To the Editor:
I write in response to the article titled “Mass. For-Proﬁt Helps Schools Trim Special Education Costs” (Education Week, May 25, 2011). The American Speech-Language Hearing Association, or ASHA, is the professional association for 145,000 individuals who are speech-language pathologists; audiologists; and speech, language, and hearing scientists. More than 53,000 of our members, including Peter Bittel, the chief executive ofﬁcer of Futures Education, which was featured in your article, work in our nation’s schools. ASHA members are acutely aware of shrinking school budgets and the costs of providing special education.
ASHA members are strong advocates for increased funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and innovative service-delivery models.
ASHA’s member guidelines clearly delineate the clinical relationship between a certiﬁed speech-language pathologist and an assistant. Federal Medicaid regulations require that any covered services, including school-based Medicaid diagnostic, screening, preventive, or corrective services, be provided by or under the direction of a qualiﬁed speech-language pathologist. School districts that fail to do so can be audited and forced to return these funds. Finally, ASHA members are bound to uphold the A S H A code of ethics and could potentially lose their certiﬁcation for violations to appropriately supervise assistants.
Regarding Dr. Bittel’s comment about “speech therapy for life,” data collected by the U.S. Department of Education show that, of the 12 disability categories, “speech and language impairments” had the highest (by far) dismissal rate in special education between 2000 and 2002 . Dr. Bittel may have been referring to students with multiple and severe disabilities who may need many services in school, at home, and in the community for their entire lives. Speech-language pathologists are the professionals who are educated and credentialed to assess and treat communication disorders and, therefore, should always be involved in the treatment process.
Paul R. Rao
American Speech-Language Hearing Association
A version of this article appeared in the June 15, 2011 edition of Education Week as Association Adds Caution to Article on Spec. Ed. Costs