Tuesday, September 1, 2015

You’re Only as Good as Your Checklist--Determining Adverse Effect

      Often school-based speech-language pathologists are swamped.  Therapy sessions, IEPs, meetings, progress reports, evaluations---the list is endless.  It’s tempting to cut corners with paperwork and tasks but one of the corners that can’t be cut is conducting thorough speech/language evaluations.

Best practice dictates that school-based SLPs include the following components in language evaluations:
  • one or more standardized measures
  • a language sample
  • a classroom observation
  • a hearing screening
  • a file review or case history
  • evidence of adverse classroom impact

Federal law states that in order to be eligible for speech/language services, there needs to be documentation of adverse effects in the classroom. “Adverse effect” means that the progress of the child is impeded by the disability to the extent that the educational performance is significantly and consistently below the level of similar aged peers.  Part of a speech-language evaluation is to determine the impact of a disorder on the child in the classroom which includes obtaining teacher input.  Several states have developed forms and checklists to gather teacher input. Teacher rating scales require a classroom teacher to rank a child’s skills based on what a typical child does in the same environment.  The scales should reflect the communication demands of the curriculum, and now several systems have developed rating scales based on the Common Core standards.

There are several teacher rating scales or survey questions available free to download.  Some are linked to Common Core standards, while others are not because some schools use other curricula.  This list is a short sampling of the many states that have their own checklists and guidelines.
  • This first set of checklists is in the Texas Speech Language and Hearing Association Guidelines.  These were published in 2011, and are not tied into the Common Core.  (Texas did not adopt Common Core).  These teacher impact rating forms cover a comprehensive range of communication skills.  Go here to access the guidelines and then find the teacher survey questions, and item analysis on pages 29-35.
  • The second link for teacher checklists take us to the Georgia Organization of School-Based Speech Language Pathologists.  They have a wonderful website of helpful information, forms, and teacher checklists which are based upon the Common Core and on language development research. The checklists are targeted for teachers, therapists, and other school staff to help in gathering information on classroom functioning related to language skills and meeting the Common Core standards.
  • There is also a set of teacher checklists available from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) in North Carolina.  These checklists are based on the Common Core standards, and were developed over a year’s time by the CHCCS team of speech-language pathologists. In addition to checklists for semantic, syntactic and morphological language skills, there are also separate checklists for a teacher to report on pragmatic language skills. These checklists are available here as one collated document.

As we SLPs know, standardized assessments tell you only so much about a child’s true struggles in the classroom.  Teacher input is critical to a thorough evaluation and also for therapy planning.  Once you know that the child has a disorder and there is a significant negative impact in the classroom, you as the SLP are set to begin the rewarding and challenging task of therapy.  A teacher checklist, as simple as it seems, is an invaluable tool for you in your assessment and therapy planning!  Your assessment, no matter how thorough, is incomplete without teacher input.  Grab one of the above checklists and add it to your assessment protocol today!  You’re only as good as your checklist.

I am grateful to the help of my Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools colleagues who assisted with editing, and especially grateful to my co-author, Wendy Lybrand, M.S., CCC-SLP 

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