Your child has some speech and language issues and you were just told he doesn’t qualify for therapy at school. You’re upset, frustrated and confused. Before calling the school, read on for the possible reasons why he didn’t qualify and what you can do about it.
Qualifying for speech and language therapy in a school isn’t as easy as one might think. It falls under the category of special education, and different states have different criteria with regard to special education law. Schools need to meet certain requirements in order to be reimbursed by the state for the special education services they provide.
Here are three reasons your child may not have qualified:
His speech issue doesn’t affect his learning. “One of the factors that led to your child not qualifying is how well he is performing in the classroom,” says Mindy Stavish, a speech and language pathologist in Washington, D.C. “Talk with your child's classroom teacher to see what areas he is succeeding in and what areas are a struggle.” If your child’s teacher can understand him, if he can understand his teachers and if his peers aren’t confused when he speaks, there’s a good chance he won’t qualify for services.
He has a developmental speech delay that could get better with time. Some speech sounds develop later than others. The average age for a child to correctly say the letter R, for example, is 6 years old. Pronouncing the letter Z correctly is something that a 7-year-old can usually do. If your child is mispronouncing a word at age 4 that most children can’t say correctly until age 7, he will not qualify for speech and language therapy at school.
Your child shows signs of a speech impediment at home, but not at school. It happens more than you might think. There is pressure to be the same as everyone else at school. Your kindergartener may have walked into his classroom, heard a few kids mention the way he says his R, and decided to do his best all day long to fix that sound. When he comes home, he falls back into the old habit—usually because it’s a “safe” environment.
If you feel your child needs to see a speech and language therapist but he didn’t qualify to see one in his school, here’s a list of steps you can take to help him:
Ask why. If the reason wasn’t clearly stated on your child’s paperwork, ask why he didn’t qualify. Don’t assume the speech and language therapist is saying your child doesn’t have a speech disorder. Ask what criteria they used and why he didn’t qualify for services.
Request a re-evaluation. Mistakes happen. Maybe the person who assessed your son wasn’t able to hear that he didn’t articulate his L sound at the end of words. Maybe she listened for the wrong sound. Maybe, as mentioned above, your child decides to try his best at school but reverts to old habits back home. Kindly ask for a re-evaluation if you don’t agree with the school’s decision.
Find outside help. Anyone with a degree in speech and language pathology can help your child—don’t think the school is the only place you can go for help. Try asking your therapist at school for a recommendation or ask your health insurance company. “The entire public school evaluation process can be more than overwhelming. If you’re struggling to navigate the special education system, know you are not alone,” Stavish says. “It may be helpful to connect with a parent who has gone through the process. It also will be helpful to connect with your school district’s special education liaison and/or parent advocate.”
You know what’s best for your child—advocating for him is your job. If you feel your child needs to see a speech and language pathologist or therapist, don’t give up trying to get him help. Finding someone who will diagnose and treat him could change his entire school experience.
Becca Ludlum is a Speech and Language Therapist with five years of experience serving middle school children.