Imagine you are sitting in an IEP meeting. It already a nervous situation as every decision made can have an incredible impact on your child's academic success. During the presentation of FAPE (offer of services), the speech pathologist (SLP) recommends a consultation for speech therapy services.
Isn't that just therapy?
As the SLP explains it, you hone in one phrase they just said, "instead of seeing them in therapy..."
And click, everything changes. You start to feel anxious. You come out against it immediately. You insist you child still needs speech therapy and that they could actually use more.
The above scenario has happened in my meetings more times than I can count. And it happens for good reason. I understand that no parent wants to hear about a reduction of services. When you are given so much information, especially at IEP meetings, it may be hard to understand the full extent of what the team is sharing.
The SLP may recommend what we call a consultation service in lieu of direct therapy services. But what is a consultation? The SLP just said they no longer think direct therapy services are appropriate. So what happens in a consultation? Is that service there just to look good on paper?
Consultation is when the SLP works to identify speech and language concerns outside of the therapy room and offers insight and next steps to staff, educators, service providers, and them students themselves.
Consultation is a flexible service model that allows several things to happen:
Promotes Collaboration with Others
The SLP can work directly with teachers and staff members on how to generalize (promote growth) speech/language skills in the classroom. After all, our students are in speech therapy to learns skills they can take with them into other settings. Whether its consistently using inferencing skills or producing age appropriate sounds, working with staff "behind the scenes" can help the student generalize the skills learned in the therapy room!
While the SLP has the training and expertise to assess, diagnose, and treat communication disorders, it should not fall on the SLP entirely to promote skills outside the therapy room.
Allows SLPs to Follow IDEA
Special Education services are provided via IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. One the important aspects of IDEA is ensuring students are learning in the least restrictive environment (LRE). With LRE in mind, it would make sense why speech therapy in an isolated therapy room is considered "more restrictive".
Yes, they are learning important skills, but they are also losing out on classroom time. This is especially true in high schools when missing class time means missing lectures, quizzes, or projects.
Consultation allows students to remain in class to adhere to the curriculum and gives SLPs a chance to observe and collect information from teachers on their student's performance. In a consultation, the SLP may feel the need to pull out a student to do a refresher lesson which can be allowed in consultation as long as its written as such.
Promotes Generalization of Skills
When teachers and staff understand what skills are being worked on in speech therapy, they can follow the accommodations and supports we recommend more clearly, giving our students the best chance to generalize skills! When our students hear verbal reminders to slow down their speech or to remember vocabulary context clues from both their teacher and SLP, it provides them validation that the skills worked on in one setting are just as important to do in another. We empower them to use those speech and language skills!
Consultations can be a powerful tool for SLPs and IEP teams to utilize to ensure our students are successful! I also understand it can be scary for parents to hear. Its something different, something more flexible, and it honestly more hands off when it comes to collaborating with staff more than the student. if you have concerns about adding or switching to consultation, here are some questions to ask your SLP and IEP team:
Questions to Ask About Speech & Language Consultations:
What are the parameters of the consultation? Who will you be working with?
What is the purpose of the consultation?
What accommodations, modifications, or supports are connected to the consultation?
Is a consultation service model suitable for gathering data on the speech and language goal presented?
Where will the consultation occur? In the classroom? Out in the community/worksite?
Consultations do not mean less services! Consultations adhere to IDEA's Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and allow students to generalize speech and language skills. I encourage families and advocates to inquire more about the consultations recommended! Find out why a consultation model be better at targeting certain speech and language goals in an IEP!
Till Next Time,