12. The History of School Speech Pathology

IEP Prescription 1975

EHA of 1975 along with subsequent legislation took education by the ear and insisted it would make sure handicapped children received a free and appropriate public education. “Appropriate” was partly ensured by something called an “Individual Education Program.” Educators had to write a “lesson plan,” so to speak, for each special education child as though they could not do it on their own. This IEP creation was portrayed as an exercise in democratic ideals but when in fact it was heavy-handed and demanded accountability. As state organizations (SEAs) got set up, they sent auditors to schools to see whether IEPs were on file for all special education children.  Nothing was left to imagination and chance. Educators had to show they were protecting the FAPE rights of the handicapped in an official document to that effect. Plus parents now had rights to disagree and appeal!

IEP Details

Specifically, congressional prescription for documentation was defined in detail:

“…define an individualized education program as follows:

[a]n IEP is a written statement for each handicapped child prescribing specialized instruction to meet his or her unique needs.

The IEP is developed in meetings which are to include the handicapped child if appropriate, the child’s parents or guardian, the child’s teacher, and a representative of the school district qualified to provide or supervise the program of instruction for the child.

The IEP must include (1) a statement of the child’s current educational performance, (2) a statement of short-term instruction objectives and annual goals, (3) a statement of specific educational services to be provided to the child and the extent to which the child will be able to participate in regular school programs, (4) a statement of dates for initiation and duration of the services, and (5) an evaluation by objective criteria at least yearly to determine whether instruction goals are being met and such evaluation is to include the child’s parent or guardian. 12. H. R” (Karl Boettner,  University of Puget Sound Law Review, Vol. 7:183)

SLP Role Change

You might have asked school SLPs in 1980 to wear t-shirts saying, “WE’RE ON THE FAPE TEAM!” The truth was they were on the FAPE team whether they wanted it or not, otherwise no employment.  And if they didn’t know how to be on the Team, they had to learn fast!

Being on the FAPE team meant you were in the business of providing legal documentation for speech and language impaired school children to such an extent their rights were protected.

SLPs had the requisite clinical skills to fill out the IEP paperwork, and to do necessary testing where applicable.  But they were not used to the added legal accountability entailed, or the added work load requirements. SLPs in the 1970s were trained to make lesson plans so now in effect they were doing paperwork twice.

And SLPs were in the vice,too, like education.  Gradually their employment contracts said they must properly submit the paperwork as a job responsibility.  There were real teeth in this IDEA requirements filtering down through the 50 states.

They did not learn these new skills in their college programs.  It was helter-skelter to learn them.

SLPs had to justify their plans orally to peers and parents. Prior to 1975, they were free lancers.

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