Position Statement: Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (“AG Bell”) supports reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”).  The IDEA is beneficial to many children with disabilities, including children with hearing loss.  Since its inception, the IDEA has evolved, and been revised periodically, in an effort to better address the needs of children with disabilities.  This effort has included changes based upon experience and evidence-based practices.  In this spirit, AG Bell supports the following changes to the IDEA to better meet the needs of children with hearing loss particularly those children whose chosen communication mode is Listening and Spoken Language.  

  1. Ensure informed choice of communication mode.
    • Insert into the IDEA language requiring that objective, unbiased and comprehensive information, related to the different communication modes for children with hearing loss, be provided to parents of newly diagnosed children with hearing loss.
    • This language should be inserted in both Part B and Part C of the IDEA.
     
  2. Ensure services and programs are available through every local education agency (LEA) to implement the parents’ choice of communication mode.
    • The continuum of alternative placements language in IDEA Part B should also be placed into Part C of IDEA.
    • See also No. 7 below.
     
  3. Improve the coordination between Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) and Early Intervention (EI).
    • Provide that newborn hearing screening and EHDI services and programs are all within Part C of the IDEA as part of Child Find.
    • As an alternative to the above, under Part C require that newborn hearing screening, EHDI services and programs, and Early Intervention are linked for reporting purposes (e.g., via contract) in order to avoid disruptions due to confidentiality or other Child Find impediments.
     
  4. Address the difficulties to following up when children with hearing loss (or potential hearing loss) are not born in their state (or territory) of residence, or when families move from one state to another.
    • Provide that the birthing hospital and state of the birthing hospital must send information to the Part C agency (EI), including EHDI, in the state (or territory) of residence.
     
  5. Ensure that the communication mode of Listening and Spoken Language is adequately supported.
    • Explicitly add “Listening and Spoken Language” services to the list of related services in the IDEA.
    • This language should appear in both Parts B and C of the IDEA.
     
  6. Ensure that the appropriate setting for delivery of services is made available under Part C, and that those services for children with hearing loss are provided with the intensity required for them to progress. 
    • Include language in Part C providing that a child will start in the natural environment and move into the least restrictive environment as appropriate.
    • See also No. 2 above.
     
  7. Ensure better identification of the specific disabilities of children with multiple disabilities.
    • Require identification of each disability of the child.
    • Provide that, even for children who are not identified as multiply disabled, all disabilities of the child should be identified in the Individualized Education Program (IEP).
    • Specifically for children with hearing loss as one of their disabilities, state in Part C that the generic label of developmentally disabled is insufficient, and identification of hearing loss (deaf or hard of hearing) is required.
    • For children with multiple disabilities, require involvement of professionals with the respective backgrounds and expertise for each disability at all stages – evaluation, development of Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or IEP, and the provision of services.
     
  8. Provide for the availability of attorneys’ fees to prevailing parties in IDEA Part C.
    • Insert the same language in Part C which currently appears in Part B regarding reimbursement of attorneys’ fees of prevailing parties.
     
  9. For preschool children with disabilities, remove the requirement that the child must   perform poorly academically before being deemed eligible for services under the IDEA.
    • For those children who have an IFSP up to age 3, provide that such a child is entitled to an IEP until at least age 5 in order to maintain skills (e.g., language and listening growth for children with hearing loss).
    • Exceptions:
    • When the child is assessed as significantly above average and when services are unnecessary in order to reasonably ensure the child will continue to perform above average.
    • In order to terminate the IEP before turning school age, a comprehensive functional assessment must be completed which reasonably justifies discontinuation of an IEP.