It is the start of the school year and families should know what they need to watch out for. Hopefully, every child with hearing loss has an IEP or 504 plan that meets his needs.
For children who have a disability but do not need a lot of services a 504 plan is sufficient but, I hear too often from families that their school does not think an IEP is necessary even though their child has significant academic and/or language delays.
Without an IEP which has specific goals, the school is not responsible for providing a specific service.
I have spoken to one family this week who has a child who is bilingual and is more than a year delayed in both languages. The classroom is 90% Spanish and 10% English. For this child, English is is primary language. The school is providing speech services but only in English. They are providing an aide but she does not speak any Spanish and the classroom is a primarily Spanish classroom. They are not providing teacher of the deaf services to assist in academic support.
I spoke with another family this week who’s child is not receiving TOD services either and who is not getting any assistance with academic issues.
Children with hearing loss are entitled to reasonable access to both sound through their technology and to language – access to academic information. The school has to provide remote microphone systems and to monitor them to be certain that they are working with the child’s personal technology.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that public schools provide children with disabilities a free, appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. This requires special education services as needed and related services. Related services include speech-language pathology and remote microphones to name a few.
To be sure that the services a child needs are provided they must be listed in the IEP. Assistive technology is defined by IDEA as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized, used top increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.”
For children with hearing loss this may include an FM or remote microphone system, CART communication access real time translation, or some other device to provide access.
Hearing aids are not usually considered the technology that schools provide but there are some circumstances where a school might provide them. If a family cannot pay for hearing aids and no insurance coverage is available, and if the hearing aids are critical for a child to access education, the school may need to provide them. However, the district is not required to provide hearing aids or remote microphone systems outside of school so the child is usually required to leave them in school.
A case could easily be made that the child needs access to sound after school to continue to learn, to do homework, and to continue to develop so that she can learn in school. Not every school will agree.
What parents need to do
Parents need to educate themselves to be sure that they understand what their child needs. They need to talk to all the professionals who have evaluated their child, and previous teachers. Talking with other parents and with advocates who work with families of children with hearing loss is also very helpful.
Parents need to go into the IEP meeting knowing what they believe their child needs. They need to have reasons for why their child needs the services they are requesting.
Parents need to listen to the school staff report of their evaluations and try to come to a compromise. But if families believe that their children are not getting services they need, they need to push for it.