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 G.B., New York

My son is 11yrs old and is entering 4th grade he attends a private school that doesn’t offer any services. He was left back in kindergarten and third grade. He has moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears. He has a hearing advocate that supplies him with an fm system. However this year I was told he would have to sit in the back of the classroom because the fm system might distract the other children. I’m trying to explain to them that he needs to read the teachers lips. Is there anything I can do to help him or them to understand his hearing loss?

Question from G.B., New York. Posted August 24, 2012.
Response from Marc Marschark - NTID

First, let’s consider the most usual situation, in which your child is in a public school. Then, it is a matter that has to be taken up in an IEP meeting, to which you have a legal right. In developing a child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the IEP team must consider a child’s individual needs. Children with significant hearing losses, whether or not they utilize FM or similar assistive technologies, will benefit from being able to see the mouth of the teacher. (Hearing people as well as deaf people use “lipreading” in understanding spoken language.) This means, for example, not only sitting at or near the front of the classroom, but also ensuring that the teacher understands the needs of the child. As we have described in response to earlier questions on this site, IDEA guarantees a child with special needs a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. That means a public school is required to meet a child’s audiological, academic, and other needs as outlined in the IEP. If your son a public school, you could have a pediatric audiologist or speech-language therapist involved in the IEP meeting, as well as perhaps a school psychologist experienced in working with deaf children. If public schools are not open to this is part of their legal responsibility a parent can seek assistance from the state through a Due Process Complaint (in the State of New York http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/) or obtain legal advice.

Children who are placed in private schools by their parents receive a Services Plan, not an IEP.  Local Education Authorities (LEAs) must spend a certain amount of money to address the needs of such children. LEAs must consult with the private schools and the parents to determine what services it will provide. That’s what goes into the services plan. is no requirement for FAPE in this situation.  If the private school does not feel the consultation was sufficient it may file a complaint, but there is no right of due process for these students. (Of course, if the student is placed in the private school by the LEA, the school must follow IDEA.)

To give things an interesting twist, the Americans with Disabilities Act does apply in the case of private schools.  So, for example, if the parent wanted an FM system for their child the school would have to provide it unless it could show it was an undue burden.  The school would be required to provide effective communication under the ADA regardless of whether the child has an IEP.