Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Passed in 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also known as IDEA, is a federal law that guarantees children throughout the country can have the services they need for an appropriate education. Currently, federal estimates indicate that 6.5 million children starting from birth through age 21 are covered under the act. It includes everything from early intervention to services students may need to complete their college education. This coverage includes all young people in the deaf community. Through IDEA, deaf students and students with other disabilities are guaranteed intervention and educational accommodations to ensure they can reach their full educational potential.

Defining Deafness Under IDEA

IDEA defines deafness in two separate categories. Hearing impairment, sometimes called hearing loss, under the act is an impairment in one’s hearing that impacts education, whether or not it is permanent. Being deaf is defined as a hearing impairment so severe that the child cannot process language through hearing, even with the help of amplification. These two conditions are treated differently under the law, but children in both categories are offered services.

IDEA Part B – Preschool, School, and College

Children suffering from deafness can continue receiving help through IDEA once they enter the schooling system. Under this federal law, schools and school districts must provide deaf education appropriately for these students. Deafness is never a reason for a child to be denied proper education. Since IDEA stretches to age 21, these services continue into the college years, meaning that deaf people can get a college education, in spite of their hearing loss.

IDEA Part C – Early Intervention

People who have a deaf child can begin receiving intervention at birth, if the condition is present that early, under IDEA. The services offered under Part C provide early intervention through therapy and hearing assistance devices to prepare a child for preschool and kindergarten. It covers children from birth through age two. Once the child turns three, they transition into a preschool setting.

Services Offered Under IDEA

Deaf people who are offered services under IDEA are given what is necessary to allow them to process linguistic information effectively, thus making it possible for them to be educated in spite of their loss. Members of the deaf culture who are in school may receive amplification systems to use or a sign language interpreter. They may also be given preferred seating, so they can lip read from their teacher if needed. Captioning on films is offered and the help of a note taker may be provided in classes where note taking is important. These accommodations allow deaf students to attend school in their own areas, rather than being forced into state-governed boarding programs away from home.

The class and the teacher may also receive intervention to teach them how to interact with someone from the deaf community. For instance, the entire class may be offered some sign language instruction. This is beneficial in allowing the student to interact with his or her classmates, and also opens the hearing people in the class to learn more about the deaf culture. In this way, deaf education serves to educate all members of the class, not just the student with hearing loss.

Applying for Services

Members of the deaf community who are in need of deaf education services need to find the right place in their community to apply. Each state has a slightly different process for application. Pediatricians and preschools often have access to this information. Most parents in the deaf culture are given this information from their child’s doctor.

Hearing intervention services can become quite pricey, as parents of a hearing impaired child already know well. Under IDEA, deaf people can get the best possible start in life through a fully accessible education. No longer can school districts fail to provide what a hearing impaired child needs for success. For those who have a child who is hearing impaired, this is reassuring information.