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(13.5) Can my child be made eligible for special education under a so-called “speech only” category?

(13.5) Can my child be made eligible for special education under a so-called “speech only” category?

Many districts use this label when students transition into the school district at age three.  In fact, there is no special education eligibility category in federal or state law called “speech only”.  A child may be eligible for special education solely to receive speech and language services.  However, the child must be eligible for special education by meeting the eligibility criteria for speech and language impairment or any of the other special education eligibility categories.  [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.8(c)(11); 5 C.C.R. Sec. 3030(b)(11).]

When determining eligibility for special education services, the school district is required by law to assess a child in all areas related to that child’s suspected disability.  Use of the label “speech only” may result in the denial of a “free appropriate public education” because your child will not be assessed in all areas of suspected disability.  [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.304(c)(4); Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56320(f).]  When the district asks for your consent for an initial assessment, be sure that the assessment plan will evaluate all of your child’s needs — not just speech and language. Otherwise, you should not sign the assessment plan.  Instead, ask the district in writing to conduct a comprehensive assessment.  If the district refuses to do so, you may file a compliance complaint with the California Department of Education.  See Chapter 2, Information on Evaluations/Assessments and Chapter 6, Information on Due Process/Compliance Procedures