Guest Post by Sarah Wu from Speech is Beautiful
5 steps a teacher can take to refer a student for speech
Now that the school year is underway, teachers are reaching out to me and sharing students’ names that may have speech problems. My school has set up a standard procedure to process speech referrals from teachers. I’ve worked in many several districts and I’ve seen lots of different ways kids are referred to speech, from allowing referrals straight to evaluation and others referring to a Speech RTI program. Here are some of the ways you can start the wheels of the process to get a student speech therapy services:
1) Request an observation
Before teachers take their precious time to fill out a referral form, I like to take a peek at the student in the classroom. By law the speech pathologist can observe students in a classroom without parental permission. Many times I’ve been able to share my advice like “Those errors are developmental, please give it 8 weeks.” I can add the student to a list of “to monitor,” and the teacher can wait on the evaluation. Usually however, I will observe the child and hand the teacher a referral form right away.
2) Fill out a referral form
If the speech pathologist travels between schools, it can be hard to get their attention to conduct an evaluation. Filling out the referral form and dropping it into the speech path’s mailbox with a note, “I haven’t been able to catch you. Here’s a student I’ve been worried about. Let me know if you want to observe him/her.”
3) Ask a special ed teacher or psychologist to observe
Special ed teachers and psychologists also have an idea of students who typically are referred for speech concerns. When a special ed teacher or the psychologist stops me in the hallway with speech concerns about a student, I put them on my priority list.
4) Talk to parents
Tread carefully with parents when discussing possible speech concerns, because many parents take those kinds of concerns to heart in a deeply personal way. However, parents have great background information about their children that can be helpful when considering a possible speech concern. Those conversations are best in person, but you can say that, “I was going to have the speech pathologist observe a few students in the classroom and I was going to add Johnny to the list.” Parents often offer additional information. Recently parents of a referred student shared that the student had participated in Early Intervention (therapy for ages 0 to 3), which prioritized the student’s receiving speech at school.
5) Request records from previous teacher or school
Many cumulative folders passed from one teacher to the next don’t contain all of the information that the teacher compiled for the student. Teachers may have additional information that they didn’t put into the folder before it was transferred. Check with the previous teacher and check if they had speech concerns and if the speech pathologist was able to observe. Also, if the student transferred, consider calling the previous school and making sure you received all the records. Sometimes parents don’t bring in their students’ individual education plans (IEPs) when they register them. I’ve seen an IEP “show up” after a student had been at school for two months without receiving services. Talk about stressful!
I hope that my suggestions have been food for thought as you move forward referring your students for speech therapy. If you are interested, try this FREE Details of the Special Education Staff Organizer. I use this resource to keep track of who is coming and going on the special ed team. I created this resource to consolidate all my information and put it in a binder.
Bio: Sarah Wu, M.A. CCC-SLP is a published author and bilingual school-based speech pathologist entering her tenth year. Before becoming a speech pathologist, Sarah spent four years in corporate America at Kraft Foods. Her undergraduate degree is in Spanish and her MA is in speech-language pathology. Sarah blogs at Speech is Beautiful. For more freebies and ideas, be sure to follow her Facebook Page and Teachers Pay Teachers store!