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Monday 23 Oct 2017

Undetected Hearing Loss – A question from a parent

Recently my husband and I discovered that our son has some hearing loss in his rt. and lt. ear along with a processing disorder. Our son has an autism disorder that was diagnosed in pre-school. He is now entering the 6th grade and will be having his triennial evaluations this fall. Although goals have been established from year to year for his reading, comprehension and written expression skills, we see little progress even though the school tells us he has met benchmarks and goals, reports show his wonderful progress. When we found out his partial hearing loss and processing disorder from a private party, we are angry and frustrated the school never made or mentioned to have a thorough eval for his disorders.

All these years have gone by without any school professional taking steps to ensure that all aspects were being carefully contemplated. As parents we have always been active in his IEP process and and have always questioned his progress in his goals, etc. having his school educators tells us no problems or he has achieved his goals and there are no concerns they see or need to address. The audiologist said he is far behind than he should be and if further hearing loss continues from year to year he will have to wear a hearing aide. The audiologist also stated that he should have certain technology to help him in school and that his hearing and processing issues has caused his reading fluency, comprehension, written expression skills, as well as his social grammar deficits all these years.

At present we wait for her final report and recommendations so we can take this to our HRC counselor and discuss what to do next with this new disturbing information. Our question to you would be, what suggestions do you have for us and it being summer, school is out not much we can do however the district office might be open in which case? How do you feel we should approach this? Should we seek an advocate? It seems our voices are never heard or our issues are never fully addressed at IEP meetings. It always ends up with “Let’s see what happens….then we could…” Really need any advice you can offer at this point! Question submitted by Harry and Susan

Harry and Susan have every right to be concerned about the evaluation results they’ve just received and the implications they have in regards to the school team. Many times, when children are evaluated for special education services, the results of the child’s most recent hearing tests are reported (basic range of hearing tests done for all students) and no additional hearing testing is completed unless the school team has reason to believe additional auditory testing is warranted. Unfortunately, many special education teachers and related service personnel are not experienced in identifying when there may be an auditory processing disorder in order to make that referral. Does this excuse the issue not being identified? No, but the unfortunate reality is that this is quite common. Do special education teachers and related service personnel need more training in how to screen children for potential auditory processing delays? Absolutely!!

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA – special education law) clearly states that audiology services are one of the related services available to children with disabilities so it is not unreasonable for Harry and Susan to expect that this should have been taken into consideration when evaluating their son for services. Here is the what the law says about the extent of audiology services available:

“Audiology services include identification of children with hearing loss, determination of the range, nature, and degree of hearing loss, including referral for medical or other professional attention for the habilitation of hearing, provision of habilitative activities, such as language habilitation, auditory training, speech reading (lip-reading), hearing evaluation, and speech conservation, creation and administration of programs for prevention of hearing loss, counseling and guidance of children, parents, and teachers regarding hearing loss, and determination of children’s needs for group and individual amplification, selecting and fitting an appropriate aid, and evaluating the effectiveness of amplification.”

So what does this all mean for Harry and Susan, or any other parent in this situation for that matter? First of all its important to take a deep breath and remember that even though it is extremely frustrating to find out something as significant as this has gone undetected for years, the only effective way to address this issue with the school is in a calm and logical manner. If you approach the school team with “guns blazing” there is little likelihood of a positive outcome. Okay, so now that we’ve established the way in which you need to approach the school team, what do you need to say, do and ask for? Here are the steps I would suggest to any parent in this situation:

1. Write a letter to the special education teacher (and send a copy to the special education director) detailing the information you’ve received from the audiologist and a copy of the evaluation report. In this letter you should make it clear that the information from the audiologist report needs to be reflected in the re-evaluation report and the recommendations need to be taken into consideration when developing the new IEP. In this letter you should also request the evaluation be completed as soon as possible (in Harry and Susan’s case, the process should begin as soon as school begins), and you should request the school team send you copies of the evaluation report and draft IEP 2 weeks before the meeting so you have adequate time to read through the documents. Having the documents well in advance will also ensure you have time to review these documents with an advocate.

2. Get an advocate to assist you in the process so you can ensure your child is getting access to everything to which they are entitled based on the results of the evaluation. They should be able to help you understand the implications of the evaluation results and what they mean in terms of the services your child is entitled to, goals to be included in the IEP, and accommodations/modifications your child should be receiving.

3. Come to the meetings prepared with questions, concerns and suggestions. It may not always seem like it, but special education teachers appreciate parents who advocate for their child. The key to advocating effectively for your child is coming to the meetings prepared so you can effectively communicate what it is you want for your child and what you need from the school personnel.

Every situation is going to be different in terms of the services, accommodation and modifications the child is eligible for so I am unable to speak about specifics in terms of what you can reasonably expect or ask for. This is why working with an advocate is an important component in cases such as this one. They will be able to help you identify specific things to ask for from the school.

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