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The purpose for considering hearing as a special factor is to establish discussion among all IEP team members. Iowa Code directs the IEP team to review the impact of the hearing loss on the learner’s needs as it relates to communication and access. The discussion should address the learner’s preferred mode of communication, opportunities for direct communication with peers and educational personnel, including opportunities for direct instruction [IAC 281.41.324(1)b(4)

Once the IEP team has determined that HEARING is a special factor, then documentation of a learner’s needed services and supports related to this special factor must be considered in the development of the IEP. 

An IEP team is required to have professionals who are qualified to interpret assessment information.  In cases of hearing loss, Educational Audiologists and/or Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing often fill these roles as IEP team members, as needed.  If the child utilizes an educational sign language interpreter, the IEP team would consider inviting the interpreter to be a part of the team.

Questions to be considered by the IEP team:


Is there evidence of a hearing loss?

The IEP team needs to determine if there is any data to gather and/or review that would help determine if the learner is identified as deaf or hard of hearing. Each building within a local school district is assigned an AEA Educational Audiologist who can help review existing data or  new data, including audiograms.

What impact does the learner's primary communication mode, expressively and receptively, have on their educational experience?

If there is evidence of hearing loss, the IEP team will determine the impact of the primary communication mode of a learner, which is chosen by the family.  Primary refers to the communication mode most frequently used across settings by the learner (i.e. school, home, extra-curriculars, etc.).  Both expressive and receptive communication modes should be considered.  The modes of communication, including sign language,  spoken language, or other forms of communication should be a part of the discussion.  The team will also need to discuss how the learner’s communication access and needs change throughout the school day in different environments. 

Are additional supports needed to allow for opportunities for direct communication with peers and staff in the learner's primary mode of communication, expressively and receptively?

Direct communication is defined as an interaction with another individual that would not require the support of an interpreter, captionist or other third party (device or person). The IEP team should identify settings in which the learner would be able to directly communicate with peers and staff. In addition, the IEP team should identify opportunities when a learner is unable to directly communicate and the support(s) needed to facilitate the interaction. Supports (e.g. classroom amplification) may be needed for the provision of FAPE.

What supports are needed to increase the learner's proficiency in their language and communications to acquire grade-level concepts?

The IEP team should ensure the learner is receiving all communication that is as effective as what nondisabled peers are receiving in order to participate in the general education curriculum. To make this provision, the IEP team may have to identify additional support(s) (e.g. classroom amplification, closed captioning, a variety of accommodations) needed by the learner to acquire grade-level concepts.  The team will need to consider the entire school day, and different educational environments that may require supports to be in place.

Does the learner have Expanded Core Curriculum needs that will not be met by the general education curriculum?

In addition to the Iowa Academic Standards, learners who are deaf or hard of hearing have specialized needs not covered in the general education curriculum. These specialized needs can be found in the areas outlined in the Iowa Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC). These areas are: Audiology, Career Education, Communication, Family Education, Functional Skills for Educational Success, Self-Determination & Advocacy, Social-Emotional Skills, and Technology. A teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing and/or educational audiologist can support the IEP team in determining a learner’s specialized needs.

For more information about Iowa’s Expanded Core Curriculum for Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, please visit Iowa Department of Education’s site: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education.

Addressing the above questions in the affirmative means:

The IEP team will select ‘Hearing is a special factor to be addressed in this IEP.’ When the IEP team documents this choice, services, activities and supports should be accordingly embedded into the IEP.  

Please reference this resource for guidance in documenting the unique needs of learners who are deaf or hard of hearing.