10. SLP Dismissal / Exits

A major obstacle to dismissing children from the SLP caseload is the limited development of pupils with moderate-to-severe communication disorders (cf. Dismissal). In every caseload there are children who will never achieve communication competence beyond a functional level. Intervention cannot erase ceilings on learning no matter how long they stay in speech.

Should such children continue to receive services with no consideration for dismissal? No.

A classic example is Down Syndrome clients where overall speech and language development is delayed but follows normal pathways as a function of mental age (an idea proposed by biologist Eric Lenneberg in the 1960s).

Downs clients can be dismissed on the basis of access to the general curriculum. Many, at their functional communication level, can participate verbally in classroom lessons. They can comprehend what teachers say, and their expression is complete enough to be moderately intelligible. They can follow simple verbal directions for classroom activities. Over a period of time they make progress in the general curriculum, usually centering around the acquisition of basic academic skills picked up verbally in the classroom.

Classroom observations can be used to justify dismissal. Is there “sufficient density of verbal stimulation” throughout the day. Is the pupil a verbal participant in the classroom setting – speaking, listening and comprehending verbal transactions? Are verbal transactions more “natural” than the drill and practice routines of direct one-on-one intervention?

Other criteria can be applied flexibly along the lines of those followed by the Sutter Schools (cf. 10. SLP Dismissal / Exits). Meeting essential IEP communication goals can be documented, along with examples showing that direct intervention is not well correlated with speech and language growth. Generalization of learning can be considered. It occurs often that speech and language intervention is “added on” to IEPs, year-after-year, when the general sense is that not much progress is being made.

As children with moderate-to-severe communication problems move through the grades time spent on speech and language skills is better shifted to social and vocational goals. The goal of “perfect speech” is less important than the ability to communicate information for home and work purposes.

Parents need to be coached as to how education is different from training.

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