Bruce M. Gale, PhD
A bit of History...In 1999, I was invited to give a presentation to school principals by LACASE (Los Angeles County Administrators in Special Education) on the importance of data collection. My talk, "The Data Game: How everyone can win!" was intended to teach them how data collection can enhance the success of interventions.
Coincidentally, that same week, I read in Investors' Business Daily how the average Due Process case costs school districts as much as $50,000, and more. I have personally testified in cases where districts have paid over $100,000 to settle disputes. What a waste of money!
Too often, I am called into cases where decisions about needed interventions are based solely on a few observations or worse, outside reports by individuals who have never seen the child at school.
Whose on First?
Whether I'm conducting an assessment or involved in testimony, my goal is to focus on the student's needs and attempt to avoid "taking sides," regardless of whether I am being paid by a family or a district.
My role, first and foremost, is to use my expertise to function as a clinician. To that extent, I feel that empirically-based educational and behavioral interventions provide the clearest means for families and districts to jointly determine whether an individual is benefiting from current interventions.
Without Data, You're Just Guessing
When I am asked to make recommendations about Discrete Trial Training, whether one-to-one aides (TSA's) should be assigned, or whether a Behavior Intervention Plan should be developed, relying on existing data is essential. Without this information, it can be difficult to determine what interventions will be in the best interest of the student.
Keep in mind, the term "least restrictive setting," implies that the interventions being used are effective. Without some form of data collection that gives a reasonable picture of the student's behavior, IEP meetings often degenerate into a battle of opinions rather than an opportunity to jointly examine objective information. How can measurable, relevant goals and objectives be developed if the underlying information is lacking?