learning ASL
      • Discussion of their life experiences

Our center-based program (18 months through age 3) includes:

    • Two or three half- or full-day sessions per week. Sessions gradually increase as the child grows and develops
    • Age-appropriate instruction, creative play and time for socialization from specially certified teachers who are bilingual and fluent in ASL and English
    • Continuation of home-based services, as needed

Infants, Toddlers, and Twos

Rochester School for the Deaf

Family Instructional and Resource Service Team (FIRST) Program

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who is eligible for the FIRST Program? Infants and toddlers (birth to 3 years) who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

Is there a cost to attend the FIRST Program? No. The FIRST Program is New York State-supported so there is no cost to you.

Can my child receive Early Intervention services through the county and receive services through the FIRST Program at RSD? Yes. You can receive services from both places. Each child’s program is individualized to meet their needs. RSD works closely with Early Intervention providers to ensure each child’s needs are being met.

What is a bilingual program for Deaf and hard of hearing children? RSD supports the use of American Sign Language (ASL) and English. We recognize that ASL and English are unique and separate languages and for that reason are used separately. Studies show that early exposure to sign language promotes the development of language in Deaf and hard of hearing children. The FIRST team and families work together to develop a language plan to optimize language acquisition for the child.

Does RSD provide services for children who use hearing aids or cochlear implants? Yes. RSD provides those services for Deaf and hard of hearing children. Each child is unique and therefore an individualized plan for those services is developed to meet their needs.

What services will my child/our family receive in the FIRST Program? For children birth to 18 months, home visits are provided by a Teacher of the Deaf and a Speech Language Pathologist. At 18 months of age children are eligible to attend the center-based program provided by a certified Teacher of the Deaf. During their time at school, they will receive speech communication services within the natural environment of the classroom as well as one-on-one sessions. An educational audiologist is available for weekly middle ear checks, annual testing and everyday troubleshooting.

What additional services are provided to my family through the FIRST Program? Rochester School for the Deaf provides free sign language classes to immediate family members, the Shared Reading Project, family gatherings and opportunities to interact with Deaf members of the RSD learning community.


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  • For help in applying to RSD.
  • To schedule a campus tour.
  • For general intake referral information.
RSD Parent 

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