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IEP Communication Plan

Guidelines for Use

Having a Communication Plan that speaks to the unique, relative needs of the student with deafness or hearing loss is essential to creating successful strategies for that child. The need for a Communication Plan exists to address more specifically certain issues around the educational and emotional experience of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing -- issues not often called into question in traditional IEPs. With the Communication Plan, IEP teams statewide have a consistent means of thoroughly addressing these issues.

The considerations raised by this document require the IEP team and parents to delve more deeply into the individual experience of the child. There are five main points set forth in the Communication Plan to frame the conversations of the group. The final document should address in actionable ways the needs identified for the student. Note that previous experience with a communication mode does not rule out a child/family’s request to learn a new mode.

  1. Language and Communication:  The student’s primary language and communication modes are described. The primary language is generally the language used most fluently by those living with the child. Communication modes are divided into receptive and expressive language checklists, and both questions ask for descriptions and action plans if goals need to be developed in any of these areas.   Just one? More than one? Combinations? What do the parents use with the child? What does the child use with friends? Consider a Functional Listening Evaluation (  What system/mode of sign language does the child use, if any?  Has the student had training in how to use an interpreter?  In what settings does a child’s primary communication mode change?  How does the child do in noisy situations? Also included in this section are any supports needed to ensure that parents can carry out IEP goals in the home environment under the Parent Counseling and Training question. Hands & Voices Guides are good sources of information about where parents can obtain training in their region or online.   
  2. Peers and Role Models:  Because of the low incidence of a hearing loss, many students who are deaf or hard of hearing find themselves without contact with other deaf/HH children. Combine that with the fact that 95% of these children are born into families with normal hearing, and you’ve got the potential for serious isolation. Consider the need of the student for interaction with a sufficient number of adult role models and peer groups with the same communication mode or primary language.  How about some time during the school day to “chat” online with other deaf/hh kids? Does the family know about summer camp opportunities, or “The Field of Dreams Baseball Camp for the Deaf”?  What can be created within a school district or through collaborating with neighboring districts?
  3. All Educational Options:  What are the educational options within and outside the district that are available for the student? Have all educational options been explained, and the impact on the student’s education and communication? This is the point in the IEP meeting where options are discussed; not where placement decisions are made. School Placement should always be decided upon based on the individual child’s communication and educational needs with parents as active members of the decision making process.
  4. Teacher/Professional Proficiency:  How does the expertise and proficiency of staff relate to the child’s individual needs? If everyone’s comfortable with this, move on. But if there is a question, discuss it and come up with an approach that can address the stated concerns. Are there training/in-servicing/mentoring possibilities for teachers or other staff who have never worked with a deaf/hh student? Is there an accommodation not being utilized? Review the IEP/504 Checklist for Recommended Accommodations on page 33.  Have the conversation.
  5. Communication Accessibility in Academic Instruction, School Services, and Extracurricular Activities: The qualifier here is “Communication Accessible.” Is the student enjoying full access to academic instruction and services throughout the entire day? On the playground?  In the hallway?  On a field trip? During films and online videos? During extra-curricular activities? The IEP/504 Checklist (see above) is an important resource. Consider the child’s communication access during transition times and in before and after school-sponsored programs (videophone, Captioned Television, interpreters at the robotics competition, and more.).  Make a plan.

The Communication Plan listed on the following page is also available at

The Next page is the actual Communication Plan


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