A note from Mommy:
Driving home tonight, an unknown number came up no my cell phone. With my cell phone number being the contact for all things Peyton, it wasn't unusual so I answered. I was just pulling up in the drive way to pick her up from work, and as I answered the phone I could see her smiling face waiting for me.
The person on the other end of the line indicated she was from Canyons School District - Peyton's home district. She apologized that a few weeks ago she was not able to make the transition meeting but had sent someone in her place. After a moment of pleasantries she asked casually, "Did you know that Peyton's test scores were not low enough to qualify her for special education?" Of course I knew this but it took me a moment to comprehend her next statement, "Hearing loss alone is not enough to qualify her for services. We are going to need to retest her." What?
Six months ago I recall a conversation with Elk Grove school district representatives in which they said, "Peyton's doing so well, if it wasn't for her hearing loss she wouldn't qualify for special education." Then I remember many times over the last several months with representatives from Jordan School District (they have the contract for early intervention), Canyons School District and Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind saying the very same thing - she didn't qualify for special education due to her test scores because none were low enough but hearing loss alone would qualify her. So where was this coming from?
She went on to explain that she contacted a rep from USDB who confirmed they use the same federal requirements as other Utah school districts and therefore as it stands now Peyton does not qualify for services. She said that because the IEP meeting in just weeks away she would like to retest her as soon as possible because one score (communication) was borderline. Still in a fog, I set up a time for retesting.
As I am prone to do, I hopped on the internet that night to look up the law. It is a long document and I could see that hearing loss was a qualifying condition as long as the child demonstrates a deficit in some area. Speech is also a qualifying condition and must be tested by a speech and language pathologist. As we've blogged over the last year, speech is an area that is difficult for Peyton. Because she was late to vocalize it's hard to know for sure how much of her speech difficulty was trach related, hearing loss related or based on the abnormal structure of her mouth and palate. All play a role to some extent.
I remember the testing that was done with Peyton a few months back and it was a lot of pointing to pictures and having Peyton say (or sign) what she was seeing. If you point to a picture of a dog and Peyton approximates and says "da" most people with the context can figure out what she is saying - one point for Peyton. If she walked up to a teacher with no context and said "da" would anyone know what she was saying - probably not. Because we want to go the oral route in the future, sign language is not an appropriate form of communication. Now don't get me wrong - Peyton still signs with us and those around her and we acknowledge the sign. We love sign language and hope to encourage her to continue learning sign language. But if the ultimate goal of USDB is to mainstream her by 3rd grade, her main form of communication will need to become oral speech. Should she not qualify for special education at all and is mainstreamed at kindergarten, she will need to be well on her way to transitioning to oral speech.
So when Peyton is retested in a few weeks our hope is that she retests again as "borderline" in the communication area so that she qualifies for special education. We feel strongly that her best chance at success will be the USDB oral language program and the sooner she starts it the more likely she will be able to mainstream just a few years later.
I don't understand why so many people don't understand the law - espescially since they are the ones who deal with this every day - but I believe part of it may be that most children with hearing loss have serious enough deficits in some other area so qualifying is not an issue. As usual, Peyton is blazing her own trail!