8. The History of School Speech Pathology

What was the impact of IDEA legislation on education, special education and related services? Huge, but SLPs were not paying any more attention to it than was required of them day to day.

The Kennedy family advocated for retarded citizens. This is Mrs. Kennedy. Her husband was President John Kennedy, and he too advocated for rights of children.

 

Impact of IDEA

Educators had developed a comfort level with not having handicapped children in school buildings.  Professors in schools of education taught to the system of old practices.  New teacher recruits learned on the job and internalized old school procedures.  Likewise special education teachers and related services personnel were in an old groove.

Congress and the courts spelled out what had to be done.  After all, the system had failed for so long it could not be trusted to self correct.  Parents knew that and they continued to push for “appropriate” procedures and safeguards.  Schools were in a vice!  No escape!

This is not to say educators did not respond.  They are great professionals and troopers when push comes to shove. But they were dragged kicking and screaming to admit fundamental changes in teaching handicapped children had to be made. They still complain today when the topic of “mainstreaming” comes up.

The University of Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professionals (http://atto.buffalo.edu/) provides an excellent summary of special education laws as they have evolved from 1975.

Least Restrictive Environment

If you are a congressman or judge trying to guarantee equal education for the mentally retarded, beyond guaranteeing they have a right to be physically at school, you must figure out a way to prevent warehousing.  That is, how do you prevent the superintendents from placing all retarded children in an old dilapidated buildings across the road from the main campus? Yes, you can’t exclude them from school as in years past but you can segregate them on school grounds so no one has to bother with them.

Least restrictive environment established a continuum of placements from high restrictive to hardly restrictive.  The key idea is to give special needs children time with their peers in normal learning situations, as much as possible.

Special education did adjust to this requirement.  For example, resource rooms sprang up allowing for part-time placements outside of the regular classroom.  However, self-contained placements continued whether least restrictive or not.

Related services personnel adapted less successfully to EHA of 1975. Perhaps they did not see themselves as educators, and educators did not see them as educators.  Hence, for they to follow their traditional service delivery patterns was comfortable for everyone. Related services people, after all, were hired hands employed to do specific tasks. They were not hired to be knitted into the fabric of education, even though many had degrees in education.

School speech pathologists were wedded to pull-out service delivery dating back to the early beginnings of the field.  It was business as usual for SLPs.

Pull-Out Erosion 

But the laws brought in handicapped children who had severe conditions and certainly had communication disorders qualifying them for speech services.  Pull-out didn’t work very well for children in wheelchairs who could not quickly go to the speech therapy room for articulation therapy.  SLPs were obliged to adapt and go where the handicapped children were if necessary.  What’s more, two 30 minute sessions a week of treatment was of insufficient “intensity” for more involved cases. Articulation therapy on a pull out basis could not be sustained as universal treatment for school children. Language and communication were more relevant abilities to target.

The seeds of consulting speech pathology were being planted.

Pull-out was under pressure but SLPs clung to it in the 1980s.  Administrators began to ask for more flexible speech services and that trend remains strong in 2011 (see response to intervention, for example). The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) responded with advisory documents written by expert panels indicating how school SLPs might approach new school practice demands. But there was no way it could quickly force university to adopt the radical ideas IDEA represented.  University clinics were designed to teach pull out one-on-one as the desirable mode of service delivery. University professors busy with research couldn’t be going off campus to supervise practice in collaborative settings.

One can’t locate information from the 1990s as to how speech pathologist began to follow LRE and the continuum principle. For the most part, the profession school speech-language pathology has ignored this part of the federal law.

Some school SLPs continue to work almost exclusively on a pull-out basis.  I. E., a restrictive basis.

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