School SLPs Changing Roles

Though school SLPs work in special education, initiatives in general education influence speech therapy practices. The U. S. Department of Education has issued A Blueprint for Reform (March 10, 2010), on behalf of President Obama, detailing plans for renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and professional groups are beginning to comment.

We do not hear much talk about reducing over-identification of at-risk children for special education placement. Instead, we hear more about flexible programming for at-risk children regardless of affiliation with general education and special education.

Looking at older trends in IDEA, and now current thinking about No Child reform, it is clear the SLP role is going to continue to change in the school setting. Continued pressure on isolated “pull out” service delivery, and a greater push toward “collaboration” are inevitable. Consensus points toward SLPs working more in support of remedial general education programs. Awareness of helping all special education pupils graduate from high school is a must. However, opportunities will appear to reduce pull out caseloads in favor of participation in collaborative programs. SLPs have quite an opportunity to take on leadership roles helping to design evidence-based programs. They do need more graduate research and leadership education, however.

There will be continuing change in what SLPs consider a “pathology.” Evaluation criteria changed with IDEA 1997 to include educational criteria, i.e., “progress in the general curriculum.” SLPs will have to fine tune their diagnostic skills to differentiate types of children who are not disabled but need remedial support. Practical application of knowledge of cultural and linguistic differences is a deficiency and emergency. RTI will continue to have a strong influence on the SLP role.

Educational speech-language pathology is rapidly becoming a separate specialty worthy of differentiated status at the graduate level.

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