Speaking Up on IDEA ’04: Members Testify in Seven Cities About Regulations School may have been out for the summer, but the education policy debate heated up at regional meetings across the country on proposed regulations for the recently reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA ’04). Fourteen SLPs across the country devoted part of their summer break to testifying and submitting ... ASHA News
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ASHA News  |   September 01, 2005
Speaking Up on IDEA ’04: Members Testify in Seven Cities About Regulations
Author Notes
  • Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at sboswell@asha.org.
    Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at sboswell@asha.org.×
  • Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at mmoore@asha.org.
    Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at mmoore@asha.org.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   September 01, 2005
Speaking Up on IDEA ’04: Members Testify in Seven Cities About Regulations
The ASHA Leader, September 2005, Vol. 10, 2-21. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.10122005.2
The ASHA Leader, September 2005, Vol. 10, 2-21. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.10122005.2
School may have been out for the summer, but the education policy debate heated up at regional meetings across the country on proposed regulations for the recently reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA ’04).
Fourteen SLPs across the country devoted part of their summer break to testifying and submitting comments to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) at IDEA meetings in New York City, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Nashville, Chicago, San Antonio, and Washington, DC. (See the Aug. 16 Leader for coverage of the Washington, DC meeting) The regional forums were organized by the ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
Why give up this precious free time to testify? Clinicians made that commitment to ensure that IDEA ’04 has the best possible regulatory language related to services for students with communication disorders.
New York
ASHA President Dolores E. Battle testified at the June 27 meeting in New York City, focusing her comments on the need to preserve a high level of professional qualifications for school-based SLPs.
“ASHA continues to be concerned about the potential changes in personnel qualification standards and hiring practices that may result from changes in IDEA ’04 and in implementing the proposed regulations,” Battle said.
“Nationally recognized standards should be required as the basis for qualification determinations for persons providing services in the schools,” she said.
“Without a fully qualified base of SLPs and audiologists in our schools, our school systems will miss or late-diagnose these disorders,” she continued. “The result will have long-term effects on the child’s educational achievement and economic productivity as an adult.”
Battle also urged the ED to “make more meaningful, practical and effective the measurable steps that local education authorities should take to recruit, hire, and retain highly qualified personnel.” Those steps would include reasonable workloads and “incentive programs such as salary supplements for more rigorous training, tuition assistance, and sign-on bonuses to support recruitment and retention of qualified personnel.”
Luis Riquelme, a private-practice SLP who serves bilingual school-age children, addressed the issue of specific learning disabilities and the needs of English Language Learner (ELL) students.
He expressed his concern about the fact that, although SLPs were listed “among those qualified to conduct individual diagnostic assessments of children in the 1999 final IDEA regulations, we were not included as such in the 2005 IDEA regulations.”
Without any mention of SLPs, he said, assessments could be conducted by someone other than a trained SLP. He said that it is also important to know if the child has a “speech or language impairment” rather than, or concurrent with, a “specific learning disability.”
Riquelme added that time limits must also be placed on the length of time that a student can remain categorized as “suspected of having a specific learning disability prior to a referral for an evaluation to determine if the child needs special education and related services.”
California
The Sacramento meeting on June 22 drew several hundred people who submitted comments and gave testimony, including ASHA member Judy Montgomery, who gave comments supporting Responsiveness-to-Intervention (RTI).
“It’s important that the regulations do not encourage a delay in getting students the help they need, but there must be sufficient time to determine if an intensive intervention will make a difference for a student,” Montgomery said.
“School-based SLPs are well equipped to provide these clinical interventions and are committed to reducing the number of children who are found eligible when we assess instead of assist. An effective early intervening program could drastically reduce paperwork and SLPs could function inside, and outside, of special education.”
At the Las Vegas meeting on June 24, Nancy Kuhles, a Nevada SLP, testified about personnel qualifications, and told education officials, “Rigorous qualifications for related service providers ensure that students who have been identified as having a disability have access to the most highly trained, highly qualified professionals.”
Highly qualified providers are necessary to meet the needs of “an increasingly diverse student population” and of the Adequate Yearly Progress criteria for No Child Left Behind.
The use of unqualified professionals, she added, “often results in children receiving special education services longer and costing local districts more money.”
Valerie McNay, a pediatric SLP, also spoke in Las Vegas, and joined Kuhles in stressing the need for stringent professional qualifications. She also voiced her concerns about meeting the needs of ELL students.
“More clearly defined guidelines for assessing the ELL population will assist in reducing the disproportionately high number of ELL students in special education,” she said.
“Personally, I often see Hispanic children identified as developmentally delayed based upon inappropriate evaluations. Frequently the children are not proficient in either Spanish or English due to a communication disorder.”
As the ED develops the final regulations, she noted that many special education personnel are not trained in assessment procedures required for ELL students. McNay urged the agency to conduct a thorough screening of the child’s language history to determine the language of assessment, and to evaluate the child in their native language when appropriate and feasible with the assistance of qualified bilingual personnel and/or professional interpreters.
Issues of Concern
In testimony, members supported ASHA’s advocacy on the following issues of concern in the development of the regulations:
  • Personnel qualifications. ASHA is particularly concerned about the potential changes in personnel qualification standards and hiring practices that may result from changes in IDEA 2004. The new IDEA regulations should specify the obligations of state education agencies in maintaining appropriate professional qualifications, and should outline measurable steps that local education agencies should take to recruit, hire, and retain highly qualified related services personnel. A two-tiered system will result if the qualifications for those responsible for serving children with communication disabilities in the schools are less rigorous than those required in other settings such as hospitals, clinics, and private practice. In advocating for the use of highly qualified providers, ASHA cited its 1997 skills validation study, conducted by Educational Testing Service, which identified where clinicians learned skills essential to practice. The majority (50% or more) of practitioners in the study with five or less years of experience in independent practice indicated that undergraduate study accounted for their learning of only five knowledge areas, while graduate study accounted for 28 knowledge areas, thus supporting the essential need for graduate-level preparation of audiologists and SLPs.

  • Assistive technology. ASHA recommended that the definition of assistive technology and proper functioning of hearing aids be expanded to include the phrase “and other hearing enhancement devices” so that each public agency ensure that hearing aids and other hearing enhancement devices worn in school by children with hearing loss are functioning properly. The addition of “and other hearing enhancement devices” would ensure the proper functioning of personal and classroom amplification systems in addition to hearing aids. Assuring proper functioning of both hearing aids and other hearing enhancement devices is critical to the speech, language, hearing development, and educational achievement under IDEA.

  • Omission of SLPs in early intervening and specific learning disabilities. ASHA is concerned that SLPs were omitted from the list of service providers under sections of the regulations dealing with specific learning disabilities and early intervening services. It is in the best interest of children that the regulations reflect today’s demand for SLPs and their critical role in ensuring that students with disabilities receive the quality and quantity of services necessary for involvement and progress in the general curriculum.

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September 2005
Volume 10, Issue 12