Stepping Down From Services

This post is the seventh in a series based on a transcript from a recent Q&A with Dr. Barry Prizant as part of his webinar, “Family Collaboration: An Essential Element for SPED Success.” Questions came directly from audience participants — special education directors, special educators, speech-language pathologists, and parents, and answers are from Dr. Prizant. Click here to see additional questions from the Q&A.

What Do You Do When a Parent Demands Services a Child No Longer Needs?

In most situations where this comes up, I often think that the issue of ending services is very stressful to the parents, and the stress that makes a parent “more difficult” is when they feel that their child is just being cut off from something that has been helpful. When it is said to a parent that the child no longer needs the services he or she is demanding, I think what works the best is more a step-down approach. Stepping down off of services can mean that the SLP or the OT will continue to consult or continue to monitor the child over a few months after the services were terminated, and it can be written in the IEP in that way. I’ve seen that many parents will say, “Okay, you are not just dropping my child from everything that has been helpful to him or her. You are continuing to monitor.” Sometimes there is that caveat, that if we see, “You know, wait a second, since we stopped services maybe your child is not progressing as well, so let’s build them back in again.” Children are ever-developing beings, and sometimes we feel pretty certain that a child doesn’t need services that this point in time, but I’ve seen kids where they initially did well when supports were taken away — and those supports could be anything from direct services to visual supports to a one-to-one aide — and lo and behold, the parent was right that this child was not doing as well.

So two things are important here. One is to see it as a step-down process as opposed to cutting off all services that have been helpful. The other is to communicate to parents that this is an indication of progress. For example, “We really feel the child is doing so well that having a one-to-one aide is holding the child back a little bit, so we would like to shift to a part time aide where the classroom aide monitors a couple of kids. But we are also be going to monitoring the child’s progress, and to be honest with you, if we feel like this has been detrimental to your child’s progress, then maybe we’ll step in and provide a level of support that we haven’t provided before.”

This helps parents accept a step-down process rather than, “Okay, your child doesn’t get speech and language services at all anymore.” Too many parents think of their child as exceptionally vulnerable and what they may be feeling is, “You know, you are taking my vulnerable child and you are just kind of throwing them overboard to sink or swim, and I am a parent who is not going to allow that to happen”.

Dr. Barry Prizant is a clinical scholar, consultant, researcher and expert on childhood communication disorders. His new book, “Uniquely Human: Seeing Autism Through a Different Lens” is scheduled to be released in August, 2015 by Simon and Schuster. To contact Dr. Prizant for a consultation or workshop in your district, visit