Setting D/HH Standard for ‘Appropriate’ Education – Janet DesGeorges

At a recent parent meeting one mom insisted “there  should be a minimum standard of services that ALL deaf and hard of hearing kids  get, so that those of us who aren’t sure what a good quality program looks like  won’t have to start from scratch.”   Excellent point.  Here are some  efforts that have been made towards that end.

Broad Guidance from Federal Mandate

The IDEA (Individual Disabilities Education Act)  requires that a student who is eligible for special education services receives  a ‘free and appropriate public education’, also known as FAPE.  Each student’s services are determined  through the IEP (Individualized Education Program) process with a team that  includes the input and participation of the student’s parents. It is the  essence of the IDEA that supports and services for any student be  individualized, based on their needs as deemed “appropriate” by the IEP team.

The process of determining what we mean by “appropriate”  relative to students who are deaf or hard of hearing is often highly  subjective.  Where’s the model to work  from?  Can we as a group of parents….or a  coalition of deaf education experts….or anybody, anywhere come up with a basic  definition of what a good quality deaf education should look like?

Focused Directives at the State Level

In general, programming for students who are deaf and  hard of hearing should encompass some common themes, quality standards and best  practices that have been articulated over the years through the writing of  documents, books, guidelines, and even a National Agenda.  More often than not, these resources never  filter down to a parent’s working knowledge of deaf education, and thus are not  actively advocated for at the individual level.

(In Oregon we are part of a collaborative group of professionals looking at Early Intervention services and seeing how we might create statewide standards and help bridge a gap in services that are underfunded.

We are also involved on committees such as the State Interagency Coordinating Council, SACSE, and the Oregon Alliance for EI/ECSC bringing the voice of our families to the Early Learning Council and other state agencies.)

Standard 19: Staff Qualifications

Deaf and hard-of-hearing children and youth, birth  through age twenty-one, including those with multiple disabilities and blindness,  are instructed by early intervention providers and teachers who are  specifically trained and/or licensed to teach these individuals

The early intervention provider or teacher of the deaf  and hard of hearing should demonstrate competency in all of the state-identified  knowledge and skill areas to provide instruction and services, birth to 21,  that meet the developmental, linguistic, communication, academic,  social-emotional and transition needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and  youth and their families. Each early intervention provider must have the  appropriate credential and each teacher must be licensed by the Colorado  Department of Education in deaf education or other appropriate endorsement  area.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing students for whom the IFSP/IEP  team has determined that a generic early intervention program or the general  education classroom is the most appropriate placement should receive sufficient  consultative support, direct instruction, or both, from an early intervention  provider or itinerant teacher of deaf and hard of hearing.

Early Education Provider

The development of positive family-child relationships  during a child’s early years is critical to the child’s later cognitive,  linguistic, and social-emotional growth. The child’s full access to  communication is integral to the development of a positive family-child  relationship. Therefore, it is critical that teachers in early education deaf  and hard-of-hearing programs focus their service delivery on the family as well  as on the child. These teachers must be licensed teachers of the deaf and hard  of hearing, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, or early childhood  providers and must also have the competencies related to the provision of  services to infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families.

Typical duties may include but are not limited to:

  • Working as a part of a  multidisciplinary team in the assessment of the child’s needs and the  development of the individualized family service plan (IFSP) or individualized  education program (IEP)
  • Providing direct and  consultative services to the child and the family, as determined by the  IFSP/IEP, to facilitate the development of communication and cognitive skills
  • Providing ongoing  access to informational programs that help the family learn about hearing loss,  assessment, amplification options, communication options, education options,  legal rights under state and federal special education laws, and resources and  community services available for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Center-Based Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

The center-based program teacher of the deaf and hard of  hearing is primarily responsible for the specialized direct instruction of  assigned students. In addition to providing instruction, the center based  program teacher should assume responsibility for the basic coordination of the  students’ programs. This teacher also assists the general education teacher,  the principal, and the parents of the students in the program. Furthermore, the  center-based program teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing must respect and  be proficient in the language mode(s) of the students s/he is responsible for.

Typical duties may include but not be limited to:

  • Assessing students in  pre-academic/academic achievement, making recommendations for academic goals  and objectives for the IEP, and providing academic instruction to the students
  • Assessing students in  the area of language and communication skills, recommending goals and  objectives for language/communication skills for the IEP, and providing  instruction for language and communication skills to the students (may work in  conjunction with the speech/language pathologist and/or educational  audiologist)
  • Teaching a deaf  studies curriculum
  • Assisting in the  appropriate placement of students
  • Collaborating with  general education teachers and educational interpreters regarding the needs of  deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the mainstream
  • Monitoring students’  progress
  • Coordinating required  services for students
  • Providing daily  monitoring of individual hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening  devices and classroom amplification devices, as appropriate
  • Providing information  to teachers and parents regarding the education of deaf and hard of hearing  students
  • Providing Deaf  awareness and Deaf culture in-service training to general education staff and  students.
  • Teaching daily living  skills and independent living skills, as appropriate.
  • Coordinating  transition activities for students 14 years and older.

Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

The itinerant teacher must ensure that deaf and  hard-of-hearing students, like all students, have programs in which they have  direct and appropriate access to all components of the education program,  including but not limited to recess, lunch, and extracurricular social and  athletic activities.  Itinerant teachers  of the deaf and hard of hearing may provide direct instruction and/or  consultative services to deaf and hard-of-hearing students enrolled in general education  classes, center based programs, state or charter school programs, or home or  hospital programs. When appropriate caseloads for itinerant teachers are  considered, factors such as mileage, direct service versus a consultation  model, age of students, number of students with additional disabilities, and  dynamics of the school climate must also be considered. A ratio of 1:10 to 1:24  is an appropriate caseload.

Typical responsibilities of the itinerant teacher may  include but are not limited to:

  • Providing in-service  training for general education staff and students regarding the specific  communication and educational needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing students and  ways to include deaf and hard-of-hearing students in various situations and  group settings.
  • Obtaining specialized  services, materials, or equipment for deaf and hard-of-hearing students to use  in the general education classroom and providing specialized resources and  visual aids.
  • Ensuring the inclusion  of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in activities.
  • Providing instruction  to deaf and hard-of-hearing students regarding their hearing loss, Deaf  culture, assistive devices, and various communication methods used by deaf and  hard-of –hearing individuals.
  • Facilitating  opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing students to interact socially with  other deaf and hard-of-hearing students and with deaf and hard-of-hearing role  models.
  • Adapting curriculum to  make subject matter accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
  • Keeping parents informed  of the school curriculum and methods and techniques to reinforce language and  academic development.
  • Evaluating and  recommending appropriate environmental conditions, such as lighting and  acoustics, to meet the unique communication needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing  students.
  • Assessing students in  the areas of academic achievement, language, and communication.
  • Making recommendations  for IEP goals and objectives for academic achievement, language, and  communication and providing direct, specialized instruction in specific areas  of need.
  • Assisting in the  appropriate placement of students
  • Coordinating required  services for students
  • Monitoring individual  hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive listening devices
  • Meeting regularly with  program coordinators or program specialists to discuss problems or concerns  regarding programs for integrated students
  • Meeting regularly with  general education teachers and educational interpreters to discuss areas of  concern and to ensure communication is effectiv

Applications for Advocacy

Just having access to this one standard, a parent can  fight for the delivery of instruction by competent instructors who have  expertise in deafness.  Imagine applying  all 36 standards to your child’s education!

The full document (pdf) can be downloaded at:

Even if you live outside of Colorado, these guidelines can be useful in  determining programming for any student.

There are other national resources which articulate  programming for students.  The National  Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) created a book on  essential program elements for students who are deaf/hard of hearing, entitled, “Meeting the Needs of Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing:  Educational Services Guidelines.” This book describes considerations when  designing appropriate services for students who are deaf or hard of hearing,  including those students with multiple disabilities. A full continuum of  options is included. The guidelines represent “best practices” from the field  and the book is an outstanding resource for communication and coordination  among organizations on behalf of students who are deaf or hard of hearing and  their families.  This is a particularly  poignant document to utilize in determining services, as often special  education directors in a district may not be aware of what their own organization  recognizes as basic services for this population of students.  This book can be purchased at:

The National Agenda for Moving Forward on  Achieving Educational Equality for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students promotes  a set of priorities stated as goals that are designed to bring about  considerable improvement in quality and nature of educational services and  programs for deaf and hard of hearing students. It is brought forward as an  “agenda” or a list of things to be done in order to close the achievement gap  that exists for students. The National Agenda is organized around eight  goals—each with a goal area, a goal statement, background information about the  goal and a series of objectives to achieve the goal. For each objective there  is a rationale for its selection. This document can be downloaded at

No Resources…No Excuse

Deaf education reform movements around the country can  be tracked at a Hands & Voices sponsored website at

Many of the documents referenced in this article are sitting  on a shelf somewhere collecting dust in your administrator’s office. Can you  imagine what would happen if every family made it their business to read and  understand them? What if every family walked through the door of their IEP  meeting with a pile of these recommendations to lead the IEP discussion?  Maybe then true reform could come to our  children’s education in a way that some of us have never seen before.  Imagine what could happen if we all stood  together to improve programs and educational outcomes for our children  who are deaf/hard of hearing.  ~