IDEA Part B: Continuum of Service Delivery Options

What IDEA Says

ASHA members have reported that some local education agencies (LEAs) place restrictions on service delivery choices (e.g., limit speech-language services to small-group pull-out intervention only, require classroom-based services only, allow only direct services). This prevents the individualized education program (IEP) team from developing an education program that meets the individual needs of the child, as services must meet a predetermined format, rather than reflect the needs of the child. Furthermore, caseloads become inflated with children making limited or no progress due to inappropriate delivery of services.

IDEA Part B Regulations do not fully address some member questions regarding service delivery options. Therefore, ASHA requested clarification and guidance on this issue in letter addressed to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). ASHA noted in our request that the regulations address this issue within the context of the continuum of alternative placements. For example, the Discussion/Comments Section of the final regulations state that:

  • "...placement decisions must be based on the individual needs of each child with a disability. Public agencies, therefore, must not make placement decisions based on a public agency's needs or available resources, including budgetary considerations and the ability of the public agency to hire and recruit qualified staff;"
  • "...placement decisions for all children with disabilities must be made on an individual basis...this requirement for the continuum [of alternative placements] reinforces the importance of the individualized inquiry, not a ‘one size fits all' approach;"
  • "...placement decisions must be determined on an individual case-by-case basis depending on each child's unique educational needs and circumstances and based on the child's IEP;" and
  • " all cases, placement decisions must be individually determined on the basis of each child's abilities and needs and each child's IEP, and not solely on factors such as category of disability, severity of disability, availability of special education and related services, configuration of the service delivery system, availability of space, or administrative convenience."

OSEP responded [PDF] by reiterating the regulations and stating that the IEP team is responsible for developing a child's IEP, including determining the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of the services. They noted that ASHA’s examples (e.g., requiring small-group instruction, allowing direct services only) "are matters for consideration by the IEP team, based on a child's individual and unique needs, and cannot be made as a matter of general policy by administrators, teachers or others apart from the IEP team process."

Implications for ASHA Members

This guidance supports the roles of speech-language pathologists, as part of the IEP team, in determining the type(s) of service delivery that will best meet the individual needs of the child and support progress toward meeting IEP goals. That determination cannot be made as a matter of local or state policy, and cannot be predetermined or based solely on factors such as disability category or severity, availability of space or staff, budgetary considerations, or administrative convenience.

What ASHA Members Can Do

If members find themselves limited in service delivery options by local or state policies, they should engage in advocacy efforts to change those policies or practices considering OSEP's clear statements on this issue. Advocacy may involve working with administrators or building teams for local change, or through their state associations for change at the state level.

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