00:02:30 Youth facing adult charges, reviewing records and assessing language and cognition to align with charges. Discussing impact of disorder on ability to meet elements.
00:05:19 Parents should familiarize themselves with special education laws and their rights to ensure their child receives appropriate services and not agree to anything they feel is wrong.
00:07:34 The term “school to prison” refers to the transition of youth from schools to the criminal justice system. It emphasizes the need for intervention at various points before reaching prison and acknowledges the significance of confinement in juvenile detention.
00:10:26 Carve is an acronym for setting realistic, relevant, and culturally applicable goals.
00:17:08 Recognizing diverse perspectives on trauma and advocating for proper evaluations to determine its impact on individuals.
00:19:58 The mission is to help kids and their parents communicate and understand. The speaker is a forensic speech and language pathologist available for questions and concerns.

Dr. Shameka Stewart is an Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders and the first and only Juvenile Forensic Speech-Language Pathologist(r). 

Dr. Stewart’s clinical and scholarly work specializes in Juvenile Forensics, Law Enforcement Interaction with youth with CD, child language disorders and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).

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Instagram: @drjuvenile_forensicslp
Website: https://www.juvforensicslp.com/

Shameka Stewart., Ph.D., CCC-SLP/L

Juvenile Forensic Speech-Language Pathologist

Child Language Disorders Specialist

Associate Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders

Don’t IEP Alone with Lisa Lightner, Special Education Advocate

Thank you for listening to this episode of Don’t IEP Alone. See you next time!

Lisa Lightner [00:00:00]:

Hi, everyone, and welcome back to the Don’t IEP alone podcast. I’m Lisa Leitner, and I’m excited to be back with you all after my extended pandemic hiatus from podcasting. As many of you can relate, I’m sure it was impossible to get any recording done with everybody being home. So I had paused the podcast, but now we are back in the summer of 2023 with new episodes. I’m also excited because to helped launch the the relaunch of the podcast. I’m bringing in lots of, fantastic and interesting special guests. With me today is Doctor Shamika Stewart, and Doctor Stewart is a forensic SLP, a speech and language pathologist. And many of you who are listening, your child likely has, had SLP evaluations or has SLP services on your IEP may you receive speech services privately, but many of us are familiar with, a speech and language pathologist in what they do. but let’s hear from Doctor Stewart about what a forensic SLP does. Can you tell us that? And welcome.

Dr. Shameka Stewart [00:01:10]:

Yes. Thank you. so juvenile forensic speech and language pathologists, I primarily focus on, youth that are involved with the criminal justice system and or school disciplinary actions. And so my work significantly focuses on discussing to the courts and to the administrative systems, how a cognitive and communication disorder may have impacted or increased the likelihood of the individual committing the act that they are being charged with?

Lisa Lightner [00:01:42]:

Oh, that’s that’s actually really interesting. as an advocate and was one who volunteers, and I haven’t, you know, a lot of clients that I I take on at no charge. I’ve been I’ve had clients who are engaged with the criminal or the juvenile justice system, unfortunately. And I have attended many IEP manifestation, determination hearings, to determine, you know, or to help determine and show how the child’s disability is related to that behavior. Can you give us some examples of how a speech and language disorder might land a child in an unfavorable light or in, you know, a a behavior that has landed them in either school suspension, expulsion, or the juvenile justice system.

Dr. Shameka Stewart [00:02:30]:

Yeah. So, usually with my cases, they’re more heightened or severe. So, unfortunately, most times the youth is facing adult charges. They’re usually facing life or most time deaf sentences. and so in those cases, what we’re looking at is I review all of the academic and medical records of the individual. And I analyze each component of it to look at the different components of language and cognition and then I actually assess the individual from a forensic standpoint and align each of the pieces. So for instance, you may have a youth that are that’s facing an attempted murder charge. we look at all of the factors as far as first me understanding how the defenses attend a planning to approach the case and, the charges. And then aligning what I find from not only their history, the academic history, their medical history, but what I find from the assessment around, they may have difficulty for instance, recalling information. or they may have had difficulty with reading, which is why they dropped out of school. and so aligning all of those factors to there are certain elements in each state that are required to be met in order to charge the person with the crime until, most of the time, I am aligning of those findings to the elements of whatever the charges are and discussing how the disorder and its severity may have impacted or heightened their ability or inability to meet those elements.

Lisa Lightner [00:04:03]:

So can you tell us if we could trying to take it down a notch for the everyday parent. are there things they can do here and now either with their school or with their private, providers, you know, maybe they have private therapy providers, private medical team, you know, not outside of the school is what I’m saying is are there things that parents can do as a preventative measure to you know, hopefully steer the child in a path that doesn’t lead to you, right, because you you know, obviously, if you called Doctor Stewart, you’re in a bad way. That’s what it sounds like. so what can parents do so that they’re like, you know, if especially if we’re talking to the parent right now who the child is exhibiting behaviors. They’re getting called to pick them up at school a lot. That’s kind of where I usually meet the parent. you know, maybe they’re getting suspended. Maybe the school is put in for expulsion. maybe they’re in a charter school, which has kind of like a different different path to expelling kids, you know, where it’s a little bit easier to expel a child from a charter than it is your public school or brick and mortar public school. what can parents do so that they’re not seeking your services, hopefully?

Dr. Shameka Stewart [00:05:19]:

So on the school side because I’m also a school based speech and language pathologist. and so on the school side, what I always recommend is that Parents first. As soon as your child, appears that they may need an IEP or you are going through the IEP process, it’s really important to start to understand what your special education rates are. And I think that that’s a big kids, we kind of understand the special education part. Most clinicians don’t have a good grasp on what the special education law is, and parents don’t know their rights. So a lot of time, parents unfortunately agreeing with the team even though they are not in agreement with the team. And so I think the first part is to latch on to looking up your rights laws and knowing what your rights are as a parent, recognizing where the school has done your child a disservice. because most times when the case has come to this side, that side of my profession of being the forensic SLP, it is most times what I’m seeing in the records is that the child didn’t get what they needed when they were in school. And it’s no fault of the parent because it’s not the parent job to know what the clinician should know or what the, you know, special education coordinator should know, but to start to push back on some things that if you don’t feel that it’s right or you don’t agree with what it is, absolutely don’t say yes to it. Don’t sign documents. You know? getting parents to advocate more for themselves as they’re getting to the part of calling you or, you know, calling an advocate to assist them to just at minimum say no if it doesn’t feel good to you.

Lisa Lightner [00:06:56]:

Yeah. That’s what I told him to go with your gut. Like, if your gut is telling you this isn’t right, then you need to take a deep, you know, pause, take a deep breath, and find some assistance.

Dr. Shameka Stewart [00:07:04]:

Absolutely.

Lisa Lightner [00:07:05]:

on your website, you talk, a little bit about the school to confinement pipeline. which, I’ve always referred to as the school to prison pipeline. in recent years, I’ve unfortunately heard the term preschool to prison pipeline because I I in many communities, that’s unfortunately where we’re at. why do you choose the word confinement And can you elaborate on that concept a little bit of what the school to confine the pipeline is?

Dr. Shameka Stewart [00:07:34]:

Yes. So first, the the term was coined by, author Monique Morris, who wrote the book push out about black girls being forced into the criminal justice system. but school to confinement in my capacity is an important term because it opens up the conversation. when we say school to prison, ultimately, we’re saying that youth go from a school system to the worst thing that society says they could have ever done because prisons are for adult crimes. In most times, the research has shown that well before a youth ever gets to a prison or adult car sales space, they’ve went through suspension, expulsion, confinement in a juvenile space. And so confinement is where a youth goes when they are in juvenile detention. When you are imprisoned, you’re facing adult charges like rape and murder and arson and those very heinous crimes. And so I want society to open up the conversation to realize that it is not realistic to automatically assume it is one bias to say that a youth goes from school to committing the worst crime because of what is ever whatever’s happening in their life or school, but to recognize that we’re missing points in the process where we could have stepped in and intervened. For instance, confinement is in school suspension. That’s your first point of intervention, but because we’re only looking school to prison, we don’t intervene at in school suspension. we don’t intervene at expulsion. Confinement is even the fact that most of the youth that you and I work with are confined internally because they don’t have the words or the emotions or the ability to express their wants and needs. And so confinement starts very early, and it allows us to keep in mind that there many points of processes of standing in the gap that can happen before prison because most times prison is the last stop before, you know, death. And so in those capacities, unfortunately, there’s not much you can do because the system says once an adult, always an adult. but confinement says there’s something you could have done before they got to this stuff.

Lisa Lightner [00:09:39]:

That’s in that’s interesting. I like that. I like that. Yeah. I I I because I I think a lot of parents in their head, they hear that, and they think, well, prison. Like, my kid’s not gonna get to prison. Like, it’s not gonna get there. Like, I don’t have anything to worry about. We’re not in prison, but but meanwhile, their child is being taken to their calm down room, you know, and being locked in there all day without food. I’m like, it may not be prison, but —

Dr. Shameka Stewart [00:10:04]:

It’s consignment.

Lisa Lightner [00:10:09]:

Okay. So also on your site, you had, on your website, and I will provide the link. for those of you listening, I’ll provide the link in the recap and the show notes. You have something called carve goals, c a a r v. do you wanna can you tell us what that explain explain what the acronym is and what they are?

Dr. Shameka Stewart [00:10:26]:

Yeah. So carved goes is an acronym I created to align to smart goals. And so we know in the system, everyone in the school system, we all have smart goals, They look different for each profession. the thing that we tend to forget, especially for populations of use that are minoritized or in under resourced, school systems is that carve allows you to recognize a person’s culture a person’s ability, the relevancy of the goals, the value of the goals that you’re providing, and if they are realistic And so smart is very generic. You know, smart says everybody can get smart, but there are certain goals that have to be written a certain way for certain youth. So for instance, me writing a goal for grammar for a seventeen year old who is taking care of all of their brothers and sisters, is not realistic or relevant. And so Carve reminds you that r and that r and Carve reminds you that a relevant goal would be problem solving how I’m going to get to work every day, even though I don’t have the finances to get to work every day. I live in DC. So for instance, a car goal that would be relevant for my seventeen year old would be problem solving, getting through the metro versus jumping the turnstile because of the outcome of jumping the turnstile. So it’s more so about being culturally applicable realistic and relevant and providing value to the individual’s lives. It’s it’s almost if you think about it like us, there’s a lot of math things that we learned in school that is not valuable to us. Like, why did I learn exponents? I would never use Exponent But the same thing happens without a youth. We wonder why the youth don’t retain and and progress in the goals that rewrite. And most times it’s because it’s not realistic. is not relevant, it’s not valuable, and it’s not culturally applicable to their lives. And so Carve is that reminder that You gotta give them a goal that’s gonna be valuable. That’s gonna add value to their lives. You gotta give them a goal that’s culturally realistic. I don’t wanna listen to Britney Spears. but I might wanna listen to, I don’t know the name, I don’t know, young boy or whatever the names are. That’s culturally applicable. there’s differences in how you have to approach the goals. And so not only does a goal need to be smart, but it needs to be carved.

Lisa Lightner [00:12:47]:

That that’s I I love I mean, I love that concept. and I can’t wait I can’t wait to try to steer more teams toward this. how what is your success or or what is your approach for getting IEP teams on board with that because, you know, I get a lot of, oh, no. That’s not what we do here or, you know, I have a lot of IEP teams that I and I deal with people across the nation because I do a lot of online work and Zoom meetings and things like that. there are still many, many IEP teams who are stuck in the whole concept that IEP goals can only be academic. And I’m like, no. No. No. They’re not not just for IEPs. They’re not just for, you know, I can’t even get them out of that rut. How do you get them to get on board with this with being culturally relevant, especially in the climate? Now I’m outside Philadelphia. you’re in DC. So we’re in big cities where things happen to be a little bit more progressive, but when we have states who are literally shutting down, curriculum, you know, and they’re and they’re not even using the word, you know, slave anymore, and they’re not even using the words, I forget what the word they use. They change the the Japanese internment camps to something else. so when when we’re have a climate where Half the people are trying to move in in one direction, how do you get them to move in a different direction?

Dr. Shameka Stewart [00:14:07]:

So two things I always say. And this is really big, especially for your area because, when I am dealing with individuals in Pennsylvania, I always have to remind Pennsylvania that Pennsylvania incarcerated the most youth. Pennsylvania has the most juvenile lifers in the United States. And so this is not something that we can overlook. Right? Maryland is the the 2nd highest state of sentencing youth to adult crimes. And so in our areas, we have large issues. And so one of the reminders is always I put forth the law where actually you would be out of compliance because special education says that you write goals for social academic and vocational needs. And so even if this may not be academic to you, it may meet this use social and vocational needs. All of that is a part of the special education law. And to push back on, it means that you’re violating that use faith fair and appropriate public education. So we can talk about discrimination and civil rights, or you can do what you’re supposed to do and not have to worry about that. That’s one part. The second part is I always remind clinicians that, or in you, that you are the expert in the room. And so even though you may have an opinion as a part of this team, that that’s not what you do. It is my clinical profession and opinion and expertise that this is what I’m going to do. And so it’s it’s being placed. I don’t have the scope of practicing and wherewithal for instance to tell a psychologist. No. You can’t work on that. and the same thing happens on this side. Nobody else in that room has the wherewithal to tell me, no, I can’t work on that because that’s under my scope of practice. And unless we have the same degree, then there’s nothing that we we need to discuss. And so, again, it’s about that part of us pushing back in the advocacy and then, you know, knowing the right to say, well, I know that this is the speech and language pathologist scope of practice, and she can, and she should because this is what the law says. And usually, they’re like, oh, okay. We go. It’s fine.

Lisa Lightner [00:16:06]:

How do you think we can do? I’m sure, you know, many of my clients I I have 2 kids right now, teens who are in the youth center, which is the funding for jail for teenagers. essentially, but I have and I and the first, I just got their IEPs not too long ago, and I had had not met the child yet seeing the IEP for the first time. now they have an IEP surrogate, which means the parent is not in the picture for a variety of reasons. No mention of trauma anywhere on the IEP. And I’m thinking these kids don’t have parents. Like, there’s trauma somewhere. Like, you know, that alone not having a parent is traumatic. what do you think we can do to get schools and teams to better and schools as a whole, not even just our IEP students, all students. We know that 50 to 60% of kids have experienced a trauma of some kind. What can we do to get schools to address this better? And is there anything decent out there to implement to help the kids?

Dr. Shameka Stewart [00:17:08]:

Yeah. So I think that this is a good question and a good conversation because I’m gonna kinda turn left on it. I’m gonna say one of the biggest things is that, especially in certain spaces, being, culturally responsive, but also aware is important because think about it from this side to some people not having parents in your life may be considered a trauma. But what if that was the best thing that could have ever happened for that child? Because being with the parents was traumatic. And so it doesn’t always necessarily mean it’s a trauma. It has to be presented and demonstrated from the child that that is traumatic to them that that’s why you know, all of these things are rooting from there. So usually in those spaces, I think if you want if we wanna talk about trauma, I don’t I’m not a proponent of all professions talking about trauma because that’s not all of our skill. So for instance, I I may recognize that a child may be going through something, but I am very mindful about not writing about trauma because I wasn’t trained to discuss trauma in that standpoint. That’s not my scope of practice. That’s the social work. That’s the psychologist. And so I think that it’s important that if you’re recognizing that there may be concerns of trauma that you’re advocating that, you know, I would love for psychologists to come in and do this evaluation, or I need you all to pay for this independent evaluation. but I think the discussion for the schools has a lot to do with us unpacking diversity. in in in recognizing that trauma is different for everybody. And what the society research has said about adverse childhood experiences is not actually true. It’s a very biased, document because it wasn’t designed to talk about lives. It was designed to talk about health and heart problems and what you ate in your society, but we turned it And like you’re saying, they use it as a risk factor decision in confinement spaces. They use it to decide if the youth can be released. They use it to decide if you should get a certain amount of special education, which is not what it’s designed for, to recognize that you know, sometimes a divorce is not traumatic. It may be a relief. You know, sometimes living with my grandmother is a joy versus living with mom and dad. So shifting the conversation to really understand culture and culture differences because, everything that impacts everybody doesn’t impact them the same, and it’s really gonna take that profession to unpack it to really decide if that is trauma for that child.

Lisa Lightner [00:19:44]:

That’s good. That’s excellent. Thank you. Okay. We are just about 20 minutes. Is there anything you wanna add or anything you want us to know about you, your business? what you do, you know, your your grand mission in life to help kids. and whatever you wanna add.

Dr. Shameka Stewart [00:19:58]:

Yeah. That’s the grand mission. It’s really to, you know, not help kids and, of course, assist their their parents in getting what they need you know, I took a charge to provide communication and an outlet for youth that are impacted with their abilities to express themselves to understand, to communicate, and that includes helping their families. And so, you know, that’s the work I do. I’m always open to questions. People have concerns. I’m open to, you know, anyone reaching out to me to get clarification on those things. I’m not just a forensic speech and language pathologist. I am the only forensic speech and language pathologist. in the world, but I also do child language disorder work. And so, you know, they can reach out to me for that as well.

Lisa Lightner [00:20:43]:

Okay. Great. great. If you’d like to get more information on Doctor Stewart, I will, again, I’ve I will have the link to her website in the show notes. If you wanna check there, and you can contact her that way. Thank you so much for being on today, Doctor Stewart.

Dr. Shameka Stewart [00:20:57]:

Thank you for inviting me.

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