Early Intervention

As soon as your baby has been diagnosed with hearing loss, early intervention services should be provided. Infant and Family Services usually provide these services through the public school system in your community. Early intervention services can help your family understand your child’s hearing loss and gain confidence as a parent of a hearing-impaired child. You will be guided in identifying your child’s strengths and needs and in helping your child develop communication skills. The primary goals of early intervention services is to help your hearing-impaired child learn to communicate, use any available hearing, and to interact socially as well as help your baby become a fully participating member of the family. Early intervention services begin with a visit from an infant/family specialist. You and your specialist will schedule regular visits that can take place in your home or another natural environment.

Federal Legislation for Children With Hearing Loss

Through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Federal Department of Education provides funds to states for children birth to 21 years who have disabilities. A child with a hearing loss is covered by the provisions of IDEA if, by reason of the child’s hearing loss, the child is deemed to require special education and related services. Related services include transportation, speech-language pathology, audiology and other such services that assist the child in benefiting from special education. Services provided can vary by state and school district.

Individualized Family Service Plan (Ifsp)

Grants to individual states are provided through Part C funding to support early intervention programs for children birth to three with disabilities. This includes referral, comprehensive multidisciplinary assessment, the development of an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), the provision of appropriate intervention, and the assignment of a service coordinator to coordinate among the family and health, medical and early intervention providers. The IFSP developed with the family, delineates the options, goals, types and frequency of services, and providers among other services. The IFSP is reviewed after 6 months of services and annual meetings are held to assess progress. 6 months before the child turns 3 years old, plans for transitioning into a preschool or local school district program begin.

Individualized Education Plan (Iep)

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) also provides services for children with hearing loss 3 to 21 in the educational setting through Part B funding. IDEA legislation provides a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the “least restrictive environment” (LRE). This includes provision of devices (e.g., assistive technologies) that are used in the classroom (e.g., FM systems) and services including assessment, and selection and fitting of assistive technologies. Usually, personal devices such as hearing aids are not included. Regular monitoring of the function of the child’s personal hearing aids in the classroom is a service covered under the legislation. IDEA also covers support for families and teachers who have children with hearing loss in their classrooms.

In the case of children 3 to 21 years, families and educators formulate an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that delineates goals, frequency and duration of services and ongoing monitoring of outcomes. The focus of IFSP is on the family, whereas, the focus of the IEP is on the child. The level of service for the child must be stated in writing in the IEP. Parents can play an active role in forming the IEP to help their child receive proper school services. Parents have the right to be present at all meetings regarding their child, receive prior written notice, obtain an independent evaluation, and file a complaint. Reviews of the IEP must occur at least annually; parents can request an IEP at any time. Parents are entitled to procedural safeguards including informed consent, records examination, confidentiality, the right to disagree and due process hearings.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, first signed into law in 1973 and reauthorized in 2004, is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. Section 504 gives hearing-impaired children the right to full access to school and public activities and events. Section 504 can be used for children who do not qualify for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including children with mild hearing loss or auditory processing problems. Section 504 is a cross between regular and special education. It is possible that a child will receive services under both IDEA and 504. Some parents choose not to have an IEP and instead to have their child receive services under Section 504.