IEP vs. 504: An Important Distinction for the Child with Hearing Loss

IEP vs. 504: An Important Distinction for the Child with Hearing Loss

imageI.E.P. (Individualized Education Plan)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal special education law for children with disabilities. It entitles every child with disabilities to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). An IEP is an educational plan created by the school district that defines a child’s school program and services. It is created to set in place services required for the child to make meaningful progress at school.

504 Accommodation Plan
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. A person with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activity (major life activities include: caring for oneself, breathing, walking, standing, lifting, seeing, hearing, speaking, communicating, learning, reading, writing, thinking, calculating). Schools are required to remove any barrier that prohibits a student with disabilities from fully participating in their education.  Schools must create a document which lists the reasonable accommodations needed so that the child has equal access to the educational environment.

Does My Child Need an IEP?

Questions to ask yourself:
Is my child below grade level for academics?
Does my child need direct listening therapy to learn to listen with his/her hearing aids/cochlear implants?
Does my child require speech therapy to work on speech and language skills?
Does my child require pre-teaching of vocabulary and concepts?
Does my child require instruction to work on self-advocacy skills?
Does my child require other therapies (OT/PT)?

If you answered “yes” to one, some, or all of these questions, your child likely requires an IEP.

The IEP outlines the child’s disability, the present level of performance (including strengths and concerns), annual goals and objectives needed to work towards improving the areas of concern, services required to meet the goals and objectives, and accommodations and modifications needed for the child to be successful and to access the curriculum. The process for creating an IEP should go in the order listed above, so that service times are not determined until realistic annual goals are set. Then the team decides how much time is required to meet those goals in one year’s time.

For the child with hearing loss, there are a variety of possible services that he/she may require. See my article about mainstream services for more information.

Does My Need a 504?

If your child does not qualify for an IEP, and your child has a diagnosis of hearing loss, then he/she DOES qualify for a 504 accommodation plan.

With the diagnosis of hearing loss, your child:

  • Has a physical impairment—hearing loss
  • That substantially limits at least one major life activity—hearing (as well as communicating)

Once the child qualifies for a 504, the team (school personnel and parents) need to put into place all accommodations needed to provide equal communication access for the child with hearing loss.

These accommodations can include:

  • Team in-service at the start of each year by hearing specialist
  • Regular consultation by the hearing specialist
  • FM system (with or without pass around microphone for peers)
  • Preferential seating
  • Classroom noise reduction (tennis balls/hush ups, close classroom door)
  • Teacher to teach facing class (not with back turned)
  • Support auditory with visuals within the classroom
  • Gain attention prior to speaking
  • Check for understanding
  • Encourage student to ask for clarification
  • Provide listening breaks to reduce auditory fatigue
  • Closed captioning
  • Note takers
  • C-PRINT/CART (real time captioning)
  • Testing accommodations (i.e. extended time and/or separate location)



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