The abilities of children with hearing loss, whether they are exiting from early intervention or are already school-aged, are typically evaluated to identify overall delays or learning disorders.Since children with hearing loss have access issues learning language due to barriers caused by the hearing loss, they often score ‘low-average’ on norm-referenced language tests. Rather than having overall delays, the access issues caused by hearing loss often result in ‘spotty skills’ or learning gaps that are not identified by typically used evaluation instruments. Because these needs are not identified by typical measures, our students are often denied eligibility for specialized instruction and supports. The specialist in education of students with hearing loss needs to be a member of the evaluation team to help tailor the assessment process to identify the unique needs of these children.
Research has consistently revealed that a ‘good’ result of early intervention for children with hearing loss is a standard score of -1 SD to -1.5 SD on norm-referenced language tests (standard score 78-88 range). All too often teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing have sat in meetings where the evaluation team has described these results as ‘normal’ and ‘he will be okay.’ After all, special education is not preventative, it is for children who have identifiable disabilities. ‘Low-normal’ does not equal a disability. Yet professionals who work with these students realize that there ARE language issues, including ‘Swiss cheese language’ which influences comprehension, delays in syntax learning, and in early literacy skills.
Using Norm-Referenced Tests to Determine Eligibility
The purpose of the testing is to identify an educational disability or adverse educational effect on educational performance. For children with hearing loss, assessment needs to be sufficient in scope and intensity to identify gaps in auditory (or sign language development), language, narrative discourse, academic, literacy, and social language skills. Information needs to be collected that reflects the student’s ability to function in situations similar to the school setting, including typical use of amplification.