Raising and Educating a Deaf Child

International experts answer your questions about the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by the parents and educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

School Placement

Is it appropriate to place sign dependent deaf students, who have “low” language and “low” IQ scores, but no other diagnosis, in special ed classes with non signing special ed teachers?

Question from L.L., Texas. Posted March 6, 2014.
Response from Marc Marschark - NTID

It is never appropriate to place deaf students (or anyone else) in a classroom in which they cannot communicate with the teacher (or vice versa). Determination of an appropriate school placement for a deaf or hard-of-hearing child should be made on the basis of a thorough assessment by a school psychologist or other individual(s) who are qualified and able to communicate with the child. Specifics of the placement and the student’s needs to be made explicit in an IEP.

However, the fact that you are asking such a question suggests that there is more to this than it might appear.  If any particular student is “low language,” how do you know s/he is “sign dependent”? Is the student being described as low language because s/he does not use spoken language? Has the child been exposed to sign language from an early age but still is not acquiring it in an age-appropriate manner? Is the child from a family that uses some other language at home? Has a formal assessment of the sort suggested above actually been conducted? Ultimately, school placement should be a parental decision  (various states and countries vary in this respect), but it must be an informed one. Parents  in the United States have rights with regard to their children’s educational services (see Recommended Readings). Other “interested individuals” typically do not.

Recommended readings:

“Importance and Need for the Continuum of Educational Placements,” by Barbara Raimondo, Esq., coming April 1 to www.raisingandeducatingdeafchildren.org.

Raimondo, B. (2010). Legal advocacy for deaf and hard of hearing children in education.  In M. Marschark & P. Spencer (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of deaf studies, language, and education, volume 2 (pp. 31-40).  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

How does my child, who is hard of hearing, qualify for an IEP? Are such children automatically qualified because they have a “hearing loss,” or are there criteria that have to be met?

Question from T.R., San Diego. Posted November 15, 2013.

A  finding of eligibility for special education must be determined prior to the development of an IEP. The determination is made after an evaluation has been conducted by the education department where your child attends. The first step for you to do is to contact the educationl department and refer your child for an evaluation.

Once you have done that, a schedule will be prepared for the assessments to be conducted. When the process is completed, you will be invited to a team meeting to learn about the results. You can ask questions and will receive information about your and your child’s rights under the special education law known as  IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

The presence of hearing loss does not ensure that an IEP will be developed. The evaluations must show how the hearing loss effects academic progress and the IEP is designed to provide the needed combination of services to support academic success. Included may be modifications to the classroom such as a sound field system or the introduction of an FM system for your child. These services may also be provided if there is not an IEP as part of an accommodation plan.

Contact the school and request a meeting to discuss a referral for an evaluation. Be prepared to share information and remember that the right to an evaluation is assured. The determination of an IEP will occur at the team meeting and you can object to all or some of the findings.

These steps will serve to provide you with a general direction. Without knowing the extent of the hearing loss or current performance is difficult to provide anymore information.

We are in the process of establishing an integrated communty kindergarten for 4 year old children. Is there any research that indicates what is the ideal ration of deaf to hearing children in this setting. There will be a total of 21 children in the group.

Question from V.M., Australia. Posted July 23, 2013.

Co-enrollment programs for mixed groups of deaf and hearing students have been created in several countries (Italy, United States, Australia, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands are the only ones we know of). Spencer and Marschark (2010) described co-enrollment this way: “The defining characteristic of this approach is that a “critical mass” of students with hearing loss, instead of an isolated child or two, attends class with hearing students…. Although a 1:1 ratio of deaf or hard of hearing to hearing students might be ideal, the demographics of hearing loss generally do not allow such a ratio being achieved.” Antia, Kreimeyer, Metz, and Spolsky (2011) suggested that such a program can be successful if students with hearing loss make up one-fourth to one-third of the class.” A forthcoming book (2014) will include descriptions of several of the above programs including language, academic achievement, and social-emotional outcomes. In in the meantime, here are some references::

Antia, S., Kreimeyer, K., Metz, K., & Spolsky, S. (2011). Peer interactions of deaf and hard-of-hearing children. In M. Marschark & P. Spencer (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of deaf studies, language, and education, volume 1, second edition (pp. 173–187). New York: Oxford University Press.

Kreimeyer, K., Crooke, P., Drye, C., Egbert, V., & Klein, B. (2000). Academic benefits of a co-enrollment model of inclusive education for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.  Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf education 5, 174-185.

Stinson, M. S., & Liu, Y. (1999). Participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in classes with hearing students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 4, 191–202.

Wauters, L.N., & Knoors, H.E.T. (2008). Social integration of deaf children in inclusive settings. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 13, 21-36.

My 8-year-old son is profoundly deaf and uses ASL for communication. About 1 1/2 years ago he was removed from the deaf/HOH program offered by our city public school due to behavior problems and issues. The school told me his only option for placement was a local alternative school where he would use an interpreter. I expressed concern regarding this placement, as it does not seem like the LRE. There is only one other deaf student, there are no trained teachers of the deaf, and none of the school staff or administration knows ASL. I am concerned for my son’s social and cultural development as well as his education and ability to work on his emotional and behavioral challenges in this setting. I tried to have him enrolled at the deaf school in our state, but they will not take him because they are not able to deal with his behavioral and emotional needs. I am willing to have my son attend an appropriate program, such as PACES at ASD, but the local school insists he is in the LRE and that he is making progress. Since he has been in the alternative school he has made no significant progress, has had many critical incidents as well as sustained minor injuries, and has been hospitalized for his behavior twice. I do not feel my son is in the LRE, although I have expressed this to the school many times I feel my concerns about his placement are ignored. What is the best way for me to advocate for my son to be educated in the LRE?

Question from K.G., Virginia. Posted May 7, 2013.

Given what you have been through thus far, the best advice is for you to seek help from an Advocate, either in your community or through the State. Contact your State Department of Education; they will tell you how to obtain one. [You also might see if there is a local chapter of Hands & Voices; other parents of deaf children in your area might have had the same experience.] In addition, you might take a look at the website of the Conference of Educational Administrators Serving the Deaf (www.ceasd.org)and review the Child First information. There is a clear need to define “progress” as you and the LEA differ on this critical factor. Again, an Advocate with prior experience with deaf children and assessment likely would be a great place to start. You also might look into having an objective school psychologist (also with having experience with deaf children) involved in the IEP meeting.

The issue of LRE is always challenging, but you and the LEA need to remember the law requires a review of the “unique communication needs of deaf children.”  The LRE is not the sole criterion for services, although it is one of the many criteria that IEP teams have to consider. The PACEs program* at the American School for the Deaf is considered the LRE for the 30 youngsters currently served in the program. That placement was determined by each child’s PPT (Planning and Placement Team) – IEP (Individualized Education Program) team.

*From the ASD website: The PACES Program is a special educational/residential unit for emotionally/behaviorally disordered students, who because of intensity of these disorders need educational, social, and psychological services beyond those offered in traditional school settings. The program’s goals are to maximize students’ potential and return them to the least restrictive educational environment. The PACES Program has two components: Upper PACES (ages 13 to 21) and Junior PACES (ages 6 to 13). [the program accepts out-of-state students]

I am working with a preschool student who has bilateral cochlear Implants. His audiologist is recommending an FM system for him. What is the appropriate funding source? The County or the school district? Neither party accepted responsibility for this at the CPSE meeting. Can you refer me to some documentation of the regulations for this funding?

Question from M.W., New York. Posted April 26, 2013.

For this, you will want to contact the New York State Regional Associate for Preschool Education: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/quality/regassoc.htm. You are probably best off contacting the Western Regional Office directly by telephone:

NYS Education Department
P-12: Office of Special Education Special Education Quality Assurance (SEQA)
2A Richmond Avenue
Batavia NY 14020
Telephone: (585) 344-2002 — Fax: (585) 344-2422

If you have any difficulties, the Upstate Coordiantor is Christopher Suriano, (315) 476-5645.

I have a deaf son, grade 7. Just recently, I have attended an IEP meeting and requested that my son (who is currently homeschooled) be registered as a full time student. I asked that he be placed in the local junior high, who currently have no interpreter on staff. The school refused, saying that the IEP team’s recommendation was he attend an out of district day-school program (about 30 minutes away) because they have a deaf program set up through the state deaf school. I basically said that my son has the right to attend the local school, and providing him with an interpreter through an IEP is their responsibility. They refused, and for the first time ever – and my son attended public school many years ago in a different state, so I’ve been ot plenty of IEP meetings – the person in charge of special education services said that we could file a due process hearing and that he had plenty of lawyers that would argue against what we want. Never ever in over 30 plus IEP meetings had someone basically say, sue us, we dare you. Wow. but anyway, can a local school (district) refuse services to a deaf student based on the arguments of a) we aren’t set up for a deaf student, b) this other program already is set up and c) the IEP team recommends it (IEP team of 3 people and the 2 parents and deaf student disagreeing). Obviously they can, but do they have the legal right? Can we do anything other than sue, sue, sue?!

Question from T.A., Maine. Posted March 5, 2013.

Although the Individualized Education Program Team includes the parents of the child, and the group that decides placement must include the parents, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does not automatically require schools to follow the placement preference of the parents.  IDEA requires placement decisions to be made on the basis of the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals and services.  According to the U.S. Department of Education:

The overriding rule . . . is that placement decisions for all children with disabilities must be made on an individual basis and ensure that each child with a disability is educated in the school the child would attend if not disabled unless the child’s IEP requires some other arrangement.  However, [IDEA 2004] does not require that every child with a disability be placed in the regular classroom regardless of individual abilities and needs.

[The Least Restrictive Environment provision] of [IDEA 2004] presumes that the first placement option considered for each child with a disability is the regular classroom in the school that the child would attend if not disabled, with appropriate supplementary aids and services to facilitate such placement.  Thus, before a child with a disability can be placed outside of the regular educational environment, the full range of supplementary aids and services that could be provided to facilitate the child’s placement in the regular classroom setting must be considered.  Following that consideration, if a determination is made that a particular child with a disability cannot be educated satisfactorily in the regular educational environment, even with the provision of appropriate supplementary aids and services, that child could be placed in a setting other than the regular classroom.

71 Fed. Reg. 46587-46588

The [Least Restrictive Environment] requirements . . . express a strong preference, not a mandate, for educating children with disabilities in regular classes alongside their peers without disabilities . . .

[IDEA] . . . clarifies that the IEP Team, in developing the IEP for a child who is deaf or hard of hearing, must consider the child’s language and communication needs, opportunities for direct communication with peers and professional personnel in the child’s language and communication mode, and the child’s academic level and full range of needs, including opportunities for direct instruction in the child’s language and communication mode.

[E]ach child’s educational placement must be determined on an individual case-by-case basis depending on each child’s unique educational needs and circumstances, rather than by the child’s category of disability, and must be based on the child’s IEP . . .


71 Fed. Reg. 46585-46586

Prior written notice

But parents do have recourse when their preference is not satisfied.  IDEA requires schools to give “prior written notice” whenever it:

·         proposes to initiate or change, or

  • refuses to initiate or change

the educational placement of the child (among other things).  The prior written notice must include:

  • description of the action proposed or refused by the school;
  • an explanation of why the school proposes or refuses to take the action;
  • a description of each evaluation procedure, assessment, record, or report the school used as a basis for the proposed or refused action;
  • a statement that the parents have protection under the procedural safeguards of this part;
  • sources for parents to contact to obtain assistance in understanding the provisions of this part;
  • a description of other options considered by the IEP Team and the reason why those options were rejected; and
  • a description of the factors that are relevant to the agency’s proposal or refusal.

If the school is refusing to provide the placement you are requesting, it is required to provide this notice.  You can request that it do so.  If the school does not already have a form you can request that the school use the form provided by the U.S. Department of Education at www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/modelform-notice.doc

This notice can serve as a starting point for discussions about appropriate settings for the child.  It can also serve as part of the record if you decide to file a due process complaint.

If you are considering filing a due process complaint I recommend you contact a special education attorney.  The National Disability Rights Network, http://www.ndrn.org/index.php, is a good source for an attorney.

I am trying to help my daughter. One of her children, a boy of 17, is deaf. He is in a regular school and now the school tells her that he only has 9 credits. They lie to her about things, saying that he wants to go to a deaf school 4 hours away and what they will do for him. What are the options? There are limited services here.

Question from C.M., Arizona. Posted February 27, 2013.

I would recommend that you contact the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind (ASDB) and ask for the name and phone number of the regional coordinator for cooperative services in your area. Ask if there are services offered from the Regional Cooperatives that are part of ASDB outreach services. If there is no Regional Cooperative agreement, you can contact  Pia Benson ( Pia.Benson@asdb.az.gov) in the South East region or Jan Goetze (jan.goetze@asdb.az.gov) in the Central region to see  if services can be arranged. You also should also call the superintendent at the School for the Deaf (Robert Hill – robert.hill@asdb.az.gov) to arrange a visit and/or talk to him about regional cooperative services.

I have been a deaf educator for the past 15 years. I have taught both in residential schools and in regional day mainstream programs. I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the residential school for the deaf here. While there is a big push in the national agenda for students to have deaf peers, be a part of deaf culture, and learn from native signers… the school is allowed to refuse admission to students with low cognition (even if sign is their primary mode), additional disabilities, or behavior problems. The public school programs must accept and serve every child that enrolls on the day they arrive. Why are the state schools allowed to deny “admission” and why is there an admission process instead of just open enrollment? They certainly receive more funds to educate deaf students than public schools do…

Question from E.S., Texas. Posted November 26, 2012.

I can understand your frustrations of the seriousness  of the issue of deaf and hard-of-children not being served in the best possible placement. Let me approach this topic first from an overall perspective of the responsibilities of all placements, which is to provide the needed program and related services to respond to the needs of the students based upon the appropriate assessment. An admissions process that conducts intakes in that fashion should be able to determine if the program can respond to those diagnosed needs. Beyond that, the placement must be able to demonstrate its ongoing capacity to meet the needs of the student as the child progresses.

An admissions policy that does not take into account the needs of a diverse population of students is not a positive standard of practice for our field, but the placement must have the competency to serve the student. In many ways, this not an admission policy but an issue of program development and expanding the capacity of the schools to serve a heterogeneous population.  I offer this not as an excuse but as a concern that unless, as professionals, we expand the options of placements like residential schools for deaf and hard-of-hearing children with additional challenges, students may be placed in settings that do not understand or have the training to meet the unique needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Our field is changing as the heterogeneity of the children becomes more evident.   Placements are often resistant to change because it requires them to review and modify their offerings and of the fear of a cultural change (although unfounded) such change would bring. The denial of admission of students is a serious concern and as those who practice in the field we must be supportive of expanding opportunities for placements to add to their offerings and expand their programs. This will require more than a revised admission policy but an assessment of mission and purpose of  schools for the deaf and how all of us can expand our willingness to serve a range of children.

I have an 8 year-old son who has profound hearing loss. He is aided and uses an FM system in the classroom. He is significantly language delayed because he had no access to sound until we adopted him at 3 1/2 years of age. His primary language is spoken English, but we sign at home when his hearing aids are out (such as at bedtime) and to offer clarification when he misunderstands what we say. He receives speech/language therapy and auditory training outside of school, which we chose so that he would not be removed from the classroom. Despite a clear 504 plan, we have found increasing difficulty convincing teachers to follow the plan, partly because our son is bright, so they’re convinced he doesn’t require the assistance. Now in 3rd grade, he is having increasing difficulty following along during lectures and is getting in trouble for his inattention. After years of educating the schools and advocating for our son, we are no longer convinced that he will receive a good education through a mainstream public school. We are considering homeschooling, but are concerned about the possibility that the sheltered home environment could negatively impact his social development. We are also considering a residential program at a school for the deaf, but we are concerned about the possibility that the separation from family Monday-Friday could also have negative effects. I don’t know many people who homeschool, and I have only met a few people who have attended residential Deaf schools. Is there any research on the impact of residential school on an 8 year-old child?

Question from A.R., Maryland. Posted September 17, 2012.

There is some research to suggest that deaf children in mainstream settings report feeling more lonely and isolated than those in schools/programs for the deaf, but there apparently is no evidence concerning long-term effects. Although it is sometimes claimed that those in schools/programs for the deaf develop greater self-esteem from being around deaf peers in in a separate school placement, an analysis of the existing research by Bat-Chava (1993) found no effect of placement. I wrote to Leo De Raeve and Maartje Kouwenberg, investigators in the Netherlands working in the area. They agreed with my conclusion that there is no relevant research on the issue…at least as far as we can tell. Both suggested that we would expect that children in residential schools benefit from being surrounded by DHH peers and adults (especially because of communication opportunities), but that separation from parents might be disadvantageous for some children. Lacking any clear research on the issue, both indicated that there are so many environmental and child factors involved that it would be hard to make any generalizations. Only you can know your child well enough to know how he would do in a residential program. I have seen kids of that age (and younger) who thrived in such settings – better than they were doing as day students. You can always try it out and monitor the situation carefully (and in collaboration with the school psychologist). But do not hesitate to make another decision if it does not work out.

There also does not appear to be any research on home schooling of deaf children. If you search this site for “home schooling” you will see an answer from June 2012, in which I directed someone to “how to” information. However, again, given the large differences in children and homeschooling methods together with the very small numbers of individuals involved, I’m afraid there is little evidence out there to support any particular approach (or homeschooling in general).

Perhaps someone else will read this and offer advice, which we will pass along to you.

Do you have any specific statistics on the rates of depression in the deaf community? The consensus seems to be that the rates are higher than in the general population, but I can’t find any specific data on that. I have a deaf daughter entering the teen years, and because she is a signing kid who is mainstreamed, I am very concerned about the social isolation leading to depression. We keep her involved in activities with other deaf kids as much as possible, but it is still difficult.

Question from M.D., Colorado. Posted August 3, 2012.

The statistics on depression in deaf children and deaf adults do vary, but are primarily higher than for hearing peers. I do understand your concern about your daughter. It might help if she could connect with other deaf peers who are also in the mainstream. I suggest contacting both HANDS AND VOICES and AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR DEAF CHILDREN to see if you can find other parents with signing preteens in the mainstream, and perhaps those children can connect via Facebook, Twitter, or whatever…. Also, there are some wonderful summer camps where deaf preteens get together, share stuff, and have fun. It’s too late for this summer, but this is good food for thought for next summer… Camps such as MARK 7 and YOUTH LEADERSHIP CAMP seem to have excellent reputations. The two parent organizations can provide additional resources.