Apart from general practice and policy issues, the main topic is managing special education eligibility. How and why are children placed in special eduction? How are they dismissed? How can eligibility decisions be improved so that children receive the most appropriate placements? How can special educators provide leadership to make eligibility decisions more selective so that the right children get the right services? Speech-language pathology (”speech therapy”) is a special education specialty (related service) having significant influence on the national issues at hand.

In 2002, the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education reported:

“The Commission finds that the IDEA establishes complex requirements that are difficult to effectively implement at the state and local level. Nowhere in IDEA is this more complex than in the eligibility determination process. Improving this process, coupled with research-based early intervention programs, may reduce the number of children who are identified as having a disability, particularly when early identification and intervention are in place and research-based interventions are provided before referral” (Commission).

There is a flow to eligibility determination. Key issues arise as at-risk children move through the stages of identification, selection, intervention and dismissal.

The overarching issue is: Too many American school children are placed in special education, and once they are placed there they tend to stay. Misidentification is the central problem.

The benefit is that the right children are enrolled in special education and receive the good service they deserve because there is room for them.

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