Denying Lisp Services in the Schools

By Pam Marshalla

Q: My friend’s daughter has a lateral lisp and has been denied services in her school because “it does not affect her ability to learn the curriculum.”  I was alarmed and upset by this. Is it possible that certain school districts do not treat this?  What is your stance on this?

Unfortunately there now are many school districts that hold this policy. Frankly, it makes me sick. If I were a parent I would be screaming about this.

Sometimes a child can receive services in the schools if it can be shown that he is hard to understand, or if he is ashamed to speak up in class, or if he is being bullied because of it.  Some kids can get in because it is considered six distinct errors––Errors on S, Z, Sh, Zh, Ch, and J.  Sometimes a child’s vowels are slightly distorted, too, and this can help them get in.  Also, perhaps the parents could yell about how much time is being given to children with severe mental and physical handicaps who are learning hardly anything at all. They might talk about the unfairness of this, and how their tax dollars should go to help their children too.

This has to change!  Throughout the history of western civilization, the signs of an educated person have been: (1) the ability to read, (2) the ability to write, and (3) the ability to speak well.  I personally feel it is awful and ridiculous that we are letting go of this tradition.  Bright children with speech impairment have as much right to tax-supported speech services in the schools as do children with severe handicaps.

After so many years fighting to get speech services in the schools, Charles Van Riper and his peers must be rolling over in their graves.

5 thoughts on “Denying Lisp Services in the Schools”

  1. Love your site, Pam!

    Unfortunately the districts are following IDEA when they state the need for an ‘educational impact’ in order for the child to be eligible for speech services. I wish otherwise, but unfortunately it’s a tough battle we continue to fight. Usually, I make a case using the goal of communication competence, which is part of most curriculums I’ve encountered. But when the district digs in its legal heels, it is not so successful. We see a lot of these kids for our AIS (speech improvement) for as long as we can get away with it, but it really isn’t right. See below for the reference:
    Does the child meet the criteria associated with one of the disability categories established in the law (e.g., speech-language impairment) and does the child need special education and related services as a result of this disability? The definition of speech-language impairment highlights the importance of considering the child’s performance in school when making the decision about eligibility: “…speech-language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance” (34 C.F.R. Section 300.8(c)(11)).

  2. Many districts are now requiring goals to be standards-based. It is fairly easy to connect a speech impairment with academic success if you cite the correct standard. Most districts have language arts standards that include an expressive language/spoken language standard. For example, “Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.” You can also define how the disability affects progress with a statement like, ” XX’s speech errors are inappropriate for his age and interfere with his ability to communicate effectively in the educational setting. Without intervention, these errors are likely to persist and have a negative impact on academic and/or social progress.”

  3. I had a lisp and was told as soon as I was accepted at Seton Hall University that I would have to take a non credit speech class to correct my impediment. While certainly a good school there are dozens of higher rated colleges which do not require their students to deal with this disability. One such senator has the initials “ M M”.

  4. Wow… came across this while doing some research about lateral lisps being worked on in educational settings (when the child is excelling at school, is not concerned at all with his speech–nor did he even realize he had a ‘lisp’, and is extremely social). As someone who has always respected Pam, I am really dismayed by this comment…

    “Also, perhaps the parents could yell about how much time is being given to children with severe mental and physical handicaps who are learning hardly anything at all.”

    Just wow. I work with children with moderate deficits who require my supports to function in the school environment. Students who DO learn, even if others think that they are “learning hardly anything at all” because they aren’t meeting the standards. As a disability advocate, this is appalling to read someone suggest that parents should “yell” that their academically successful children with lisps that aren’t adversely impacting their ability to access curriculum, deserve more because “tax dollars”. From SLP to SLP, this comment is really outrageous and I hope folks reading it in the future realize that this is NOT at all supported of inclusion and the laws in place for ALL students.

    That said, thank you to the poster above who recognized that there are laws that must be followed. Suggesting that parents “yell” at school-based clinicians who have LEGAL restrictions to follow, is not at all demonstrating support towards colleagues in this field. It may even discourage future SLPs from wanting to work in the schools– and we NEED school-based SLPs. Please, if you are a parent, do NOT yell at your school-based SLPs for following educational law. We cannot override any laws and chances are, our administration cannot do much either. Also, please recognize that it doesn’t matter if we have 40 students or 60 students on our caseloads, we don’t get more staffing. Districts don’t just have the funds to bring someone on if we qualify every student with a lisp (or developmental articulation errors) who is making effective progress in the academic curriculum. This is why we have clinics and outpatient providers. Let me work with those children who have disabilities who absolutely CAN learn but are grade levels below where they need to be. And lastly, support other SLPs. Just like I don’t agree with every child who “qualifies” or is diagnosed as having a communication disability by outpatient providers but yet I don’t blast them… please don’t blast school SLPs who are overworked, burdened with huge caseloads, pouring every ounce of ourselves into helping our neediest students every day.

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