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IEP Guide: Co-Occuring Disabilities Transcript

[Opening slide with the words, "This webinar series is provided by the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans and by the Minnesota Department of Education.]

[Slide: "Co-Occurring Disabilities: A Range of Language and Communication Abilities. Presenter: Ann Mayes, Parent of a young adult who is Deaf in the workforce"]

[A woman appears (Ann Mayes). She is standing on one side of the screen and begins to sign. Next to her is the following text, "Co-Occurring Disabilities: A Range of Language and Communication Abilities."

Hello, my name is Ann Mayes, and I am a parent of a deaf son who is in the workforce.  He communicates with coworkers using some speech, texting, computer and has an occupational communication assistant/job coach who also supports him on the job.

This section of the Discussion Guide helps parents and other IEP team members to think about the needs of deaf and hard of hearing students with co-occurring disabilities.   It can be difficult for IEP teams to figure out how to address language and communication needs.  Disabilities may include those such as a cognitive delay, vision loss or blindness, and challenges on the autism spectrum, to name a few. Students may need other communication support.  Sign language might not be enough, and objects, pictures or printed words might be needed.  The prompts help teams to think about many different approaches and the list is not all that may be available.  Technology is continuing to develop and change. 

Co-occurring disabilities means that a student has two or more disabilities at the same time. For example, many children with Down Syndrome have a conductive hearing loss which may be caused by frequent ear infections, including glue ear because middle ear fluid does not drain well.  They may also have difficulty with speech because of the physical structures in the mouth.  

[The text next to Ann is replaced by language on the bottom of page 13 in the Discussion Guide. The text is as follows, "Possible Information Sources for Students with Co-Occurring Disabilities: Observations, Classroom teacher interviews, Evaluation report, Communication Matrix, Readiness Checklist, Medical records, audiological and vision reports. See the bottom of page 13 in the Discussion Guide."]

Ann continues: Sometimes students are already enrolled in site-based classrooms for deaf and hard of hearing learners or schools and disabilities are identified.  In other instances, students are already identified with a different disability, such as cognitive delay and a hearing loss is found later through medical tracking of numerous ear infections or auditory brainstem response testing.  Team members must consider how deafness or hearing loss impacts the student’s ability to understand communication in the classroom.  Information can be gathered from several sources.   

[New text appears in the space next to Ann. The text is, "When working with students who are deaf or hard of hearing with co-occurring disabilities, or students who are deafblind, the team should consider: * Augmentative forms of communication, not dependent on output that is solely auditory based * Tactile communication, language and pro-tactile methods. See page 13 of the Discussion Guide for more detailed ideas."]

Ann continues: For example, many students who are deaf or have significant hearing loss and have cognitive delays or disabilities that affect signing or speech do not benefit from using traditional augmentative systems. 

For example, Dynavox machines that show pictures and then have spoken sentences come out will not give clear access to spoken words or phrases.   The process becomes a picture-pointing activity because students cannot hear the speech connected to pictures.   Augmentative systems may need to be adapted to have sign language output with the use of iPad apps or other systems may need to be found. 

[The text next to Ann changes again. The new text is, "Discussion prompts: * Based on data, do patterns emerge in the student's language/communication that impacts progress in other areas? * Does the student have access to language within the classroom, especially those who are deaf or hard of hearing and also have multiple disabilities? * How frequently does the student with co-occurring disabilities have access to fluent sign language models?]

Ann continues: Discussion prompts included in this section help IEP teams to think about data that can be collected, access to communication in the classroom and if sign language is used, if there are fluent models.  

Some students may need to be moved to programs for deaf students with additional disabilities so that they experience immersion in a visual language.  Sometimes deaf and hard of hearing students with additional disabilities have behavior challenges that are reduced when they can see a visual language all day.  For other students already in programs for deaf students using ASL, they may need objects, pictures or written words matched with signs.

Teams should also be cautious not to determine the language of instruction based on the student’s fine motor skills.  For example, some students may have a physical disability which makes it difficult for them to produce signs accurately, but they are able to approximate hand shapes and placement.  They may be able to understand signs but have trouble doing them. It is important that teams consider communication access for all students.   

Children understand more words before they say or speak words to others.   It is important that people remember it make take more time and more exposure before children with disabilities make their first signs or say their first words.  If it takes a child who does not have cognitive delays one year to sign or say her first word, it may take longer for a child with additional challenges.  This means teams may need to consider allowing more time for language to develop before deciding to switch methods and systems.

[The text next to Ann is replaced with, "Resources: * Hands and Voices: Communication Considerations for Deaf Plus * Minnesota DeafBlind Project * Pro-Tactile Training * Tracking * Welcome to Pro-Tactile: The DeafBlind Way. See page 14 of the Discussion Guide for websites for resources."]

Ann continues: I hope this section of the Discussion Guide helps parents and teachers and other professionals understand some of the challenges deaf and hard of hearing students with disabilities may have and gives them prompts to consider to help make a strong plan.

Review the resources list on page 14 of the Guide.  

[Video fades to the original slide with the words, "This webinar series is provided by The Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans and by the Minnesota Department of Education."]

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