Individualized Education Programs Audiologists on Multidisciplinary Teams Should Think Process, Not Product Features
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Features  |   August 01, 2011
Individualized Education Programs
Author Notes
  • Jane B. Seaton, MS, CCC-A/SLP, is a private consultant for audiology and communication disorders, specializing in educational and pediatric audiology, parent-infant programming, and educational services for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Contact her at hjseaton@bellsouth.net.
    Jane B. Seaton, MS, CCC-A/SLP, is a private consultant for audiology and communication disorders, specializing in educational and pediatric audiology, parent-infant programming, and educational services for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Contact her at hjseaton@bellsouth.net.×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / School-Based Settings / Features
Features   |   August 01, 2011
Individualized Education Programs
The ASHA Leader, August 2011, Vol. 16, 5-6. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR8.16102011.5
The ASHA Leader, August 2011, Vol. 16, 5-6. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR8.16102011.5
The legal definition of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) as “a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting” (34 CFR. §300) implies that the IEP is a static document, when in fact it is a dynamic process with several steps prior to and following development. When viewed as a process, an IEP presents numerous opportunities for audiologists to design and implement educational strategies for students with hearing loss. The process also allows audiologists to serve as proactive IEP team members.
Initial Screening and Assessment
Concern about a student’s hearing status typically is addressed initially through hearing screening and subsequent assessment. If mitigating factors require medical referral (e.g., possible otitis media), it is important for the audiologist to refer the student to a child study or response-to-intervention (RTI) team to address potential interim learning issues.
Interdisciplinary Team Meeting
Referral to an interdisciplinary team within general education (e.g., child study, student support team) is required prior to referral for special education consideration. RTI offers another avenue where strategies and specific accommodations can be addressed within general education (Burdette & Etemad, 2009; National Center on Response to Intervention, n.d.). Laws governing general education programs and facilities prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and guarantee access for all individuals to facilities and programs, including those for education (NCLB, 2001; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; ADAAA, 2008).
Although attendance at child study team meetings for every school served is challenging for audiologists, involvement at this stage is critical for students with hearing loss. Providing team members with written information on instructional access (e.g., specific classroom accommodations) is one way to facilitate these discussions (check with your state Department of Education or Hands and Voices for sample checklists). If accommodations such as captioning or classroom audio distribution systems are recommended, a 504 Plan should be implemented, and the educational audiologist should make every effort to attend in person or participate virtually (e.g., conference call, Skype) when this plan is written.
Referral for Special Education
When strategies and supports recommended by the child study/RTI team are not successful, a referral for special education should follow. The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires both formal and functional assessment using a variety of tools administered in the child’s native language or other mode of communication (§300.304 [b] and [c]). When a community audiologist is involved with the student, close collaboration with school-based professionals during the assessment process is strongly recommended. Educational audiologists can expand a traditional audiologic battery to include classroom observations and functional listening evaluations (Johnson & Seaton, 2011).
Eligibility Under IDEA
Eligibility for services under IDEA is considered at a prior meeting or in conjunction with an IEP meeting. Although some states continue to require a specific decibel level for eligibility under deaf or hard of hearing categories, IDEA requires that the hearing loss must adversely affect educational performance across functional, developmental, and academic areas (34 CFR §300.8[b][3][5]). Areas to consider include communication difficulties, language and literacy problems, math deficits, social/behavioral issues, and challenges with self-advocacy and independence. If the hearing loss does not affect educational performance, the student typically will not be eligible for special education, and provision of supports and services under a 504 Plan or RTI should be considered.
IEP Meeting
If eligibility for direct intervention under special education is met, discussion of the student’s level of performance, strengths, weaknesses, and needs is followed by development of a written plan with specific, individualized, measurable goals targeting these needs. IDEA regulations require attendance by all team members (including an educational audiologist) at initial IEP meetings for students with hearing loss, unless excused (34 CFR §300.321[e][2]). Alternate methods of participation, such as video conferencing and conference calls, are preferred over submission of a written report that does not allow for interpretation and discussion. Face-to-face participation by an educational audiologist to discuss learning implications of the student’s hearing loss, classroom accommodations (both special education and general education), and assistive technology needs is strongly recommended.
Discussions of communication factors as required by IDEA, development of a communication plan, and use of placement and readiness checklists are useful activities when developing IEPs for students with hearing loss. Goals that promote auditory development, independence with amplification, and self-advocacy benefit from an audiologist’s input. Direct student services and indirect services (e.g, consultation with teachers, parent counseling), as identified in IDEA, should both be included.
Implementation of the IEP
Expectations that reflect one year’s growth in one year’s time for academic progress are consistent with case law (U.S. Supreme Court, 1982). Educational audiologists should be involved in services for children with hearing loss to support these expectations, especially when they are identified in the IEP. At minimum, monitoring technology use and training of school personnel in the management of personal and assistive hearing technology should be included. Close collaboration between school-based and community audiologists regarding hearing technology is crucial to ensure optimal access to instruction.
Review and Revision
Under IDEA, the IEP team is required to review a child’s IEP at least annually and revise goals to address lack of expected progress, reflect results of any reevaluation, or discuss relevant new information about the student (§300.324[b][2]). Programs described in an IEP can be amended without calling a formal team meeting if all team members agree to the modifications (§300.324[a][6]).
Changes in communication, behavior, or academic performance could signal a change in hearing, or need for adjustments in personal or assistive technology, additional classroom accommodations, or teacher consultation. Audiologists must be proactive and remain “in the IEP loop” at all stages of the IEP process to help ensure that these students’ needs are not overlooked.
IEP Factors for Students With Hearing Loss

IEPs for students with hearing loss must consider:

  • Language and communication needs.

  • Opportunities for direct communication with peers and professionals.

  • Opportunities for direct instruction in child’s language and communication mode.

  • Academic level.

  • Needs for assistive technology devices and services (20 U.S.C. §1414[d]([3][B][iv] and [v]).

Section 504 Plans Offer Accommodations

Eligibility for Section 504 is based on an individual having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity. If a child has such an impairment (e.g., hearing loss) that limits an activity such as communication but does not require specially designed instruction or related services, the child is eligible for consideration of services in general education classrooms and programs under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

With an increasing number of students with hearing loss receiving early identification and intervention, 504 plans are becoming more routine for the provision of accommodations such as consultation, monitoring, and technology in general education. Although not legally mandated under Section 504, consideration of the special factors identified in IDEA for students with hearing loss (see box below, left) is recommended when developing 504 plans for these students. (See Wright’s Law for more information on Section 504 rights and plans.)

Sources
Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 1990 as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, P.L. 110–325.
Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 1990 as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, P.L. 110–325.×
Burdette, P., & Etemad, P. (2009). Response to intervention: Select state programs. Project Forum at NASDSE. Access at www.projectforum.org.
Burdette, P., & Etemad, P. (2009). Response to intervention: Select state programs. Project Forum at NASDSE. Access at www.projectforum.org.×
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004), 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004), 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq.×
Johnson, C., & Seaton, J. (2011). Common functional outcome measures for children and youth with hearing loss. In Johnson, C. & Seaton, J. (Eds.), Educational Audiology Handbook, 2nd ed. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage.
Johnson, C., & Seaton, J. (2011). Common functional outcome measures for children and youth with hearing loss. In Johnson, C. & Seaton, J. (Eds.), Educational Audiology Handbook, 2nd ed. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage.×
National Center on Response to Intervention (NCRTI) (n.d.). Access at www.rti4success.org.
National Center on Response to Intervention (NCRTI) (n.d.). Access at www.rti4success.org.×
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 , 20 U.S.C. §6301 et seq. (2002, 2004).
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 , 20 U.S.C. §6301 et seq. (2002, 2004).×
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, 29 U.S.C. 794 et seq. (1973). U.S. Statutes at Large, 87, 335–394.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, 29 U.S.C. 794 et seq. (1973). U.S. Statutes at Large, 87, 335–394.×
U.S. Supreme Court (1982). Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District, Westchester County v. Amy Rowley. 458 U.S. 176.
U.S. Supreme Court (1982). Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District, Westchester County v. Amy Rowley. 458 U.S. 176.×
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August 2011
Volume 16, Issue 10