Letting Go: When to Dismiss a Student From Speech-Language Services

Picture of a boy wearing a backpack walking down a gravel road
Picture courtesy of Pexels
  Sometimes it's hard to know when to dismiss a student from Speech-Language Services. Letting go of students is so hard.There are the joyous dismissals when students master their sounds or have increased their language skills to an appropriate level.  Then there are the dismissals that are hard to take:  the students who don't make significant progress to deem continued therapy beneficial.  Especially when you've had these students for a long time.  You've seen these students struggle through the years, and you've worried about them.  You've grown attached...not only to the students but to their families as well.  You've fought for the students to receive additional services.  You love those kids.

Some Considerations for Articulation

When do you know when it's time to let them go?  For articulation students, I give them 2 years.  If they have made no (and I mean NO) progress within those 2 years, it's time.  If they have any inkling of any progress at all, I won't even consider making that recommendation to the IEP team.  I also take motivation into consideration, and bringing their homework back signed is a huge indicator for me.  I keep a record of when they bring it back with a parent's signature and will use that percentage to back up motivation (or the lack of).  

Don't Forget the Team!

Language students are so much harder for me to let go, but testing doesn't lie.  If a student has made no significant progress over 3 years and is receiving additional services (such as inclusion or resource), then it's time.  It's time to weigh the benefits of continued language therapy for 1 hour/week vs. the student staying in the classroom; especially if the student is in 4th or 5th grade when academics are so demanding.  Can his needs be met through special ed services?    Will the inclusion services along with the resource services be enough?  If the student is requesting that he be allowed to stay in the class instead of coming to speech/language, should that tell the SLP something?  It could be that deep down the student realizes that he's missing things in the classroom.  Would it be beneficial for the SLP to go into the classroom instead of pulling the student?  These are all questions whose answers should be taken into consideration when presenting a recommendation to the IEP team.
While letting go can be a happy time, it can also be a time of grief.  It is important to remember that you, as an SLP, are a member of the team, and it is a team decision.  Bring the facts to the table, and begin the discussion.  And try not to shed tears.
When is it time to recommend dismissal? How does the criteria for dismissing articulation students differ from language? Some tips are recommended in this post.


  1. Wow- thank you for this post. It is heart-felt but very informative. As a new SLP (this is my second year) it is difficult to tell/explain when a student should be let go. I know that there are no hard and fast rules but this is a great guideline. I also think I can use this to help me analyze my high school population more. Often I feel as though the student is no longer benefiting from my services and often they will also want out. We have a lot of resource help that perhaps can pick up some of the remaining needs.

  2. Thank you for your input, Carly! I think it's important to remember that we are part of a team, and we shouldn't put the whole burden on ourselves to make the decision. I think we're too hard on ourselves sometimes!

  3. Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting. I will be waiting for your next post.
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