Speech Referral Process Surely I wasn’t the only SLP appalled at the suggestions in the recent article “Make the Speech Referral Process Work for You” (October 2017). For SLPs to expect teachers to provide “lists of … words the student says in error, unintelligible sentence examples, and descriptions of confusing social interactions” was ... Inbox
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Inbox  |   January 01, 2018
Speech Referral Process
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Professional Issues & Training / Inbox
Inbox   |   January 01, 2018
Speech Referral Process
The ASHA Leader, January 2018, Vol. 23, 4. doi:10.1044/leader.IN1.23012018.4
The ASHA Leader, January 2018, Vol. 23, 4. doi:10.1044/leader.IN1.23012018.4
Surely I wasn’t the only SLP appalled at the suggestions in the recent article “Make the Speech Referral Process Work for You” (October 2017). For SLPs to expect teachers to provide “lists of … words the student says in error, unintelligible sentence examples, and descriptions of confusing social interactions” was stunning in its assertion that “these … [will] improve relationships with school staff.” I have found that most teachers tell you as much as they know—sometimes specifics (“he lisps”) and at other times only a hunch (“I am not sure, but something seems not quite right”). If teachers knew what the problem was, they’d be telling us. To require nine pieces of info before accepting a referral on a child seems bureaucratic and demanding, and displays an attitude of superiority.
When I worked in schools, we worked to encourage referrals, not to put up barricades. I was glad to have a teacher seek out my expertise. Without that teacher taking the first step, that child might never have been helped. I hope that the article cited does not reflect the trend in school speech-language pathology services. We should be working as colleagues with complementary knowledge and skills, not making the job of a teacher even harder than it already is.
Donna Ridley, Beaufort, South Carolina
Author’s Response
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my essay. We are definitely in agreement that our teachers deserve amazing support. And you are right, teachers often do not know what the problem is. Their incredible education and skillset serve a different purpose.
However, throughout my many years carrying caseloads and working alongside hundreds of teachers, a chief concern I hear repeatedly from teachers and SLPs is the lack of resources and support for cumbersome paperwork. The process we built that is highlighted in my article simplifies referrals by using teacher-friendly language and activities teachers are already doing in class. The “attitude of superiority” that you detect might be due to the fact that we created the process from the input of hundreds of SLPs at national presentations and through online interactions. These nine steps have dramatically reduced the burden on teachers because the process is reduced to retrieving only essential information.
Millions of dollars and untold hours are spent each year trying to correctly identify children with needs. Yet we live in a continual state of over-identification. If we improve the referral process, we simultaneously reduce paperwork, reduce caseloads, get the right students into special education, and get the right students out.
I care deeply about this topic and am open to engaging in dialogue that moves this conversation forward. Find 57 free resources and the tutorial based on the research we conducted.
Scott Prath, Austin, Texas

Thank you for sharing your perspective on the speech-language referral process in schools. We have asked the author to address your points.

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January 2018
Volume 23, Issue 1