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 R.S., Pennsylvania

My daughter has a moderate/severe hearing loss. In school, she has a micro link FM system and a school aide. She has an IEP for this and recently was evaluated by a psychologist experienced with deaf and hard-of-hearing students who stated she would benefit from an oral interpreter. If I tell the school that I want an oral interpreter rather than the aide, do they have to honor this?

Question from R.S., Pennsylvania. Posted April 24, 2012.
Response from Barbara Raimondo - Policy Consultant

It is very good news that your child was evaluated by a psychologist with experience with deaf and hard-of-hearing kids.  So often that does not happen!  So that is a good start.

With regard to your question, there are four steps in  IEP development:

1.  Evaluation of the child and identification of needs

2.  Development of annual goals to support the child in accessing and making progress in the general education curriculum

3.  Determination of services needed to achieve those goals

4.  Determination of placement.

When the psychologist says s/he believes the child would benefit from an oral interpreter, I take that to mean s/he is recommending this service under Step 3.  Each step builds on the one above.  IDEA requires that states “establish and maintain qualifications to ensure that personnel necessary to carry out [IDEA] are adequately prepared and trained . . .”  So if the child needs a services to access to communication in the classroom that service must be provided by someone who is adequately prepared and trained – for example a trained and qualified oral interpreter – not an aide.

I would recommend that you first find out what the school sees as the purpose of the aide.  To facilitate communication?  To serve as a tutor?  To make sure the child doesn’t wander off?  The role of each service provider should be made clear, and services should link to the child’s annual goals and access to the general education curriculum.  It is possible the aide serves some stated and needed role, but perhaps not.  An untrained aide cannot fill the role of an oral interpreter.

Bottom line – if an oral interpreter is necessary to assist the child in meeting her IEP goals, a qualified interpreter must be provided.  Based on the information provided, I would recommend that you ask for an IEP meeting and request that this service be listed on the IEP.  If it is on the IEP it must be provided (as you point out!).  If other members of the IEP team refuse to include it, they must provide the reasons why through a document called prior written notice http://idea.ed.gov/download/modelform2_Prior_Written_Notice.pdf.  If you are  not satisfied with the outcome, you may wish to exercise your due process rights at a higher level.