Transitioning from Birth to Three (IDEA part C) to the Local Public School (IDEA part B) for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing 3 Year Olds

The issue

peltierAs deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) 3 year olds age out of the Birth to Three (B-3) system, choosing the most appropriate and beneficial educational program can be challenging for parents, especially when options are limited.  The Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting to determine placement and Individual Education Plan (IEP) services in the public school is comprised of public school personnel, family members, and those the family has the right to invite, like the B-3 provider or an educational advocate.  If the parents are DHH with American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary language in the home, or if hearing parents request it, asking for direct instruction by a teacher of the deaf (TOD) fluent in ASL, should be considered so the child can fully access the curriculum in his primary/home language.  If the child received services in Birth to Three from a TOD, a Physical therapist (PT), and a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), there are no guarantees that those services will be continued once in the school system.  The question becomes, will progress continue on level without them?

What we know

  • Childhood hearing loss has a low incidence in the general population and schools may not be familiar with the educational and linguistic needs of the child or have appropriate classroom amplification to meet the child’s specific needs.
  • Children with a 30 dB loss may miss 25%-40% of speech, and children with a 35-49 dB loss may miss as much as 50% of what is spoken in the classroom.  Soft-spoken peers, distance, and background noise in the preschool classroom during communication may further negatively influence hearing.
  • In addition to hearing loss, DHH children enter preschool with diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, experiences, strengths, and challenges, all influencing their vocabulary and language level when entering the classroom.
  • In the preschool classroom, young children may not able to express their misunderstanding or know what they are missing, therefore unable to ask for repetition or explanation.
  • Though hearing loss does not automatically make a child eligible for special education services, parents may be unclear on ways to advocate for their child’s specific needs.
  • School districts vary widely, even within states, in the services they will offer a child who qualifies for special education when aging out of the B-3 system.  Parents must be informed of their rights and become active members of the IEP team.  Once placement is determined, parents have the right to call a PPT meeting to review the current IEP should concerns arise.

What we don’t know

  • If a child uses both ASL and spoken English when communicating in the home, will both languages be available to her in the classroom?
  • How well trained and experienced is the pre-school teacher working with the DHH child?  If training is necessary, is it available?
  • If teacher aides or a sign language interpreter is assigned to work with a DHH student, what is their background and training, and how well will the classroom teacher collaborate with them to offer the child the maximum involvement in the curriculum offered?
  • How will progress in the classroom be monitored to insure IEP goals and objectives are being followed and what can be done to adjust them if not?


DHH children typically enter the preschool classroom with a language deficit compared to their hearing peers related to vocabulary, incidental learning, receptive and expressive language, and possibly self-esteem.  For this reason, parents should begin the transition process early.  It will serve parents well to have the ability to clearly and specifically articulate their child’s abilities and needs to the local education authority.  Families have the right to explore their local public and private school options and to visit programs available to see how the classrooms are physically set up and what experience the staff has working with DHH preschoolers.  Deaf peers and/or adult role models should be considered as well.  Rarely, families may choose to go through due process proceedings to accomplish a Part B placement that they feel meets the needs and offers their child full access to the curriculum.  This can be a very costly and time-consuming process.  Ultimately, the goal of a successful transition is for the child to achieve programming that will meet his/her needs, develop skills, provide meaningful social opportunities and prepare them well for Kindergarten and beyond.

Posted on Jan 5, 2017 by
Carol Peltier
American School for the Deaf
efpeltier {at}


Further reading