One of the toughest things to navigate with your hard of hearing child is how to access hearing assistive technology through the school system and the specialized instruction they need to succeed. Understanding their education access rights is the first step in advocating for your child. It’s important for you, the parents or caregivers, to know your child’s rights for education access under the law. Some important facts:
- It’s estimated that up to 1/3 of instruction is being missed by hard of hearing students in a classroom.
- For younger children, up to 20,000 hours of listening are necessary in infancy and early childhood as a basis for reading (S.S. Dehaene)
- 2-3 children out of 1,000 in the United States are born with detectable hearing loss in one or both ears. (HLAA)
- Almost 15% of school-age children (ages 6-19) have some degree of hearing loss. (HLAA)
Hearing loss can easily be confused with a learning disability or behavior problem, but in fact, your child may actually not be hearing everything. Every little piece of instruction missed is impacting your student’s education and speech development. Knowing your rights so you can advocate for your child is the first step in making certain they have what they need.
Education Access 101: The Big Three Laws You Need To Know
There are three Federal laws that cover the bases for equal access to public facilities and school: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that all students with disabilities up to the age of 21 be provided with free, appropriate education with the least restrictions possible and with accommodations. The IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) fall under the IDEA umbrella.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ensures that children with disabilities can’t be excluded from participation in programs that receive federal financial assistance. A 504 plan can be carried with them into adulthood in workplaces. etc. This is different than an IEP. In plain English, this means you have the legal right to ask for the things you need to be successful in these environments.
- The Americans With Disabilities Act ensures access to state and local governments, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. Closed captioning is a great example of ensuring access.
What Does Accommodation Look Like?
My own daughter has a customized 504 plan. She has single-sided deafness, and some of her classroom accommodations include:
- A sound field system – this is a classroom speaker. The teacher has a microphone and my daughter sits near a speaker so she can hear instruction better. This amplifies the teacher’s voice for the entire room, not just for my child.
- Preferential seating – close to the speaker, classroom audio, and in a place in the classroom that helps minimize distractions.
- The teacher checks in with my daughter to make certain instructions are clear and understood.
- Closed captioning (where available) on classroom media.
Other types of accommodation include FM Systems, pairing your student with a “buddy” to help with note taking, daily planner checks to make certain homework instructions were heard and understood, and increased time or alternatives for assignments and oral exams.
It’s a lot! We Know!
This is part one! We will be offering more information about what is available to infants and toddlers, as well as insight into the pros and cons of different assistive technology available in the coming weeks. We are here to help answer your questions and guide you toward understanding the laws for education access and what to do. Know that you are not alone!