I do not have particularly strong feelings one way or another about the new criteria. Being that I had never really “used” the previous criteria to determine eligibility I never knew the procedures or had gotten “comfortable” with them. However, from a student perspective, the new rules seem to reflect much of what we are learning as the most recent knowledge and research. Honestly, I was quite surprised in my practicum experience when we did not obtain any speech or language conversational sample in order to qualify children for services. I wondered then how long it had been since the rules we were using were written.
The new criteria seem to be more subjective and leave more room for professional judgment. I think the removal of cut-off scores is a positive. I did, have an interesting (and somewhat discouraging) case of following a student who was referred for a possible language disorder. This 2nd grade, 9 year old student had completed Tier 3 stage of RtI and was still not making gains in the regular classroom. Poor reading comprehension skills were keeping him from making any academic progress. After obtaining information, observing, and administering a global language evaluation he demonstrated specific receptive language weaknesses. However, his total language score was 85, exactly 1 standard deviation below the mean, which made him ineligible for services at the time. I think the new criteria give us a little “wiggle room” so that when a child clearly demonstrates a need he/she does not slip through the cracks so to speak.
The new criteria rely more heavily on evidence-based practices, which tie together current best evidence with clinical expertise and client values. I realize some may not agree with the removal of cut-offs and the additional requirements for an evaluation, but I feel it is a step in the right direction for what we now know about the field.