IDEA ’04 Brings Changes in Early Intervention, Prevention Analyzing IDEA ’04: Part 2 in a Series School Matters
School Matters  |   March 01, 2005
IDEA ’04 Brings Changes in Early Intervention, Prevention
Author Notes
  • Neil Snyder, ASHA’s director of federal advocacy, can be contacted at
    Neil Snyder, ASHA’s director of federal advocacy, can be contacted at×
Article Information
Special Populations / Early Identification & Intervention / School-Based Settings / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / School Matters
School Matters   |   March 01, 2005
IDEA ’04 Brings Changes in Early Intervention, Prevention
The ASHA Leader, March 2005, Vol. 10, 1-29. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.10032005.1
The ASHA Leader, March 2005, Vol. 10, 1-29. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.10032005.1
The regulatory process is underway for the reauthorized Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA ’04). In regional meetings, clinicians across the country are presenting their views on IDEA ’04 to the U.S. Department of Education (ED), and ASHA is preparing comments for the agency.
The new law spells out significant changes in birth-to-six programs, early intervention services, specific learning disabilities, and assistive technology that will affect members’ clinical practice in the schools. Below is an analysis of the changes in the law in these areas, and the challenges and opportunities they pose for clinicians.
Birth-to-Six Program
IDEA ’04 allows states to extend their current Part C birth-to-three program to age six using both Part C and Part B Section 619 funding, but without the guarantees and protections of Part B. Under the new law, when children receiving Part C services reach the age of 3, parents will have to waive their child’s right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in order to continue receiving services. Parents who choose to keep their child in a birth-to-six program may have to pay for services not covered under Part C or give up their rights to specific services. In addition, children who remain in the Part C program and continue Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) must have an educational component promoting school readiness and incorporating pre-literacy, language, and numeracy skills in their plan.
ASHA members in some states have reported that early intervention service delivery models allow lesser or unqualified individuals to provide direct and/or coordinated speech-language services to infants and toddlers with special needs. This scenario could have adverse effects on children who continue to receive such services until they reach 6 years of age. A positive outcome may be greater opportunity for speech-language pathologists to become more involved in pre-literacy and language skills for these children and to work closely with teachers and caregivers.
Early Intervening Services
IDEA ’04 allows local educational agencies (LEAs) to use up to 15% of their Part B funds for supportive services to help students in kindergarten through grade 12 not yet identified with disabilities, but who require additional academic and behavioral supports to succeed in a general education environment. The law encourages LEAs to focus on students in kindergarten through grade three. Allowable activities include:
  • Professional development for teachers and other school staff (including, presumably, school-based SLPs and audiologists) to use “scientifically based” academic instruction including literacy instruction

  • Provision of educational and behavioral evaluations, services, and supports, including scientifically based literacy instruction.

Early intervening services are not considered a denial or guarantee of entrance into special education and do not include the procedural safeguards.
Many LEAs already have General Education Intervention or Child Study Teams in place to provide pre-referral support for students having academic problems in the classroom. Although IDEA ’04 allows a portion of IDEA funds to support pre-referral activities for general education, less money may be available to fund FAPE. This is of particular concern because IDEA is not fully funded and the statute provides no new funding for these early intervening services.
Early intervening services may decrease unnecessary referral to special education for struggling children who can benefit from modified instructional techniques, short-term remediation, or hearing assistive technology. It may also deter over-referrals to special education, especially students who are minorities and English language learners (ELL), have minimal or fluctuating hearing loss, or other listening problems. Providing pre-referral services allows SLPs and audiologists to work with a wider range of students, including those who have not been identified as speech and language-disordered or hard of hearing. It may provide an opportunity to demonstrate the value of speech-language and audiology services in the general education environment and demonstrate expertise, especially in the area of literacy instruction.
ASHA members should work with local administrators to seek funds from early intervening services to participate in professional development activities in the area of scientifically-based literacy instruction.
Specific Learning Disabilities
IDEA ’04 retained the definition of specific learning disability as included in previous versions of the law, but provides LEAs with alternative methods to use in identifying children with learning disabilities.
In determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, the LEA is not required to take into consideration whether a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability in oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skill, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation, or mathematical reasoning. In IDEA hearings, Congress stated that there was “no evidence that the IQ-achievement discrepancy formulas can be applied in a consistent and meaningful (reliable and valid) manner. In addition, this approach has been particularly problematic for students living in poverty or from culturally and linguistically different backgrounds.”
IDEA ’04 also indicates that the LEA may use a process that determines if a child responds to scientific, research-based intervention (sometimes referred to as response-to-intervention [RTI]) as a part of the evaluation procedures used to determine if the child is a child with a disability. The RTI model is designed to ensure that children who are at-risk for failing in the early grades receive scientific, research-based intervention as soon as possible (see section on early intervening services). Through the application of high-quality instruction delivered by well-trained individuals, LEAs will be able to distinguish between children who have different learning styles and children with disabilities. This is also an effective model to differentiate language differences and language disorders among ELL students.
IDEA ’04 retains the special rule for eligibility determination stating that a lack of appropriate scientifically-based reading instruction, lack of math instruction, or limited English proficiency cannot be the determining factor in deciding whether a child has a disability.
For more than 10 years, ASHA has promoted in its resources the use of a contextually-based approach to diagnostics that does not rely on discrepancy formulae (see resources at right). These resources as well as the new law offer the support needed to conduct contextually-based assessments.
Assistive Technology Definition Revision
Congress added an exception in IDEA ’04 to the definition of “assistive technology device” as stated: “The term [assistive technology] does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device.” The same language also was added as an exception to the “related services” definition.
Existing IDEA language already restricts a school’s responsibility for “medical” services (provided by a physician) to only those needed for evaluative and diagnostic purposes. The new language in IDEA ’04 adds the force of federal law to existing policy.
Since medically implanted devices are specifically excluded from the definition of assistive technology devices, the IEP team is not required to consider whether the child needs such a device or related services when the IEP is developed (Sec. 614[d][3][B][v]). On the other hand, the law does not prohibit consideration of services like programming surgically implanted devices. Such services may be the school’s responsibility if the IEP Team voluntarily decides that these services are needed for a child’s FAPE. Audiology continues to be a related service, so cochlear implant mapping done by an audiologist could still be provided under IDEA.
Medically implanted devices are excluded from the definition but, Sec. 614(d)(3)(B)(v) requires that every IEP team consider whether a child requires assistive technology, and states that each public agency must provide the necessary technology if needed as part of the child’s special education. Additionally, funds may be used to improve the use and support of technology in the classroom to “maximize accessibility to general education curriculum for children with disabilities” (Sec. 611[C][iv][v]).
Lingering Questions
IDEA ’04 does not address lingering questions about a school’s responsibility regarding assistive technology devices that serve both educational and medical functions, (e.g. augmentative communication systems, eyeglasses, traditional hearing aids, respirators, suctioning equipment, nebulizers, etc.). The new language may also affect long-standing ED policy interpretation that “personal use devices” are not a school’s responsibility-unless of course those devices are needed to provide a FAPE. This personal use exclusion continues to confuse both schools and families.
ASHA will be asking the ED for clarification of funding responsibility in the IDEA regulations. ASHA members are encouraged to ensure that assistive technology device needs are included in the IEP process, advocate the use of assistive technologies to other education professionals, and provide support and training to related professionals, and education to students using assistive devices.
Contributors to this article include Kathleen Whitmire, Susan Karr, Claudia Saad, Charlie Diggs, Catherine Clarke, Stan Dublinske, Diane Paul, Diane Golden, and Susan Boswell.
Analyzing IDEA ’04

The ASHA Leader began its series analyzing the impact of IDEA ’04 in the Feb. 8 issue. The first article addressed qualified providers, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), paperwork reduction, and model forms. Visit ASHA’s IDEA Information Center for in-depth analysis of the law, breaking news, and other information.

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March 2005
Volume 10, Issue 3