Monthly Archives: February 2011

The “New Role” of the School Speech-Language Pathologist!

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association ( represents school speech-langauge pathologists in the formulation of public policy among other things. It has now published  an update of “Roles and Responsibilities of the Speech-Language Pathologist in Schools (2010).”  At first glance, it appears to be a transition document.  It moves beyond the outdated year 2000 version, and points toward future role changes on the horizon.  It encapsulates, therefore, an important moment in the history of the field.  It is recommended reading. 

Good looking Chevrolet-Deluxe-Fastback with skirts and whitewalls.

The 2000 version represented the more traditional school SLP role.  SLP graduates in their 30s are working by the recommendations of the 2000 document.  New graduates are facing school practice as outlined by the 2010 version.  They will take it in stride, whereas older SLPs will see it as a change in direction.  Older graduates will consider the new role in terms of demanding caseloads and just more to do.  Growing demands and high caseloads are issues for older SLPs.  Yet they must be more nimble than ever.

An Ad Hoc Committee of nine contributors developed the Roles document.  An impressive list of documents and articles was studied, and working SLPs gave ideas.  A picture is shown of the group working productively on conceptual charts.  The group came up with a poster expressing key points of the Roles policy.  Educational reform has put school speech-language pathology at the crossroads.

May, 2014

Our recent posts on ASHA curriculum processes show the Association is unresponsive to school issues and trends. The problem dates back to 1975 and further. ASHA officials resisted language practice. Curriculum development for graduate education came to be represented by continuing education programming.

The future depends on whether the Board of Directors can shake off the past and move forward. The ASHA president according to the bylaws is the proper authority figure. Presidents have been able to accomplish very little for school speech pathology. Some key issues have continued for 30 to 40 years. Accountability is needed.

John Panagos


Rosa’s Law (S.2781) and Speech-Language Pathology

All Voices, Local to Global News,  reported on Oct 12, 2010, on the adoption of Rosa’s Law, a federal law changing  the public use of Mental Retardation “…to “intellectual disability” in all federal statutes.”  The Marcellino family did not agree to have their child labeled mentally retarded. 

Dinner in Paris

Brother Nick testified: ‘ “We’re not allowed to use the words at my house, it would be just like saying a curse word…. What you call my sister is how you will treat her. If you believe she’s ‘retarded’ it invites taunting, stigma. It invites bullying and it also invites the slammed doors of being treated with respect and dignity.”

We continue here to stress the point that at-risk children are affected by placements in special education.  Perhaps the risk of taunting is worth it for a child to advance to  grade level.  Maybe it is not worth it.

For SLPs it seems risk-free to place children in “artic therapy” because for SLPs it seems routine.

The overriding evidence is America is putting its “struggling children” in special education on equal terms to having them work  in the computer lab.  Just another place to send kids during school hours.

14. Dismissal / Exits

ALL EXPERTS received an inquiry from a mother over special education dismissal concerns she had with her son, and a reply was given by Expert Richard Taylor  (3/29/2010).  Mr. Taylor explained the mother had a right to request dismissal from special education though the school might contest it.  Jana wrote:

“My son is 12 years old, first year of Middle School. He has been in special education for about 2 years.  He is very upset about attending special education classes and often states the he wants to kill himself because of the embarassment.  He is passing all of his classes and until our last ARD meeting, the school provided no accomodations to him and didn’t even know that they should be letting him read aloud.  I don’t feel as though he needs the service any further.  What rights do have in regards to his dismissal.  I would like him taken out of any programs related to special ed. ” (sic)

The example affords us several observations about the special education exit process in American schools.

Stairs to the river, Paris

1. A percentage of special education children feel bad about being in special education, and educators do not really care much about the stigma involved.

2. Retention of the boy may not have depended on “progress in the general curriculum” criteria if he in fact was at grade level, something special educators often ignore.

3. The mother did not understand what her rights were to discontinue special education, a common problem among special education parents.

We have argued it is four times harder to dismiss a child from special education than it is to qualify that child.  IEP teams let children in fast without disagreement. They hand out piles of documents telling parents of their rights.  But they are a quiet as church mice about dismissal prospects.

For years there has been a perverse incentive to keep children in special education, and that is more money for the school.

Parents should be advised of the risks of special education placement and their rights to take a child out of special education.  In fact the stated general goal should be to quickly exit the child, or move rapidly to less restrictive placements.

We agree with Linda Schrock Taylor, who says, “The majority of those enrolled in special education classes should only remain in special placement for a limited time – just long enough for problems to be corrected and delays remedied. I have a sign on my classroom door, “THIS IS A STEPPING STONE, NOT A RESTING PLACE.”

Speech Pathology Caseload Headaches and Money

Without a union, school speech-language pathologists have been struggling on their own to get states to adopt caseload size standards with modest success.  Hence they have been left to ask for more help from administrators who have many personnel requests and budget problems.  

Now in February 2011 we see nationwide budget cuts in schools where special education personnel are being laid off (along with other personnel).  The strategy of asking for more SLP support money is for now dead  in the water.

The Metro in Paris

Here at SSP we advocate for school SLPs to take control of their own destinies, to ethically reduce the number of children placed and retained in special education, and to reduce caseloads thereby.  Creative use of consultation and collaboration plus support for response to intervention with reference to reading support are approaches which can broaden the productive role of school SLPs during these times of limited resources.

School Speech Pathology Blogs

Blogs allow SLP writers to express personal views derived from all kinds of sources including experience.  Especially important are grassroots blogs from the people who work in schools.

Eric Sailer has been a continuing interest in school issues, with a growing interest in technology:

Speech/Language Pathology Sharing: Eric Sailer’s Blog

The Online Education Data Base (February, 2011) lists top SLP sites:

20 Best Speech Therapy Blogs | OEDb

According to OEDb, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association sponsors a blog:

ASHAsphere: Everyone in the speech therapy, speech and language pathology and audiology fields needs to bookmark The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s official blog. Their steady stream of articles covers pretty much everything professionals need to know to offer the best education possible.”

Although hearing about new techniques is helpful, our view is that blogs should provide a  unique source of real information about day-to-day practice, and real issues faced.  Keen, accurate and candid views of public policy trends in education have great value.

Posted comments should allow readers to freely post comment without complicated rules discouraging free and open debate, pro or con.  We see among non-profit and for-profit organizations a wide range of  blog restrictions on posts, from simple to complicated, from forthright to guarded.

Traditional academic and professional publications have become overly restrictive on the control of information while claiming it is offered for the public good.   Regrettably tax-payer supported scholars who submit free papers to professional organizations cannot have their works seen easily on the internet, free of cost and/or access restrictions.

The growth of proprietary publishing on the internet is disheartening.  The Wall Street Journal has struggled over the problem of fees for access.  When one is highly restrictive, not as many readers see the ads.  The “revenue stream” viewpoint can backfire.

Also voluntary authors have no say about the shelf-life of pieces placed on internet servers.  Webmasters should not delete  material without a sound basis of policy serving the public good.  There is a Kafka sense to things that disappear without explanation.  In the public arena, pieces proving controversial are “taken down.”  “Oh, we took that down!”  Others say, “We saw it yesterday!”

We support open source publishing to the extent that it can be executed by ordinary people.    The most self-protecting managers would agree that everyone benefits from Google searchers even though all kinds of crazy stuff is churned up.  Managers are on Google every day to learn all kinds of things they need to know while at the same time trying to protect their own content.

Wikipedia is a gem for citizen knowledge and collaboration.  It even is an open forum for understanding current views of speech-language pathology independent of government and private control.

No, SLPs in schools must help each other with information that is objective to the extent that it is about real situations, events, programs and practices.  We must consider the unique context of American education to define school practice issues.  And we must speak openly and candidly with one another.


In 2012 the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association publishes Access Schools designed specifically for school speech-language pathologists. One can submit questions to the ASHA staff:

“The next issue of Access Schools is coming March 2012! Address comments and suggestions for future Access Schools topics to Susan Karr or Neil Snyder at For information, resources, or responses to questions about school practice, e-mail To subscribe to this e-newsletter, send a blank e-mail with the word “subscribe” in the subject line to”


March 8, 2015

The blogs put up by SLPs for me demonstrate how little critical thinking is developed in graduate school. Authors have adopted ASHA’s public relations approach to best practice: “Rather than viewing professional education as a science-best practice framework, it now appears to us it is a marketing-public relations domain. Hence, for example, scope of practice expands inappropriately because ASHA makes sure the “product line” covers all novel pathologies, applications and public trends.”

Authors should not put out recommended treatments. Do
SLPs go in for surgery without considering risks /benefits possibilities?

Throughout the archives of U. S. speech-language pathology there is little or no public debate on the scientific merits of this method or that such as we saw in the early days of debate on stuttering treatment. Early SLPs came out to attack “quackery” to protect the public good. We don’t see that now, and every method as long as it is exciting, new and wanted is wonderful. Moreover, ASHA does not stand behind our clinical methods, saying it is not responsible for them if they are implemented.

Bloggers should be more than cheerleaders for fads, in my opinion.

14. New School Phonology: Wait to Fail!

The President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education (2001) found American schools follow a pattern members called “wait to fail.”  A modern phonology outlook (including articulation) brought forth by school speech-language pathologists can help to solve the wait to fail problem, as summarized by the Commission:

Finding 2: The current system uses an antiquated model that waits for a child to fail, instead of a model based on prevention and intervention. Too little emphasis is put on prevention, early and accurate identification of learning and behavior problems and aggressive intervention using research-based approaches. This means students with disabilities do not get help early when that help can be most effective. Special education should be for those who do not respond to strong and appropriate instruction and methods provided in general education.”

The quote, now 10 years old, should speak to SLPs if they are listening. Prevention is not something they do much of.  It is a pathology-driven field. Phonology is a general model of sounds, entailing language and cognitive principles, and entailing auditory processing, phonological awareness, grammatical expression and speech production. As such children with phonological delay first seen by SLPs are displaying underlying cognitive-linguistic issues that transfer into print processing. Print is mapped onto speech.

Many phonology children should be categorized by SLPs as learning disabled rather than SLI.  Say a five-year old boy has 5 or more articulation errors and falls two standard deviations below the mean on an articulation test.  This is an LD child if placement in special education is required. SLPs are prepared as well as any school employees to place children in the SLD category at the preschool level of linguistic learning and academic prediction.

The problem of phonological delay and disability will limit and predict subsequent language and reading performances before teachers and psychologists can detect problems. There is a good body of research showing “artic cases” morph into language and learning problems later, as well as social and academic success problems later. Fooling around with them as “artic cases” and then dismissing them after sounds are corrected is to abandon these children just as they are entering a critical stage of great academic need.

There is no reason to wait for failure. Prevention is likely if preschool language and literacy programming is started early, a fact long ago pointed out by researchers advocating for early intervention.  The President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education made this point firmly. 

Market in the 18th

Special Education Budget Cuts of 2011

A cursory survey of current press reports in February of 2011 reveals an increasing number of reports indicating local schools are cutting special education funds to meet their budget obligations.   The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided emergency funds to schools nationally to retain positions in special education, but those funds are running out.  Administrators are targeting special education for reductions, especially personnel. 

 The Winfield Daily Courier,  February 18, 2011, reported Kansas is facing budget cuts that might  impair long-term funding.     Lawmakers in Topeka face a dilemma on special education funding.  In a scramble to close this year’s budget gap, the House cut $26.4 million for special education.  The Senate, concerned over losing federal funds for special education, restored that money to the budget.   Now leaders of both bodies are trying to work out a compromise.”

Such reports point out the manner in which special education is regarded as a separate entity in schools, assuming neither children nor teachers in special education have anything to do with general education. 

In small schools there are teachers who split time between general education and special education.  For Title 1 programs school psychologists and speech-langauge pathologists provide support.  Reading specialists may work in both programs.

Learning disabled children and other categories of disabled children spend most of their time in the regular classroom.  Reducing personnel in special education is another way of saying regular education teachers will be returning to their traditional roles of serving all children within an age group.

Here again, as we have pointed before, money pushes best practice around when long-term solutions to help “struggling children” are needed.  From the federal level cascading downward to the states and through to local schools, the “budget process” trumps the rhetoric and the essence of “quality education.”

The budget process for government schools and universal design of learning for school improvement are principles of natural antithesis and political wrangling.

“Universal design is consistent with Response To Intervention approaches in the school setting.  It can be used to sidestep the artificial division between special education and general education.  Assessments can honor a gradation of abilities without categorization of any kind.”  (cf Universal Design for Special Education).

The average American citizen wonders why quality of life is suffering at the hands of government.   Even fine administrators shake their heads when wild budget machinations are in the air.

Speech Pathologists Working in Preschool

Stairs to the river, Paris

Like other related services personnel in American schools, school speech-language pathologists must set priorities for quality of service based on evidence-based practice.  Setting priorities is a matter of formulating policy with clarity, focus and resolve.

A key consideration should be to reduce the number of at-risk children wrongly placed in special education, thereby mitigating the stigma of such placements.

There must be renewed efforts to become leaders in preschool education, to a level of excellence exceeding that held in general education.  Preschool education has been adrift for years, often because of a lack of commitment to evidence-based practice and reckless funding patterns.

Speech-language pathologists have strong background in language acquisition and disability.  They have strong backgrounds in ORAL LANGUAGE! The foundation of literacy developments rides on oral language foundations.  Here is where prevention can occur, the prevention of literacy disability.

Available testing procedures are many, and have been evaluated for validity.  Available scientific literature on preschool intervention is adequate.  It’s a professional strength.

SLPs should be leaders in reducing the problem of “wait to fail” cases and should engage themselves in learning disability testing and evaluation.  SLPs should become leaders in reducing the number of American school children placed as LD children.

SLPs should incorporate articulation evaluation into the larger framework of prevention, using reading instruction as a means of promoting generalization of learning, from speech to print, and from print to speech.  They should take into consideration the cognitive-linguistic processing abilities of all preschool school children.

Universal screening is a must, and collaboration with other specialties the same.  Encouraging RTI programming early on is highly desirable.

Prevention is a noble cause.  Once children are placed in special education they are left there without sufficient attention to bring about dismissal.

School speech-language pathologists by establishing a preschool priority should be able to move away from time spent servicing older children who were mistakenly placed.  The SLP staff should collaborate to shift work hours to preschool.

Yet the primary aim of preschool intervention should be to increase the number of children graduated from high school.  It is the big picture that so urgently needs to be addressed.

More SLPs need to get doctoral degrees in special education to express their leadership skills to a high level.   They need to become directors of special education or curriculum to bring about reform in preschool education.

Special Education Overidentificaton Inaction

From 1997, when the U. S. Congress passed IDEA, the problem of over-identification of special education children has been well-defined, described and discussed.  Yet when one looks at current idea almost no progress has been made.  The problem is identified, and identified, ad nauseam.

“A key factor is misdiagnosis: ‘Experts who have studied the issue … throughout the country said disabilities are often misdiagnosed in minority children, especially boys. Children who are placed in special education for the wrong reasons face stigmas that are difficult to overcome, psychologists said” (New York Times, 2005-cf. Minorities).

What gives here? 

Solutions are not that hard to come with!  In a prior post we suggested the special education director simply say in August: “Look, folks, we are taking in too  many special eduction children.  Check your procedures, tighten up!  Let’s cut our enrollment 10% this year.  DONE!

We have also suggested the use of AGGREGATE DATA!  Count the number of children in special education by categories and minority status.  Let the data talk to you.  This is something a sophomore in college can do.

If you have a hard time catching on, note you have a Zillion Boys in special education.  How did this happen?

If  you are a manager in a non-profit or government organization, try to remember the Civil Rights Act was in 1964. 

It’s time to reform placement ideas and procedures, no?  It’s time to protect the public, no? 

Window looking out.

“A mystery recurs throughout the discussions of disproportions in racial make up in special education. Whereas the thunder of class action complaints occupy national debate, at the level of the local school districts it is business as usual. An enormous gap exists between what national policy makers are proposing and what practitioners are doing in thousands of monthly IEP meetings across the country. SLPs in particular and special educators in general have little awareness of the crucial roles they play in shaping the distributions of special education determinations. They cannot manage a problem they do not perceive.”  (cf. Minorities).

Superintendents, Money, Special Education and SLPs

Public policy in education – from federal to state to LEAs — revolves around money.  Superintendent are the chief administrators.  

Some facts come to light because of school board meetings, and negotiations with local unions.  However, much of it is secretive for many reason, including personnel privacy and employee sensitivities.  

Since 2008, the pressure is on to balance local school budgets according to set priorities.  One way to save money is to cut positions.  Local politics play a role.  Which is more important, an assistant golf coach, backup bus driver, or SLP assistant?

On January 19, 2011, Maggie Gordon, Staff Writer for the Stamford Advocate, that Stamford schools might be cutting back on special education resources.  “Much of the tightening occurred within the special education portion of the budget, where [administrator] Starr’s request proposed cutting 12 special education teacher positions, five social workers and four speech and language pathologists, as well as one special education administrator.”  Remaining teachers will have more children.  Music, art, drama, reading, math and athletics will be maintained. Parents and special education personnel are resisting the changes, calling them disproportional.  In such cases, IEP contracts still have to be met.

The deep background is administrators are forced into a false educational dichotomy of general education versus special education.  For years schools have accepted it because they gained extra money from putting non-disabled children into special education. During the boom times it helped to finance general education.

In the meantime administrators did little about the over-identification of special education pupils despite regulations and public debate.  They let Title 1 (Elementary and Secondary Education) programs languish while using the extra money. Superintendents begin to talk about inclusive education again when they need budget cuts.  It’s not about educational programs and evidence-based practice; it’s about balancing the budget and protecting general education programs.

Now without comment over half of American schools are trying RTI and other prevention programs to keep children out of special education.  Some of these efforts are window-dressing.  Schools have Title 1 programs which if operated as intended can do the job. 

History has created special education as a category set up and when budget cuts come the categories rule best practice.  IDEA 2004 as a legal entity creates internal roadblocks to imaginative programs using funds creatively.


Green and Foster (2002) wrote on the subject of money and special education:  “This report examines the effect state funding methods have on the number of students enrolled in special education. It finds that states with “bounty” funding systems provide financial incentives to schools to increase the identification of students with special needs by paying schools more for each additional student in special education. The authors find that those incentives are responsible for 62% of the increase in special education enrollment in those states over the past decade. Nationally, the report shows that this has led to roughly 390,000 children wrongly placed in special education programs at an annual cost of $2.3 billion. The authors also find that high-stakes testing, which has been suggested as an alternative culprit for the increase, has no significant effect on special education enrollment.”

Jay P. Greene, Ph.D.  Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, and Greg Forster, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Effects of Funding Incentives on Special Education Enrollment (2002).


However, superintendents are between a rock and a hard place.  If they start putting more special needs children into the classrooms regular education teachers will complain to the union.  They have enjoyed the benefits of special education placement to get “hard-to-teach” children out of the classroom.  History teaches us schools continue to try to work around “struggling children” by artifice and avoidance.

A school district must formulate the right views of education and work toward economy and efficiency.  Some 30% of American school boards are not implementing RTI.  It allows for a continuum of educational principles and methods to help “struggling children” without putting them into special education. Special education personnel can also cross over and work in general education.  Superintendents have alternatives.

For the next five years it is too late!   Special education must pass through another panic stage until it comes full circle.