If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if there was an "educational need" for a particular Deaf/Hard of Hearing child...
So many times, children who were identified early and have had early intervention look really good! Of course, most of this takes place before school starts, so when the child enters school, she is right on track. A team meets and says that her skills are age-appropriate and so she doesn't have an "educational need" at this time. Do you know how hard it is to then convince people that there is an educational need later when she really needs it? She could at least be monitored in these first formative years. Heck, she's not really reading or writing at this point, so how do we know the impact? Even if the student isn't just starting school, but there doesn't seem to be an educational need, what does it hurt to have the Teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing consult with her and her teachers for a few years?
Then there's the student who has had an IEP with a lot of intervention and is on the honor roll every grading period in high school. Well, he must not have an "educational need" then, right? WRONG! Does he need any accommodations in the classroom? Does he need an interpreter? Does he need notes, an FM system, preferential seating? Maybe he doesn't need anyone to help him with grade-level content, but it would sure be nice if he was taught some advocacy skills. And, if he's not a good advocate, how do his teachers know that he even has a hearing loss? Will he tell them? Will his parents? So, you take him off of his IEP where he's monitored by a Teacher for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing and put him on a 504 Plan that is monitored by an assistant principal or a guidance counselor who knows nothing about hearing loss. That sounds like a good idea to me [insert sarcastic tone here].
If he does well at high school, I bet he'll want to go on to college. Let's say he goes to a big state college. Freshman courses can have 200-300 students all piled in a big lecture hall. What if he's trekking across campus and he slides in at the last moment and his professor isn't a native English speaker and there he is in the back of a huge lecture hall struggling to hear? Is there an educational need? So, you say, that he could just let the university know that he has hearing loss, right? Guess what? Colleges and universities don't like to see students "all of a sudden" need accommodations that they didn't need in high school. Yep, it's a fact! Ask me how I know! So, your student had an IEP, but now he has a 504 Plan, that should suffice, right? Guess what? Although, both documents should be given equal consideration in the post-secondary world, it's not always the case. Since 504 Plans show that there's little educational need, not all colleges really respect the 504 Plan as they respect the IEP.
What about the student who has multiple disability categories? Their primary disability was determined to be something other than Deaf/Hard of Hearing, so there was the decision to just drop DHH altogether. Well, the student's family moves and are in another school district. Services are being met, but there's something the new school can't figure out...Why does Sally seem to have selective hearing? Why doesn't she pay attention? Why is she always doing something other than the task we've told her to complete? Hmm...well, it may have something to do with the fact that she has a hearing loss, but you wouldn't know that because you got rid of that eligibility area a long time ago and now you can't figure out how to best meet her "educational needs" because something just isn't right.
I can't tell you how often I've seen a student who has a minimal hearing loss or a unilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in one ear) be diagnosed as having a learning disability only to discover that he has hearing loss. Since hearing loss isn't always obvious and cannot be seen, his hearing loss was never caught, therefore, there was no IEP and no Teacher for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing working with him.
So, I ask you, is there an educational need?
Need more info? Check out some of these helpful links:
A Question of Automatic Eligibility: Does my DHH Child Need an IEP?
Eligibility Survival Kit
Does My Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child Need an IEP or a 504 Plan?
Office for Civil Rights: Deaf Students Education Services
If you have any other helpful links, please share!