I read two newspapers every morning; the New York Daily News and the Staten Island Advance. As an avid reader, I've noticed that news-worthy stories seem to be cyclical. Important issues and events appear in detailed stories; often accompanied by photographs and sidebars, and follow-ups the next day. However, soon they disappear from sight; replaced by newer breaking news. And then, these same stories reappear weeks or even months later with all the same splash that had them screaming from the papers way back when. The reappearing stories don't, necessarily, represent another occurrence of the same event. Very often it's a matter of an issue that was never resolved finding its way back into print. You might say out of sight doesn't always mean all is fine in the world of that particular news item.
     Recently, and in the not so distant past, I've encountered a recurring news story that has much to do with speech therapy. According to what I've been reading, The New York City Department of Education (DOE) seems to be perpetually "out of compliance" with an ever increasing number of Individualized Education Plans (IEP) developed for students with special needs. Such children may find themselves being educated in placements other than those specified in their IEP. Others may not be receiving prescribed "related services" such as occupational, physical, psychological or speech therapy. Still others may be receiving less than the mandated number of such therapeutic sessions.
     What often brings this issue back to the pages of the local tabloids is the release of the latest statistical data regarding percentages of children with IEP's for whom the DOE is out of compliance. Meetings are held and justifiably irate parents voice their frustrations to representatives of the DOE. On Staten Island, one in four school children has an IEP. It's a staggering statistic. And this is why this particular news worthy issue receives so much press here at home; it affects a large portion of the population of our bucolic borough. These affected families have every right to speak up for services deemed necessary for their children by the DOE. It is a noble and vital cause into which so much energy and persistence is thrown.
     But what becomes of the children and their special needs during these protracted periods of no, or less than, prescribed services? Yes, their parents and guardians do all they can to guarantee their tax payer rights to a free, appropriate education and all applicable related services for their children. But as long as DOE statistics imply that compliance for so many of these children is not just around the corner, we must come to grips with the reality that battle scars on crusading parents who never give up the fight for what is right, do nothing to resolve the issues within the child; issues which may be festering as a result of a lack of treatment over such a long period of time.
     If we boil it down to a couple of basic elements, the parental campaign against an out of compliance DOE can be summed up simply as a fight for much needed services at no cost to the families. And that is certainly what IEP compliance provides.
     But those very same basic elements are, very often, the elements of private therapy. Private speech therapy, which I have been providing to my community for over forty years, most certainly addresses the specific needs of those that come to me for treatment.  And, more often than not, the cost for that private speech therapy is handled by the family's health insurance and other third party payers. So, in at least these two regards, private therapy can mimic DOE therapy.
     But there are also perks to private therapy compared to institutionalized therapy. A child doesn't have to be suffering from a qualifying condition to be afforded treatment in the private sector. The condition doesn't have to be negatively impacting the child's ability to learn. Even sub-clinical problems are the domain of those of us in the private sector. As long as there is a communication disorder that should be addressed, or is of concern to a parent, treatment can commence. The therapy is always one to one; never a non homogeneous group session. A child who attends private speech therapy after school misses no vital classroom time. Parents receive consultations following every session, not only on specified days such as parent-teacher conference days and nights. The prescription for treatment is recommended by the speech-language pathologist (at my office, that would be me) , and discussed and refined for practicality with the child's parents or guardian. The frequency of treatment and the schedule of treatment can be appropriately altered instantaneously and as often as necessary without the red tape of meetings and paper work.
     There are many other perks inherent in private speech therapy but, since it is not my intention to unduly compare my service to the speech therapy administered by the DOE through wonderful, dedicated speech professionals, I would rather stop here and simply suggest that you do, indeed, have a choice. You do, indeed, have an alternative. You most certainly have a way of of preventing negative emotional, social and academic ramifications from taking hold within your child while the seemingly endless time it takes to fight and win the good fight marches on. 
     And, who knows, perhaps, if you do come by during a time of non compliance, you may want to stick around. Very intelligent law makers made a point of including in the state and federal laws that afford citizens a free and appropriate education for their children, the right to obtain private services concurrent with mandated services.
     Some might say the Department of Education has a responsibility to your children and they would be 100% correct. But what about parental responsibility to those same children? Shouldn't that come first? I'd like to think that before suiting up in their armor to do battle with that city entity which is not employing proper "rules of engagement", 
those parents would first secure the services which will serve their children for the their entire lives. If this news-worthy, unfortunate state of affairs can be likened to a game of chess, I would like to say to the parents of those under served children, "It's your move."