Clinical Exchange  |   October 2010
An Issue Hiding in Plain Sight: When Are Speech-Language Pathologists Special Educators Rather Than Related Services Providers?
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Michael F. Giangreco
    University of Vermont, Burlington
  • Patricia A. Prelock
    University of Vermont, Burlington
  • H. Rutherford Turnbull, III
    The University of Kansas, Lawrence
  • Contact author: Michael F. Giangreco, University of Vermont, 208 Colchester Avenue, Mann Hall 301A, Burlington, VT 05405. E-mail: Michael.Giangreco@uvm.edu.
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy
Clinical Exchange   |   October 2010
An Issue Hiding in Plain Sight: When Are Speech-Language Pathologists Special Educators Rather Than Related Services Providers?
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools October 2010, Vol.41, 531-538. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2009/08-0127)
History: Accepted 23 Jul 2009 , Received 02 Dec 2008 , Revised 19 May 2009
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools October 2010, Vol.41, 531-538. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2009/08-0127)
History: Accepted 23 Jul 2009 , Received 02 Dec 2008 , Revised 19 May 2009

Purpose: Under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; as amended, 2004), speech-language pathology services may be either special education or a related service. Given the absence of guidance documents or research on this issue, the purposes of this clinical exchange are to (a) present and analyze the IDEA definitions related to speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and their roles, (b) offer a rationale for the importance of and distinction between their roles, (c) propose an initial conceptualization (i.e., flow chart) to distinguish between when an SLP should function as a related services provider versus a special educator, and (d) suggest actions to develop and disseminate a clearer shared understanding of this issue.

Method: Federal definitions of special education and related services as related to SLPs are discussed in terms of determining special education eligibility, meeting student needs, ensuring SLPs are following their code of ethics and scope of practice, and facilitating appropriate personnel utilization and service delivery planning.

Conclusion: Clarifying the distinction between special education and related services should lead to increased likelihood of appropriate services for students with disabilities, improved working conditions for SLPs, and enhanced collaboration among team members. This clinical exchange is meant to promote dialogue and research about this underexamined issue.

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