Speech and language disorders can significantly impact a child’s ability to communicate and learn. If your child is struggling, you may be wondering what support they can get through the school system.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through your child’s rights to speech therapy services in public school and how the process works.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), public schools are required to provide speech therapy services for students who qualify. The school must assess your child and determine if they have a speech or language impairment that impacts their education.
If so, speech therapy must be included in their Individualized Education Program (IEP).
What Laws Require Schools to Provide Speech Therapy?
When it comes to providing speech therapy services in schools, there are several laws in place to ensure that students with speech and language disorders receive the help they need to succeed. These laws outline the rights of students with disabilities and the responsibilities of schools to provide appropriate services.
The three main laws that require schools to provide speech therapy are the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
IDEA is a federal law that guarantees free appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with disabilities, including those with speech and language disorders. Under IDEA, schools are required to identify, evaluate, and provide individualized education programs (IEPs) for eligible students.
This includes speech therapy services for students who require them to access their education. IDEA ensures that students with disabilities, including speech and language disorders, have access to specialized instruction and related services to meet their unique needs.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. This includes public schools.
Under Section 504, schools are required to provide necessary accommodations and services to ensure equal access to education for students with disabilities. For students with speech and language disorders, this may include speech therapy services.
It’s important to note that Section 504 applies to all students with disabilities, regardless of whether they qualify for special education services under IDEA.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, and other areas of society. While the ADA primarily applies to non-school settings, it can also have implications for schools.
Under the ADA, schools are required to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities, including those with speech and language disorders. While the ADA does not specifically mandate the provision of speech therapy services, it does require schools to ensure equal access to education for students with disabilities.
Qualifying for Speech Therapy Through an IEP
For students with speech and language difficulties, accessing speech therapy services is crucial for their academic and social development. In the United States, schools are required to provide speech therapy to eligible students as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
However, not all students with speech and language difficulties automatically qualify for these services. The process of qualifying for speech therapy begins with an evaluation.
The Evaluation Process
The evaluation process is the first step in determining whether a student is eligible for speech therapy. It typically involves a comprehensive assessment conducted by a speech-language pathologist (SLP).
The SLP will assess the student’s speech and language skills, including articulation, fluency, voice, and comprehension. They may also consider other factors such as the student’s academic performance and social interactions.
The evaluation may include various assessment tools and techniques, such as standardized tests, observations, and interviews with the student, parents, and teachers. The purpose is to gather comprehensive information about the student’s communication abilities and determine whether there is a significant impact on their educational performance.
Once the evaluation is complete, the SLP, in collaboration with other members of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, will review the results to determine eligibility for speech therapy services.
The eligibility criteria are based on federal and state regulations, which vary slightly across different regions.
In general, a student may be eligible for speech therapy if their speech and language difficulties significantly impact their ability to communicate effectively and access the curriculum. The IEP team will consider the evaluation results, the student’s academic and functional needs, and any other relevant information to make this determination.
If the student meets the eligibility criteria, they will be deemed eligible for speech therapy services and will have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) developed to address their specific needs.
Developing the IEP
The IEP is a legally binding document that outlines the student’s individualized goals, accommodations, and services. It is developed by the IEP team, which includes the student’s parents or guardians, teachers, school administrators, and related service providers such as the SLP.
The IEP team will collaborate to create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART goals) to address the student’s speech and language needs. These goals may focus on improving articulation, language comprehension, social communication, or any other areas of concern identified during the evaluation process.
In addition to speech therapy, the IEP may also include accommodations and supports to help the student succeed in the classroom, such as preferential seating, extended time for assignments, or assistive technology devices.
It’s important to note that the IEP is a dynamic document that can be reviewed and revised as the student progresses or as their needs change. Regular meetings will be held to monitor the student’s progress and make any necessary adjustments to the IEP.
Speech Therapy Services Provided by Schools
Speech therapy services are often provided by schools to support students who have difficulties with speech and language. These services are aimed at helping students improve their communication skills, enhance their social interactions, and succeed academically.
Schools play a crucial role in identifying and addressing speech and language disorders, ensuring that students receive the necessary support to thrive in the educational setting.
How Often Speech Therapy is Provided
The frequency of speech therapy sessions varies depending on the individual needs of the student. In some cases, students may receive speech therapy services on a weekly basis, while others may require more intensive sessions multiple times a week.
The frequency and duration of the sessions are determined by the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan, which outlines the specific goals and accommodations necessary to support their speech and language development.
Delivering Services in the Least Restrictive Environment
Schools strive to provide speech therapy services in the least restrictive environment possible. This means that efforts are made to integrate students with speech and language disorders into the general education classroom alongside their peers.
Speech therapists work collaboratively with classroom teachers to provide support and accommodations that allow students to participate fully in academic and social activities. In some cases, students may receive speech therapy services in a small group setting or through individual sessions, depending on their specific needs and the recommendations outlined in their IEP or 504 plan.
Types of Speech Therapy Activities
Speech therapy activities can vary depending on the individual needs of the student. These activities may include articulation exercises to improve speech clarity, language exercises to enhance vocabulary and grammar skills, and social communication activities to improve conversational skills and social interactions.
Speech therapists may use a variety of techniques and resources, such as games, technology, and visual aids, to engage students and make the therapy sessions enjoyable and effective.
For more information on speech therapy services provided by schools, you can visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) website. ASHA provides valuable resources and information on speech and language disorders, as well as guidance for parents, educators, and speech-language pathologists.
Speech Therapy for Postsecondary Transition
Transitioning from high school to college can be an exciting yet challenging time for students with speech and language disorders. It is important for these students to understand their rights and the support available to them during this transition period.
One of the key questions that often arises is whether schools are required to provide speech therapy services to students in postsecondary education.
Transition Planning in High School
During high school, students with speech and language disorders are entitled to receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). As part of the transition planning process, schools are responsible for helping students with disabilities, including speech disorders, prepare for life after high school.
This includes providing appropriate accommodations, support, and resources to ensure a successful transition.
As part of the transition planning, students with speech and language disorders should work closely with their Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, which typically includes speech-language pathologists (SLPs).
The IEP team will help identify the student’s strengths, challenges, and goals, and develop a plan to address their speech and language needs in preparation for postsecondary education.
Speech Therapy in College
Once students with speech and language disorders transition to college, they are no longer covered under IDEA. However, colleges and universities are still required to provide reasonable accommodations and support services to students with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
While colleges are not obligated to provide speech therapy as a required service, they are required to provide reasonable accommodations that allow students with speech and language disorders to effectively communicate and participate in their academic pursuits.
These accommodations may include assistive technology, extended time for assignments and exams, note-taking services, and access to communication support resources.
It is important for students with speech and language disorders to familiarize themselves with the disability support services offered by their college or university. These services may include access to speech and language clinics, where students can receive additional support and guidance from qualified professionals.
Getting Speech Therapy Outside of School
While schools are required to provide speech therapy services to students with communication disorders, there are instances where additional speech therapy outside of the school setting may be necessary.
This can be due to various factors such as limited availability of school speech therapists, long waiting lists, or the need for more intensive or specialized therapy.
Private Speech Therapy
Private speech therapy is an option for students who require additional support beyond what is provided in the school setting. This type of therapy is typically offered by licensed speech-language pathologists who work independently or as part of private practice clinics.
Private speech therapy sessions can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the student and may include individual or group sessions.
One of the advantages of private speech therapy is the flexibility it offers in terms of scheduling and frequency of sessions. Unlike school-based therapy, which is often limited to a certain number of sessions per week, private therapy allows for more personalized and intensive treatment plans.
Additionally, private speech therapy may provide access to a wider range of resources and specialized techniques that can further enhance the progress of the student.
It’s important to note that private speech therapy is usually not covered by insurance, and the cost can vary depending on the provider and location. However, some insurance plans may offer coverage for speech therapy services, so it’s worth exploring your options and contacting your insurance provider to inquire about coverage.
State and Community Resources
In addition to private speech therapy, there may be state and community resources available to support students in need of speech therapy. These resources can vary depending on the region and may include government-funded programs, non-profit organizations, or community centers that offer speech and language services.
One example of a state resource is the Early Intervention program, which provides services to infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities, including speech and language disorders. This program is typically administered by each state’s Department of Health or another designated agency.
To access these services, parents or guardians can contact their local Early Intervention office for more information.
Community resources, such as non-profit organizations or community clinics, may also offer speech therapy services at reduced or sliding-scale fees based on income. These organizations often have a mission to provide accessible services to individuals who may not have the means to access private therapy.
Researching and reaching out to these resources can be an excellent way to explore affordable options for speech therapy outside of the school setting.
It’s important to keep in mind that while getting speech therapy outside of school can be beneficial, collaboration between the private therapist and the school-based therapist is crucial to ensure continuity of care.
Sharing progress reports, therapy techniques, and goals can help maximize the student’s progress and create a comprehensive approach to their speech therapy journey.
Speech and language disorders like stuttering, impaired articulation, or language delays can make it hard for children to succeed in school. But the good news is that through IDEA, public schools are required to provide speech therapy services for eligible students.
Working closely with your child’s school team to secure the speech therapy supports they need can help set them up for better communication and improved academic performance. Outside of school, additional speech therapy services may also help fill any gaps.
With the right help, children can gain skills to communicate effectively and thrive.