This Article asserts that early intervention under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA) should be amended to recognize the needs of the young child with the disability as primary over the needs of the child’s family. This Article contends that certain requirements of the IDEIA cause early intervention professionals to view and treat the child’s family, rather than the child herself, as the ultimate recipient of support. In many situations, the needs of the family and the needs of the child may wholly align, but that is an assumption that bears questioning. This Article analyzes groundbreaking legislation efforts in the field of deaf education, the Language Equality & Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K) campaign, to illustrate a framework that maintains the focus on the primacy of the child’s needs, with support to the family in service of those needs. The LEAD-K campaign has developed model legislation for adoption by states. Since 2016, twelve states have adopted a form of the LEAD-K model bill. There are approximately fifteen more states with LEAD-K teams in various stages of development. This Article highlights LEAD-K for its potential to transform early intervention for deaf and hard of hearing children and uses the LEAD-K model bill to illustrate a flaw in the IDEIA. The IDEIA subsumes the needs of the child within the consideration of the needs of the family, when the child and family should instead be considered as separate (but related) stakeholders. This Article seeks to apply lessons from the LEAD-K campaign to early intervention services under the IDEIA to facilitate more informed decision making by families.

While first considering the needs of deaf and hard of hearing children, this Article contends that a framework shift that identifies the needs and goals of the child separately from the needs and goals of her family would be beneficial to all children receiving early intervention services. This Article therefore calls for an amendment to the IDEIA to require that the child’s program of services includes a written statement of the expectations for the child to attain by the end of early intervention. Currently, no such requirement exists. The expectations would be accompanied by a statement of how the measurable goals and outcomes (an existing requirement under the IDEIA) serve these expectations. This Article also suggests an alternative proposal, specifically for deaf and hard of hearing children receiving early intervention services, requiring the early intervention team to consider the child’s language needs. This Article addresses anticipated counterarguments to the proposals, including claims that the proposals fail to recognize the importance of family autonomy and authority. This Article contends that the proposals set forth herein would facilitate better information sharing by early intervention professionals, leading to more informed decision making by families of young children with disabilities.

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