Dismissal from speech therapy can feel like a huge celebration for both the student and the speech pathologist, but some parents don’t see it that way. It can be the end of a journey for parents and they may not feel ready to let the child leave speech therapy. I’ve seen this many times and here the things that I tell parents at dismissal time so that they feel on the same page as me…
- Speech Therapy Worked! When I first became a speech pathologist in Chicago public schools, I was working with the lead speech pathologist to evaluate a student who was coming out of the early intervention. The student presented with no speech impairment at all during the evaluation. The speech pathologist talked to the parent during the eligibility meeting and said you know early intervention worked. There’s no speech impairment anymore, how fantastic! It’s important to tell parents that speech therapy works and it fixed the concern that the child had.
- Eligibility is Three Years Long — One speech eligibility does not mean speech therapy will continue for all of elementary school. It’s sometimes hard for parents to realize that just because a student became eligible for speech therapy at one point does not mean that they continue to be eligible for speech therapy perpetually. The initial eligibility can qualify students for speech therapy for up to three years but after that point it’s time to redo the eligibility – and a student might not qualify.
- Back to the General Education Setting — The best place for kids to be at school is in the classroom. Even coming out for speech therapy once a week for 30 minutes a week is still missed instructional time in the classroom. Parents need to know that just because they feel comfortable with the idea of their child getting speech therapy doesn’t mean that they aren’t missing something in the classroom. Being in the classroom could be more important to their education than speech therapy if they’ve reached their goals.
- “Taking advantage of all the services available” — One thing I heard when I wanted to dismiss a student was that the parents said, “I want my kid to continue in speech therapy because I want to take advantage of all the services available for my child.” Well, speech therapy is not like gym, music, library, or computer class. It’s an eligibility for special education; it’s not enrichment. Instead, it’s a service to help the student reach communication success. Once they reach their goals, they should be removed from speech therapy and allowed to participate fully in other parts of their education — in the general education environment.
- Graduation from speech! When we frame speech therapy termination as a graduation, I have found that many parents and students feel very happy and excited about that. It’s something that I like to do when I’m working with families is to discuss dismissal as a graduation from many years of being in speech therapy. It is supposed to be a happy time. I’ve seen parents cry tears of relief because they’re ready for their child to be out of speech therapy.
- Language modeling from peers — I tell parents that being in the classroom with their peer models is valuable. Sometimes what kids really need is interaction and group socialization that they won’t get in speech therapy class. I tell parents that as much as the intensive intervention that a speech pathologist provides is very beneficial, it can be equally beneficial for kids to be in a classroom getting the language modeling from typical peers.
- Backsliding back into speech therapy? — Many parents worry about their child backsliding after dismissal from speech. As if somehow the student will be unable to sustain the level of mastery that they’ve achieved in speech therapy and they will backslide into needing services again. So parents’ rationale is essentially “why not just keep them on and forget about dismissal?” What I tell parents when they’re worried about backsliding is we need to just move forward with giving it a shot in the regular education classroom. I tell parents that if there is some kind of backsliding I could potentially pull the child for a refresher in a speech RTI group.
- Your Child Wants This — Parents need to know that some children want to leave speech therapy. They worked hard, they achieved their goals, and they don’t want to go anymore. As we endeavor to be more child-centered, we need to take their opinions into consideration as well.
- Involve Administration — When the parents are legitimately upset about their child being removed from speech therapy, it’s time to involve administration. I’ve had the principal at one of my schools in a meeting that I was concerned about. I made sure to let the principal know about the situation. I wanted to dismiss the child from speech therapy there were some social skills concerns with the student. The student was social during speech therapy and participated great in speech therapy groups. The student had reached all the speech and language goals and any of the social concerns would not have been addressed in additional speech therapy classes. The student needed additional practice in the general education environment or in something like a lunch group. The principal went ahead and suggested that the social worker take the student in a group to work on social skills. Every team member felt great about this decision. This idea was totally the principal’s idea. Principals and other administrators can think outside the box and may have a solution that has not occurred to you.
- Consultative Services or Speech RTI — If you can’t get an agreement on the team, you can offer one of two things. Consultative services means the student remains with an IEP but no direct minutes. So the student only receives indirect minutes, which means that you would come consult with the teacher about the student’s progress with their communication skills in the classroom. So it’s like monitoring and I can help parents get closer towards being comfortable with leaving speech therapy for good. Or you could consider putting them into a speech RTI group. So the student does not have an eligibility for speech therapy and so they don’t have an IEP, but the student could still potentially come to see you as on an “as needed” basis.
I hope my ideas have helped you when you have to tackle the issue of dismissal with parents. Feel free to comment or email me if you have additional concerns you might have.