lots of zebrasIf you’ve ever talked to me about education, you know I have tons of thoughts on that subject.   Last week I wrote about the eligibility as “Deaf and Hard of Hearing” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA,) specifically here in South Carolina.  I also included a basic overview of some of the “adverse effects” that should be considered be the IEP team.  I’m going to expand on that here as I talk about the uniqueness of children who are deaf and hard of hearing.

The team at Success for Kids with Hearing Loss compares the uniqueness of children with hearing loss to zebras; no two are alike.  Much like our fingerprints, there are no zebras that have identical stripes!  Amazing.  Success for Kids with Hearing Loss goes on to say that we are conditioned so that when we hear hoofbeats, we think of horses.  But children with a hearing loss are not “horses;” each one has completely different strengths and needs.  Children with a hearing loss are zebras. Think about just some of the aspects that play into making each child a fabulous, unique individual:

  • type of hearing loss
  • when the hearing loss occurred
  • when the hearing loss was identified
  • use of amplification, if applicable
  • how long application has been used
  • cause of the hearing loss
  • hearing loss as part of a syndrome
  • family acceptance
  • family involvement
  • time between diagnosis and early intervention
  • and on and on….

Those are only 10 variables that impact a child with a hearing loss.  Just change one of those factors and you have another completely different individual!  Luckily the INDIVIDUALS with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a Federal law, focusing on the individual nature of students in public school.  It seems that many school districts are in a phase of making “cookie cutter” IEPs so that Progress Monitoring can be standardized.  Progress Monitoring is important!  That ensures check points throughout the year to make sure the child, teacher, and instructional program are on target.  Progress Monitoring for deaf and hard of hearing is an entirely different blog post. 🙂

The reason I mentioned Progress Monitoring is that many school districts are using the same measures to monitor DHH children as they measure other students with a disability.  DHH students must be viewed from another lens; a lens of language access.  Consider a child with a moderate hearing loss since birth that was not identified until age 4.  Experts say that a child with a moderate hearing loss misses 50-75% of the incidental language and conversation around him/her. Remember language=brain development and knowledge of the world.  For four years, this child has only had access to 25-50% of all that!  One cannot expect the same foundation as another child born at the same time.

IEP teams have the best intentions.  They are applying the same high expectations to a DHH child as other children. The teachers might say “She turns around when I call her name” and assume that there is adequate hearing for language.  Assumptions.  Intentions.  Zebras.  Think of that as you change the lens on the view of your child, or your student.

Next post, Back to the Basics-Part 3: Assessment and Evaluation for a DHH student.