Speech & Language Therapy
According to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, in the 2002-2003 school year, more than 1.4 million students had a speech-language impairment as a primary category of eligibility. This number does not include problems secondary to other areas of eligibility. In the 26th Annual report to Congress (U.S. Department of Education), approximately 1 in every 10 people in the United States have a disorder in one or more speech-language areas.
According to the Arizona Department of Education, a “Speech-Language Impairment: means a child who has a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, severe disorders language skills or a voice impairment, as determined by evaluation pursuant to IDEA and Arizona Revised Statues 15-761 (34), to the extent that it calls attention to itself, interferes with communication or causes the child to be maladjusted.
Speech and Language Impairment refers to problems in communication and related areas such as oral-motor function (sucking, swallowing, drinking, or eating)that provides screenings, evaluations, and services for ages 3 to 21 years of age in the public school setting. The delays and disorders have a wide gamut of simple sound substitutions to the inability to understand and use language to difficulties with feeding and swallowing. The goal of the program is to service students who have a disorder in one or more of the following areas of communication due to their effect on the student’s educational functioning:
- Articulation-how sounds are produced in the student’s native language. For example, instead of saying an /r/sound, the student substitutes a /w/ sound. Thus, a word such as rabbit would be spoken by the student as “wabbit”. These errors can range from being mild to those students who cannot be understood by the listeners.
- Receptive language skills-how a student is able to understand what is spoken to them. Receptive tasks may include being able to follow directions, putting items into a sequential order understanding the markers in grammar, understanding vocabulary words as well as comprehending text to understand the meaning of a story.
- Expressive language skills-how a student is able to express their vocabulary, thoughts or ideas into words. Tasks may include naming items, stating opposites, synonyms, or homonyms, answering questions or retelling of a story.
- Fluency-the rate and rhythm of speech in how a student speaks. This is most commonly known as a disorder of stuttering.
- Voice disorders-difficulties in the physical anatomy of the oral mechanisms that produce speech such as vocal cord difficulties (overuse or inappropriate use), cleft palates, inadequate closure of muscles in the throat to produce or eliminate air in the nose, etc. Students with this kind of disorder may have trouble with the way their voices sound.
- Pragmatics-an area within language that involved the use of language in social contexts. That is, the student is able to identify what to say as well as how and when to say it.
Some of the causes of having a speech-language disorder are unknown while other causes include hearing loss, brain injury, intellectual challenges, cleft lip/palate, neurological disorders, or drug abuse. In most cases, the cause is
In the state of Arizona, there are three levels of professionals who can provide speech-language services in the school setting. They include:
- Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). A person who has a minimum of a Master’s Degree in Communication Disorders from an accredited 4-year college or university and has typically completed a year of internship under a certified mentor, and passed a national assessment in speech-language disorders. This person will have the following letters after their name: CCC-SLP. This means that they possess a “Clinical Certificate of Competence” from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) which is the national organization for being a Speech-Language Pathologist. This person is allowed to screen, assess, diagnosis and treat individuals with a communication disorder in either a school or a clinical setting. They may also have the responsibility to supervise Speech-Language Pathology-Assistants. This level of service provider is certified on a national level, through the State Department of Education in Arizona as well as through the Arizona Department of Health Services.
- Speech-Language Technician (SLT). A person who has a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Disorders from an accredited 4-year college or university. This person is allowed to screen, assess, diagnosis and treat individuals with a communication disorder in the public schools. In the Florence Unified School District, this person is assigned to a mentor SLP who reviews their reports and IEPs and guides them as needed.
- Speech-Language Pathology-Assistant. A person who has a minimum of an SLP-A certificate from an accredited program and is directly supervised by a Speech-Language Pathologist. This person provides services to the students as prescribed by the SLP.
Not only are there 3 kinds of service providers, there are also three service options. They range from consultation, itinerant services, to co-teaching or co-treating in a special classroom. Consultation services can be provided to any student by giving ideas and suggestions to other school staff members and parents to guide them to assist or improve their speech or language skills. Typically, students on consultation do not have goals or objectives on a student’s Individual Education Program (IEP).
The second layer of services is considered itinerant or pullout services. These services are typically provided to students in a small group setting in a room separate from the general education classroom. The number of services that a student receives is based on each child’s individual needs as determined by the IEP team. Typically it involves approximately 1-2 sessions per week.
The third layer of service options is when the Speech provider is working in conjunction with the classroom teacher (general or special education) to provide services within that classroom environment or with another related service provider (such as a Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist) to enhance the results of treatment.
It is the belief of the Florence Unified School District that speech-language services will occur for students that meet our eligibility criteria, regardless of their cognitive ability. While it is a team decision to determine what services are the most appropriate for students whose language abilities are commensurate with cognitive deficits, the team may decide that direct services are not appropriate and collaborative (consultative) services may provide reasonable benefit for the child.
Most students are referred for a screening by either their general education classroom teacher or the Child Study Team. A parent may also request a screening in an area of concern. After a screening has occurred, any further course of action will depend on the child’s needs. Some students (such as concerns with articulation) may be recommended for further evaluation while other screenings may result in the teacher recommending them to a Student Study Team (SST) also known as a Child Study Team (CST). The decision is based on the kind of concerns that the parent/teacher has for the child. For example, a child with a suspected underlying language disorder may have academic concerns that also may need to be addressed. These concerns must have interventions that are specific, scientific and data-driven. Thus, the process may take time to ensure that all interventions have been tried to have each student in the least restrictive environment.
While a student does not have to demonstrate academic problems to qualify and receive school-based speech therapy services, they do need to demonstrate how the issue interferes with their educational performance. According to the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) in Guidelines for School-Based Speech Language Pathologist (1999) states “Language is the foundation for learning within all academic subjects. The school-based speech-language pathologist helps students maximize their communication skills in order to support learning. The goal is to remediate, ameliorate or alleviate student communication problems within the educational environment.” Likewise, adequate vision and hearing are a crucial part of learning and each child must pass in each domain prior to any kind of evaluation.
For specific questions or concerns about your child’s speech or language skills, please contact the Speech-Language provider at your child’s homeschool.