Speech and Language Service Delivery, Be Proactive Parents
This article was originally published by Teresa Sadowski M.A., CCC-SLP on the now defunct Examiner web site in February 2012. Speech and Language Service Delivery, Be Proactive Parents was written to help parents advocate for appropriate and effective speech and language services for their child.
Once your child has been diagnosed with a language disorder or weakness, it’s important to be proactive about service delivery. Asking, “How often will my child be seen by the Speech Language Pathologist?” isn’t enough.
The service delivery process begins with the Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) making their recommendation at the team meeting based on testing, progress and your child’s specific needs. Unfortunately, recommendations may also be driven by the school’s schedule, the therapist’s caseload or the school’s philosophy. A typical recommendation might be 1-2 thirty minutes sessions a week using either the “pull out” or “push in” model.
In the “pull out” model, your child receives services in a separate small group**** or individual setting. They’ll receive specific instruction and practice in their area(s) of need. School schedules might not be conducive to this model. Sometimes it’s difficult to find half hour blocks where the student isn’t missing something important. Ask the team to explain the schedule to you. Ask when services will take place and what your child will be missing. Some schools have scheduled in a daily block of time that accommodates children who receive special services. During that block of time the other students are free reading, taking an extra elective or working on special projects. This not only helps with scheduling, it keeps the special need student from feeling singled out or from falling behind. If your school has not developed this block of time ask the administration to consider it.
Many schools are opting for the “push in” model which means the therapist goes into the classroom. If the “push in” model is recommended there’s a lot more to ask.
How many other students is the therapist servicing at the same time in the classroom? Any more than 3 or 4 students and you might begin to wonder if the therapist will have any significant contact with your child. How will the therapist address my child’s specific needs? If you are not satisfied with the response to this question, continue questioning using the proposed goals and objectives as a guide. How much consultation do the therapist and teacher have before and after the lesson? If consult time between SLP and teacher isn’t built in, “push in” will not be very effective. One of the main purposes of the “push in” model is to educate teachers on the language disability and how to implement classroom lesson plans that accommodate a student’s specific needs. Therapists may often recommend a combination of push in and pull out as an appropriate solution.
How big is the therapist’s caseload?. In some school systems SLPs are servicing 80+ students. Even a therapist with 30-40+ students is going to have little time to devote to your child. Trained Speech Therapy Assistants are frequently used in schools with large numbers. Just like therapists, some therapy assistants are good and some have limited skills. If a therapy assistant is involved in your child’s programming you need to ask three questions. How much experience does the therapy assistant have? Everyone has to start somewhere but if you have a child with specific and challenging language needs that require flexibility in programing, insist the SLP primarily works with your child. What kind of training does the therapy assistant have? Therapy assistants should either hold a certificate from an accredited program or have undergraduate degree in speech language pathology. How often does the assistant meet and consult with the SLP? In reality they should meet daily to discuss mutual caseloads, that doesn’t always happen. In some states the SLP must be in the building available to observe and supervise the assistant at all times. If you are uncomfortable with the response you receive to this question, ask to see the state regulations.
Most schools really do look out for the best interest of their students. And most therapists will answer programming questions with relative ease during the team meeting. However, it is easy for schools and therapists to become overwhelmed or find themselves struggling with limited resources. Develop a good working relationship with your child’s special educational team, check in with their service providers every so often and ask what you can do to help. In the end, your proactive actions will only benefit one person……..your child.