Children between the ages of 3-21 are eligible for services through the local public school. Some districts may begin the evaluation process before age 3, although services do not usually begin until after the child’s third birthday. Please review our Individualized Education Plan (IEP) brochure for detailed information.
Parents or preschool teachers usually refer preschool children for assessment due to concerns about stuttering. In general, the parent contacts the Child Find (sometimes called Child Search or Special Services) coordinator at the district office to schedule screening. The child is screened by a team that includes preschool teachers and speech-language pathologists or assistants. They conduct screening in all developmental domains (cognitive, motor, social/emotional, self-help/adaptive behavior, and communication). Vision and hearing screening are also conducted. Based on the child’s performance and/or the parents concerns, the child may be referred for further evaluation. Parents are advised of their rights to due process, including the fact that they must give signed consent for the evaluation.
In many districts, individual evaluations for preschool children are scheduled with the parents present. The evaluation team collects a detailed case history and conducts a developmental assessment. If the child’s speech is the only concern, the speech-language pathologist (SLP) conducts a speech and language evaluation that includes an oral mechanism examination, and assessments of voice quality, receptive and expressive language development, social-pragmatics, speech sound production, and fluency. Depending on the needs of the child, standardized tests may or may not be administered.
The SLP analyzes a speech sample obtained during the evaluation for dysfluencies. Ideally, speech is sampled under several contexts, such as conversation, storytelling, “reading,” etc. Sometimes, the parents are asked to submit a recorded sample if the child’s speech is fluent during the evaluation or if the child will not talk to examiners. The SLP determines what types of dysfluencies the child exhibits and whether they are normal, linguistic nonfluencies typical of young children who are acquiring language, or whether they represent stuttering.
Based on the results of the speech analysis, the child’s history, and any other relevant factors, the evaluation team determines whether the child meets the district criteria as Speech-Language Impaired. They may also determine eligibility for services at that time. In some situations, the SLP may believe it is better to consult with the parents and allow the child more time before determining the need for services. If intervention is recommended, an SLP and the parents develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that describes the child’s needs and how those needs will be met. This may be done several weeks after the actual evaluation. If the child has been found eligible for services, the district has 60 calendar days from the time parents gave signed consent for the evaluation to conduct the IEP meeting and place the child.
The process for school-aged children is similar. Parents, teachers, or the student himself or herself may refer a student. In the educational setting, the speech-language problem must have an adverse impact on the child’s educational performance. The parents are notified that the student is being referred to the school Child Study Team, or similar committee, to examine available data and determine whether the student needs additional support in the classroom or whether an evaluation is warranted. If it is determined that the student is likely stuttering, s/he is referred for multidisciplinary evaluation. The student must be evaluated in every area of concern and the speech concerns must be assessed in relation to educational performance. Parents are advised of their rights to due process, including the fact that they must give signed consent for the evaluation.
Teachers and other educational personnel assess the student’s performance and achievement. The SLP assesses communication in all areas, including the oral mechanism examination, and assessments of voice quality, receptive and expressive language development, social-pragmatics, speech sound production, and fluency. Depending on the needs of the child, standardized tests may or may not be administered. The SLP determines whether the nature and types of dysfluencies meet the district criteria for classification as Speech-Language Impaired. After eligibility is determined, school personnel must offer an IEP within 60 days of signed consent. The SLP and any other relevant school personnel along with the parents write an IEP describing the types of services being proposed to meet the student’s educational needs.
Written by Lynne Remson, CCC-SLP. Lynne is a Family Chapter Leader in Phoenix, AZ.
IEP Ideas for Parents Whose Children May Be Resisting Speech Therapy
As a special education teacher and the mother of a teen who stutters, and as a person who is familiar with the IEP process, a question that is often posed to me is, “My child/teen does not seem to be getting anything out of speech services in school anymore. She hates it and doesn’t want to attend. Should we discontinue the IEP and stop services?”
I realize that there is not one correct answer to a question like this. Knowing that, my response often begins with a question of my own. I ask, “Have you considered changing her IEP by asking the team to add what is called a Monitor and discontinuing only the direct or pull-out speech therapy services?”
When written in an IEP, a “Monitor” generally covers weekly or monthly “check ins” by the speech clinician. This allows your child to continue receiving precious and often “hard-won” special education services like Specially Designed Instruction (the list of helpful supports to help your child who stutters find success in the classroom, which are usually contained at the end of the IEP document) without having to participate in weekly speech therapy that is currently not meeting their needs. When “checking in” the Speech and Language Professional may speak to your child, his teacher and even to you about how your child is doing. Periodic progress monitoring should be included, which may only need to occur one time per marking period.
Using a Monitor model allows you to keep the IEP current. Keeping your child’s IEP current is crucial and often misunderstood by parents. It is important to remember that if you dismiss all IEP services this year and decide at a later date that your child is in need of services again, you must start from the beginning with the entire district evaluation process. The evaluation process by law can and often does take up to a year to complete. In that time, your child will not be receiving any of the supports and services they need.
I understand the need for many children and teens to take a break from active school speech therapy. Keeping the IEP open by changing the level of services to Monitor only allows the IEP to remain active so your child won’t lose those important additional services like Specially Designed Instruction. If, in the future (and this often happens), your child is open to active speech therapy again, it is MUCH easier and quicker to call for a meeting and modify the IEP to reinstate these services. Written by Joan Duffield firstname.lastname@example.org