10. Caseloads SLP

SLPs prepare an evaluation report for the purposes of placing a child in special education. This report is typically a generic clinical presentation surveying such parameters as voice, fluency, articulation, speech mechanism, language, hearing and pragmatics along with a summary of background information and recommendations. It is generic because it can be used in any clinical setting to identify communication problems.

Generic assessment overlaps with clinical educational assessment. Using anecdotal material, Steppling et al. (Dismissal) have authored a good study on the topic: “IDEA guidelines differ in many respects from the guidelines set forth by ASHA. There is no research that clarifies how these differing guidelines are reconciled when SLPs begin working in the schools…”

Observations in the school setting might include reading assessments, classroom interaction, following directions and lesson attention. As a part of the eligibility team, SLPs must consider a variety of observations spelled out by IDEA 2004 regulations (cf. 17 Reducing LD), for example:

“Whether the child does not achieve adequately for the child’s age or to meet State-approved grade-level standards consistent with 34 CFR 300.309(a)(1); and the child does not make sufficient progress to meet age or State-approved grade-level standards consistent with 34 CFR 300.309(a)(2)(i); or the child exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, State-approved grade level standards or intellectual development consistent with 34 CFR 300.309(a)(2)(i); or the child exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, State-approved grade-level standards or intellectual development consistent with 34 CFR 300.309(a)(2)(ii);”

An essential criterion overriding SLP criteria is progress in the general curriculum. A child can have a medical disability and still be a high achieving student. There are autism spectrum children who are enrolled in exceptional education programs. There are seizure children who achieve on grade level. The same can be said about children with minor voice and /r/ problems. In such cases these children can receive private therapy off-campus. Special education is not a remedial service.

Misidentification results from the faulty application of criteria.

REPORTING

SLPs should emphasize in the eligibility report the observations and factors leading to recommendations to place or deny eligibility. The framework should combine the use of clinical and state criteria. The report outline should be a tool a for preventing needless placements. Testing should rule out non-disabled children, and make it clear why they are not eligibility. SLPs should make a clear case AGAINST placement to the eligibility group including teachers and parents. The standard to place is lower!

SLPs who 100% of the time recommend eligibility are probably engaging in misidentification of at-risk children. They are also missing an opportunity to control caseload size. “Sometimes we get caught up in the ’statue of liberty syndrome.’ Just send me anybody, all of your poor and communications impaired, or any other problem, and I will take care of it” (Speech and Language).

SLPs must be the keepers of the light: “Don’t needlessly place children in special education!”

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