Happy or Not? When the Need for Specialized Instruction Decreases
Ruger & Kassidy with older sister DallieAs I left my son’s IEP meeting recently I left with mixed emotions. He had his three year evaluation and is doing average or above average in every area. That is happy news because we all want to hear our kids are doing well in school whether or not they have a hearing loss. I was also informed that his hearing loss will always be a qualifying disability but his need for specialized instruction is greatly decreasing. Eligibility for special education is a two part test: a child must have a qualifying condition and must have a need for specialized instruction. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), special education means “specially designed instruction, provided at no cost to the parent, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. This specially designed instruction involves adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible student, the content, methodology or delivery of instruction: -To address the unique needs of the child that result from his/her disability; and -To ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the educational standards within the district that apply to all children.” As a mom I wasn’t sure I was happy about hearing this. The supports he has had available to him at school are part of the reason why he has been so successful.
Our family has been blessed with the kids’ school and education in the state as a whole. My kids have been supported by wonderful speech language pathologists and a great Teacher of the Deaf who has been with us since they were little. She keeps me posted on what is going on and works hard to give my kids what they need while keeping them as mainstreamed as possible. Our Special Ed Director also keeps the best interest of the kids in mind and works hard to make sure they have support. He is very open and honest with parents. I grew up in Utah and “married into Wyoming”, and since the day we learned our son had hearing loss, I have been very impressed with the Special Education here.
Ruger is almost nine years old in third grade with profound bilateral hearing loss since birth. He received his first implant at 20 months and his second at seven years. He started early intervention at three months when the hearing loss was diagnosed. His personality fits in with school life well; he has always wanted to learn and works hard in school. I contribute the fact that he is doing well to early diagnosis, early amplification, early intervention, great teachers and professionals, his hard work and lots of home therapy from his family. I knew that someday he may not need specialized instruction, but hoped it would be a little later in his schooling. Ruger still has eight years of school so many things can happen between now and then. For his first three years in elementary school, Ruger has had quiet classrooms with attentive, flexible classmates who will listen if he tells them they are getting too noisy. Of course middle school and high school will not be the same as elementary. They will be more lecturing than hands on learning, with a teacher at a further distance, noisier classrooms are likely, and who knows what else is in store for him. I know they can put him on a 504 Plan, but as a parent who has been to several Hands & Voices National Leadership Conferences I know that 504 Plans do not give me or my child as many rights as an IEP.
Ruger still needs some testing accommodations and some help in writing, so I have at least one more year to research the topic more in hopes of finding what is best for Ruger. Our daughter Kassidy is in first grade, and also has profound bilateral loss, and bilateral cochlear implants. It is certain that the issue of eligibility will also come up for her.
I am concerned if the supports that helped make these two successful are taken away they will fall behind. I will be researching the social emotional, self advocacy, and other access skills that will take them not just to the next grade, but to the next phase of their lives. After all, the purpose of special education is “to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education (2004), employment and independent living.” So as I embark on the next phase in my children’s lives, I will look at this as one of the first steps to their success and be happy! And so my study on the topic of eligibility, IEP’s and 504 Plans begins.
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