Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice


Hardwick Smith Johnson, Jr.

Committee Member

Tambi Braun


referral, ethnicity, speech and language pathology, behavior


This study addressed the increasing numbers of referrals of students for speech-language pathology (SLP) services in a school district located in the southeastern United States. The purpose of this study was to identify factors contributing to inappropriate referrals for special education, specifically for SLP services, to decrease inappropriate referrals. A random selection of 50 files was chosen for review from all existing files for referrals made between 2015 and 2020. After many reminders, only 12 of 50 parents of students returned signed consent forms and consented to allow the archival student data to be used in the study. Thus, 12 files were reviewed with key archival data from the files transferred to an Abstraction Form for descriptive statistical analysis. The 12 students and their teachers represented the archival data from kindergarten to Grade 4.

The researcher reviewed students’ cumulative records to identify behavior reasons teachers referred students for SLP services. Reasons for referral, student ethnicity, and gender were explored by this researcher to see if a pattern existed among the abovementioned variables. There were three research questions:

1. Are there patterns present regarding speech and language referrals related to gender and ethnicity? Findings showed most behavior referrals during the 2015-2020 period were for Black students. Only one Caucasian student and one Hispanic American student were referred for SLP services. For gender, the pattern was an equal number of female and male students referred for SLP services.

2. Are there observable referral patterns for behaviors not related to speech and language? The analysis indicated many of the elementary school teachers may unjustifiably refer students for SLP services. These teachers might incorrectly perceive that reduced student comprehension, poor academic performance of students in the classroom, inattention, and disruptive classroom behavior were aligned with the services given by the Child Find team.

3. Are there patterns among behavior referrals made specifically by grade-level teachers? Grade-level data indicated the two kindergarten teachers assigned 67% of the six identified behavior reasons, which were student speech is difficult to understand, reduced comprehension, disruptive classroom behavior, and inattention. The two kindergarten teachers did not mention the behavior referral reason of poor academic performance and dysfluency. Two Grade 1 teachers assigned 83% of the six behavior reasons, which were student speech is difficult to understand, reduced comprehension, poor academic performance, disruptive classroom behavior, and inattention.

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