Monthly Archives: August 2012

5. The Future of School Speech-Language Pathology

Last year we  began to argue for the “overhaul” of American school speech-language pathology.  Responsibility rests with the Membership of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and particularly the elected Board of Directors. The appearance is the Board dwells more on the health of the non-profit organization than it does on school reform.  Overhaul must be from top to bottom, from undergraduate education through to continuing education.  Reform is needed to eliminate historical bias against the “speech correction teachers.”

Here is the earlier post:


The administrative management of educational speech-language pathology needs a total overhaul.  That means fresh thinking and reform.  The last generation of school SLPs didn’t get crucial and timely assistance.

a. To examine or go over carefully for needed repairs.
b. To dismantle in order to make repairs.

“Overhaul” defined by the FREE DICTIONARY points us toward (a) and the view that school speech-language pathology should retain good measures and good practice but it should be examined carefully for Needed Repairs.  

A starting place is recognition one cannot talk about school practices as disembodied techniques and skills apart from how ASHA policies impact the processes of educating and informing SLPs.  The medical model bias is a problem.”

Stairs to the river, Paris

New Division 

We are now recommending a new Division of School Speech-Language Pathology as a separate administrative unit apartment from “Speech Therapy.”


Janet Ness On September 1, 2012 at 2:33 am

It is so funny to me because my training included everything that SLPs licensed for hospitals and clinics had. I chose to take MORE classes so that I could be certified to work in the schools.

  • schoolspeechpathology On September 1, 2012 at 2:56 am

    For many years, at least 50, this has been the case. There is no logical reason for this except historical preference expressed by those favoring the medical model over educational speech pathology. The programs should be the same length and the same cost. Or hospital SLPs should take more language so as to embrace cognitive linguist models. In the U.S. all children who go to hospitals are subject to IDEA law and school intervention. Hospital SLPs should ask for IEPs within scope of practice. They should support school SLPs and participate in IEP meetings. IDEA trumps hospital assessment. Thanks. JMP


Decontextualizing School Disproportionality By Numbers

Yes, we agree that statistical analysis of the school population should be used as a guide to reducing the over-identification of non-disabled minority children. But alone it is another silly proposed technical solution making it easy for decision-makers to avoid the issue because they now have science at work.  This is a public policy issue, not a technique and training issue.

The problem of disproportionality has been identified for decades.  The law has been in place for years and years.  IDEA 2004 regulations are clear.  What is not discussed are the social and public policy contexts working off the page to mitigate solutions.

Risk Analysis
Risk index is proposed as a kind of silver bullet:

“The risk index is the percentage of a given racial/ethnic group that is in a specific category. Thus, for instance, if we find that 8% of all Latino students in a school corporation have been suspended, then we can say that Latino students in that school corporation have an 8% chance of being suspended. The risk index answers the question: What is the risk that students in a given group will be in a specific category?”

But measurement is fiddling while Rome is burning.

The chief problem of interpretation of disproportionality  — typically centered around black school children — is decontextualization of American education.  As though it exists in a utopian vacuum of precise methods and procedure.

Fundamental Cause

Black children are misplaced in special education because historically  mainstream Americans do not like black children in schools.  School personnel are tacit supporters of this de facto policy.

Think back on the Civil War.  George Wallace and the schoolhouse door. Jim Crow laws.  Brown versus the Board of Education.  Forced busing.  The historical markers are there for all to read.

“Brown v. Board of Education347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmarkUnited States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Fergusondecision of 1896 which allowed state-sponsored segregation.”  Wikipedia

If you are forced to take black children into your school, then the next best solution is to put them in special education indefinitely and maybe call them retarded.

No, complex measurement schemes simply postpone attention to the problem of changing knowledge, attitudes and actions.

blow up chair in cottage

School superintendents are the IDEA legal officers who need to take responsibility for the problem.  They are typically paid well, educated in school law, have the authority and can act to initiate special projects.

Re-identification of the Special Education Over-identification Problem

In 1994 the New York Times reported on how school financial resources were being eaten up by the over-identification of children for special education.  The article was written by San Dillon.  The article pinpoints the issues still facing us in 2012:

“Although the system was intended to help children with special needs, myriad complaints are being leveled by parents, academic researchers and other critics. They say the system mislabels thousands of children, segregating many in dead-end classes from which few are ever released. They say it uses legions of psychologists and social workers to administer endless evaluations of marginal worth at tremendous cost. They say that some teachers focus more on behavior control than on instruction, and that some principals bully parents who resist shunting their children into special education.”

A lingering question is how often do we need to identify the problem before regulatory agencies adequately fix it?  One way “the system” avoids the problem is to re-identify it with astonishment ever 10 years or so, like it is something new!

“Oh My God!  Disproportionality is bad!”

Reauthorization of IDEA will come, and journalists will again be reporting on it with astonishment.  The problem has been known for 50 years.