Clinicians Speak Up at IDEA Hearings As temperatures rose in June, education policy also heated up as ASHA members around the country spoke at regional meetings on proposed regulations for Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Part C is the early intervention program for infants and toddlers with disabilities. Twelve speech-language pathologists ... ASHA News
Free
ASHA News  |   August 01, 2007
Clinicians Speak Up at IDEA Hearings
Author Notes
  • Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be contacted at sboswell@asha.org.
    Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be contacted at sboswell@asha.org.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   August 01, 2007
Clinicians Speak Up at IDEA Hearings
The ASHA Leader, August 2007, Vol. 12, 1-7. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.12102007.1
The ASHA Leader, August 2007, Vol. 12, 1-7. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.12102007.1
As temperatures rose in June, education policy also heated up as ASHA members around the country spoke at regional meetings on proposed regulations for Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Part C is the early intervention program for infants and toddlers with disabilities.
Twelve speech-language pathologists and audiologists advocated on behalf of the youngest children with disabilities and their families at this key juncture in the direction of public policy. The proposed regulations originated from IDEA 2004 and are the first formal draft regulations to Part C in 15 years.
The meetings, convened by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), took place in Portland, Oregon; Oklahoma City; Indianapolis; and Washington, D.C. The June meetings were held to gather input on the proposed IDEA Part C regulations during a 75-day comment period that ended July 23. The ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is now developing the final Part C regulations. No timeline is set for completion, but many hope final regulations will be available by next summer.
Voicing Concerns in Washington, D.C.
The June 14 meeting held near the U.S. Capitol drew about 40 participants representing state coordinators for early intervention services, national associations, and parents who expressed both support for and concerns about the regulations.
ASHA President Noma Anderson, the first speaker, voiced concern about removing requirements for state education personnel to meet the highest requirement for a profession or discipline in that state.
“Although the removal was deemed necessary to comply with IDEA 2004,” Anderson noted, “we believe this action will lead to the hiring of under-qualified individuals to serve our youngest population. It is critical that decision-makers adopt appropriate qualifications for related service providers.”
Anderson asked the ED to:
  • Require states to take measurable steps to recruit, hire, train, and retain highly qualified personnel.

  • Provide a minimum framework for states to use in developing policies related to the use of para- professionals and assistants.

  • Provide guidance and clarification on making a good-faith effort to recruit and hire personnel who are appropriately and adequately trained to provide early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities.

“Without fully qualified speech-language pathologists and audiologists who have the skills to appropriately diagnose and treat communication disorders, infants and toddlers with these disorders will fall through the cracks,” Anderson said. “Inappropriate or inadequate services will affect the lives and earning potential of these children over their lifetime.”
Parents shared their experiences with Part C services. Samtra Devard, a Delaware parent of a 6-year-old boy with Down syndrome, said that shortly after her son’s birth there were indications of expressive and receptive language delays. The family chose to use sign language to communicate with him and they also received dysphagia services to assist in feeding him.
When the child was 1 year old, he signed his first word—flower—and by age 2, he knew 400 signs. “Without early intervention, we would have missed those moments,” Devard said.
Other key issues at the hearing included:
  • Native-language services—the proposed regulations require service provision in the child’s native language, but opponents claim this requirement is costly and challenging.

  • Natural environment—advocates stated that services should be provided in clinical settings as well as the “natural environment” (for infants and toddlers, often their home) and suggested that parents and clinicians consult on the service delivery setting.

  • Parental consent—advocates agreed that parental permission should be obtained prior to billing a family’s private insurance. However, they disagreed with a proposal that would require parental permission to access public insurance, stating that this would result in a loss of Medicaid funds if parent consent was not obtained.

Speaking Up in Oregon
The June 4 Portland meeting, attended by 20 participants, drew strong participation from ASHA members—four of the 10 speakers were SLPs.
Lori Kellogg, coordinator of early intervention/early childhood special education for the Northwest Regional Education Service District, commented on the Part C personnel standards. Her region serves 20 school districts in the northwest corner of Oregon.
“Many SLPs working in natural environments and school settings report perceptions of diminished respect when compared to those working in more clinical or medical establishments,” Kellogg said. “If the standards are not required in natural or school-type environments, there will not only be the perception of diminished quality, there may actually be lower-quality services by limiting intervention services to those who have access to highly qualified providers.”
For Kellogg—and other ASHA participants—the meeting was their first experience with federal advocacy. “It was extremely helpful to have talking points provided by ASHA as an anchor to my commentary,” Kellogg said. “It was also powerful to see several other representatives speaking on behalf of ASHA. The moderator commented on the strong support from our organization.” Member Heather Moore also provided comments at the meeting.
Issues in Indiana
At the June 11 meeting in Indianapolis, SLPs Mary Jo Germani and James Reading were among the 25 presenters.
Germani, chair of the Speech Pathology and Audiology Program at Ball State University and president of the Indiana Speech-Language-Hearing Association, said that ED representatives were attentive and appreciative of testimony, particularly from parents.
“I was glad to hear parents testify about the value of speech-language pathology early intervention services and the impact these services had on their children’s lives,” she said.
Members in Oklahoma
On June 6 in Oklahoma City, ASHA members Yolanda Baird, Teresa Caraway, Claudia Shannon, Jim Schmaelzle, and Joanna Smith were among the 20 speakers during the meeting, with about 100 people in attendance. Their comments addressed personnel qualifications and the need to expand the definition of “natural environment” to include clinical settings.
Advocacy Grows
In comments to ED on the Part C proposals, ASHA urged officials to:
  • Add dysphagia and aural rehabilitation to the list of speech-language pathology services

  • Modify the term “natural setting” to include the range of settings in which children with disabilities can be appropriately served

  • Develop initial guidance for states to create policies for the use of paraprofessionals and assistants

  • Permit parents of children age 3 or older who continue to receive Part C services to opt out at any time

  • Require all evaluations and assessments to be conducted in the child’s or family’s native language

For more information contact Catherine Clarke, director of education and regulatory advocacy, at cclarke@asha.org.
0 Comments
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
August 2007
Volume 12, Issue 10