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Medical_Educational_Speech_Therapy

March 03, 20245 min read

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Medical vs Educational Speech Therapy 

Differences Explained

For parents struggling to grasp the ins and outs of special education, the difference between speech therapy approaches can be a real head-scratcher. You might find yourself in a situation where your child's private speech therapist is all for ongoing therapy, but the school isn't on the same page. This confusion often boils down to the fact that the school operates on an educational model of therapy. The medical and educational speech therapy approaches have some pretty clear differences, and understanding these distinctions is key. In this article, we'll break down these differences to help parents untangle conflicting advice and advocate effectively for their child's needs. 

Medical versus educational Speech Theray

Medical Model

The medical model of speech therapy focuses on diagnosing and treating speech and language disorders as medical conditions. This approach addresses speech issues comprehensively, considering how they affect all aspects of life, from social interactions to vocational pursuits and personal relationships. Therapy under this model is highly individualized, typically done on a 1:1 basis, and usually takes place in clinical settings. Here, therapists adopt a wrap-around approach, considering various factors that may impact communication abilities, aiming to maximize functioning and enhance quality of life. It's worth noting that services provided under the medical model are often covered by health insurance plans, making them more accessible to individuals seeking comprehensive speech therapy interventions.

Focus: This model primarily concerns itself with diagnosing and treating speech and language disorders as medical conditions. It aims to address speech issues comprehensively across all areas of life, including social, vocational, and personal contexts.

Treatment: Therapy within the medical model is individualized and often occurs in clinical settings. Therapists take a holistic approach, considering various factors impacting communication abilities, with the goal of maximizing functioning and quality of life.

Insurance Coverage: Health insurance plans typically cover services provided under this model.

Educational Model

The educational therapy model takes a different approach, focusing on enhancing functional communication skills within the school environment. Its primary goal is to ensure that students can fully participate in their educational experience by accessing the curriculum, engaging in classroom activities, and effectively interacting with teachers and peers. Unlike the medical model, therapy under this model is integrated into the school day and individualized based on the needs outlined in the Individualized Education Program (IEP). This may include small group sessions, virtual therapy sessions, or one-on-one sessions. Additionally, a Speech Therapy Aide may assist in instructing the child, working under the general supervision of a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). Guided by federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Supreme Court case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, the educational model prioritizes providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and ensuring meaningful educational progress for students with disabilities. Within this legal framework, speech therapy services promote educational access and support academic advancement. 

Focus: In contrast, the educational model focuses on improving functional communication skills within the school environment. It aims to support students in accessing the curriculum, participating in classroom activities, and interacting effectively with peers and teachers.

Treatment: Therapy under this model is integrated into the school environment and guided by federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Supreme Court case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, which emphasize providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and ensuring meaningful educational progress.

Legal Framework: Speech therapy services within the educational model operate within the legal framework of special education law, prioritizing educational access and progress.


Key Differences and Concerns

When comparing the medical and educational therapy models, several key differences emerge, each reflecting the unique priorities and approaches of these two therapy models:

Scope of Treatment

The medical model takes a broad approach, aiming to address speech issues comprehensively across all areas of life. This means that therapy focuses not only on improving communication skills but also on enhancing social interactions, vocational pursuits, and personal relationships.

In contrast, the educational model focuses on functional improvement within the school environment. Here, the primary objective is to equip students with the communication skills necessary to navigate the educational setting effectively, participate in classroom activities, and interact with peers and teachers.

Goal of Therapy

Under the medical model, therapy aims to make the individual "whole" by addressing all deficits related to speech and language. Therapists work towards maximizing functioning and enhancing quality of life, aiming for comprehensive improvement across various domains.

Conversely, the goal of therapy in the educational model is more narrowly focused on supporting educational success and access to FAPE. While the medical model strives for holistic improvement, the educational model prioritizes equipping students with the skills they need to succeed academically, ensuring they can fully participate in the educational experience.

Legal Framework

The legal framework guiding the educational model is rooted in federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and FAPE, as defined by the Supreme Court case of Endrew F. These laws emphasize the provision of a free appropriate public education and prioritize educational progress over perfection or comprehensive treatment of disabilities outside of the educational context.

In contrast, the medical model operates within the healthcare and medical ethics framework, focusing on diagnosing and treating speech and language disorders as medical conditions. While both models aim to support individuals with speech challenges, their legal foundations and overarching goals differ, highlighting the importance of understanding and navigating the complexities of both paradigms within the special education system.

Conclusion

Understanding the differences between the medical and educational models of speech therapy is important for parents navigating the special education system. While the medical model aims for comprehensive improvement, the educational model prioritizes functional skills within the school environment. By grasping these distinctions and the legal frameworks guiding each model, parents can advocate effectively for their child's needs and ensure they receive the appropriate support to succeed academically and socially. This knowledge helps to empower parents to confidently navigate the system and advocate for their child's educational journey.


Speech therapy modelsMedical vs educational speech therapy speech therapy approaches speech therapy for childrenspeech therapy in schools
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Michelle Harris

Michelle is the founder of Parent Alliance for Students with Exceptional Needs (PASEN). She is an author, trainer, and Non Attorney Special Education Advocate. (NASEA). Parent Alliance for Students with Exceptional Students (PASEN) is meant purely for educational or medical discussion. It contains information about legal or medical matters; however, it is not professional legal or medical advice and should not be treated as such. Limitation of warranties: The legal and medical information on this website is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied. PASEN makes no representations or warranties in relation to the legal or medical information on the website. Professional assistance: You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to legal or medical advice from your attorney or medical provider. If you have any specific questions about any legal or medical matter, you should consult your attorney or medical service provider.

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