Monthly Archives: November 2010

Prevention: SLPs Must Screen Out Non-Disabled Pupils

During college SLPs learn about cultural and linguistic differences.  Yet SLPs are still mis-placing non-disabled children.  

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has published a school position statement on the Role of Speech-Language Pathologists:

Providing Culturally Competent Services.  With the ever-increasing diversity in the schools, SLPs make important contributions to ensure that all students receive quality, culturally competent services. SLPs have the expertise to distinguish a language disorder from “something else.” That “something else” might include cultural and linguistic differences, socioeconomic factors, lack of adequate prior instruction, and the process of acquiring the dialect of English used in the schools. This expertise leads to more accurate and appropriate identification of student needs. SLPs can also address the impact of language differences and second language acquisition on student learning and provide assistance to teachers in promoting educational growth.”

http://www.asha.org/docs/html/PI2010-00317.html#sec1.2

The implications of …”more accurate and appropriate identification of student needs…are not spelled out, when they are critical for reducing the misplacement of non-disabled children. Evidence adduced in this blog indicates non-disabled minority children continue to be over-placed.  The rationale for action is found in States Monitor School Disproportionality:

Posny summarized the problem: “Excerpts from findings in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004′s statute note that: (1) greater efforts are needed to prevent the intensification of problems connected with mislabeling minority children with disabilities; (2) African-American children are identified as having mental retardation and emotional disturbance at rates greater than their white counterparts; (3) more minority children continue to be served in special education than would be expected from the percentage of minority students in the general school population; (4) in the 1998-1999 school year, African-American children represented 14.8% of the population aged 6 through 21, yet comprised 20.2% of all children with disabilities served in our schools; and (5) studies have found that schools with predominately white students and teachers have placed disproportionately high numbers of their minority students into special education.”

Matthew Deninger’s data (cf. School Speech Therapy, Pull Out, and LRE) indicated SLPs display a tendency to over-place a disproportionate number of black children in the SLI category.  Our other posts reinforce the fact that SLPs are inclined to over-place minority children — Native Americans, black children and Hispanics.

School speech therapists are not alone in misidentifying at-risk children. It is a widespread problem among related services personnel and special educators.

There are three reasons for preventing the misplacement of non-disabled children displaying cultural and linguistic differences: 

It is NOT Best Practice.

It is NOT Ethical.

It is NOT Legal.

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States Monitor School Disproportionality

In 2007, Alexa Posny, Director, U. S. Office of Special Education Programs, wrote a memo to state directors of special education on the topic of “Disproportionality of Racial and Ethnic Groups in Special Education.”  It reminded directors of the regulatory framework within which states must work to reduce the over-identification of non-disabled minority children for special education placement.  

Posny summarized the problem: “Excerpts from findings in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004’s statute note that: (1) greater efforts are needed to prevent the intensification of problems connected with mislabeling minority children with disabilities; (2) African-American children are identified as having mental retardation and emotional disturbance at rates greater than their white counterparts; (3) more minority children continue to be served in special education than would be expected from the percentage of minority students in the general school population; (4) in the 1998-1999 school year, African-American children represented 14.8% of the population aged 6 through 21, yet comprised 20.2% of all children with disabilities served in our schools; and (5) studies have found that schools with predominately white students and teachers have placed disproportionately high numbers of their minority students into special education.”

Both in 1997 and in 2004, at the times of IDEA renewal, the topic of disproportionality was hot in congress.  But gradually it has become almost a non-topic. While it is correct to remind state directors of  their obligations, it simply does not trickle down to LEAs except in pro forma directives.

Response to Intervention started off as a program to reduce special education placements and retentions.  Now it is drifting into a general education program to support classroom teachers.

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cf. School Speech Therapy, Pull Out, and LRE

School Speech Therapy, Pull Out, and LRE

The Massachusetts Department of Education in 2008 published a report by Matthew Deninger on the disproportionality of special education placements in the Commonwealth. Data are pulled apart in ways to expose patterns.  

Figure 5 shows a bias to place minority children in more restrictive environments outside the regular classroom.  White children are more likely to be placed in the regular classroom (full inclusion 80%) than African American and Hispanic children.  African American and Hispanic children are much more likely to be placed in substantially separate (40% in the classroom) locations.  At this time there is little reason to believe that this pattern of misplacement is different across America.

Deninger sites research indicating special education children receive a less demanding instruction.  Once placed in special education, they are less likely to be dismissed.

Education theory, federal regulation and best practice are not the only factors involved in placement.  Not only are minorities more likely to be placed in special education; they are more likely to receive more restrictive placements.

The issue of Least Restrictive Environment in school SLP practice is neglected.  It is not a “hot topic” of speech pathology professional concern. 

In the post, “Death of the Pullout Model,” we think the evidence indicates the pull-out approach is so widely employed in American schools SLI intervention is  overly restrictive in likely thousands of cases.  Direct intervention is effective, but so are other methods such as reading-based approaches associated with response to intervention.

http://www.doe.mass.edu/research/reports/Edbrief_final.pdf