More than 1,000 young Denver students with disabilities missed all or some of their legally required speech therapy recently due to staffing shortages, according to a state decision that found Denver Public Schools in violation of federal requirements.
The March 18 decision was in response to a complaint filed with the Colorado Department of Education by the unnamed family of a 6-year-old boy.
The boy, who is in kindergarten, has a developmental delay and is nonverbal, the decision says. He uses an augmentative and alternative communication device, or AAC, to communicate by pushing buttons that convey words or phrases.
The boy’s special education plan required he receive 24 hours of therapy from a speech language pathologist between August and February: 12 hours inside the classroom and 12 hours outside the classroom, where there are fewer distractions.
But his Denver elementary school didn’t have a speech language pathologist at all during that time, the decision from the state education department says. After the school reached out for help, a district-level speech language pathologist provided the kindergartener with three hours of therapy in January and February. But those services fell far short of what his plan required.
The problem is widespread. A state complaints officer found that 28 Denver elementary schools did not have speech language pathologists for some period of time between January 2022 and now. Many of the shortages were lengthy. Thirteen elementary schools were without a speech language pathologist for at least one full semester this school year, the decision says.
Read the full story from our partners at Chalkbeat Colorado.
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