Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Bridge, The Ramps, and the Core--The Role of the Related Service Provider in the IEP

  Chapel Hill Snippets is glad to have Guest Blogger: Ashley Robinson once again!
 I have a question for all the school based related service providers and assistive technology professionals:  Have you ever struggled to explain your role in a student's education to a parent or teacher? As a speech-language pathologist at a middle and high school, I see many students who have received speech-language as a related service since preschool. In many cases I wonder if the role of the related service professional has been explained to the team. So, I came up with my own explanation.
A student who qualifies for special education services cannot access the curriculum (in most cases the Common Core).
The IEP is the bridge to the curriculum. It should address the skills that the student needs so that he can follow the Common Core. For example, there is a sixth grade boy who struggles with written expression.  Instead of writing a goal that states “Boy will write on grade level,” think about what is keeping this student from writing on grade level. Perhaps this student is not using complex sentences or is using ambiguous pronoun references.

The IEP team will work together to review data on a child and determine the needs of a particular student. In this case, the student does NOT require any related service support, so the special education teacher is the one building the bridge. Another possibility is that the team may find that a speech-language impairment is the primary disability holding the child back, and the SLP will be in charge of building that bridge. In either case, additional related service support is not needed.

 In my experience though, most students have a disability (think ADHD or specific learning disability) and language disorders (or sensory issues, or assistive tech issues....) are a part of that disability and require related service support to access the IEP.  The bridge cannot be built straight across - there needs to be a ramp.

This is how our lead SLP explained it to us, “If you take away the student's primary disability (e.g., ADHD), would they still have a language disorder?” This is a clinical judgement question for each student; however, I've found the answer to be “probably not.” Thus, speech-language is a related service.

Because I'm an SLP, I am going to use speech-language services as my example; however, this analogy applies to OT, PT, and Assistive Technology (at least with the model we work under in my school system).

Once the team determines that speech-language services are needed to address a goal (stay tuned for a future post on this), then the question is – what is the role of the SLP as a related service support provider? Here's what I think:

Related service is the RAMP to get on the bridge (i.e., the IEP). What language skills does the student require to even get on the bridge? Again, goals or objectives should be developed to address a student's language needs that are impeding him from accessing the IEP (e.g., explicit instruction in pronoun use or sentence construction). Once the student has mastered these skills, and is on the bridge, then the special education teacher is the one to continue moving forward to build the bridge.  Speech-language services are no longer necessary.

Goals should address the needs of the student, and with each year, the student will (hopefully) close the gap until he or she is working on the curriculum (YAY!!). Some students will never have a bridge that stretches all of the say across; however, it is important that goals are systematic and are bringing that student as far as possible each year.

I'm curious to know what you think.  How do you see the role of the related service professional in the school?  Feel free to contact me with your thoughts and questions!

Ashley Robinson, MS, CCC-SLP and AT professional

Ashley's Bio:

I'll introduce myself: My name is Ashley Robinson and I am in my second year serving as a speech language pathologist and assistive technology professional in Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools. Ruth Morgan ( was my AMAZING CF supervisor last year and Jim Tignor ( helps me to navigate the AT waters. They are the best mentors anyone could ask for and I am so lucky to have them. I am a PATH International certified therapeutic horseback riding instructor at NC Therapeutic Riding Center and I plan to pursue certification as a professional that practices hippotherapy. I'm passionate about both of my jobs- especially the possibility of combining technology and horses! When I'm not working, I'm usually thinking about work or enjoying NC. 

Chapel Hill Snippets needs to credit renowned OT and artist Jim Tignor for the graphics!  Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. I really like this post. It explains (with a visual!) something that I've struggled to understand in the past 2 yrs I've worked as an SLP in the schools. Other professionals have questioned my judgement when I dismiss a student with language impairment that affects their written expression and is addressed through a special education teacher. And although I know why I made the decision, it has been difficult for me to put into words. Thanks for the wonderful post!


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