Also known as: Therapy, Therapy, Who has the Therapy…
As a school-based SLP it seems as though there are regulations for everything. There are rules for how many days documents can be unfinalized, how many days between meetings, and who can receive services. In fact, North Dakota has adopted speech-language guidelines to help determine who qualifies for services and who doesn’t. These are very thorough and great guidelines written by the Department of Education and a group of SLPs.
A recent discussion on ASHA’s School-Based Issues SIG Forum made me think..are there times when it’s actually illegal to help someone? There may be…
According to ND Guidelines, a student has to qualify with a moderate speech or language disability to receive services. For language impairment, that means the student must score a “moderate” or higher on a rubric. Essentially, a score of 77 or lower on two assessments plus the academic component. For articulation, the score must be essentially the same although the assessments include one formal assessment plus connected speech intelligibility (or PCC) and academic impact. For the most part these guidelines are very helpful. But, what do we do for those kids with only one or two articulation errors?
On the ASHA Sig, there have been people talking about “seeing” those students informally in the hope that they only need services for 6 months or so. Others put them on 504 plan. Yet others are simply not able to work with them. The ASHA Forum is currently discussing whether these ideas are illegal in regard to IDEA.
Thankfully, in my area, we have Speech Intervention Plans. A speech Intervention Plan is specifically set up for those students who don’t (or won’t) qualify for special education – articulation only. They cannot be used for language therapy at all. Here’s how it works…
A student is screened/tested. If they won’t/don’t qualify then a Speech Intervention Plan (SIP) is offered. A SIP is a two-year intervention plan and is designed for those mild articulation cases. Thankfully, it has our unit’s “seal of approval” and I’m very confident that it’s legal. The students have been identified, parents are informed and sign off on the plan, and progress reports must be sent home similar to IEPs. The only differences really are 1) less paperwork, and 2) there is no “special education” label.
A SIP allows me to see a student for a sound error for which they would otherwise not qualify. After all, I only have two years – so I have to make sure that I can reasonably expect good results in that two-years. Unfortunately I have been on the side where I “inherited” someone on a speech-intervention plan for /r/, /l/, and “th.” This student made great progress – but two years was simply not enough time to remediate everything. When the two years were up, the student continued to have difficulty with vocalic /r/. Unfortunately, this alone was not enough to qualify for an IEP and the student had to be dismissed. I don’t know whether or not the student would have qualified for an IEP before services began.
Needless to say, this isn’t the “norm.” Usually students come in, receive their articulation therapy, and are dismissed. These students have a lot of success and it’s wonderful to be able to say “you’ve graduated!” However, I have learned to be cautious and if there’s a chance the student will qualify for an IEP – to go for an IEP rather than the “simpler” SIP.
The idea of sending a student to middle school with a frontal lisp or an /r/ error bothers me…tremendously. Yet, these students (without the SIP) would not qualify for services. For those areas that have no plan in place for these students, are we doing them a disservice? Are we hurting the students? Will they try looking for work with these errors? Will they be considered less favorably in an interview process because of their speech errors? When does a speech difference have an “educational impact” (NOTE: NOT academic…educational).
On the ASHA Sig, the discussion varied… A LOT. So…I’ve turned to you… What do you do for those students with only one or two sound errors? Are you able to see them? Do you sneak them in as “speech buddy” or are you able to formally work with them? Are you required to look the other way hoping they outgrow the issue without assistance? Let me know here…I’m really looking forward to seeing the responses!
Until then…Adventure on!