The Back to the Basics-Part 2 was about the uniqueness of students with a hearing loss. Every child–deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing– is born with a different personality, different learning style, different genetic make up, and so on. And that child is exposed to different experiences, different language models, and different parenting styles. Added to this is the myriad of variables that make each DHH (deaf and hard of hearing) child different from each other. I’ve written about the eligibility in public school as a student who is deaf or hard of hearing, and the uniqueness of a child that is deaf or hearing. Because each child is different, a comprehensive evaluation plan to determine strengths and needs should be crafted with only that child in mind.
Initial eligibility, as defined by the SC Special Education Process Guide, is based on an initial evaluation. “An initial evaluation involves the use of a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information to assist in determining if the child is eligible for special education services. There is a two-pronged test for eligibility: (1) whether the child is a child with a disability and by reason thereof, (2) has a need for special education and related services. This two-pronged test has driven eligibility decisions for many years. However, it is clear now more than ever in the law that evaluations must also determine the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (related developmental needs) of the child (34 CFR § 300.305(a)(2)(i)-(iii)).
An Initial Evaluation happens the first ever time a child is assessed to determine if there is a disability (for most students) and what are the impacts of that the disability. For DHH students, an audiogram or health history meets the criteria for determining whether a student has a disability. Part two is determining the impact, or adverse effect. After a child is in Special Education, the IEP team is required to meet at least every three years to discuss if the child still has a disability (mostly this will be “yes” for DHH students) and if there are still adverse effects. This is much like an Initial Evaluation, but it is called a Reevaluation. Anyone can request a Reevaluation meeting if the student seems to be having new struggles or some new medical information is impacting the student in a different way.
Both the Initial Evaluation and the Reevaluation plans start with an IEP team meeting to get input from multiple people, including the parents and a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing. The team will follow a Comprehensive Evaluation planning template that makes sure all areas are considered. Again, from the Process Guide, “the child is assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability, including, if appropriate, health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status, and motor abilities (34CFR§ 300.304(c)(4)).”
The current Evaluation Planning template will include the following areas to be discussed:
- Health, Medical and Developmental: Audiological information will be here. Vision and other medical information as well.
- Educational Background: Might include current placement, important events in the past, etc.
- English Language Proficiency: Typically only for students whose first language is not English.
- Cognitive Processing: Cognitive Processing is usually referring to IQ-Intelligence Quotient. IQ is one measure that gives an estimate of a child’s ability to learn. Cognitive assessment for students with a hearing loss is tricky. IQ tests are based on language. If a student has not had all the access to language as her peers, her scores will not be valid. This is especially true for young children. A more accurate measure of ability to learn is a Nonverbal IQ test, such as Leiter or CTONI-2.
- Academic Achievement: This is an area to address concerns in math, reading, vocabulary, etc. Many times the DHH teacher will put concerns here.
- Communication: This is often used for the Speech-Language Pathologist. Remember that “Communication” is MUCH more than only articulation!
- Adaptive Behavior: This area is mostly for students with intellectual disabilities and includes daily living skills such as learning new skills, general functioning at home and school, and so on.
- Motor/Sensory: This is often Gross Motor skills (walking, big movements, etc.) and Fine Motor (often related to smaller movements with hands) and Sensory issues.
- Social/Emotional/Behavioral: This is typically related to behavioral concerns.
- Transition/Vocational: This is an extra part of the IEP that starts when a student is 13 and continues through the end of school.
- Parent/Outside Agency/Private Provider Information: Parents! Explain your concerns and your triumphs here!
During this planning meeting (before the assessments happen) the team will go through the planning template and discuss current assessment information and make decisions about needing more information. If a child is struggling to read on grade level, the team will say “More Information Needed” and that will be an area that will be assessed during the evaluation process. Likewise, if there are no concerns in an area like Adaptive Skills, no further testing will happen. That doesn’t mean forever! At any time, someone can call a Reevaluation planning meeting and go through these steps again and the concerns mentioned might be different.
As I said in the Back to the Basics-Part 1 post, there are many ways a hearing loss can have an adverse impact on a child. It doesn’t seem that all those aspects fit easily within this Evaluation Planning template. Remember these are the areas of possible adverse effect from the SC Standards for Evaluation and Eligibility Determination (SEED). The first 4 are relatively straightforward.
- Speech and/or spoken or signed language delays
- Any measurable written language and/or reading delays
- Any measurable vocabulary delays
- Any other measurable academic delays
These are areas of Functional Performance that might get overlooked, but if there are concerns, make sure these are included.
- Limitations in classroom communications, including skills in amplification use, interpreter use skills, skills to maximize access to auditory information, and other functional communication skills
- Limitations in social functioning, including self advocacy skills and social interaction skills
- Limitations in conceptual understanding
After all these items are discussed and a plan to get more formal assessment data is created, the team should meet again in less than 60 days to discuss the results. In some situations a reevaluation assessment timeframe is longer. When the IEP team meets again to discuss the information they found, go with your parent notebook and blank paper to take notes. Ask questions. Stop the meeting if you need more time. Bring someone to help you remember and process information. This can potentially be very overwhelming but knowledge is power!