Good morning, everyone. Speech-language pathologist/momma here. I work in the school system as a SLP (speech-language pathologist) and I see all kinds of different parents come in for meetings I schedule. If it is the first or second meeting ever, I see some parents that are anxious because they don’t know what to expect and they are concerned about their child, and then there are others that can finish my sentences for me and conduct the meeting themselves because they’ve already had a child go through the process. If you’re anything like me, you want to know exactly what to expect and how to mentally prepare yourself for your child’s “diagnosis,” and you want to know what is going to happen when so you can get this process started. So here you go, folks.
Every school district is different. The process may vary slightly from district to district, but here is the general timeline.
First, you will receive a notification that your child is participating in RTI for Speech. RTI stands for Response to Intervention. RTI for Speech is where the speech-language pathologist gives your child’s teacher some ways he/she can help improve your child’s speech or language in the classroom setting. This is NOT speech-language therapy. The speech-language pathologist will check on your child from time to time to see if the classroom interventions are improving their speech or language. I have tried researching if every state has to participate in the RTI for Speech process. I did not get a clear answer – many do have to participate. If you would like to better understand the difference between speech and language, please read How To Improve Your Child’s Speech at Home Using A Structured Approach. Scroll down a little ways to read the paragraph in italics. If you would like to learn even more about what it means if your child has a language delay or disorder, you can read What Does It Mean if My Child Has A Language Delay or Disorder?
Second, you will receive a phone call or a meeting notice requesting you to attend a meeting. This is called the “referral meeting.” If your child did not make sufficient progress during the RTI process, you will receive this type of meeting notice. The purpose of this meeting is for the speech-language pathologist to gain consent or denial for your child to participate in a speech and/or language evaluation. Matters of business that will be discussed are: how your child progressed during RTI for Speech, getting your child’s developmental history, discussing the type of evaluation and describing it, discussing a general time frame regarding how long the evaluation process will be, and signing some papers. Your child can NOT be evaluated without your written consent. It is your parental right, as well, to not give consent. There is a paper for this, as well.
Third, your child will be evaluated by the speech-language pathologist. Depending on the type of evaluation and your child’s cooperation, the evaluation may be completed within one day, or it may take several days. The speech-language pathologist will go to your child’s classroom and take them to a room that is as quiet as possible. In addition to the actual test, the speech-language pathologist will also perform an oral examination, where they look in your child’s mouth to determine if their oral structure or function may be impacting your child’s speech. The SLP will also speak with your child’s teachers about how they are performing in the classroom, and the speech-language pathologist will do behavior observations. A behavior observations is where the SLP observes your child within the school setting to determine how their suspected speech or language delay or disability is negatively impacting their academic or social performance.
Fourth, you will be contacted again to attend another meeting to discuss your child’s performance on the evaluation and determine if they qualify for speech-language therapy services. This is called the “placement meeting.” Based on their performance, they may or may not be eligible to receive speech-language therapy services. Your child can NOT attend speech-language therapy services without your written consent. During the meeting an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will be developed that outlines the speech-language therapy goals your child will work on and how often they will receive speech-language therapy services.
If your child does qualify for speech-language therapy services and you sign consent for them to receive those services, those services will be listed under “special education services.” Here’s where the confusion often sets in. Speech-language therapy is listed under “special education services” because it is a service that is delivered by a specialist. This does NOT mean that your child will receive testing accommodations. This does NOT mean that your child will go the Special Education room throughout the day due to behavior, comprehension issues, etc. If speech-language therapy services are the only services your child is receiving, they will leave the classroom with the speech-language pathologist for speech-language therapy services for their scheduled amount of minutes per week/month, and will remain with their regular education teacher at all other times.
Fifth, if you give consent for your to participate in speech-language therapy, depending on your district’s reporting standards, the speech-language pathologist will send you updates regarding how your child is progressing towards their goals.
Sixth, if your child is still attending speech-language therapy a year from the second “placement meeting,” you will be invited to attend a meeting to see how much your child has progressed over the entire past year and develop a new IEP if your child still needs to attend speech-language therapy.
Common Questions and Concerns
Is attending speech-language therapy going to hurt my child’s grades because they’re being pulled out of class? SLPs in the school system usually serve a lot of students and we can’t always provide therapy during “non-instructional” times, such as snack time. Speaking for all of us though, we do our best to schedule therapy times so it will pose as little threat as possible to hurting your child’s grades.
Will my child’s grades be impacted if they do NOT attend speech-language therapy? Your child’s grades and learning may already be impacted due to your child’s current speech or language delay or disability. Speech and language delays and disabilities, depending on the type, can impact letter-sound recognition, reading fluency, comprehension, difficulty learning due to impaired memory or attention, difficulty writing essays or doing math due to impaired sequencing skills, difficulty doing assignment or what the teachers asks due to difficulty following simple or multi-step directions, the list goes on and on.
How long do you think they will need speech-language therapy? Unfortunately, there is no way to give an estimate. Some children are dismissed from speech-language therapy after a year, some are in speech-language therapy for several years. Some factors that determine how long a child is in speech-language therapy are the nature of the disorder, how long they have had their speech or language delay or disorder prior to therapy, the amount and/or frequency of family support at home working on improving their child’s speech and/or language, the motivation of the child to succeed in therapy, and how many goals your child has to work on. If you would like to read how you can help improve your child’s speech and language at home, please see the following articles:
How to Improve Your Child’s Speech at Home Using Everyday Activities
Everyday Activities to do at Home to Help Your Child Start Talking
How to Expand Your Child’s Vocabulary to Improve Their Communication
How to Teach Your Nonverbal Child to Communicate Without Using Words
How to Improve Your Child’s Attention Span
How to Help Your Child Talk More
Do NOT, however, jump to the conclusion that it is your or your significant other’s fault if your child does have a speech or language impairment or does have to attend speech-language therapy for an extended amount of time.
What if I do not want my child to participate in speech-language therapy right now, but I change my mind later? Speaking for myself, and I believe this is safe to say for other SLPs too, if we think your child will benefit from speech-language therapy, we’ll be just fine if you change your mind! However, every state and district has their own guidelines regarding how much time can pass between a referral and the actual placement of a child. If that amount of time has exceeded, the process described above in “The Timeline” will be repeated. Thus, depending on the amount of time has passed, your child may not be able to begin receiving speech-language therapy services immediately.
I’m afraid my child is going to feel different if I allow them to receive speech-language therapy. In my experience thus far, I have had very FEW students that have dreaded coming to therapy. The younger ones, especially, love the extra attention and the excitement of getting to go to another room. I have had some older students, such as middle school aged ones, be embarrassed about having to leave their classroom. I’ve discovered, however, that if I ask the student to be straightforward with me and tell me what would make them feel more comfortable, I’ve had success. One student, for example, asked me to have the teacher tell them to “go to the office” during their scheduled therapy times or “run an errand.” Another student requested that their therapy time be scheduled in a way that they were not seen entering or exiting the therapy room during class change.
I hope this article helped set some parents at ease! If you have any questions, comments, or would like to see me post about something more specific to you or your child’s needs, please leave it in the comments below!