School SLP Collaboration in the Rear-View Mirror

In 1991 the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association published a “Relevant Paper” on school SLP collaboration, authored by the Committee on Language Learning Disorders, entitled, “A Model for Collaborative Service Delivery for Students With Language-Learning Disorders in the Public SchoolsCottage on the sea


The paper described the potential of school collaboration where SLPs work with other school professionals in assessing and treating at-risk children.  Members of the “team” function as equal partners in all phases of planning and intervention. The model is characterized as a supplement to pull out intervention.

How much impact did the model have?  Not much, for several reasons.

It did not recognize the full impact of IDEA 1997 on the horizon, increasing paperwork obligations and responsibility to relate clinical progress to the general curriculum. It did not anticipate growing numbers of complicated cases, expanding scope of SLP practice and burnout issues.  It did not anticipate the need for academics to test out the model as a set of standards and practices for implementation, especially for leadership to make collaboration happen in an education-dominated context.  It did not anticipate personnel shortages and high workload demands.  It stated school administrators were somewhat obliged to make time available for collaborative meetings and procedures throughout the phases of case management. It did not distinguish between voluntary collaboration among trusting colleagues, and mandatory collaboration such as that which is required for RTI programming.

In short, it badly underestimated time requirements and programmatic complexity of for SLPs and other special education personnel to make it work practically.

Twenty years later, collaboration is still a dream waiting to happen.

In a prior post (cf., 9. SLP Collaboration) we noted the Yoho study:

“Sarah E. Yoho of Ohio State University conducted a survey of Ohio speech-language pathologists investigating issues of caseload management related to selected practice issues (Ohio State, 2009).

….As expected, the large caseload of many school‐based Speech‐Language Pathologists and the broad scope of practice of the profession is the leading factor holding therapists back from adopting the emerging ideas of collaborative practice. The addition of literacy into that scope of practice is only one small factor contributing to the concerns of Speech Pathologists.”

Perhaps more interesting for some readers is the fact that a small panel of cloistered academic and clinical experts took it upon itself to generate and publish the advice without collecting survey data from working SLPs around the country. Had the panel taken this step to be empirical, it would have sent itself back to the drawing board.

Ultimately the model failed to make inroads because school administrators did not agree to freely provide more service time, as the model required.

Post Script

Ironically, the Association disavowed support of the document in the first place:

Disclaimer: The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association disclaims any liability to any party for the accuracy, completeness, or availability of these documents, or for any damages arising out of the use of the documents and any information they contain.”

February, 2015

We have tracked through to see why collaboration and other interventions have faltered. Simply, the ASHA Board of Directors is ineffective at guiding the development of curriculum for modern school practice. The CAA is allowed to function without direct Board study. Second-order change in practice requirements is impossible.

Furthermore we see efforts now to bring about collaboration in the medical setting without reference to school collaboration. ASHA in so many cases is incapable of long-term follow-through on critical practice issues. The BOD is a ceremonial body leaving our needs to the professional ASHA staff.

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  • schoolspeechpathology  On January 26, 2013 at 1:51 am

    Good point! I think this is the kind of information students should learn in graduate school. They must go out and learn school skills from scratch!


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