What if you are homeschooling and your child needs speech therapy?

Scenario #1

You have been homeschooling your child his or her entire education but you feel as if they may have difficulties either producing speech, using proper social skills, understanding speech/language, creating sentences properly, following directions, or any other number of speech and language related issues. What do you do? First, there are many resources online to help you determine whether or not it may be a good idea to have a speech and language evaluation. You can look up sound acquisition charts that list phonemes your child should be able to produce by age. You can also find information on what language skills children should have at each stage of development. If you determine that you are still concerned then a good place to start would be with your pediatrician. Not only are they likely to know of available resources, but often a speech-language pathologist will need a script from a doctor to provide an evaluation and treatment if you choose to use insurance (private pay does not require a doctor’s script). Depending on your location, there may be multiple options for finding a speech-language pathologist and if there isn’t anyone close, you can try finding some via teletherapy. In addition to checking the below options, you can also search http://asha.org/profind/ for providers in your area. Not all speech therapists are listed there but it will give you a good head start. Here are some possible locations for speech evaluations and therapy:
– Hospitals
– Outpatient/outclient clinics (including rehabilitation clinics)
– Stand-alone therapy clinics
– State early intervention programs
– Public schools
– Private therapists

Keep in mind that if you choose to pursue an evaluation and therapy through the schools, this will create a paper trail for your child in the public school system. Many districts will ask that you submit much of the same paperwork as the other students, including vaccination records. This decision is different for each family and depends on your own personal opinions. Service qualification, provision, and requirements vary greatly by district. Schools also have up to 50 school days to perform an evaluation once requested.

Scenario #2

Your child has been attending public school and he or she has an active IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that includes speech therapy. You decide to transfer your child to a private school (homeschooling). What now? You have two options: 1) withdraw your student from services or 2) continue receiving services as a homeschooled (“private schooled”) student.
If you do not want your child to continue receiving speech therapy then you must call for an IEP meeting where you will withdraw your child from services. All you need to do is sign a form indicating your desire for withdrawal. This is DIFFERENT from withdrawing from school; you do not want to do that when transitioning to homeschool. As long as you sign the permission form to withdraw, the IEP is closed and you are done.

If you would like to continue receiving services, you will need to call an IEP meeting to transfer the IEP to an ISP (Individualized Service Plan). The ISP is very similar to an IEP but it is what the public schools use for privately schooled students. By law, every public school MUST provide special education services to any families whether they attend that school or a private school. The meeting will begin with a review of the IEP. At the end of the IEP there is a section for you to reject the IEP and FAPE (Free and APpropriate Education). Once you choose to reject those things, that will cause an ISP to be developed. You will go over the ISP with your child’s goals, services, etc. If you agree to the terms, you sign permission and you are done! As a homeschooler, it will be your responsibility to provide transportation to the school for the services.

It is important to note that while it is the law for schools to provide services to homeschoolers, it varies by district how “equal” those services will be. For example, students in a school may receive two 25 minute sessions of speech therapy each week but they may offer homeschooled students only one session a week. Therapy in the schools will often be group therapy vs. individual therapy in clinics. It is up to you whether or not you accept their offerings. ISP meetings are negotiations and you can withdraw from services or make changes to it at any time. If you need extra assistance in dealing with the schools, you can always hire an advocate to assist you (IN*Source is a great resource). They are very familiar with the law and are used to supporting parents. We have several advocacy groups in Indiana. Again, maintaining services in the schools does keep your child in the school computers. Your child will still be considered enrolled but they will fall under a different code as regularly enrolled students. Your child will be enrolled as a “child receiving special services without placement in a classroom”. If you decide to withdraw from services, you would follow the methods from the first section above to receive services elsewhere.

When considering where to receive services it is helpful to understand the difference between the educational model of providing services and the medical model of providing services. The schools use the educational model where all other locations follow the medical model. The educational model states that children qualify for services only when it impacts them ACADEMICALLY in any way including their ability to participate in a classroom or navigate the school grounds. Often a child has to score LOWER to qualify for services in the schools. The medical model qualifies anyone who falls below the normative data in an area (often 1.5 standard deviations). The medical model looks at the overall picture of a person’s life and not just one area (i.e. academics). For example, if there is a student who has trouble functioning at home because they can’t climb stairs well due to a medical diagnosis, the school may not qualify them if that school does not have stairs but a medical facility would.

It is up to each family to determine which path will work best for them and their children. What is most important is that all children receive the help they need. As homeschooling families there is also a lot of information online to assist with children’s’ speech and language development. HSLDA and IAHE both have information on their websites to further assist with teaching children who have special needs.

Next blog post we will talk about SEPs (specialized education plans)