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Beware Of Fake Therapists

Some things drive me crazy. For example, we were out to dinner with a friend and his new girlfriend who asked Isa if she was a  SEIT (Special Education Itinerant Teacher). Isa said “no, I’m a speech language pathologist”. This led the girlfriend to say “my cousin gets speech therapy through Westchester County from a SEIT”.

The problem is that a SEIT is completely untrained to provide speech therapy. And it’s illegal for them to do so in New York. The only people who can provide speech therapy, in New York are Speech Language Pathologists, Clinicians in their Fellowship year and Teachers of the Speech and Hearing Handicapped. (A Speech Language Pathologist is the only one that does not need supervision to provide therapy. The other two do.)

Taking Advantage of Unsuspecting Parents

Yet over and over we hear of people having their kids receive speech therapy from someone who is not trained to do so. Ultimately it is taking advantage of unsuspecting parents. And this drives me slightly insane.

The American Speech and Hearing Association is aware of what is going on and is taking steps to correct it. However changes to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) indicate the problem will get worse before it gets better. The changes have lowered the requirements at the federal level of what qualifications are acceptable for speech therapists in our schools and other government programs.

Murray Shulman, a Director of Pupil Services in a Bangor Maine school district was excited about the changes. He said, “This should open the door for easier access to professionals”. Further saying, “speech therapists have been scrambling to get master’s degrees, something that no longer will be necessary under the newly revised law”.

The Kids Are Not His First Priority

I’m sure he’s not the only bureaucrat excited about the prospect of being able to pay a lower salary for a person with lower qualifications while at the same time getting unsuspecting parents off his back. I won’t be surprised when other states change their laws as well.

Commonsense, and statistical evidence, should tell them that lowering the therapists’ qualification standards will degrade the quality of the therapy. And that will cause the children to progress more slowly.

The slower the children progress, the more therapy they will require over a longer period of time. And the more problems they’ll have in other areas such as reading and social adjustment. This will cost the children valuable time. And it will cost the programs more money in the long run.

The more it costs them, the more it costs us all in the form of taxes.

The other big cost is to the profession. The lower the government programs’ standards the worse the profession looks. Especially since there is no real differentiation in who’s providing those services. This is going to lead to more parents saying, “My kid went to speech therapy for 8 years and it never made a difference”.

They won’t realize that the problem was that their “speech therapist” may not have actually been trained to provide speech therapy. They won’t realize that in order to make the most progress in the least possible time they needed to have a speech language pathologist who specializes in the area their child is having the most difficulty.

Of course you know better than that… and hopefully your friends and family do too.

About the author: Jason Marrs is the Director of Research and Awareness for SpeechLanguageFeeding.com.

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