Eligibility and Dismissal in Schools
Determination of eligibility for special education services is a multistage process that should answer three questions:
- Is there a disability?
- If so, is there an adverse effect on educational performance resulting from the disability?
- If so, are specially designed instruction and/or related services and supports needed to help the student make progress in the general education curriculum?
Dismissal Versus Continued Eligibility
The goal of public school speech-language pathology services is to remediate or improve a student's communication disorder such that it does not interfere with or deter academic achievement and functional performance.
The dismissal of students from speech-language pathology services is sometimes a difficult, conflicted, and even contentious process. Some parents and/or teachers believe that once a student is determined to be eligible for speech-language pathology services, that student should be entitled to those services for the duration of his or her school career. It is often challenging for SLPs to determine if a communication problem continues to adversely affect academic achievement and functional performance and to communicate aspects of this determination to parents and teachers.
The first step in the dismissal process should occur when the student is first determined to be eligible for services through an IEP. The SLP should make the goals of speech-language pathology services clear to parents and teachers. The goals are as follows:
- to determine if the student's communication disorder is adversely effecting academic achievement and functional performance;
- to provide intervention for those communication disorders that are adversely effecting academic achievement and functional performance, specifying goals leading to specific criteria for dismissal;
- to dismiss the student from speech-language pathology services once the criteria for eligibility are no longer met.
Response from the U.S. Dept. of Education
On November 2, 2006 ASHA sent a request for clarification letter to Alexa Posny [PDF] at the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to seek clarification on key issues that impact school-based speech-language services:
- eligibility for speech-language services when the student is not failing a course or grade, and reaffirms the letter issued in May 1980 that clarified when a speech or language impairment "adversely affects educational performance"
- how to handle missed sessions due to the child's absence from school, cancelation for a class or school activity such as a field trip or an assembly, or absence of the SLP due to illness or family emergencies
- the continuum of service delivery options to be considered for a student
Read OSEP's response letter of guidance [PDF] and ASHA's IDEA Issue Brief on Missed Sessions.
Examples of State Speech-Language Eligibility Guidelines