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Special Education Eligibility: When is a Speech-Language Impairment Also a Disability?

Special Education Eligibility: When is a Speech-Language Impairment Also a Disability?
Lissa Power-deFur, PhD, CCC-SLP
October 30, 2015
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 I feel like I am returning to my life when I worked at the Department of Education frequently talking on this topic to speech-language pathologists, parent groups, and special education directors over the years.  I imagine the following scenario might be related to why you all have decided to participate in this webinar.  You are an SLP in your first year at a local school district.  Perhaps you are right out of school; or perhaps you are shifting from another setting, and you are confused about the process of special education eligibility.  You are the specialist in speech and language; is it not your decision if the child has a speech/language impairment?  Does it not feel like the team is overruling you?  Hopefully, at the end of this session, you will feel like you have the answer to that question. 

During this course, I am going to review the federal, state, and local authority for special education policies and procedures, and how those intersect.  I am going to go over the requirements for evaluation for special education and for eligibility determination.  Then there is a concept in the law called “adverse educational effect” and we will spend some time on that.  We will also look at evaluation and eligibility best practices. 

Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes upon completing this activity are that you will be able to explain special education eligibility requirements -- particularly the federal requirements; identify the components of an evaluation for special education that are needed to determine eligibility; and identify the requirements to be eligible for “related services.”  Some of our students with speech and language impairment are eligible for special education, and some are eligible for related services.  Hopefully, after this course, you will feel that you can marry your expertise in speech-language pathology with the requirements of special education.

Before we go further, I want to go through my disclosures.  I do have a financial relationship with SpeechPathology.com, but there is no relationship with any product or source represented in the presentation.  The ASHA Board of Directors likes us to acknowledge that we serve on the board, but that is not in any way influencing our conversations and I am not speaking on behalf of the Board of Directors.  As indicated in my bio, I worked for many years in the Virginia Department of Education, and one of my opportunities while there was to revise the special education regulations following the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 

Special Education Eligibility

Just to refresh your memory, special education was created a long time ago now - 40 years ago - by a federal law previously called the Education for Handicapped Children Act (EHA) and is now called IDEA.  The purpose of the act was to identify what is termed “a child with a disability” so that that child could receive a “free and appropriate public education,” (or FAPE as it is frequently called in special education jargon).  The acronym for a child with a disability may be abbreviated as CWD.  Notice the focus here.  It is on public education.  Our entire focus with these children is to enhance their success in public education.  This was an equity law. Prior to the passage of this law, children with disabilities were either not being served or were being underserved.  The law set forth standards to ensure access to a free and appropriate public education; whatever is free to a student in general education is free to a student in special education. 


lissa power defur

Lissa Power-deFur, PhD, CCC-SLP

Lissa Power-deFur, PhD, CCC-SLP, ASHA-F serves as the communication sciences and disorders graduate program director at Longwood University, where she teaches a course in ethics and professional issues. Lissa received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in speech-language pathology at the University of Virginia.  She currently serves on the ASHA Board of Directors as Vice President of Standards and Ethics in Speech-Language Pathology.  Previously, she has served the profession in her state association and on various ASHA boards and committees, including the ASHA Board of Ethics.  She has provided a number of professional development programs on ethical decision-making.  



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