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Guidelines for the Assessment and Educational Evaluation of Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Federal and State Guidance

The guidelines were developed in accordance with Ohio Operating Standards for the Education of Children With Disabilities, Ohio Administrative Code of Rules 3301-51-01 to 09 and 11, and 21.

Please note that the Ohio Operating Standards for the Education of Children (3301-51-01(B)(10)(d)(iii)(iv)(vi) provide definitions of disability terms: deafness, deaf-blindness and hearing impairment. For the purposes of this document, we adhere to the following definitions:

“Deafness” means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

“Deaf-blindness” means concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.

“Hearing impairment” means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness in this rule.

It is crucial to provide a thorough evaluation of children who are deaf or hard of hearing and not to determine service needs simply based on the audiogram because students with hearing loss can also have learning disabilities as well.

References to "Adversely Affects" in these guidelines suggest that a child’s condition, without supports, would prevent them from performing academic and nonacademic tasks and/or from being educated with non-disabled peers.

Educational Assessment

IDEA requires the school to fully evaluate children in all areas of suspected disability. This means:

  • using “a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the child, including information from the parent” (34 C.F.R. § 300.304(a)(1));
  • using “technically sound instruments that may assess the relative contribution of cognitive and behavioral factors, in addition to physical or developmental factors” (34 C.F.R. § 300.304(a)(3)); and
  • administering the assessment “in the child’s native language or other mode of communication and in the form most likely to yield accurate information” (34 C.F.R. § 300.304(c)(ii)).

For children who are deaf or hard of hearing, regardless of the level, or whether one or both ears are affected, areas that should be considered include:

  • Auditory status and auditory function
    • acuity
    • speech discrimination in optimal (quiet) and typical classroom settings (noise, distance, without visual access)
    • performance and use of personal hearing instruments and hearing assistive technology (HAT)
    • auditory skill development
  • Vision (acuity and functional vision)
  • Spoken Language (comprehension and production)
    • phonology (sounds)
    • vocabulary/semantics (word meanings) – receptive and expressive
    • syntax (grammar) receptive and expressive
    • morphology (word endings) – receptive and expressive
    • pragmatics (social use of language)
  • American Sign Language
    • vocabulary
    • fluency – receptive and expressive
    • phonology
    • semantics – receptive and expressive
    • syntax – receptive and expressive
    • morphology
    • pragmatics
  • Speech
    • oral-motor
    • articulation
    • intelligibility
  • Cognitive and academic performance
    • reading/writing
    • mathematics
    • executive Function (attention, memory, organization, regulation)
  • Social, emotional and behavioral
  • Self-determination and self-advocacy

In addition to assessing the child, the classroom environment in which the student will participate also needs to be evaluated to determine whether it appropriately supports the child’s access to communication and instruction and to identify the required accommodations to support communication and learning. These areas include:

  • classroom acoustics (auditory access)
  • lighting (visual access)
  • teacher speaking skills
  • use of sign language interpreter/transliterator/captioning (if used)
  • education and classroom technology (i.e. alarms, bells, PA system)
  • classroom participation strategies
  • classroom management strategies
  • school culture of inclusion