Speech and Language

On eligibility for S/L services

by Elizabeth Christopher

“Do you have a publication on eligibility and dismissal from speech language (S/L) services?” This question is frequently received by the speech initiative here at PaTTAN. Today’s blog post is meant to help those in the field to further understand eligibility for S/L. Future posts will address service delivery models and dismissal.

To answer the question simply, we do not have a specific standard criteria publication outlining qualifications for S/L. Qualifications are outlined through IDEA and Chapter 14. Qualification for speech language services falls under IDEA qualifications as a child with a disability. In Pa, please refer to Chapter 14 for eligibility for special education in general. S/L is one of the 13 categories. It should be determined through your speech language pathologist (SLP) and the student’s educational team. Eligibility for S/L services falls under the three prong approach for special education.

1. Is the child a child with a disability (in this case specifically a speech language disorder/disability)?
2. Does the disability have adverse effects on educational performance?
3. Does this child require specifically designed instruction in order to have access to FAPE?

Speech language disabilities may include articulation, phonology, receptive language, and expressive language, fluency, and voice disorders. A discrepancy from typical communication skills in one of the above areas of speech/language/communication should be determined and documented. Disability status is determined through a comprehensive speech language evaluation. This evaluation must be comprehensive including qualitative data sources from educators, parents and other service providers, multiple measures (i.e., authentic dynamic assessment measures, norm-referenced assessment, criterion-reference measures, developmental profiles) and assessment in customary environments which may include language sampling. The evaluation should not rely one method of assessment like a standardized test. The evaluation needs to identify the following items: current assessment of student’s communication skills with identification of strengths and weakness in communication and determination of disability versus difference. Teams need to keep in mind additional considerations when looking at the results of the assessment. These include the normative sample on standardized tests need to match the profile of the student, students who are English language learners need to qualify as having a disability in their primary language, and psychometrics regarding specific norm referenced tests like test/retest, inter-rater, and consistency. Also, IDEA does not require a significant discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for a student to be eligible for speech/language services. During the evaluation, the team must consider if the difference is a disability or a difference which is the result of other influences like cultural, second language learning, environmental and/or economic influences. Here are examples of students who may not qualify:

1. A child with an articulation impairment that are consistent with developmental sound errors.
2. A student with dysfluencies in which rate is the only affected area with no impact on education.
3. A child with an articulation impairment secondary dental abnormality or prosthetic.
4. A student with language difficulties that result from a second language unless the impairment is also in the primary language.
5. A student with age appropriate developmental language errors.
6. A student with only low vocabulary scores and no other indicators of speech/language impairment.

Again, all of the students above would need to be assessed with the impact on academics in mind. These students may qualify for other intensive services or interventions but not directly through your SLP or speech therapy.

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