Frequently Asked Questions
Speech Therapy Eligibility
- I am worried about my child's speech. A state child development agency saw my child and said my child was 'not eligible' for service. Does this mean my child doesn't have a speech problem?
- Does this mean my child cannot get help?
- How could my child be found 'not eligible' and still have disorder in speech and language?
- Is the testing the only way my child was evaluated?
- What do "eligibility standards" mean for my child?
- If I get speech therapy at Waldo County General Hospital, will it be different for the state "special ed" services?
- What if I just wait and see how my child does when he/she gets to school?
- What test eligibility standard does Maine use?
- How is speech therapy paid for?
- Are there laws protecting my child?
- What is a 'Standard Deviation (SD)?
1. Question: I am worried about my child's speech. A state child development agency saw my child and said my child was 'not eligible' for service.
Does this mean my child doesn't have a speech problem?
Answer: No. You can and should seek your own professional opinion about your child's needs. Parents know best! Pre school speech problems can cause difficulties in school, especially learning to read. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about a speech evaluation.
The eligibility standard used in Maine excludes children, especially under age 3, who may have moderate disorders. These children are at risk for developing difficulties learning to speak, read and for failure in school.
If you would like more information, contact us at 207-338-9349 or by email a [email protected].
2. Question: Does this mean my child cannot get help?
Answer: No! You already have concerns about your child's speech and you are probably right. You should get help. Early intervention is effective and can prevent later social, academic and reading problems.
If your child is found 'not eligible' but still has speech problem, it just means the State does not choose to provide help for your child. Parents can and often do choose to get help for their children in the community without involving the state.
You can and should seek help for your child.
If you have questions about your child's speech see a qualified, licensed Speech Language Pathologist.
The Speech Pathologist is the qualified professional trained, certified and licensed to diagnose disorders speech of speech & language development.
When screening children, especially up to age three, the state may use one assessment tool. This assessment may lack the sensitivity to identify early speech disorders and the people doing the assessment may not be adequately credentialed to identify speech disorders.
They generally do a good job, but they do not have the training, depth of knowledge or experience to identify many types of speech and language disorders.
3. Question: How could my child be found 'not eligible' and still have disorder in speech and language?
Answer: Your child was given a test. The state determines the cut off score for who does and doesn't get help.
Tests produce a score. The state determines what score will be used to include children. The state can set a higher or lower standard to determine how many children will be allowed in service, based on what the school district or state decides.
Different states have different standards.
The score your child gets on a test is not intended to tell you what your child actually needs. The test measures how well your child did on that day, on that test. The test is designed to determine eligibility for service, not primarily for what is best for your child.
The author of the most widely used speech and language test in the United States said:
"Do not use this test to learn what a child needs. This test only establishes a score used by schools to determine who gets "in" and who doesn't. The test does not reflect what the child really needs to be successful". Secord, Wayne A. Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals 4 (CELF-4) Psychological Corporation
4. Question: Is the testing the only way my child was evaluated?
Answer: No. The law requires that information about your child's learning style be included. Rating scales and "clinical opinion" of the people doing the assessment can also be used.
5. Question: What do "eligibility standards" mean for my child?
Answer: The state 'eligibility standard" determines if your child will be included as a "special ed child." These standards are established by the state and may not reflect what your child really needs.
The State of Maine has made it harder for children to "qualify for services," only identifying moderate to severely disabled children under age 3 as 'eligible". For children over age 3, the standard includes a number of steps, where the child must first fail before being able to be fully assessed and become eligible for help.
Pre school children with a moderate disability may be called "not eligible" for services yet still have a disorder that may adversely affect speech, language and learning to read.
6. Question: If I get speech therapy at Waldo County General Hospital, will it be different for the state "special ed" services?
Answer: Our therapists work closely with many different agencies, including the state. When you get therapy here, your child receives an individualized plan, based specifically on your child's learning needs.
Our therapists work closely with parents, family members and pre schools to closely involve them in the child's development.
Your child will be working with highly qualified, licensed and nationally certified professionals. Scheduling and providing services are based on you and your child's needs.
7. Question: What if I just wait and see how my child does when he/she gets to school?
Answer: If your child starts school with a speech delay and does not have basic language-reading readiness skills, there is a 75% chance your child will never become a competent reader.
Children with delays in their speech and language have a greater risk of learning difficulties. The saying 'good talkers tend to be good readers" is true.
8. Question: What test eligibility standard does Maine use?
Answer: For young children (birth to age 3), the state has determined eligibility at 2 standard deviations (SD) below the mean in one area of development or 1.5 standard deviations below the mean in two areas of development.
From Maine Special Education Law Chapter 101: The level of developmental delay required for eligibility will be defined as any of the following (unless the measures used, such as hearing and vision tests, have different criteria for establishing abnormal development):
(a) A delay of at least 2.0 or more standard deviations
below the mean in at least one of the five areas of development listed above; or
(b) A delay of at least 1.5 standard deviations below the
mean in at least two of the five areas of development
listed in 1(A) (1), above. [20 USC 1435(a) (1)]
Other information can also be used in making a determination, including observing the child's learning style and the opinion of the people involved in the assessment.
For children age 3 and up, the child must have a delay in the moderate to severe range as determined by tests and rating scales.
You can find these rules and regulations online at the Maine Department of Education at http://maine.gov/education/speced/contentrules.htm
9. Question: How is therapy help paid for?
Answer: Most insurances pay for speech therapy evaluations and many pay for speech therapy. Sometimes, a professional assessment of your child's speech uncovers additional information that may help the state determine your child is eligible for education services.
The place to start is an evaluation to find out exactly what your child needs.
Talk to your doctor or health care provider about a referral or contact us directly for more information at 207-338-9349 or [email protected].
10. Question: Are there laws protecting my child?
Answer: Yes; there is a federal law called Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Each state then develops its own regulations to meet the law, including establishing eligibility standards.
11. Question: What's "standard deviation?"
Answer: OK. This isn't a question we get very often. Some information about standard deviation (SD) is helpful to explain some of these confusing eligibility numbers and what they mean for your child.
A standard deviation is a statistical measure of how "spread out" test scores are and establishes a "normal range." The chart below shows how these scores look when they are spread out.
The SD is one of the most commonly used measurements in education, mathematics, engineering and quality control; everywhere a measure is needed to look at data. In speech therapy, SD tells how far from "average" a child's test score is.
Most tests use 100 as a number for the "average score". This does not mean 100% correct. This is the number assigned to the score that is right in the middle of the group.
The range of average in most tests is 1 standard deviation (1 SD).
The 'average range' of performance would be is 15 points higher (115) and 15 points lower (85) than the average 100. The range of an average score would be 85 to 115. This range represents 1 standard deviation above or below the average of 100. Anything higher or lower is considered outside normal. When a child is more than 1.5 SD below the average, there are concerns about that child's performance.
It's easy to see there are very few children under age 3, who score at 2 SD below the mean — only the most severely delayed.
It's also easy to see there are many children lower than the normal range, who may have significant delays in their speech, but will be found "ineligible". See the chart below that identifies this range with a red arrow and asks "What About These Children". These are children, especially up to age 3, who would score in the lower than normal range, but may not be fond 'eligible'
Those children stuck in the middle, not severe enough to quality but still scoring low are at risk of not being identified until academic problems emerge in 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade.
Properly identifying these children can make a huge difference in their lives. With proper early intervention, children with speech problems can have success in school, without the need for more therapy when they start school.
What do these numbers mean for Maine children? Well, it means that 18% of children score below average on assessments but only about 2% will be found eligible for help by the Maine Department of Education.
Does this mean that all of these children will need speech therapy help? Certainly not. But it does mean these difficult eligibility standards will miss children, who will fall through the cracks.
That's why we encourage parents to follow their instincts and seek an independent, thorough assessment of their child's needs. Here at Waldo County General hospital, we would want nothing less for our own families.