Advocacy Notes: Coronavirus and Legal Responsibilities

Advocacy Notes: Legal Requirements for Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease Outbreak

The CDC has issued guidance to help administrators of public and private childcare programs and K–12 schools plan for and prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff. Many decisions have been made by governments and school districts to close school campuses.  The US Department of Education has provided an FAQ document to assist in understanding the legal responsibilities of schools to provide services under IDEA during this health crisis.


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E-Learning & Coronavirus (COVID-19)

E-Learning & Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Due to concerns with the rapid spread of Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, schools and universities across the country are shutting down their campuses and moving to e-learning or virtual learning.  In light of this, the following resource information  could be helpful as you consider how to provide instruction to your students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

MEETING LEGAL RESPONSIBILITIES:

An important resource regarding our legal responsibilities to provide services to students with disabilities has been released by the U.S. Department of Education. In summary, if general education services are being provided during school closures, Part B and Part C special education services should continue. 


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Advocacy Notes: Coronavirus and Legal Responsibilities

Advocacy Notes: Legal Requirements for Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease Outbreak

The CDC has issued guidance to help administrators of public and private childcare programs and K–12 schools plan for and prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff. Many decisions have been made by governments and school districts to close school campuses.  The US Department of Education has provided an FAQ document to assist in understanding the legal responsibilities of schools to provide services under IDEA during this health crisis.

 

Preparing for a school closure due to COVID-19

IEP teams may, include distance learning plans in a child’s IEP that could be triggered and implemented during a closure due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Such contingent provisions may include the provision of special education and related services at an alternate location or the provision of online or virtual instruction, instructional telephone calls, and other curriculum-based instructional activities, and may identify which special education and related services, if any, could be provided at the child’s home. Creating a contingency plan before a COVID-19 outbreak occurs gives the child’s service providers and the child’s parents an opportunity to reach agreement as to what circumstances would trigger the use of the child’s distance learning plan and the services that would be provided during the dismissal.

Schools closing and not providing any educational services to students

If the school does not provide educational services to general education students, then it is not obligated to provide services to students with disabilities during the same period of time. Once school resumes, the school must make every effort to provide the services specified on the IEP.

  • Decisions must be made about how teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing and educational audiologists will be able to increase the service time spent with students once school resumes, to make up for the time lost during school closure, as the service time specified on the IEP remains a responsibility that the school must make every effort to provide.

Schools closing campuses but continuing to provide educational services to students

If the school is providing educational opportunities to the general student population during school closure, the school must ensure that students with disabilities also have equal access to the same opportunities. Schools must ensure that each student with an IEP or 504 Plan is provided special education and related services specified on the IEP or 504 Plan, to the greatest extent possible.

  • Schools must determine how access accommodations will be provided to ensure that students with hearing loss can receive the same opportunity to instruction as their hearing peers. Schools must decide how they would provide access via interpreters and captioning to online education.
  • Teaching staff (DHHTs, SLPs, Educational Audiologists) must decide what materials they can readily use in online or virtual education methods as they continue work on IEP goals.

If a child is sick with COVID-19 while schools remain open

Students with IEPs who must stay home for more than 10 school days due to a medical problem need homebound services. A placement change would need to be made on the IEP. The IEP goals would remain the same. The IEP Team would determine the method of instruction most applicable for the student to benefit. If the child does not receive homebound services, the school must determine if compensatory services may be needed to make up for any skills that may have been lost. For children with disabilities protected by Section 504 who are dismissed from school during an outbreak of COVID-19 because they are at high risk for health complications, the decision to dismiss must be based on his or her individual risk for medical complications and not on perceptions of the child’s needs based merely on stereotypes or generalizations regarding his or her disability.

If a School for the Deaf is closed

The school must determine whether each child could benefit from online or virtual instruction, instructional telephone calls, and other curriculum-based instructional activities to the extent available. If the child does not receive services during the school closure, the school must determine if compensatory services may be needed to make up for any skills that may have been lost.

 

Note: This information is not to be construed as legal advice. Bulleted points represent information added by the author. Refer to the full Department of Education document for more information.




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E-Learning & Coronavirus (COVID-19)

E-Learning & Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Due to concerns with the rapid spread of Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, schools and universities across the country are shutting down their campuses and moving to e-learning or virtual learning.  In light of this, the following resource information  could be helpful as you consider how to provide instruction to your students who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

MEETING LEGAL RESPONSIBILITIES:

An important resource regarding our legal responsibilities to provide services to students with disabilities has been released by the U.S. Department of Education. In summary, if general education services are being provided during school closures, Part B and Part C special education services should continue. 

The NAD video explains the seriousness of the virus to share with students, including the commonly used ASL sign for coronavirus. 
While not easy, it is important to remember that while schools are in session, even remotely, we are still obligated to provide accommodations, auxiliary aids, and services as stated in the IEP so students can still access their education.  The Council for Exceptional Children, and the National Association of the Deaf has shared some excellent information regarding access during remote learning, as well an Education Advocacy letter that reminds us of our legal obligations when providing online courses and examinations. 

The Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education has some #DeafEdTips on E-Learning Accessibility.  It has lots of good reminders and additional resources for both deaf educators and general education teachers.

While more focused on post-secondary access, the National Deaf Center (NDC) has some helpful tips for educators as they switch to online learning.

RESOURCES:

As schools switch to online learning, many education companies are offering FREE subscriptions to their services.  An open access Google Drive document with links to all of those possibilities can be found here.  For those who need to focus on auditory listening, HearBuilder has some resources. Also, check out this Leprechaun Listening Story using ScreenCastify and EdPuzzle. Speech and Language Pathologists, check out this document for ideas.

Some ASL resources can be found at ASL Teaching Resources. ASL videos are available on various YouTube channels: Educational Resource Center on Deafness, Rocky Mountain Deaf School, ASLized!, and Aunt Alice’s ASL TV. Check out additional virtual activities through this LiveBinder.  And lastly, have students create books at Book Creator!

Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) is a great resource too. Teachers can assign videos for students to watch and then do follow up assignments. All content is captioned, and audio described and FREE.

Supporting Success Teacher Tools e-magazines are full of ready-to-use materials with your students. Members can download pages to use immediately that can be shared and discussed in an e-format with students.

The Ability Challenge has created a Slack community forum for educators to discuss the provision of special education services and supporting learners with diverse needs during online instruction. 

Snapplify offers a library of 50 000+ free e-books. Teachers can sign up for free and also claim exclusive teacher benefits. Excellent to send free e-books to your kids and get them to read while they are at home! You can also share your resources on the platform. Easily integrates with Microsoft and Google for education.

Did you know that Zoom has the capability to add captions during live video sessions that can be recorded?  You can type the closed captions directly via Zoom or you can integrate a third-party service, like StreamerTM automated captioning that is available from Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss that can add captions in real-time. Streamer is typically 98+% accurate (with the speaker using a microphone) for only $9.97/month (email questions to streamer-support@success4kidswhl.com). Other videoconferencing resources and their caption abilities are available from See Hear Communication Matters (they also have a lot of e-learning resources, including virtual field trip sites on their Facebook page!)  

 

EXPLAINING CORONAVIRUS TO CHILDREN: When trying to explain coronavirus to children, it can be difficult to know what to say.  Two resources to share with families:

  • A kid friendly video explaining coronavirus, with captions and a transcript, can be found at Brain Pop.
  • A FREE, downloadable coronavirus social story can be found at The Autism Educator.

In addition to Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss Facebook page, there are MANY deaf educator Facebook groups that are discussing these topics and sharing resources. MANY resources and ideas are being shared on these pages. If you are a Facebook user, search for them and join the discussion!  While not education specific, The Daily Moth has a Facebook page that provides frequent updates in ASL on current events that you or your students might find helpful. 

With a little bit of planning, we can do our best to ensure that we are still providing services to our students during this uncertain time.
Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss has a pinned post on their Facebook page where you can share resources with each other.  Please head over there, support each other, and share away!




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Advocacy Notes: What parents should ask when looking for a program for their child

Questions parents should ask when looking for an educational program to meet the needs of their child with hearing loss

Only 1 in every 100 students with IEPs has qualified to receive specialized support due to hearing loss or deafness. As a low incidence program, the unique access and educational needs of these students requires specialized knowledge in how to appropriately meet these student’s needs. Families often lack the information needed to make informed decisions about the appropriateness of a school’s suggested program, staff, accommodations and related service support. The following questions are designed to assist families in what to ask when learning about a potential educational placement.

 

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Supporting Students Who Are Deaf Plus

Supporting Students Who Are Deaf Plus

The term “Deaf Plus” refers to having both hearing loss and another disability or eligibility that qualifies the student for special education under the IDEA. It can often be difficult for educational teams to appropriately support these students as some IEP teams will only recognize or focus on one eligibility (ie: only medical issues, only autism, or only hearing loss) and not address all needs with equity. Lack of knowledge about the impacts of hearing loss by teachers and administrators adds to this challenge. The result leaves some students and families without all of the appropriate supports and services they need in the educational setting. Just as children with hearing loss cannot know when they didn’t hear something, specialists and educators don’t know what they don’t know about a disability they have not studied.

 

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Advocacy Notes: What parents should ask when looking for a program for their child

Questions parents should ask when looking for an educational program to meet the needs of their child with hearing loss

Only 1 in every 100 students with IEPs has qualified to receive specialized support due to hearing loss or deafness. As a low incidence program, the unique access and educational needs of these students requires specialized knowledge in how to appropriately meet these student’s needs. Families often lack the information needed to make informed decisions about the appropriateness of a school’s suggested program, staff, accommodations and related service support. The following questions are designed to assist families in what to ask when learning about a potential educational placement.

Program

  • Who is oversees the program at the administrative level and is it easy for families to know how that person is contacted?
  • What is the lead administrator’s level of knowledge/background in educating students who are deaf or hard of hearing?
  • Who is the building principal and how active is he or she in this program or in support of accommodating the access and educational needs of the student with hearing loss?
  • What is the principal’s knowledge/background in educational needs due to hearing loss?
  • Is the principal part of the special services team; do they show up for IEP meetings?
  • If there is an educational specialist who is representative of Special Services, who is it and how are they contacted. How are they involved in decision-making?
  • How long has the program been at this site?
  • What the program’s communication philosophy and does it match what you are seeking?
  • If it is a program in which most students with hearing loss use sign language, does it include signing with voice or is it voice off?
  • If it is a listening and spoken language (auditory/oral) program or simultaneous communication (total communication) program does it have a specific curriculum or scope and sequence that is followed for developing listening skills?
  • If the program primarily supports students who use ASL, are there interpreters and what is the level of their training and their experience in this particular setting.

Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing

  • What’s the deaf educator’s actual teaching credential? (DHH teacher)
  • Where has the teacher worked? What’s her background and level of experience in working with students who are deaf, Deaf, and hard of hearing?
  • If there are interpreters, what is their required skill and experience level?
  • What is the ratio of students with hearing loss to one DHH teacher?
  • What is the ratio of students to interpreters?
  • What ongoing professional development is available for DHH staff during the school year that is directly related to their teaching/supporting students with hearing loss?
  • In the proposed classroom, do some/most students have learning challenges in addition to hearing loss or deafness? (sometimes called Deaf plus)
  • Are the staff able to explain how they address developing language for students who are at different levels of delay in comparison to the language of age peers in same grade classrooms?
  • What is the curriculum used for your child’s level of language ability – not grade level but language level?
  • What parent support programs are in place and how can you become involved?
  • Does the school/staff allow the DHH teacher to (regularly) visit or observe a student during a typical school day? (in the classroom and/or during special education support staff sessions)
  • How are the mainstream teachers provided key information about the educational impact of hearing loss and teaching these students? Who does that inservice? When is it done?
  • How are decisions made about student readiness to be placed in an inclusive or mainstream classroom? Who makes this decision?
  • How often will you be receiving the result of program monitoring data, and from whom, so you can evaluate the effectiveness of your child’s programming and IEPs?
  • How are listening skills taught? Most of these skills cannot be taught within a mainstream class.
  • Does the DHH teacher develop listening skills 1:1 or in small groups or are there attempts to include listening development into daily teaching within the classroom?
  • Are support staff (interpreters, paraeducators, SLPs) routinely assigned to teach or reinforce development of listening skills?
  • How is progress for language and listening skill development documented?
  • How are participation, group work, language and listening skill development supported in the mainstream classroom? (e.g., seating, technology, communication repair strategies, self-advocacy skills, social skills). How is this reflected in student IEPs?
  • Is there a system that is routinely used for daily communication with the families? Is there an identified system of communication between the DHH teacher and the parent?
  • Is there homework and if so, who assigns it? If homework from the mainstream classroom requires modification, is the mainstream teacher open to that?
  • How will the mainstream teacher be selected and what is their background or experience with this population?
  • How do you as the DHH teacher receive feedback concerning a student’s performance within any mainstream classroom he/she may be in? How is that feedback documented?

IEP Team

  • Who is on the IEP team?
  • Will the family receive a draft of the IEP prior to the meeting and if so, how far in advance?
  • How much input does the family have in developing the IEP? Are they welcomed to provide information/questions?
  • Who is the school psychologist or diagnostic evaluator who will perform 3-year-evaluation? What is the background, specialized training, and experience of that person in the area of impact of hearing loss and Deafness on educational development?
  • Does the family know how to call an IEP meeting if they feel a change may be needed in the IEP?
  • How is data reported at report card time (IEP data as opposed to the mainstream report card)?

Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP)

  • What’s is the SLPs specific background in working with students who are deaf and hard of hearing and how long have they been at this site?
  • What specific training has the SLP received in listening skill development?
  • How is the SLP working with the DHH teacher to incorporate classroom objectives (concepts, vocabulary, language expansion) into your child’s SLP sessions so that both the teacher and the SLP are coordinated in working on similar goals?
  • Does the SLP coordinate with private therapists if your child is receiving outside speech/listening and language skills?
  • Is information about the focus of outside therapy sessions shared with the DHH teacher and support staff (interpreters, OT, PT, paraeducators)?
  • Does the SLP routinely use the ASL interpreters as well as the student’s hearing technology in their sessions (as appropriate to the specific student)?
  • Can the family visit/observe during SLP sessions with the student?
  • Are there homework or activities specified with families to support development at home?

Hearing Technology:

  • Do both the teacher’s and interpreters know how to support hearing technology?
  • Can everyone troubleshoot the hearing assistance technology?
  • The IDEA law requires that schools must ensure student hearing devices are functioning. Are daily checks performed to make sure hearing devices are working appropriately? If so, can the staff demonstrate how monitoring is performed? Can they provide the data sheets used for equipment checks and listening checks?
  • How immediately can the child access hearing device batteries if needed?
  • Are the mainstream classrooms set up with classroom audio systems (soundfield) and if so, are they in use in appropriate coordination with the hearing technology used by the student with hearing loss? (i.e., are classroom audio systems compatible with FM/DM/RM systems if your child requires FM/DM/RM?)
  • Is there an audiologist available to assist with auditory access and hearing technology issues? How often is the audiologist available? Can the family contact the audiologist?
  • How recent is the hearing assistance technology provided by the school (FM/DM/RM)?
  • Are staff from the school district in routine communication with the cochlear implant centers in the area to allow appropriate 2-way communication in support of students who use cochlear implants?

Joan Lockye
Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing

 

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Supporting Students Who Are Deaf Plus

Supporting Students Who Are Deaf Plus

The term “Deaf Plus” refers to having both hearing loss and another disability or eligibility that qualifies the student for special education under the IDEA. It can often be difficult for educational teams to appropriately support these students as some IEP teams will only recognize or focus on one eligibility (ie: only medical issues, only autism, or only hearing loss) and not address all needs with equity. Lack of knowledge about the impacts of hearing loss by teachers and administrators adds to this challenge. The result leaves some students and families without all of the appropriate supports and services they need in the educational setting. Just as children with hearing loss cannot know when they didn’t hear something, specialists and educators don’t know what they don’t know about a disability they have not studied.

Approximately 40% of children with hearing loss have another disability. Newborn Hearing Screening (NBHS) programs test babies for hearing loss prior to leaving the hospital. However, when children are born with other medical conditions or other disabilities that are evident at birth, their hearing loss is typically identified 2 1/2 months later than children with no other medical conditions1. Unfortunately, children who have medical conditions identified after the newborn period, including but not limited to ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and other physical/medical conditions that are evident at birth, are often not successfully screened for hearing loss. The children may be screened, but because they are hard to test, the results may not be taken seriously, are documented as unreliable, or are not followed up on while the medical professionals and families deal with other identified and known areas of need. Additionally, while the IDEA indicates that IEP teams should not identify children with hearing loss as being eligible for special education under the qualifying condition of Specific Learning Disability (SLD), there are professionals in the field who recognize that children can have both hearing loss and a learning disability.

Following is a comparison of the rates of some disabilities in the general population vs. children with hearing loss. Rates of Conditions Among Children Who Are Deaf/HH2

 

Type of Disability

Rates Among Children Who are Deaf/HH

Rates in the General Population

No Disabilities

60%

86%

Cognitive (ID)

8.3%

0.71%

Cerebral Palsy

0.31%

Blindness & VI

5.5%

0.13%

ADHD

5.4%

5-10%

Specific Learning Disability

8%

5-10%

Autism Spectrum Disorder

7%

1%

For children who are Deaf Plus, it is critical to have complete teams both medically and educationally. From a medical perspective, children who are Deaf Plus need to have all appropriate professionals on their team including the pediatrician, pediatric neurologist, developmental pediatrician, geneticist, ophthalmologist, otolaryngologists with knowledge of hearing loss, pediatric audiologist, and others as needed. From an educational perspective, the team needs to include at a minimum the school psychologist, speech/language pathologist (SLP), deaf/hard of hearing specialist (DHH), educational audiologist (Ed AUD), occupational therapist (OT), adaptive physical education specialist (APE), nurse, physical therapist (PT), and all other appropriate providers.

As a teacher and family advocate, have worked with students who have hearing loss plus all of the following additional special education eligibilities:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (AUT)
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Visual Impairment (VI)
  • Cognitive Delays
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Down Syndrome
  • Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
  • Speech Language Impaired (SLI)
  • Emotional Disability (ED)
  • Other Health Impaired (OHI)

As an IEP team, it is our job to identify all areas of need, draft goals to address those needs, develop supports and services that are appropriate to meet the goals, and make an offer of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Eventually, the time may come that one of the most important discussions for the family and the IEP team has is to determine the primary eligibility. The team must discuss what primary issue is getting in the way of the child accessing his/her educational experience.

We know that eligibility does not drive placement or services, but we do need to always remain diligent in identifying what is the primary issue that is hindering access to their education.

If our students who are Deaf Plus are provided with language access and intervention, be it ASL, total communication, or spoken language, and if the child is closing the gap between their chronological age and their hearing age, the team may need to discuss whether hearing loss continues to be the primary eligibility. Our students will always have hearing loss. They will always be “Deaf,” “Deaf/Hard of Hearing,” or “Hard of Hearing.” This is a condition that never goes away. However, there are times when the IEP team needs to identify if the hearing loss is the primary eligibility or the secondary eligibility.

EXAMPLE: A student has hearing loss and is also on the autism spectrum. No matter if the family has chosen total communication, ASL, or spoken language with regard to the hearing loss, there may come a time when the hearing loss has been addressed; the communication needs have been addressed; the child is doing well with regard to his hearing loss; and the team needs to consider if the autism is actually the primary reason that the child is not fully accessing education. Even if the child’s deafness or hearing loss becomes the secondary eligibility, we need to ensure that the DHH Itinerant and Educational Audiologist remain respected members of the IEP team. All providers who have another area of specialty need to have the benefit of the DHH lens present to support them as they serve the student. This same discussion applies to all of the other special education eligibilities.  

 

Melinda Gillinger, M. A
Special Education Consultan
www.melindagillinger.com

 

References

  1. 1. Gallaudet Research Institute, 2005
  2. 2. http://www.infanthearing.org/ehdi-ebook/2015_ebook/9-Chapter9ChildrenPLUS2015.pdf

 

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