After the initial transition meeting, a multi-factored evaluation must be completed by and at the expense of the school district of residence if there is a suspected disability (as determined at the 120 Transition Meeting). For our deaf or hard of hearing children, currently enrolled in birth to three years of age services, this transition through the evaluation and writing of the Individual Education Plan should be seamless. Our case, as you know, was everything but seamless.
The evaluation process is supposed to be very detailed, with testing of the child in a variety of settings completing a variety of tasks. The testing performed on Drew was completed in one setting, an isolated, small, quite therapy room. In addition, only one test was administered. The PLS-4 was completed in this setting, and Drew's IEP team, including myself and Drew's Dad, his EI therapist, a parent advocate, and then representatives from the school district, attempted to determine educational needs off of this one test.
Here's the problem: The PLS-4 sucks. It's basically like a vocabulary test, which when administered to a deaf child with any almost-normal language makes them look like an absolute genius. It's completed in a quite - seriously quite - environment, and allows for rephrasing and gestures. Seriously. If the speech therapist didn't think Drew understood her the first time, she would rephrase her question and allow him additional time to answer. What a joke! Will he get that extra time in a noisy classroom? Will the teacher even know he struggled to understand the context of the sentence? Will the teacher constantly repharse her directions until Drew understands? Heck no!
I seriously sat in my chair as the test was administered knowing there would be an issue if the district was only going to base my son's needs off of this test. To give an example, in the expressive category of the test, the school therapist could not find a threshold level of language for Drew. She stopped the test at 60 months (or five years of age ). He never got more than two answers in a row incorrect. I mean, it was really quite disgusting. Of course, I know the amount of work, therapy, language that went in to that score, but I knew the school district would take that test as basis for denying my son services. (And I was right...)
Here's the thing about the whole evaluation process: No one, no one, understands hearing loss! At our MFE Meeting, where eligibility for an IEP is determined, Drew's Dad and I spent forty-five minutes explaining Drew's aided and unaided audiogram, cochlear implants and their educational impact and the effects of hearing loss on children in a classroom setting. The school district representative didn't even know what the threshold for normal hearing children is, nor did she understand that even with his cochlear implants, Drew's hearing is not restored to normal levels. Her comment when we explained cochlear implants? "That's fascinating!" Oh, it is just disgusting.
After a three-and-a-half hour meeting trying to establish Drew eligible for services, the meeting ended with the Special Education Agency representative storming out of our meeting. It was eventually decided, over the course of a week, that additional testing needed to be administered in order to determine Drew's educational needs. (Of course we knew this going in to the original testing, as it is supposed to be a multi-factored evaluation, and I can hardly see how an evaluation takes in multiple factors when only one test is administered, but I am just the Mom. )
Below is the evaluation that was conducted that resulted in eligibility. I would strongly encourage parents to make sure that the TACL-3, Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation and SPICE are administered, as they are excellent at identifying the speech sounds that our children can not hear, and omit in their speech. This is the summary:
Drew was seen on August 27, 2009, to further assess his auditory and articulation skills. He was accompanied by his mother. This assessment session lasted for approximately 90 minutes and Drew again exhibited an attention span and ability to focus on structured activities that appears more mature than his age. Testing was administered in a relatively quiet room with Drew sitting on his own in a chair, approximately 6 feet from a low volume air conditioning unit. Testing was alternated between listening and speaking tasks, in order to help Drew maintain his attention. He needed to return to some tests to complete sections.
After the completion of a more multi-factored evaluation, Drew was found to be a student of educational need under the category of Hearing Impaired - Deafness (who would have thunk?). Below is Drew's Educational Need Statement: