Have you ever picked up a student from a reading specialist or special education classroom and what they are working on looks exactly like what is taking place in speech therapy? Or maybe you are at an annual meeting and the special education teacher’s goals sound just like your language goals. With all educators working to improve how a child learns, it only makes sense that eventually we meet in the middle and are focusing on similar things. However, if we completely overlap, this is Duplication of Services and it might be time to dismiss.
Duplication of services for special education occurs when two professionals are providing the same services addressing the same goals. Typically, duplication of services occurs with older students who qualify for both educational support (e.g., learning disability) and communication intervention (speech or language disorder).
This is easier said than done, right? Sometimes we face pushback when we try to “reduce services.” Special education students don’t progress as quickly as others and teachers are reluctant to take away support. Parents too, after years of speech therapy, are accustomed to the services and are often shocked when “support is being taken away.”
The truth is, if someone else is serving him, he needs to go. If we are taking him away from educational opportunities and it’s not needed, he needs to go back in the classroom. What we need is confidence in making the decision, ways to write it up, and ways to talk to parents and our peers about it so that they see the value in the decision.
When is Duplication of Services Most Appropriate?
Duplication of services is a designation that is most appropriate for older students who also have other special education services. If you look at their goals and see nothing but question-answering and higher-level thinking objectives, know that these might be covered under English Language Arts goals or reading. Truth be told, many of these students transition on to middle school and they are dismissed there. So, you are doing a service to your middle school professionals and returning the student to general education full-time where they probably need to be.
While duplication of services is one way to dismiss a student, it should not be used as a substitute for an evaluation.
How to Determine if Duplication of Services Should Be Proposed
Here’s where it gets tricky: We have a child who still qualifies for speech therapy but we are saying that they no longer need services. Do you see how that can be confusing to all other professionals involved?
What we instead need is a way to show that current services in the classroom are already covering the area of need. At least one of the following three criteria need to be met for a child to receive speech therapy.
|#1: Student presents with a speech and language disorder.
|Has been met.
|Has not been met.
|#2: Student demonstrates an educational need to support communication skills.
|Student demonstrates an educational need for speech therapy in an educational setting.
|There is no academic need for speech therapy.
|#3: The services can only be adequately addressed by a licensed speech-language pathologist.
|Services needed can only be provided by a licensed speech-language pathologist.
|Difficulties can be addressed by academic professionals.
Criteria #1: Student presents with a speech and language disorder.
This is the easiest. If a student does not qualify, they need to be dismissed. This is pretty straight forward but is difficult if a child is getting additional services such as testing accommodations under a speech eligibility. We need to let the administration know that a dismissal is in the near future so that testing for other support can be arranged.
If you are in a stickier situation trying to determine how to dismiss, read: Dismissal from Speech Therapy: How to Make the Call
Criteria #2: Student demonstrates an educational need to support communication skills.
This one also sounds like a no brainer but there are times when it isn’t true. In some districts, if a child only has mild pragmatic language issues it is not considered enough to warrant speech therapy and he is sent in the direction of counseling. Also, sometimes the goals we receive from private clinics are not written in a way that demonstrate educational need and we cannot accept them. This usually leads to a new evaluation to determine otherwise.
Criteria #3: The services can only be adequately addressed by a licensed speech-language pathologist.
This is the biggie for determining duplication of services. If we can show that the child is getting help from another professional or even is an area of focus of curriculum, we can move her off of our caseload.
Skillfully Presenting the Idea of Duplication of Services
Trying to dismiss a student from speech therapy because someone else is focusing on the area of need is not easy. It can provoke the most interesting responses from your school team. I have seen agreement, fear, anger, and even incredulity because they had “never heard of such a thing.” First, we need to acknowledge how confusing and unique the situation is. Then we need to explain the situation in 1) real terms and 2) in a way that addresses the campuses and teachers’ greatest goals.
Have the Discussion About Duplication Before Hand
A near-guaranteed way to torpedo any attempt to remove a child from your caseload because the content is already being covered in class is to announce it at the annual meeting. It sets up a division of Parent-Teach-Admin Vs Speech Pathologist. Not good odds. Talk with everyone ahead of time.
Administration – Make sure that a speech qualification is not keeping other services in place like testing accommodations. If it is, find out how that will be addressed if the student is dismissed from speech.
General Ed. Teacher – Talk to the teacher in the specific area (e.g. ELA) and explain what speech is doing in 30 minutes/week versus what they are doing in 5-10 hours. Explain that you are trying to return the student to class fulltime, not taking away support.
Special Ed. Teacher – Lay out their goals and your goals and show how they are identical. Lay out the amount of minutes they have versus what speech has and talk about what will better serve the student.
Parent – Talk about how the child is communicating at home and if there are any concerns. Share with the parent that the last areas of focus are academic, and that you are working to stop having to remove him from class.
Present the Speech Goals alongside the Special Education Goals and State’s Knowledge and Skills
We have access to the other special education goals and grade-level requirements. Bring them to the table to show the overlap. As an example, here is a small piece taken from the State of Texas. Looks a lot like language goals doesn’t it?
10th Grade/English II
- Reading/Comprehension of Various Types of Text (e.g., Expository, Poetry).
- Students analyze, make inferences and draw conclusions and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding
- Reading/Comprehension of Informational Text/Expository Text. Students analyze, make inferences and draw conclusions about expository text and provide evidence from text to support their understanding. Students are expected to:
- Summarize text and distinguish between a summary that captures main ideas and elements of a text and a critique that takes expresses opinion
- Differentiate between opinions that are substantiated and unsubstantiated
- Make subtle inferences and draw complex conclusions about the ideas in text
- Synthesize and make logical connections between ideas and details in several texts selected to reflect a range of viewpoints on the same topic and support those findings with textual evidence
Use Positive Language
When I say “positive” I am talking about adding to the child’s education rather than taking away. For example, don’t “reduce services.” Instead “return the student to the classroom fulltime.” ASHA touches on this lightly in a paper they released on reframing the professional report.
What if We Are Not Successful?
I have been in meetings where professionals have never heard of duplication of services. They don’t like the sound of it and there is no way they are going to sign on to the idea. That’s fine. Sometimes we have to introduce the concept so that it is accepted in a different situation in the future. The truth is (middle school SLPs will attest) that the child will typically be dismissed at the middle school or high school level. Your attempts document the progress that the child has made and will make their job easier in the future.
Secondly, it is a good opportunity to change direct services to consultation time which is a great compromise if you need to meet in the middle.