Jean L. Blosser, EdD, CCC-SLP
President, Creative Strategies for Special Education
Author, School Programs in Speech-Language Pathology: Organization and Service Delivery, Fifth Edition, Plural Publishing, 2012
Educational Relevance—What an Important Concept!
Does a child’s disability impact his or her performance in the classroom? If yes, would services such as speech-language intervention, occupational therapy, or physical therapy make a difference? Should those services be intensive, provided face-to-face or via technology, or integrated into the classroom? The primary question is, if therapy services are offered, will the intervention provided make a difference in the student’s classroom performance, ability to access the curriculum, and/or ability to reach his or her potential?
These are huge questions that administrators, educators, clinicians, and parents ponder every day. When school teams evaluate a student, they seek to determine how the disability may be interfering with the student’s learning. Key educational areas that may be affected are academic, social-emotional, and vocational performance. If everyone agrees there is an adverse effect on educational performance, the student’s eligibility for services is confirmed.
How Do We Guarantee Educational Relevance?
Regardless of the type, amount, frequency, or intensity of services offered, it is important that the services are educationally relevant and make a difference. Focusing on educationally relevant skills should help the student pay attention to the teacher’s instructions, move around the classroom, answer questions, seek assistance, follow directions, and recall facts. School team members must join forces to determine how to best structure intervention so that it is educationally relevant. Teachers provide insights into the demands and expectations for performance in their classroom. They have the best knowledge of the learning objectives, curriculum, and instructional methods. Teachers can also contribute information about distractions, rules, pace, and the general classroom environment. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs), occupational therapists (OTs), and physical therapists (PTs) can discuss the nature and characteristics of the disability and help teammates understand how these characteristics interfere with a student’s ability to succeed. They also offer positive recommendations for modifying the classroom environment, adapting learning materials, utilizing specific instructional strategies, or developing key skills to promote success. Family members can provide insights about the home situation and factors that may be contributing to the student’s attitude or motivation. Sound planning is necessary for any educational or therapy program to be successful, regardless of the disability. Collaboration can lead to powerful outcomes!
SLP, OT, and PT services are designed to address specific barriers that restrict students from accessing all areas of the educational curriculum, and educational teams should use problem solving approaches to address challenges students encounter. Physical, communicative, or sensory deficits are not reasons, in themselves, to provide therapy; focus should be on the student’s ability to perform the necessary tasks to achieve success in the educational environment.
Provided below is a checklist that administrators, general educators, special educators, and therapists can employ to ensure that interventions are educationally relevant.
- Evaluate the student’s performance within the educational environment, considering demands and expectations placed on the student by the structure of the curriculum, learning goals, performance requirements, and the teacher’s manner and style of instruction.
- Utilize pertinent information gleaned from the core curriculum, classroom observations, test results, and interviews with educators and family members.
- Identify skills and impairments that impact the student’s ability to function within the school environment and meet classroom demands and expectations.
- Collaborate with fellow individualized education program (IEP) team members to determine their perception of priorities for intervention and the most appropriate services and delivery models to meet the student’s needs.
- Strive to identify barriers and recommend accommodations and modifications.
About the Author
Jean Blosser, EdD, CCC-SLP is currently Vice President for Therapy Programs and Quality at Progressus Therapy, a national organization that focuses on reframing the way school based speech-language, occupational, and physical therapy services are provided. In her role, Jean provides the vision and leadership for Progressus program development and quality initiatives — all of which are related to fostering change in service delivery practices, striving for functional outcomes, and nurturing and guiding professionals to lead the way to make a difference in students lives.