Speech and Language Services

What's Required

School-based speech-language pathologists (SLPs) provide services within the context of public education. Decisions regarding speech-language pathology services, including assessment and evaluation, are made within the framework of the mandates of this social institution. IDEA 2004 defines speech or language impairment as relevant to the context of schooling. 

Speech or language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. [emphasis added, 34 CFR §300.8 (c)(11)

Texas Commissioner’s Rules for Special Education defer to the federal definition of a speech or language impairment. 

Speech impairment. A student with a speech impairment is one who has been determined to meet the criteria for speech or language impairment as stated in 34 CFR, §300.8(c)(11). The multidisciplinary team that collects or reviews evaluation data in connection with the determination of a student's eligibility based on a speech impairment must include a certified speech and hearing therapist, a certified speech and language therapist, or a licensed speech/language pathologist. TAC §89.1040 (10) 

Individual evaluations of students suspected of having a disability must be designed for educational relevance. IDEA 2004 provides parameters for the services provided in educational settings, stipulating that the goal of providing services is to help students make progress in the general education curriculum, and/or be successful when integrated in nonacademic settings and extracurricular activities.[34 CFR  §300.107(a) (b); §300.117] A student’s communication skills are the foundation for academic achievement, computer literacy, literacy, and social/pragmatic/interpersonal functioning (ASHA, 2007). 

Concerns from teachers, parents, and other school personnel about articulation, phonology, voice, stuttering, swallowing/feeding, language, and social/interpersonal communication need to be examined in relation to school environments—both academic and nonacademic. Speech language pathologists evaluate the student’s communicative competence as well as the language skills needed to meet  curriculum expectations in academics. A student is eligible for speech-language pathology services through IDEA 2004 when s/he exhibits a speech impairment that has an adverse effect on educational performance to the degree that specially designed instruction or related services and supports are needed from the SLP to help the student make progress in the general education curriculum. Determination of eligibility for individualized education program (IEP) services with a speech impairment is a three-stage process that involves collecting data to answer: 

Stage 1: Is there a disability condition (i.e., a communication disorder)? 

Stage 2: Is there an adverse effect on educational performance (academic achievement and functional performance) resulting from the communication disorder? 

Stage 3: If so, are specially designed instruction and/or related services and supports needed from the SLP to help the student make progress in the general education curriculum? The Eligibility Guidelines have been provided by the Texas Speech Language Hearing Association to describe the data collection and decision-making procedures needed to document the student’s communication skills and provide answers to the questions listed above.

In Texas, speech-language therapy is considered an instructional service.  This means it can be a stand-alone service as well as a support in order to receive benefit from other special education services.  In regards to the delivery of speech services, the student’s Least Restrictive Environment must be considered.  Additionally, all the same factors associated with the individual determination of related services, such as frequency, location, and duration of services, must be considered (http://www4.esc13.net/speechlang).

What We Do

A child who has difficulty producing speech or understanding and communicating ideas may have a speech-language impairment.  When a person is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently , or has problems with his or her voice, he or she has a speech disorder.  Difficulties pronouncing sounds, or articulation disorders and stuttering are examples of speech disorders.  When a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely (expressive language), he or she has a language disorder.  
  • Prior to referral, students experiencing communication difficulties in the general education classroom should be considered for the support services available to all students such as tutorials, remedial services, and/or other support services.
  •  If the student continues to experience difficulty in the general education classroom after the provision of interventions, the student must be referred for a full and individual evaluation.
  • Students with suspected speech and/or language impairments are evaluated using a comprehensive speech battery conducted by professionals that are licensed and/or certified as a Speech-Language Pathologist.  Some professionals may hold Speech and Hearing Therapy certificates as previously granted by the Texas Education Agency
  • When a student is determined eligible for speech-language services, the service delivery and clinical methods must focus on achieving the speech and/or language goals in the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).  These services are provided using direct or indirect service delivery models, and may target one or more of the following areas:
    1. Articulation – Abnormal production of speech sounds
    2. Stuttering – Abnormal flow of verbal expression characterized by impaired rate/rhythm.
    3. Language – Impairment or delayed development of comprehension, pragmatics, and/or use of a spoken/written or other symbol system.
    4.  Voice – Absence or abnormal production of vocal quality, pitch, loudness and/or resonance.
    5. Generalization of skills to the natural setting.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) an IDEA mandate, provides that eligible students are educated with students without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate.  LRE should be considered in the selection of a service delivery model as the ability to generalize skills to the natural setting is crucial for independent communication.  It should be noted that all educators address communication development throughout the student’s day. 
  • Service Delivery Models – The following is a description of speech-language service delivery models that are available based on the individual needs of the student.
    1. Direct Pull Out – Speech-language services occur with students in the speech room or sometimes within the physical space of the classroom setting.  This is the most restrictive environment for speech therapy services.
    2. Direct Push In – Speech-language services occur within the classroom setting.  Team teaching with the classroom teacher (General Education or Special Education) can be utilized to support the curriculum content and communication intervention needs in a natural environment such as the classroom or community.  

Feeding and Swallowing

A fundamental educational need for students is adequate nutrition and hydration during their school day. To notify the Dysphagia Team of a student who is having difficulty with feeding and/or swallowing while at school, please refer to the Dysphagia Referral Procedures 

Speech Therapy Services for Medically Fragile Students

Medically Fragile Students who require Homebound Services may experience a temporary period of time when they are not medically stable enough to benefit from Speech Therapy services. During this time, the Speech-Language Pathologist's role would be to consult with the student's nurse and Homebound teacher periodically to determine when the student is stable enough to benefit from services. The ARD/IEP committee will determine the frequency and duration of the consultative speech therapy services during this time.

Dismissal Considerations

The Speech-Language Pathologist must use sound professional judgment and competency, in addition to evaluation data, in recommending that services are no longer warranted. The following factors must be considered:
  1. Evaluation Data- Does evaluation data indicate that the student no longer qualifies for services according to Spring ISD’s eligibility guidelines? (see above three bullet points “What is Required”)
  2. Duration of Services- How long has the student been receiving speech therapy services?
  3. Capacity of student for change- Is the student receiving meaningful benefit from services? What is the Speech-Language Pathologist’s reasonable statement of prognosis? Does the student’s primary disability limit their ability to benefit from the specialized services of the SLP?:
    •  Feedback from teachers, parents, and students is considered.
    •  Some services may be redirected through a resource or self-contained classroom as the most appropriate means of meeting the student’s needs
    • Justification for the decision to dismiss must be documented in detail in the IEP.
    • Determination of dismissal is considered by the ARD/IEP committee during ARD/IEP meetings.