What is Response to Intervention (RtI)
In traditional models of special education, children are referred for a formal evaluation after they have already experienced significant difficulty. They then receive intervention after being identified as eligible. In this model, the time from initial referral to the initiation of intervention can be lengthy.
The 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) triggered a major paradigm shift in assessment and intervention practices for struggling students known as Response to Intervention (RtI). In contrast to traditional models of special education, one major principle of RtI is to prevent disabilities by identifying and assisting struggling learners before they fail. Another major principle of RtI relates to identification. The idea is that measurement of children’s response to a targeted intervention effectively distinguishes children whose difficulties are due to a true impairment from those whose difficulties result from lack of experience or inadequate previous instruction.
RtI is a comprehensive approach with several levels of instruction. Tier 1 refers to core classroom instruction, presumably of high quality, in which all students participate. Children who do not demonstrate expected progress are identified and receive small group, Tier 2 intervention. The goal of the more intensive Tier 2 intervention is to give children the boost they need to be able to succeed in Tier 1. If children do not demonstrate a sufficient response to the Tier 2 intervention, they may then receive even more intensive and individualized Tier 3 intervention. Again, the goal is to help children achieve the needed gains. In some models of RtI, Tier 3 is special education. In other models of RtI, children who continue to display difficulties despite the individualized Tier 3 intervention are then referred for special education.
In the field of speech-language pathology, RtI is in its infancy. There are no best practice guidelines for screening, assessment, and progress monitoring methods, for Tier 2 and 3 interventions, or for collaborative-problem solving processes to support decision-making and movement between tiers.
This movement, however, is truly an exciting one. Because early identification and intervention may prevent children’s struggles and perhaps even disabilities, collaborative work in this area is urgently needed. Currently, if and how SLPs are involved in RtI varies from state to state.
Your colleagues would love to hear what is happening in your area!