Monthly Archives: July 2010

Managing SLP Exits

A school speech-language pathologist worked in a middle school on a one-year plan to exit children from special education.  During the year, 26 pupils were in the caseload. One child had a speech-only IEP.  Three children transferred in from other schools, and two of the three transferred out. 

Girl Scouts Marching on Main Street.

Twelve of the 26 children were minority pupils (Hispanic or Native American), and 14 were Caucasian. 

Six of 26 were female students, and 20 were male.

Eleven of the 12 minority students were classified specific learning disability (SLI), whereas four of 14 Caucasian students were classified SLI.  Ten Caucasian pupils were classified as autistic, hearing-impaired, retarded or speech-language impairment (SLI).  One female SLI pupil had a persistent /r/ problem.

Over the year, seven children were exited from speech and language services. Subtracting two who left the district, 17 children remained on the list to continue the following year. The exit rate was 27% for the year.

Of the 17 pupils on the continue list, 13 had been marked for dismissal but could not be dismissed for various reasons:

Parents insisted on continuation (3)

Parents were not phoned personally on time (3)

Parents could not be given timely office notice (3)

Summer IEP meetings were to be held (1)

Exit evaluations were not completed or were inconclusive (3)

Six of the seven exited SLI children were classified as specific learning disability (SLD). 

A list of 10 pupils projected to transfer to the middle school in the next school year included seven minority students with SLD classifications with SLI support.

COMMENT

The study is a microcosm of national issues of special education misidentification.  An emerging one is that females are under-represented in special education programs.  Another is that the learning disability category is over-used and this is where minority pupils are placed for remedial services.  SLP services are added to the SLD placements.

Even with an aggressive aim of reducing SLI and SLD placements in the middle years, many hindrances operate to keep the children in special education.  But without a systematic approach to caseload management, numbers grow and improvement declines. Seeking to exit minorities from the SLP caseload is both an ethical choice and a means of preventing SLP burnout.

The present report demonstrates the value of ethical total caseload management.

3. RTI and Speech Pathology

Review of recent posts provides a snapshot of local school efforts to start up Response To Intervention.  Over half of U. S. school districts have started programs but there is great variation according to stage of development, design and who does what.

SLPs, curriculum directors, reading specialists, and school psychologists are not in the picture.  General education dominates.  Building principals are often mentioned as organizers more than special education directors are.  School boards appear to have an increasing role in approving RTI programs, and funding in the last two years has become a larger problem.

The focus of most RTI programs is reading, and reports indicate good success.  Some programs indicate a desire to prevent needless special education placements.

There is no evidence related services personnel are considered key players in RTI.  However, their contributions are implied throughout discussions of the three-tier RTI model.  As RTI programs grow in number and size, SLPs will be obliged to participate with or without adequate preparation and motivation. 

Since the late 1990s, advocates, often academics, have said school SLPs should to be responsible for literacy intervention, even with high caseloads and limited backgrounds.   Advocacy has not translated into organizational action to help school SLPs prepare to take on literacy on a large scale.  The experience parallels the 1970s when academics argued for language assessment and intervention without a well-laid foundation for change.  Input from working school SLPs is always a lacuna.

Nor has advocacy been potent enough to reach and convince school personnel of the pivotal role SLPs can play.   SLPs are left to advocate for themselves while believing other specialists “encroach” upon their scope of practice.  

Leadership at the highest levels of the profession is needed to build curricular foundations for school SLP role participation in RTI.  More collaboration with working school SLPs is needed to determine what exactly is required.  Role responsibility statements should be grounded firmly in workplace realities prior to publication.