14. SLP Eligibility Management: System Leaks

In a prior post, called SLP Caseload Eligibility, we had some important things to say about thoughtful pre-planing and investigation of what we call “leaks” in the system. This is highly original work indicative of our Famous Blog. First, one should try to work with other SLPs in the district to see how non-disabled children are being placed in special education.  You want to cut your caseload, no? This is the way to do it, find out where the leaks are in your system.  This is caseload management at its best. You’ll be surprised of the number of actors who are teaming up to pump the wrong children into special education.

“As a part of Strategic Eligibility Management (SEM), the alert SLP must start off whittling away at his or her individual caseload to reduce size and misidentifications in an ethical manner. Beyond this, the SLP is interdependent with other SLPs who might be creating placement “leaks” in the special education system. Caseloads are passed on from preschool to high school, and one can inherit the shaky eligibility judgments of others. Some SLPs also exit children rarely because of the difficulties of doing so. Sometimes SLPs do find themselves cleaning up a poorly managed caseload. Chances are new graduates do not know about the over-identification of at-risk children because it didn’t come up in their graduate programs and because of the stigma associated with it (cf. Why Over-identification). They are working strongly for compliance, getting along and keeping their jobs.

Placement “leaks” in the system must be diagnosed. Where and how are they occurring? Who is involved and how can they be gently influenced to make better professional judgments? How does peer pressure come into play? Where is judgment breaking down?

POINTS OF ENTRY

Child find. According to IDEA, schools must advertise in the community for referrals of at-risk children. They must arrange for screening sessions open to the public. Which SLPs are involved with this? Are they influenced by staff opinions?

Parents. Any parent can within a district (LEA) refer his or her child directly to the office of special education. The school by law must respond. Pressure is placed on the school for quick action, action that usually entails placement. “Rush to judgment” must be controlled.

Transfers. Children who bring active IEPs into the school district transfer their eligibility. The school may review the adequacy of the plan and how it will be carried out. It can review the disability judgment. Too often special education placement is automatically accepted. SLPs should flag questionable IEPs.

Home schooling. Parents who home school within the LEA are entitled to special education services. They must go through the standard eligibility procedures. One must watch for short-cuts in standard procedures.

LEA schools. Private and charter schools within the LEA can refer their pupils via parents to special education. The LEA must take the referral. Such referrals sometimes come in during the summer, when SLPs are on vacation.

0-3 years. Children who are made eligible for remedial support services must transfer into the LEA shortly before age 3 years. They bring an eligibility determination with them. The determination can be based on various disability criteria, and SLPs might believe they are obligated to accept the transfer information as is. Medical opinions must be translated into educational categories.

3-6 referrals. Kindergarten teachers and sometimes Headstart teachers can refer children to special education. Some at-risk children are identified through screening programs. Special education criteria change with regular school placement. How do developmental criteria translate into educational criteria?

6-21 referrals. At-risk children are often referred by elementary teachers as their academic learning patterns become evident. Referrals can be made throughout the school years, as, for example, in cases of traumatic head injury (TBI). Some teachers make questionable special education referrals. Pre-interventions must be considered, too.

Eligibility criteria vary with age, program and disability. Misidentifications can occur at any step. For example, migrant children sometimes bring out-of-date IEPs to their next school. Hurried acceptance can sustain misidentification.

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