Adventures in RTI (and Speech)

Adventure Aquarium Fish

Photo by Jim, the Photographer

What is Response to Intervention and what does it have to do with speech? Great question…and I don’t know that I can answer it fully, but I do have some ideas.

I just returned from a three day conference on RTI-A and RTI-B (Response To Intervention – Academics, Response To Intervention-Behavior). Now, my school has been doing RTI for a few years now and we are making headway. It is by no means a final product and there have been lots of growing pains…but we are making progress.

Basically, RTI is a way to get students help early, before they fail, and hopefully, before they are failing so poorly they need special education. There are three tiers (1, 2, 3) in RTI. Each tier requires more individualized help, more time, and fewer students. Ideally, a child who is struggling with a certain skill gets differentiated instruction in the classroom. You know, those 5-10 minutes of teaching the skill in a slightly different way. Sometimes that little bit of extra help is all the student needs and they go on their way. An example of this would be the teacher helping the student learn what a Noun is or a slightly different way to help teach number sense. This is called Tier 1.

Sometimes the student requires a bit of additional help – more time and less distractions. So the student may receive Title services, or a reading intervention, or small group instruction (no more than 2-4 students) in a certain skill. Quite often this enough, the skill is learned and the student catches up. An example of this would be Title I help with Intensive Phonics or a Reading program (Duet Reading, Repeated Reading, etc.). This is called Tier 2.

The final tier is individual (or at most 2 students), an additional 30 (or so) minutes of extra help over and above Tier 2. This is intense intervention and the final step before determining if a child qualifies for special education. This may be when the reading specialist comes in and does additional reading instruction, additional math instruction, pre-teaching, etc.

Data must be taken (and analyzed) for each tier. The data will show if the intervention is successful or if a different intervention or additional help is needed. A number of different interventions must be tried before moving to the next tier. For instance, if a student is struggling with reading in the classroom, the classroom teacher will try a few different interventions to help determine where the student’s skill is lacking. If the student responds well to an intervention and catches up on that skill and no longer needs help, the student is dismissed from RTI. If the student is not responding or responding but not at an appropriate rate, additional help and/or a more intensive intervention is needed.

But, it’s not just about academics. RTI can be used for behavior interventions as well. The presenters at the conference; Randy Sprecks, Anita Archer, and Kevin Feldman, were fabulous. They were all very dynamics and had several key suggestions. All three of them agreed though, that for many kids, if we can get behaviors under control – we can get academics under control…and vice versa. The other thing they all agreed on is that we must engage all students every day with every thing. That means that we don’t call on students individually, we have everyone answer…that means we don’t single out kids for poor behavior, we have the same requirements for all students.

I’m going to be going through the information from the conference and post several smaller posts about specific intervention ideas. I’m hoping to include several links about the different interventions and presenters as well. Stay tuned for more information.

(This post originally appeared on Speech Adventures.)


Mary Huston, MS, CCC-SLP, is a school based SLP with James River Multidistrict Special Education Cooperative. As part of the school-system, Mary is an active part of the RTI team for her district. Mary authored the iPad application Categories Learning Center, co-authored the SLP Goal Bank, and has another app in production. In addition to her own apps, Mary has consulted on apps with other SLPs (Pro-PA, T. Coyle, Canada; Easy Concepts, S. Benton, Barbados). Mary is on the Smarty-Ears Apps Advisory Board and routinely consults on Smarty-Ears applications with founder and CEO Barbara Fernandes.  Mary has guest lectured on using Cycles Technique for phonology therapy; Lambton College, Sarnia, ON (2011) and has presented on using iPads in therapy at North Dakota Council for Exceptional Children (2011) and Minot State University (2012). Mary is also an active user of social media and collaborates with SLPs internationally on a variety of subjects, and the author of the blog, Speech Adventures.


  1. James says

    From where I’m watching RTI is almost but not completely the same as the “cognitive education” and/or “dynamic assessment” movement/s – especially the work of professor Reuven Feuerstein (nominated for Nobel peace prize last year); the International Renewal Institute web-site is an important one; also the exter university cognitive education centre (google the paper “is there any such thing as a thinking school?” by professor robert burden); also adey and shayer’s “cognitive education through science education” – these things are about more than just focussing on English language outcomes…

  2. says

    Did the presenter’s discuss instruments to use as screening tools for RTI? Does your district use something specific to screen students and track progress? I will most likely be a part of our RTI team this fall, so I am looking forward reading more of your posts.