American Speech-Language Pathology and Black School Children

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association needs to take a strong public stand against the over-identification of non-disabled minority children, particularly black children and bilingual children.  There should be a clear policy statement rather than random news items.  Global summaries about “multiculturalism” are empty.  School SLPs continue to over-place non-disabled children because of linguistic and cultural differences they confuse with disability. Current advisory statements lack focus and proper applications to reduce placement errors according to IDEA 2004.  University clinics should incorporate proper procedures into clinical experiences, and special education status should be a clinical consideration.  Courses should contain specific decision-making placement criteria for accurate assessment to protect FAPE.  The profession needs to take action!  The treatment of black children is a national disgrace and all professional groups need to make that different.

School SLPs can make the excuse this is an “emerging issue.”  The problem is well documented as an historical fact.  Edward Fergus, writing for Essential Educator (http://essential educator.org/), ”Distinguishing Difference from Disability: The Common Causes of Racial/Ethnic Disproportionality in Special Education,” reports:

“Since Lloyd Dunn’s report (1968) on the overrepresentation of Black and Latino students in special education countless federal, state and district reports, as well as research studies exist that document the various facets of educational practice impacting these rates….”

Now we receive this troubling report:  “While African Americans make up approximately 17 percent of public school enrollment, they account for 31 percent of students identified as having mental retardation or intellectual disabilities, 28 percent of students labeled as having an emotional disturbance, and 21 percent of students who have learning disabilities. Some of these categories aren’t pure medical diagnoses, calling judgment, and perhaps bias, into play.”

http://blogs.edweek.org/ edweek/speced/2012/01/a_new_initiative_hopes_to.html

Amy Zirkelbach writing in 2002 laid out the problem nicely:

“Concerns about the overidentification of ethnic and culturally diverse students in special education first gained national attention in the 1960s as civil rights advocates, educators, administrators, and policy makers began raising questions about the overrepresentation of minority students in classes for the mentally retarded. To a great extent, disproportionate placement still remains today. Although the problems varies from state to state and region to region, it is seen as an ongoing national problem which may result in students who are unserved, misclassified or inappropriately labeled, or receive services that do not meet their needs. Disproportionate placement of these students into special education classes may be seen as a form of discrimination.”

ASHA directors need to pay attention to this part:  “Although the problems varies from state to state and region to region, it is seen as an ongoing national problem which may result in students who are unserved, misclassified or inappropriately labeled, or receive services that do not meet their needs.”

A starting point might be for every SLI school child enrolled in a university speech and hearing program in which students receive clinical clock hours for service have an IEP on file and integrated with clinical decision-making supervision.

 


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