16. SLP Eligibility Management: Categories

In 1975 school speech-language pathology changed forever.  U. S. courts and  the U. S. Congress imposed on government education strict rules for the ways in which handicapped school children were to be placed and retained in special education. States had not been able to fix the problems of misplacement of minority children, and their systems of eligibility identification were in need of great improvement. Accordingly, a system of categories of children eligible for special education was originated and revised.  SLPs were obliged to use this system, with particular reference to the SLI category.

School speech pathology has evolved over 100 years and in this evolution it has developed a stellar record of assessment and intervention practices for service to at-risk children.  Where no other specialty is available, SLPs have refined methods of intervention adaptable to any disability implicating communication performance. Therefore, one sees SLPs assigned to all of the categories of disabled school children for “speech therapy” services.  SLPs apply behavioral, linguistic and cognitive training methods centering around speech, language and hearing interaction in the family and in the classroom.  The methods are of a cognitive and social nature so they support development in the general curriculum, which is what the IDEA law requires.

Yet, many SLPs are not well prepared to understand the nuances of the IDEA categories, weakening their positions to speak to issues of eligibility; indeed, abuses of eligibility. Uninformed SLPs fall into the patterns of sustaining disproportional representations of non-disabled minority children in special education.  Their outlook fits the cliche, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”  Their narrow focus on the speech and language impaired means they sit on IEP teams without contributing more broadly, in the spirit of FAPE as intended by Congress in 1975.

In our posts we describe each of the 14 disability categories for an initial overview. Full study is necessary for effective practice in schools.  See Categories.


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