Many of us may worry if our children will struggle with their hearing in the classroom because of unilateral or bilateral hearing loss. Maybe some of us will become concerned about their hearing because some of our children were not candidates for Atresia repair (canalplasty). Maybe some of us believe our children do not need an assisted hearing device and currently appear to hear fine. Regardless, if you think your child will be entering elementary school and beyond with a hearing device and want to help them get the most out of school in their classroom there are helpful resources available to help us plan for these situations, whether the situation exists now or is yet to develop. Below are some questions we may wonder about:
1. Will my child have problems hearing the teacher in the classroom setting?
2. Could my child be held back a grade due to his/her hearing loss?
3. Should I speak with the school regarding my child wearing a hearing aid, BAHA or an FM System?
4. Are helpful/developmental services available for my child while at school?
5. How are these services provided…through the school or other programs?
6. How do I find out information on getting my child the help he/she needs in school?
7. What plans are available to help my child stay on track or prevent him/her from falling behind in school?
There are plans that can be put in place at school by you and the school for your child…these plans are called an IEP or a 504 Plan.
What is an IEP?
An Individual Educational Plan is for kids with delayed skills or other disabilities might be eligible for special services that provide individualized education programs in public schools, free of charge to families. Understanding how to access these services can help parents be effective advocates for their kids.
The passage of the updated version of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) made parents of kids with special needs even more crucial members of their child’s education team. Parents can now work with educators to develop a plan — the individualized education plan (IEP) — to help kids succeed in school. The IEP describes the goals the team sets for a child during the school year, as well as any special support needed to help achieve them.
Who Needs an IEP?
A child who has difficulty learning and functioning and has been identified as a special needs student is the perfect candidate for an IEP. Kids struggling in school may qualify for support services, allowing them to be taught in a special way, for reasons such as:
* learning disabilities
* attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
* emotional disorders
* mental retardation
* hearing impairment
* visual impairment
* speech or language impairment
* developmental delay
What is a 504 plan?
The “504” in “504 plan” refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifies that no one with a disability can be excluded from participating in federally funded programs or activities, including elementary, secondary or post secondary schooling. “Disability” in this context refers to a “physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.” This can include physical impairments; illnesses or injuries; communicable diseases; chronic conditions like asthma, allergies and diabetes; and learning problems. A 504 plan spells out the modifications and accommodations that will be needed for these students to have an opportunity perform at the same level as their peers, and might include such things as wheelchair ramps, blood sugar monitoring, an extra set of textbooks, a peanut-free lunch environment, home instruction, or a tape recorder or keyboard for taking notes.
Question: How does a 504 plan differ from an IEP?
A 504 plan, which falls under civil-rights law, is an attempt to remove barriers and allow students with disabilities to participate freely; like the Americans With Disabilities Act, it seeks to level the playing field so that those students can safely pursue the same opportunities as everyone else. An IEP, which falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is much more concerned with actually providing educational services. Students eligible for an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, represent a small subset of all students with disabilities. They generally require more than a level playing field — they require significant remediation and assistance, and are more likely to work on their own level at their own pace even in an inclusive classroom. Only certain classifications of disability are eligible for an IEP, and students who do not meet those classifications but still require some assistance to be able to participate fully in school would be candidates for a 504 plan.
* sourced by a Google search on 504 Plan and IEP.
Below is a brief comparison between an IEP and a 504 Plan
Does an IEP carry more weight than a 504?
A 504 can include things such as an FM system and preferential seating in a classroom. Teachers and districts are legally obligated to comply and provide those accommodations for you. However, a 504 may be geared more toward a child who has special needs or is challenged such as in a wheelchair or needs further assistance with feeding. If a child does not qualify for an IEP, then they can also consider a 504 Plan.
An IEP includes services too such as hearing aids and up front seating, but also requires a teacher consultant and yearly evaluation to make sure your child is continuing to meeting his/her goals, in addition to requests. A teacher consultant is something that can be written into an IEP so that a parent can help their child meet assigned goals for every year and every year the goals will change as your child develops. An IEP can help parents check in with the teacher to assure that accommodations are being made, check that hearing aid equipment is functioning, and check in periodically with the student to see that everything is going fine. An IEP and 504 Plan can both be written into their contracts to help during the extended school year too (for example, during summer vacation/school and or winter break).
An IEP also includes yearly evaluation just to double-check to assure the FM system, preferential seating, etc is all the student still needs. So even if your child is meeting grade level expectations, he/she is still eligible for the IEP because of the services that are being provided to them. An IEP can help make sure annually that our kids’ needs continue to be met.
A 504 plan consultant may not take place with parents every year or need to have changes made, where as an IEP consult does take place every year and can have changes made to it based on how your child changes and what new needs may be required. IEP’s can require testing where as 504 Plans may not require testing. However, sometimes Evaluation services and consultants are not an option in 504 plans. It depends on the school district.
A 504 plan does not move from district-to-district, where an IEP will follow a student. This can be much less of a hassle for parents when moving, because you don’t have recreate everything for the new school district now. It is easier to get or have an IEP in place as early a possible, such as at the age of three if your child qualifies rather than trying to obtain one in the later years. Also, Early Intervention service providers can help you put an IEP together for your child rather than trying to combat an IEP on your own and be declined. Both, an IEP and a 504 Plan can travel with and become available for a child in and throughout college.
Some examples of eligibility for qualifying for an IEP are:
– Meet eligibility criteria to receive special education service for a disability (such as auditory impairment, autism, mental retardation, speech/language impairment, etc.)
– Have a reason for the disability/disabilities is and what the need is for needing the special education and/or related services. Hearing tests, proof of delays and or speech communication issues from therapists, etc… can all help to back up the need for an IEP. Some children may not have delays even though they are hard of hearing or missing an ear (Microtia) and therefore, may not qualify for an IEP if there is no educational need or cry for help in the classroom. However, your child will still be eligible for a 504 if he meets criteria such as having a disability, etc…
It can be frustrating and a challenge when trying to plan for your child in school and draw up IEP and 504 Plans.
Below are two links to helpful resources that can help you plan for your child in school:
– A Parent’s Guide to Communicating With Your Child’s School Through Letter Writing
– National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
Places to start asking questions regarding IEPs and 504 Plans:
1. Your child’s school district – begin with your child’s principal or teacher
2. Call a school for the deaf and ask them…explain that maybe you would like your child to attend a regular vocal school rather than a signing school but just don’t know where to begin.
3. Contact your state child services such as Early Intervention, CHIP, Co-HEAR, Birth to Three, Hands & Voices, The school for Deaf and Hard of Hearing in your state, or even social services, etc…
What If You Are Worried About Losing Your IEP?
The below was posted by one of our support group members explaining what the differences are between an IEP and a 504 Plan if you are at risk of losing an IEP and what can be done with maybe a replaceable 504 Plan instead:
“The school district (city/county/state) *might* be able to disqualify a child from an IEP, but they cannot disqualify a child from a 504 Plan, if he/she is clearly hearing impaired. You can still a child the same services under a 504 as you can under the IEP, the basic differences between an IEP and a 504 is under a 504 is you can’t get modifications to your child’s academic program, and there are different rules about going after the district if they are in non-compliance (i.e. not following the rules) an IEP has much better “teeth”.
Check out IDEA www.letthemhear.org for more details about the differences between the two.
If your district says that your child doesn’t qualify under two areas ,so therefore doesn’t qualify for an IEP. Get a copy of their HI (hearing impairment) requirements, send to your ENT and Audiologist and request if they would be willing to write a prescription stating that your child has Microtia and Atresia which leaves him/her severely HI on that side. This may help to get your child back into their IEP. Thank you to our support group member, Corrine Kirker Wheeler, for sending us this suggestion.
Example Letter To Request An Assessment Of Your Child
The below is an example of a letter that one of our support group members, Jane Austen, used to request an assessment. Please note that you will need to cater the letter to your child’s own needs.
To Whom It May Concern:
I am the parent of ________________a student in__(teacher grade)_______. Since birth my child has dealt with a hearing impairment, his impairment is a direct consequence of his left ear not forming before birth. I am very concerned about how his impairment is affecting him academically. Therefore, I wish to request an assessment of my child for appropriate educational services and interventions according to the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
I hope this is done in a timely manner as my son has been struggling with his impairment since he began attending Suva Elementary in 2005 and since then the school failed to make any accommodation for his disability. At the start of each school year I basically have to beg my son’s teaches to allow him to sit in the front of the class so he can hear. Some teachers have been understanding and have taken the time to listen to me and have made the accommodations necessary for my son. However, as each school year progresses I find that my son’s seat slowly begins to move and by the end of the school year he is no longer in the front row. I honestly hope that my son’s education is taken seriously because it means everything to me.
I look forward to working with you as soon as possible to develop an assessment plan to begin the evaluation process. Thank you in advance for your assistance.
( Sign and date)
Do You Still Believe You Need Additional Information?
You can contact a school for the deaf and blind near you for additional help and suggestions or for more information on outreach programs. Programs through the schools for the deaf and blind can possibly help your child with extra curricular activities and steer you in the right direction with school programs:
The below link is for the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind. Again, by contacting this organization in Colorado they may be able to point you in the right direction in your own state.
The following link is for the Rocky Mountain Deaf School…they may be able to help steer parents in the right direction in another state besides Colorado…just ask!
Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy
Wrightslaw– helps you find out what the facts are and how to be the advocate you need to be for your child and for yourself (as an adult). Wrightslaw is leading website about special education law and advocacy, with thousands of articles, cases, and free resources about hundreds of special education topics, books by Peter Wright and Pamela Wright, and special education law and advocacy training.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
The IDEA Project – is a Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (Part C of IDEA) which is a federal grant program that assists states in operating a comprehensive statewide program of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, ages birth through age 2 years, and their families. In order for a state to participate in the program it must assure that early intervention will be available to every eligible child and its family.
More Helpful Tips For Qualifying and Securing An IEP For Your Child
IEPs can be very tricky.
Here are a handful of suggestions that may help:
- It may be easier qualifying your child for an IEP if he/she had an IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan = from birth to three and often includes therapy services to help your child with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy) previously. An IFSP transitioning into an IEP can help pave the pathway for your child with previous medical records such as hearing evaluations, video tapes of their behavior and communication, and therapy reports, etc. Regardless, if a child qualifies for an IEP, it is because he/she needs one. So, don’t worry if your child didn’t happen to have an IFSP to begin with. It is only a suggestion that it may help out if you did.
- When attending your child’s IEP meeting, be prepared to be attending a meeting that can easily grow to over twenty people comprised of the school superintendent or principal, special education teachers, your child’s home room teacher, therapists that your child has had, etc… It may feel as if the school professionals are out weighing you which can become very intimidating. So, bring your audiologist and your therapists, the nanny who spends the day with your child, anyone who can help be on your child’s side that can help reinforce that your child needs help through an IEP (or 504 Plan). Also, don’t be surprised if your IEP (the actual document of requests) grows to be over twenty or thirty pages long. Also, the meetings may be hours long. If you are not satisfied with what the school board is suggesting, you can say that you do not agree to things and that the meeting can not be completed until everyone can agree on what you feel is best for your child. Sometimes, it may come down to a little give and take between everyone, but pick and choose your battles wisely. For example, if you are arguing over a something that is minor when compared to your child’s teacher wearing an FM System to help your child hear better, pick the better, obviously.
- It is suggested to dress nicely so you impress the school board and show them that this is a serious meeting for your child.
- Sit closest to the doorway making it difficult for others to have to pass you in order to bow out of the meeting.
- Sit at the head or end of the table so you can clearly see everyone and have an appearance of being the facilitator for the meeting. Other members will also lead in the meeting, but make sure you can make eye contact with everyone. Bring cookies if you would like. Some believe this helps with the appearance of a warm and affectionate mom who cares about her child and who has time to make cookies, which means she also has time to hound you at the school.
- Remember, this is a meeting about your child. However, most everyone in the room know nothing about your child. Bring some pictures of your child to pass around so everyone can get to know your child and see the investment and worth and value you have in your child. Maybe even bring your laptop and play a video of your child so they can see your child in action.
- Come prepared to your meeting with tons of information. Bring video tapes or videos of showing how your child is struggling with sound localization or if he/she is having communication problems. Bring hearing evaluation reports showing degradation in hearing when a hearing aid is not worn or how your child has degraded hearing with certain pitches and then give some examples of what those pitches are, such as certain sounds in letters that he/she may not hear while the teacher is teaching, causing your child to miss out on parts of conversations. A very good example of this would to bring in a color photo copy of the “speech banana” that shows a very good idea of what your child can and can’t hear in the real world. Utilize videos that can help prove the point of how your child can not hear when other sounds are present in the classroom. Some examples of great videos are below showing how hearing can be improved with the use of an FM System and how by just wearing a hearing aid and having your child sit in the front row, does not mean he/she can hear well in the classroom. Play a sound simulation on your laptop. Help everyone in the meeting learn and hear what it is like to not be able to hear when having a moderate to a severe hearing loss in one ear or both.
Utilize these videos:
* Also, bring any hearing loss articles that show current studies and highlight the important areas that pertain to your child.
- If you are concerned or worried about representing yourself and your child, reach out to and contact someone through Early Intervention Programs (birth to three) or contact a national non-profit organization called Hands & Voices (www.handsandvoices.org) and ask if a parent guide or someone from their board wouldn’t mind accompanying you to the IEP meeting. Although it is up to you as the child’s parent to do all of the work and research to help your child, a Hands & Voices member can be there for you to help you stand your ground and accept or decline what they offer you for an “acceptable” IEP Plan. An H&V member can help encourage you to get that “YOU” want for your child, because the school board will tell you “no” many times during your meeting.
- Bring articles on hearing loss. You can find some fantastic articles by Cochlear, The Hearing Loss Association, and The Itinerant Connection.
- Make it a point to discuss how you are concerned with the amount of external stimuli that your child will be exposed to in the classroom. Paint a picture by building on sounds (which again can be very nicely shown in the Hearing Aid/FM System simulation video noted above), and how it can affect our children from hearing such as echos in hallways, air conditioning/white noise, flooring can add to sound by sound vibration, lighting can cause fatigue when trying to listen and therefore he may need to have additional breaks during the day (one in the morning and one in the afternoon for 10 minutes say). In fact, if you happen to have an iPhone, there is an application for the iTouch that you can buy for .99cents and it is a sound level meeter that measures the amount of sound in a classroom before anyone is in it. For example a classroom that is quiet with no one in it is already between a 30dB and 35dB level of sound loss. Imagine all of the sounds of gum chewing, talking, books and papers shuffling, chairs and desks squeaking as kids sit in them, scratching, removing articles of clothing, erasing, writing, I could go on and on in addition to the air conditioning and heat and echoes outside of the classroom doorway. Before you know it, your child can not hear very well at all. The application can be downloaded from http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/decibel-meter/id289219810?mt=8 and is called the iPhone iTouch classroom sound meeter application.
- If you believe your child gets tired or irritable during the day from straining to hear and because of all of these other noises building during the classroom session, write into your child’s IEP that he/she needs to have a break (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) so he/she can rest a bit before starting the second part of their day in the classroom. Also, if you believe your child needs help with his/her FM System, BAHA, or traditional hearing aid, write this into the IEP too requesting that the teacher can help assist with the hearing system. For example, if the teacher moves about the classroom, the child may lose sound quality as the teacher moves away from the child. However, if a “boom” microphone can be provided and the teacher agrees to wear it, the child can hear everywhere in the classroom. This helps cut down on the child wearing the hearing aid from asking questions and interrupting the class.
- Act accordingly and confident in the meeting. However, do not act intimidated or arrogant, or whiny as this will give the board a bad impression of you and may get in the way of a good decision for your child’s IEP. Body language and composure can carry anyone a long way. Handle things tactfully, so it is okay to be assertive, but do not be aggressive.
- Also, stress your concern for not just helping your child stay up to speed, for example…just sitting in front of the classroom and being in class during the regular school season. Stress your concern for ESY (extended school year). What this means, is that during holiday breaks and summer vacation, children tend to lose a bit of what they learned…then having to work a little harder to come back up to speed once school is back in session. However, for children who already have the challenge of hearing and dealing with fatigue from straining to hear in the classroom, discuss what can be done to help your child during the summer or at the beginning of the school year. In addition to the main goal of qualifying for an IEP so that it helps your child in the classroom so he/she does not fall behind, an IEP is also supposed to help your child be successful in the classroom and excel in the classroom, not just maintain their learning so they can keep playing catch up. A child with a hearing loss will have to work twice as hard as a child who has perfect hearing in order to “catch up.
- If your child is told that he/she does not qualify for an IEP within your school district and you know and believe that you child will struggle in school, you may contact an attorney who specializes in the schooling system. Contact the Hands & Voices Organization or even the schools for the deaf and blind or early intervention programs and a representative should be able to direct you and help you contact a legal professional who can help you fight a little harder to re-qualify for an IEP.
- You can have an IEP even through college. Yes, an IEP does not stop at secondary or high school. If you can still qualify, then you can still have an IEP even while earning your college degree. You are still in a classroom environment and a college environment can often times be even louder and more of a challenge to hear in.
EELP (Early Educational Learning Program)
Some states offer additional IEP programs to children called EELP programs that are offered during the age 3 to age 4. The state of Florida is one example. If qualified through a school board evaluation for speech and or developmental delays, EELP program offers speech therapy programs that are conducted within a classroom setting of 5-10 kids and the kids learn the aphabet, colors, sorting, simple math, and writing (just like for preschool), but it is more focused on their speech and language development skills. The classes are usually taught by a speech pathologist who has an additional childhood education degree. An EELP service starts for kids from age 3 to 4 (2 years time) and it is similar for kids who attend a regular preschool plus Pre-K class. The program also helps our kids get introduced to and ready for Kindergarten. The schooling is from 8 a.m till 1 p.m and the kids have lunch in the cafeteria just as other elementary students do. The service is carried out in one of the school classrooms located at a local elementary school (public schools).
Thank you to our support group member, Sarinah Tran, for letting us know about this helpful information.
Early Intervention Service Contact Information:
If you need assistance or help with an IEP, learning more about the school system and about school districts, including what services your child can qualify for through your state, below are some great contacts:
Birth 2 3
For ages birth to age three years of age
Child Find (IDEA Project) To receive Early Intervention Program or Special Education, children must meet eligibility guidelines according to the IDEA. States have different eligibility guidelines for their Early Intervention Program and Special Education services. In addition to children with disabilities, some states have elected to provide early intervention services for infants and toddlers who are at risk of developmental delay and their families. For information on the definition of disability under IDEA and eligibility criteria for early intervention in your state, contact your state’s Part C coordinator at http://www.nectac.org/contact/Ptccoord.asp http://www.childfindidea.org/
If the state or country that you live in does not offer programs such as these, try contacting your government, child support services, or department of social services for more information. They may be able to point you in the right direction.