If your child receives speech language therapy, you need to pay attention to how the service provider is described in the IEP. If the IEP includes acronyms, you need to ask questions so you know what they mean. Why?
If your child’s IEP says speech therapy services will be provided by a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), this is legally correct and legitimate.
If your child’s IEP says speech language services will be provided by “SLP/Staff,” your child may receive speech therapy from an untrained, unlicensed individual.
Some administrators encourage IEP teams to write “Special Education Staff,” “SPED staff, or “SLP/Staff” as the speech therapy provider on the child’s IEP. The term “Staff” may refer to anyone on the staff who is willing to do speech therapy — including untrained substitutes, aides and paraprofessionals.
Substitutes, aides and paraprofessionals usually have high school diplomas. They are not licensed by your state Department of Education, nor are they certified by The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). ASHA is the professional, scientific, and credentialing association for audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists.
Substitutes may sign off on the IEP paperwork as “Speech Therapy Substitutes.” This suggests that they are legitimate, certified Speech Therapists when they are not.
Some schools have “Speech Language Assistants.” Speech language assistants may file paperwork and make copies. Speech language assistants are not qualified to provide speech language therapy. Schools attempt to justify the use of “speech therapy assistants” by claiming that students are “just rehearsing” material learned from the Speech Language Pathologist. In reality, many speech language assistants are providing speech therapy, not practice reinforcement.
Schools are using this back door approach to get around hiring trained, certified Speech Language Pathologists.
Yes, there is a shortage of certified Speech Language Pathologists who are willing to work in schools. There are also shortages of other service providers including Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists. There are many reasons for these shortages including lower pay, high caseloads, and poor working conditions.
If your child receives speech language therapy, make sure the IEP states that these services will be provided by a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP).