Eligibility, Evaluation, and the Realities of Role Definition in the Schools Sounds logical, simple… NOT. We don’t always agree on who these kids are, nor on how to find them. However, for those of us in the schools who are bound to specific guidelines in caseload selection, and that’s most of us, eligibility becomes a major factor in defining our service ... Second Opinion
Second Opinion  |   January 01, 1993
Eligibility, Evaluation, and the Realities of Role Definition in the Schools
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Barbara J. Ehren, EdD
    Speech-Language Impaired Program Specialist, The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, 3378 Forest Hill Boulevard, West Palm Beach, FL 33406
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Second Opinions
Second Opinion   |   January 01, 1993
Eligibility, Evaluation, and the Realities of Role Definition in the Schools
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, January 1993, Vol. 2, 20-23. doi:10.1044/1058-0360.0201.20
 
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, January 1993, Vol. 2, 20-23. doi:10.1044/1058-0360.0201.20
Sounds logical, simple… NOT. We don’t always agree on who these kids are, nor on how to find them. However, for those of us in the schools who are bound to specific guidelines in caseload selection, and that’s most of us, eligibility becomes a major factor in defining our service populations and, therefore, our role in the schools. The reality-based answer is that in many school districts we serve students who are eligible for service. This group may or may not be students who most need the service, depending on one’s perspective.
Eligibility often shapes caseloads in ways that seem inconsistent with the state of the art…if we let it. All too often we allow eligibility criteria to become the sole parameters of identification. In lieu of making a diagnosis, we ascertain whether the student meets eligibility criteria. Evaluation, then, becomes an eligibility determination process, rather than a process to describe a student’s communication status. Two scenarios are frequently encountered. Some speech-language pathologists say, “I don’t think that child needs treatment, but he is eligible and I have to serve him,” or “That child really needs help, but he’s not eligible.” Both cases are examples that do not include clinical decision making, with identification procedures missing the mark in delivering services to school children. In these examples, eligibility becomes the driving force for caseload selection, as if guidelines somehow exist apart from the professionals using them to make informed decisions about children. The first example represents a misinterpretation of federal mandates. Some people believe that if the eligibility criteria are met, and that usually means the numbers come out right on standardized tests, they have no choice but to include the student in treatment. I don’t believe that federal legislation ever intended for numbers to drive service delivery decisions or for us to provide services to students for whom they are not appropriate.
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