Early Intervening Services
What IDEA'04 Says
IDEA'04 allows local educational agencies (LEAs) to use up to 15 percent of its IDEA Part B funds for supportive services to help students in kindergarten through grade 12 not yet identified with disabilities, but who require additional academic and behavioral supports to succeed in a general education environment. The law encourages LEAs to focus their efforts on students in kindergarten through grade three. This new allowable use of funds should not be confused with either Section 619 Preschool Grants or Part C Early Intervention Programs which focus on children with disabilities ages birth-to-two and three-to-five respectively.
Allowable activities under the new law include:
- Professional development for teachers and other school staff (presumably school-based SLPs and audiologists would be eligible) to use "scientifically based" academic instruction including "literacy instruction;" and
- Providing educational and behavioral evaluations, services, and supports, including scientifically based literacy instruction.
These services are not considered a denial or guarantee of entrance into special education, nor do they include the procedural safeguards.
If LEAs decide to develop an early intervening program they must report annually to the State education agency on the number of children served under this program and the number of students who subsequently received special education and related services during the preceding two-year period.
No new IDEA funding was provided for these activities.
Implications for ASHA Members
Many LEAs already have General Education Intervention or Child Study Teams in place to provide support for students experiencing academic problems in the classroom. The IDEA'04 legislation now allows for a portion of the IDEA funds to support such activities.
Early intervening services may decrease unnecessary referral to special education for struggling children who can benefit from modified instructional techniques, short-term remediation, or hearing assistive technology. It may also deter over-referrals to special education, especially students who are minorities and English language learners (ELL); have minimal or fluctuating hearing loss; or other listening problems. Providing pre-referral services allows SLPs and audiologists to work with a wider range of students, including those who have not been identified as speech and language-disordered or hard of hearing. It may provide an opportunity to demonstrate the value of speech-language and audiology services in the general education environment and demonstrate expertise, especially in the area of literacy instruction.
However, if IDEA Part B funds are used for general education, there may be less money available to fund FAPE. This is of particular concern because IDEA is not fully funded and the statute provides no new funding for these early intervening services.
Speech-language pathologists may be able to work with a wider range of students, including those who have not been identified as speech and language delayed. This may provide an opportunity to demonstrate the value of speech-language pathology services in the general education environment and demonstrate our expertise, especially in the area of literacy instruction.
ASHA members should take this opportunity to work with their local administrators to seek funds from early intervening services to participate in professional development activities in the area of scientifically based literacy instruction.
Reference: P.L.108-446, Title I, Part B, Section 613, paragraph (f)