Response to Intervention (RTI) is a U.S. based reform effort designed to systematically add more regular education intervention to struggling kids prior to the use of special education. From what I understand, it actually is possible to effectively use RTI to shore up the cracks of language delay that are frequently so hard for professionals to fill. I am skeptical, however. I’ve heard and read many glowing recommendations of the theoretical underpinnings of RTI, usually along these lines:
All kids start at level one – basically a regular education classroom, where general education teachers provide differentiated instruction. Progress is frequently monitored with kids deemed not making enough of it then being moved to level two. Level two students receive supplemental instruction with lower student-teacher ratios and more progress monitoring. Kids not making enough progress at level two then are considered for level three, which is special education. A pyramid figure generally symbolizes the number of kids that are supposed to be at each level, with the most at level one, proceeding geometrically to level two, and ending up at the smallest, top part of the pyramid – where very few kids are supposed to be at level three.
So how can RTI be used to improve language services? Well, under RTI, educators are supposed to constantly monitor the progress of all kids. One of the things about language is how difficult this is. It is easy to miss a problem spot because of the complexity of language, and kids with language problems often compensate by using less of it. Kids with language deficits – and critically, not just kids with IQ/language discrepancies – then must be given good language “support.” As there is currently no research supported language intervention that has been validated for use with kids of higher functioning than the severely autistic kids receiving ABA therapy, it seems likely that this support would mirror the often subjective methods SLPs currently use to provide language therapy.