Interpretation's Date: June 24, 2008
by superintendent Steven L. Paine
Section: III. County Educational Administration


To: County Superintendents and Special Education Directors

From: Steven L. Paine, State Superintendent of Schools

Date: June 24, 2008

Re: Superintendent Interpretation re: Sign Language Specialists and Educational Interpreters

The decision as to whether a student needs the assistance of a Sign Language Specialist or an Educational Interpreter is intended to be an IEP decision and not based on the categorical exceptionality alone. The following Guidelines will assist counties in making the correct determination.
Guidelines: Sign Language Specialist

Definition: West Virginia Code 18A-4-8(i)(15) defines "sign language specialist" to mean a person employed to provide sign language assistance to students. Sign Language Specialists are to be employed to provide signed communication support to a student who is able to access environments through audition. The Sign Language Specialist provides communication and language support services which include explaining, expanding, and ensuring understanding. A Sign Language Specialist can be assigned to a student with an exceptionality other than deaf or hard of hearing if it is determined that the student needs signs to support his/her expressive communication.

Rationale: The IEP team has determined that the primary mode of communication for the student is spoken English as identified in the Communication Plan of an IEP. This student learns primarily through audition but needs support to be made aware of environmental sounds and to ensure understanding of auditory language. Lack of appropriate instruction and/or access to language is not justification for determining the student needs a Sign Language Specialist.

The Sign Language Specialist provides the continuity across the child's learning environments and acts as a liaison between the general education environment and the IEP team members.

Sign Language Specialists have specialized training that provides these students access to a steady flow of auditory information and fills in the gaps in their background knowledge and language based understanding.

Assistive technology and medically implanted devices (i.e. personal hearing aids, FM systems, and cochlear implants) provide access to the auditory environments and are helpful in many situations, but there are factors that can limit their effectiveness in larger group situations or less than ideal communication conditions.

Roles and Responsibilities:

A. Provides coaching and prompts regarding expectations and transitions for auditory communication within the educational environment.

B. Provides communication/language support services which include explaining, expanding, and ensuring understanding while fostering independence within the educational setting.

C. Monitors comprehension of the student's behaviors. This may include: * Using environmental cues
* Answering questions appropriately * Volunteering appropriate information * Asking for clarification
* Turning around to locate sound source * Following directions
* Working independently
* Demonstrating on task behavior * Interacting with peers

D. Provides input to the licensed professionals.

E. Implements IEP goals and intervention strategies in the classroom under the direction of at least one licensed professional.

Guidelines: Educational Interpreter

Definition: An Educational Interpreter is a related service provider and a professional member of the educational team, fluent in the languages used by deaf, hard of hearing and hearing persons, who works with the team to implement the IEP. The educational interpreter uses sign language/communication systems and spoken languages in public school settings for purposes of providing access to the general curriculum, classroom dynamics, extracurricular activities and social interactions.

Rationale: The IEP team has determined that the primary mode of communication for the student is a sign communication system as identified in the Communication Plan of an IEP. This student may be deaf or hard of hearing and requires an interpreter to have full access to educational environments. The student must have a sign communication system and language foundation to benefit from an educational interpreter.

The provision of communication and language access is an important and complex process. A student who is hard of hearing may be able to interact on his/her own in a quiet environment with a limited number of speakers. However, it may be more difficult for that same student to interact in situations that involve lectures containing new concepts and vocabulary, classroom interactions or peer interactions. The need for an educational interpreter is to be determined by the student's ability to access classroom communication, not by his/her ability to speak on a one-on-one basis.

The Educational Interpreter can tutor. However, it must be under the supervision of the general classroom teacher or the teacher of the deaf. The Educational Interpreter must be knowledgable in the subject area in which tutoring is expected and have received training in instructional strategies to be used during the tutoring sessions.

Roles and Responsibilities:

A. Facilitates communication and understanding between students who are deaf or hard of hearing and others, including teachers, other service providers and peers across educational environments.

B. Serves as a member of the educational team. As a related service provider, the educational interpreter should be familiar with policies, procedures and ethics for professional conduct within the school setting including specific guidelines for understanding confidentiality among educational team members.

C. Prepares for or be knowledgeable in content area for which assigned. It often takes time for an interpreter to develop the specialized vocabulary necessary to understand the content.

D. Provides input to the classroom teacher and other educational team members especially when concerned about the completeness of an interpreted message or lesson.

E. Implements IEP goals and intervention strategies in the classroom under the direction of the classroom teacher or teacher of the deaf.

F. Clarifies his/her role to any member in the school setting including the deaf or hard of hear student.

c: SI Sign Language Specialist June 12 2008

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