504 Plans for Students with Hearing LossQuestion from the Field: I work for a Co-op that has a number of teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing. Our team is having a discussion about when and if 504 plans are appropriate for students with hearing loss. If a student has been identified with a significant hearing loss, but is academically at grade level with his peers, is it appropriate to give the student a 504 plan, as long as the student is able to receive direct services from a DHH itinerant for hearing and self-advocacy related skills? Are there legal protection differences that we should be considering? If they are given an IEP initially, do you have suggestions for when a student is moved to a 504? Are 504 plans appropriate for students with hearing loss at the elementary and secondary level? Can you respond for when students have hearing aids and use assistive devices and for those that do not use amplification?
a. The letter states the Department’s believes IDEA does provide protections for students with high cognition and disabilities who require special education services.
b. “The IDEA is silent regarding “twice exceptional” or “gifted” students. It remains the Department’s position that students who have high cognition, have disabilities and require special education and related services are protected under the IDEA and its implementing regulations.”
c. My addition to a) and b) would be to say that even academically gifted children with hearing loss, or those achieving ‘good’ grades, require the expanded core curriculum skills – specifically individually designed special instruction in self-advocacy/communication repair skills. Full participation in the classroom requires these skills, especially since about 1/3 of class time is spent in group/discussion activities that are especially challenging for students with hearing loss. To reiterate what you may have heard me say before: IDEA considers educational performance needs broadly in the identification of special education needs. IDEA does not require academic delays. It requires adverse educational affect, or educational performance that is adversely affected. This can be obvious by functional assessment/observation of students with hearing loss, even if normative testing is within normal limits.7. CIs and HAs are assistive devices. Hearing aids often show up on the IEP as being necessary for the student to receive FAPE. If the student refuses to use the amplification (FM too) then it needs to be removed from the IEP otherwise the district can be later held liable for not providing for this need. We can’t MAKE students use the amplification. We CAN teach them self-advocacy skills that should allow them to provide for the lack of amplification. Well, we know that there is not a replacement for being able to fully access communication from infancy. We have to keep in mind that sometimes students who are hard of hearing purposely stop using their devices so that they will ‘fit in better’ even if that means being educated ‘like the LD kids’ that are much more prevalent than students with hearing loss. Regardless, each situation in school should be reviewed for necessary accommodations, meaning auxiliary aids and services per ADA (and showing up on 504 plans). This worksheet was developed to assist in this process. For example, services for students who do not have IEPs can include teacher inservice, teaching use of amplification, monitoring functional classroom performance, even self-advocacy skill development – although self-advocacy is usually provided under an IEP. 8. Bottom line in my mind is – students with hearing loss require accommodations in school if they are not to be discriminated against. The IEP can provide these accommodations/auxiliary aids/services. If there is no IEP OR if the IEP does not provide sufficient accommodations to result in equal access to classroom communication, then a 504 Plan is appropriate. A student CAN have both an IEP and a 504 Plan. If you have a question from the field, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org! 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.