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Is it Time for an Outside Evaluation?

For
the past few weeks, I’ve been sending many emails and having several informal
meetings on one topic: three-year evaluations. It seems the majority of my
students are due for three-year evaluations in the upcoming months. I’ve
written on the topic of comprehensive assessments before (see posts HERE and
HERE) but I have some unique cases right now, including students who need outside
evaluations—specialized evaluations that the schools cannot provide.

A Fine Line

           Recommending an outside evaluation
can be tricky. First of all, these evaluations cost school districts money. Second,
there’s a fine line between suggesting that a student will benefit from an
outside evaluation, and potentially insulting the school team who would
otherwise be doing the testing. In my case, the outside evaluations are often
done by Clarke (more about CEE here), which can make it seem that I’m simply advocating
for my own organization. So for my current students, I’m working to justify
their testing needs while maintaining my current relationships with school
personnel.

Who Can Benefit

           One student I’m recommending for an
outside evaluation is a high school junior. She’s brilliant. This student is
taking a full AP course load and excelling. She is college bound for sure.
Knowing that this student has just one more year left of high school, I’m
recommending an outside evaluation for her three-year because I’m not sure the
school team is experienced in identifying gaps and areas of need for such a
high-functioning student. Generally, students in special education have
noticeable gaps and deficits but for this student, that is not the case. As her
teacher of the deaf, I see her gaps in terms of awkward syntax in her written
work, and general vocabulary (recently, while reading a short story together,
she didn’t know that navel was a
synonym for belly button), but those
gaps are not always clear to her teachers and others working with her. An
outside evaluator, specializing in testing students with hearing loss will be
able to identify the areas of need so that I can focus my sessions and ensure
that this student is prepared for college.

           The second student I am recommending
for an outside evaluation is an upper elementary school student who was diagnosed
with hearing loss late; has noticeable learning needs and vocabulary/knowledge
gaps; and has never had any type of comprehensive evaluation. With this student
heading into junior high, as a team we need to know where his strengths and
areas of need really are so that we can better address these skills. Because of
a complicated history and the late diagnosis of hearing loss, an outside team with
experience testing students who are deaf or hard of hearing may be better able
to identify what needs are caused by hearing loss, and to answer our diagnostic
questions regarding a possible secondary diagnosis.

Taking Next Steps

           In both cases, I first met
with my case manager at each school to discuss the need for testing. Then I proposed
my questions and concerns, and finally broached the topic of outside testing. I
have good relationships with both students’ teams, which is also important. (Because
schools are the ones responsible for paying for the testing and I am hired by
the school, I begin with my school team before discussing the topic with
parents when I am recommending outside testing.)

I
emphasized the diagnostic questions as well as the need for a testing team
familiar with how hearing loss impacts language and learning, citing specific
examples from each student. One team was more readily receptive than the other,
but both took the information I provided and were willing to explore the
option.

These
will be ongoing conversations but I am confident that in the end, both students
will get the comprehensive testing that they require.

Hear Me Out

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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