In this final post in our series, we ask the experts a really tough question and they do not disappoint with their answers. It is important to note in this post that procedures for diagnosing a child as well as getting help in school may vary by state, or in some cases, even by school district so it’s important to talk to someone local!
What can you do when your child’s school does not agree that therapy is needed?
It’s important to not discount your instincts. Obviously something about your child’s communication abilities is worrisome to you. First, I would make sure that all the proper procedures set forth by federal IDEA guidelines (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) were followed. By law, these guidelines and parent rights must be made available to you at any time. Once a concern is identified (whether it is by a teacher or a parent), the school has a responsibility to evaluate the child to determine if a disability is present, this is called “Child Find.” If the school determines that the speech impairment does not impact academic performance, they may not recommend speech therapy. As a parent, you have the right to agree with the school’s assessment OR disagree with the outcome and request additional services. It’s important to know that that the schools have an obligation to treat disorders that impact educational performance. A younger child who still says “wabbit” for “rabbit” or has a slight interdental (lisp) “s”, would not be eligible for speech therapy because that’s considered within the normal range of development for their age. However, if those errors continue into later elementary, it becomes atypical and could start to impact their ability to speak publicly or even affect reading acquisition. You may also seek out a private evaluation outside of the school system for a second opinion and bring those results back to the school if necessary.
Sarah Baker, MS CCC-SLP, owner and clinical director of Baker Speech Clinic in Oklahoma City
A parent knows his/her child best and a parent’s gut feelings are typically accurate. If your child is denied speech therapy through early intervention or the school system, request a re-evaluation or seek out other means of getting services. Many graduate programs in speech-language pathology run student clinics, in which graduate student clinicians provide treatment under the supervision of licensed speech-language pathologists. These clinics often service children who have been denied services elsewhere or are seeking supplemental therapy. Speech-language therapy is also available through insurance in outpatient hospital settings, among others. Private speech-language therapy is also an option.
Lauren Alpert M.S. CCC-SLP TSSLD, Brooklyn NY
In order to qualify for school speech therapy, you have to have a severe disorder. So if your child has a mild or moderate speech/language/fluency disorder, they may not qualify for school services. If you feel your child needs speech therapy and the school says they don’t, get a second opinion. You can go to a private practice, hospital or a non-profit agency and get an evaluation using your insurance (if it is a covered service). At CHSC, we will even look at the evaluation the school completed and if we think that is enough information and there is a disorder, then we will use that evaluation to start therapy. If there is not enough information, we would then conduct our own speech-language evaluation and then give you our recommendations as to whether therapy is necessary or not.
Lauren Masuga, M.A. CCC-SLP Senior Speech-Language Pathologist for the Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center
First, has the school completed at least a speech screening to back their response? If not, then a positive dialogue with the WHY of your request is appropriate. Be sure to have your facts as to the WHY available to present. If a screening has been completed, and your child has passed the screening, then one of two options would be appropriate. First, ask what screening tool was used and determine if it was appropriate for your child based on your knowledge base or consultation with an external SLP. A second option would be to obtain an external independent evaluation from a private SLP in order to develop your case for the request to the school.
Mary Padula, MA, CCC/SLP TLP-C/BC-C Neurodevelopment Program Consultant and author of Navigating the Therapy World
Are you struggling with getting support from your school district? Did you find a solution that might benefit other parents? Tell us your story in the comments below. Our experts agree that parents are the best advocates for their children!