Advocacy Notes – In a nutshell

We know about IDEA, ADA, FAPE and other acronyms for terms related to providing services and supports to our students with hearing loss. Below are some of the basics that underlie who, why, and how we are required to provide support for students who are deaf or hard of hearing within the US.

Legal frameworks defining services for students with special needs:

1. The purpose of 2004 IDEA, as specified in the Commentary, is…to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. Source

2. All elementary and secondary school students who are qualified individuals with disabilities, as defined by Section 504, and who need special education and/or related aids and services are entitled to a free and appropriate education (FAPE). Under Section 504, FAPE is the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet the individual educational needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students are met and are based on adherence to procedures governing educational setting, evaluation and placement, and procedural safeguards. Source page 10.

3. A student with a disability may achieve a high level of academic success but may nevertheless be substantially limited in a major life activity due to the student’s impairment because of the additional time or effort the student must spend to read, write, or learn compared to others. A school district must evaluate a student if it has reason to believe the student has a disability and the student needs special education or related services as a result of that disability, even if the student only exhibits behavioral (and not academic) challenges. Source page 12, 14. Behavior is interpreted broadly and includes challenges in performance or keeping pace with peers, not just acting out or conduct issues.

4. The March 2017 US Supreme Court threw out the de minimis standard applied to acceptable educational benefit to special education students and concluded that … To meet its substantive obligation under IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances…. It must…aim to enable the child to make progress; the essential function of an IEP is to set out a plan for pursuing academic and functional advancement… the core of the IDEA, and the directive that States offer instruction “specially designed” to meet a child’s “unique needs” through an individualized education program. Source

To summarize in regard to education of students with hearing loss:

  • Hearing loss fills the ADA/504 criteria as a life limitation that places a student at high risk for functional and/or performance needs. All students with hearing loss are eligible for 504 Plans and appropriate accommodations.
  • Students with hearing loss should be evaluated to determine their level of unique needs including the need for auxiliary aids, related services, and specialized instruction necessary to address academic and/or functional performance issues.
  • A high level of academic success does not preclude the need for specialized services or supports. Hearing loss will cause the student to have to expend additional time and effort to comprehend and fully participate, typically with less information perceived due to fragmented hearing, which impacts the ability to function and learn as compared to others.
  • Specialized services are tailored to meet the student’s unique needs and should provide the support(s) needed for the student to be able to make progress similar to their cognitive peers, as the access issues caused by hearing loss are not learning disorders impacting the level to which a student with hearing loss can learn.

This information also appears within the body of the article on Inclusion in this Update.


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NOTE: The information represents the opinion of Karen Anderson, PhD who is not an attorney. The information presented is not legal advice, may not be the most current, and is subject to change without notice.