Missed Session … What’s Really Missing? Does your school require you to squeeze make-up sessions into an already full schedule? Try these suggestions. School Matters
School Matters  |   April 01, 2016
Missed Session … What’s Really Missing?
Author Notes
  • Deborah Adamczyk Dixon, MA, CCC-SLP, is ASHA director of school services. ddixon@asha.org
    Deborah Adamczyk Dixon, MA, CCC-SLP, is ASHA director of school services. ddixon@asha.org×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / School Matters
School Matters   |   April 01, 2016
Missed Session … What’s Really Missing?
The ASHA Leader, April 2016, Vol. 21, 30-31. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.21042016.30
The ASHA Leader, April 2016, Vol. 21, 30-31. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.21042016.30
In many school districts and for many years, speech-language pathologists have had to make up some or all missed student sessions themselves, without any coverage from a substitute. In some states or districts, policies require that sessions be made up by adding more students to groups, extending sessions by a few minutes or scheduling extra sessions, all of which place full responsibility and extra time on the SLP’s already busy schedule.
ASHA staff worked with the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) staff to generate guidance on this topic. In March 2007, OSEP distributed a document on the issue. It states:
We encourage public agencies to consider the impact of a provider’s absence or a child’s absence on the child’s progress and performance and to determine how to ensure the continuation provision of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in order for the child to continue to progress and meeting the annual goals in his or her IEP. Whether an interruption in services constitutes a denial of FAPE is an individual determination that must be made on a case-by-case basis.
Although this information provides some resolution to the missed-session issue, in 2015 members again reported concerns about onerous policies. ASHA requested that OSEP reissue the 2007 guidance, reiterating to school districts that they address the issue on a case-by-case basis.
So why do schools continue to place the burden of make-up sessions mostly on the shoulders of SLPs? Use the points below to educate your school district on why squeezing in make-up sessions isn’t the best solution for students or SLPs.
  • Imposing requirements to make up sessions by expanding groups may compromise the quality of services both for students who missed sessions as well as students usually served in an existing group.

  • SLPs’ typically full schedules allow no time to make up services, so adding extra minutes or new sessions can affect other responsibilities or services.

  • Some policies might result in an SLP inadvertently violating ASHA’s Code of Ethics—for example, individuals shall provide all services competently—and, therefore, putting his or her certification at risk.

  • SLPs get paid leave as part of their contractual rights, yet these make-up policies make it difficult for SLPs to use it. Because of these policies, SLPs sometimes work even when ill, posing a risk for themselves and their students.

  • In most school districts, SLPs are the only professionals asked to make up services without access to substitute coverage. Shouldn’t schools offer substitutes when the SLPs use their paid leave, just as substitutes provide coverage to other faculty?

  • Infrequent missed sessions don’t seem to compromise the provision of FAPE or affect student progress.

  • These kinds of policies may make it difficult for a school district to recruit or retain SLPs.

  • SLPs occasionally miss sessions because they are participating in activities that benefit their students, which schools should consider equally important and meaningful work.

School districts and SLPs can work together to create responsible resolutions that allow the SLP to provide quality services.

Responsible resolutions
School districts and SLPs can work together to create responsible resolutions that allow the SLP to provide quality services while achieving the spirit of FAPE. If you work in a setting with onerous make-up policies, try asking the school to incorporate these suggestions:
Write the required amount of services into IEPs by quarter, semester or school year (rather than weekly or monthly), creating more session flexibility.
Provide certified and qualified speech-language pathology substitutes as needed; quarterly, to make up missed sessions throughout the district; or in the summer, to make up missed sessions accumulated during the entire year—and generate better carryover to the following school year.
Reduce demands on the SLPs’ regular schedule to allow for weekly make-up slots.
Determine the need for SLPs using a workload versus caseload schedule. The 3:1 model—SLPs provide direct student services for three weeks with one week for indirect services—provides flexibility and built-in opportunity for make-up treatments.
Establish a regular process to determine the need for make-up services on a case-by-case basis.
Engaging others
How can you further help produce a solution?
  • Bring the issue to the attention of the district’s union and request assistance for amicable resolutions.

  • Engage other professionals who might also want to change these policies—physical and occupational therapists, for example—in the resolution process.

  • Meet with administrators to discuss the issue and share the OSEP guidance and possible solutions.

  • Suggest options to address the issue that ensure you provide continual quality services in accordance with FAPE.

Schedules and supports that allow school-based SLPs to best serve their students—and provide make-up sessions when appropriate—allow SLPs to effectively contribute to students’ academic progress and career readiness.
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April 2016
Volume 21, Issue 4