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.

Question from J. M., California

My son is 5 years old, with moderate hearing loss due to incomplete development of the cochlea. He attends kindergarten at our neighborhood school in a mainstream classroom. In addition to his hearing loss, he also has a tracheostomy. He is normal intelligence, and his speech and language are at close to age level, but he has some speech intelligibility issues due mostly to the tracheostomy but also due to him hearing sound poorly.

During his preschool years, my son had a single Oticon Ponto Plus worn on a soft band. The district issued him an FM system for use in school (Inspiro with Roger X plug in receiver) for preschool. His speech comprehension and sound articulation dramatically improved with the FM system, since he was able to pick out more of the soft letter sounds during “learn to read” lessons. My son upgraded to Phonak Sky V 70 P bilateral behind-the-ear hearing aids over summer vacation. Our insurance paid for the new hearing aids, but not for integrated FM receivers. The hospital audiologist advised that we should request for the school district to issue integrated FM receivers so that we could purchase and use a Roger Pen system at home. The cost of the Roger Pen system is about $1100, and we are willing to pay for it out of pocket because it seems really awesome and useful. My son has lengthy daily breathing treatments due to his medical conditions, which create a ton of background noise. He’s generally bored and annoyed during his breathing treatments, because even with hearing aids on, he can’t really hear or understand speech around him.

The district audiologist states that the district has a policy of issuing only plug-in Roger X receivers for use at school, and that they won’t pay for integrated FM receivers. Our current IEP didn’t request the use of an FM system for home use, because the old hearing aids didn’t have that capability. Now that the new hearing aids have the capability of home FM system use, we want to use it.

Does a DHH child have a right to use an FM system at home? If a child has the right to use an FM system at home, does the district have to provide integrated FM receivers? Do we have the right to demand one style of FM system (the newer Roger Pen with Roger 18 receivers) over another system (the older Inspiro with Roger X). If we end up having to purchase the integrated FM receivers out of pocket for use with our home FM system, is the school then obligated to use the technology we purchase? We’re willing to prioritize our purchases to spend some money on a home Roger system because we think it will help his hearing overall. If the school says we have to leave his Roger X receivers at school, then we will also have to purchase two integrated Roger 18 receivers for home/school use, which would add another $2000 to this scheme.

Question from J. M., California. Posted August 18, 2016.
Response from Elizabeth Machmer - NTID

I applaud your efforts in advocating for your child.

My background is in clinical audiology and I am not a legal expert, so please know that this response should not be considered legal advice.

The following website, although it is written for the State of New Jersey, addresses many of your concerns: http://www.drnj.org/atac/?p=63

To summarize, the school is only required to send the FM/Roger system home if it is specifically related to a goal on the IEP. You could work with the IEP team to try and add this. Additionally, the school is not required to purchase any particular FM system or receiver, if there is an alternative (i.e., cheaper or more universal) system that serves the same function or enables the student to successfully achieve their IEP goals.

If you do purchase the integrated Roger receivers on your own, you would need to discuss with the school audiologist whether your son would be able to use them at school or not.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best in navigating the IEP process.