Administrators: Know Your SLP’s
The biggest mistake administrators make is not getting to know their professionals. Often based on the decisions you make, things you say in meetings or even off handed comments you make it is clear to Speech Language Pathologists that you have no idea what we do, how knowledgeable we are, the resources we need to do their job better or even areas we address. When making big decisions especially those that involve procedure get your staff involved. You might be surprised at what your staff can offer. Teachers and other professional staff such as SLP’s can often be a feather in your cap if you listen to them rather than immediately disagree with them.
Learn the roll of every staff member and professional in your building or school. You never know when someone might have special training or experience to get you through a rough situation. Listen to what your staff has to say even if it’s an opinion. Successful administrators and school boards cannot have a myopic point of view. I’ve seen this happen and it does not create a strong, successful school system.
SLP’s are extremely knowledgeable. Our expertise goes beyond articulation therapy. We have training that goes way beyond academics. We know how the brain and body function together. We can pick out specific difficulties in children that can make life long differences if not remediated. We know about auditory development (not just hearing) and what happens to students who have difficulty with auditory processing, discrimination etc. We know immediately when your school system has a poor phonics program. We work on language development with severely autistic children, children with non-verbal learning disabilities and everything in-between. We work with children who have specific learning disabilities with average cognitive skills and those children who are severely learning impaired with low cognitive skills. Unless you’ve studied higher level language development you don’t have a clue it’s missing until it is almost too late. This list only hits the tip of the iceberg. I could go one and on ….. but I think you get the point.
Get to know you SLP’s and other professionals. Ask the questions and listen to them. It will only make you a better administrator.
This past week I saw an interview with Ken Robinson promoting his new book “Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education”
Ken Robinson is a speaker and author I’ve been following for several years now. Back in 2012 I reviewed an article interviewing Sir Ken in of all places the Costco magazine. http://www.theschoolspeechtherapist.com/sir-ken-robinson-calls-for-a-revolution-in-education/
As soon as I get a chance I will be reading and reviewing his new book. The reviews look good and I’m sure what he has to say is right on the money.
Sir Ken also gives some pretty rousing ted talks
As a school speech language pathologist, I haven’t been impressed with outside speech and language evaluations for quite awhile. What I’ve noticed over the past several years, from the outside evaluations that have landed on my desk is that not one has been in-depth or used a variety of unique tests to aid differential diagnosis. The general format for these outside evaluations is now the CELF (Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals) and maybe the PPVT (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test). The reality is that most school speech language pathologist probable give the CELF more often and are just as good at interpreting the results. Most of the time after reading an outside speech and language evaluation, I have more questions than concrete information. Very few outside evaluations go the extra mile these days. I usually end up finding the language information contained in neuropsychological reports more comprehensive and helpful.
When I first started working in the mid-80ies my school assessments were not as detailed as they are today. Perhaps we could chalk that up to a lack of experience but I think was just the way things were done. Back then we usually recommended that more involved students go out of school and obtain a comprehensive evaluation involving several disciplines. Where I lived many of the hospitals provided comprehensive evaluations focusing on child development and academics.
Those outside evaluations often included physicians, developmental specialists, educational specialists, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and of course speech language pathologists (then referred to as speech therapists by most). What made these teams special was that they took the time to meet with the children over several sessions then met as a team to compare findings after that presented evaluations and service recommendations to parents. While those evaluations were detailed, the one problem was that those evaluations teams rarely looked beyond the clinical setting. Schools then received findings and recommendations, weeks if not months later. Schools were rarely included in the actual process or the final meetings.
Reading those evaluations was always an education in itself. The speech language pathologist’s report was usually peppered with tests I had only seen in grad school or not at all. It was learning experience to read and compare findings from all disciplines especially the medical and neuropsychological side. Most of the time I felt those comprehensive evaluations were in-depth, provided a key to the students learning style and provided specific information to aid differential diagnosis.
While those evaluations gave us a good insight into the child’s learning style and needs, the outside evaluations often lacked the knowledge on how to design therapy approaches that could actually be implemented in a school setting. I remember the speech and language therapy recommendations (along with most other disciplines recommendations) were often too grand to be carried out in the public school setting. The outside evaluations gave us some very good information but these highly specialized teams had little understanding on how to realistically service students in the public school setting.
Since those days, laws have changed. Schools were made financially responsible for almost all testing. Special education evaluation services in schools had to evolve. Everyone involved in special education had to know how to diagnosis without having the clout to diagnosis.
Schools were now purchasing test material that were cutting edge. Speech language pathologists, special educators and school psychologists were learning how to assess students and look deeper into a child’s overall needs. Schools began offer a greater variety of services and outside evaluation recommendations became fewer and fewer. The school evaluation process became not only more comprehensive but more of a team effort.
While I liked the information obtained through those outside comprehensive evaluations, the way we do it now is better. We know the students we’re testing, we have a feeling on how they will do in the curriculum, we can recommend services that fit the school schedule, suggest services that are best suited to the child and work as a team with the parents. If we need or want a true “diagnosis” we will send students out for neuropsychological evaluations or other specialized testing.
In the past clinical speech language pathologists (and their teams) had the inside track on assessing language issues in school aged children but I don’t feel that is even close to being true these days. Our school assessments have become so specialized that school evaluations teams often know exactly what is going on with a student before testing begins, we are able to consult on what areas to target, talk to teachers about current performance and observe the child in the school setting. Many schools are able to purchase some of the evaluation tools needed to dig a little deeper. However, budget constraints and time factors will keep many school evaluators from being up to date and cutting edge. There is still a place for outside evaluations but clinical speech language pathologists who claim to be evaluation specialists need to step their game and differentiate their approach.
Outside evaluators need to keep in mind the reason why the students come to them in the first place. It’s not always because of schools doing a poor job. Schools may need your expertise or just be limited terms of materials. Outside evaluators from all disciplines should consult with the school professionals, as a courtesy, to review previous work with the student, ask about areas of concern and find starting points for extended testing. Clinical speech language pathologists, please don’t send school speech language pathologists reports containing just the CELF-5 or another similar common test battery without consulting us. Find testing tools that will enhance test results not repeat results. Please keep in mind that sometimes we need your strong but flexible recommendations to support our findings. Be aware of the constraints of the school day. Special education students have a lot of issues to deal with and there are only so many hours in the day. Please do not sent the same recommendations for every student you evaluate, it only lessens the impact of your recommendations.
With our more challenging cases we often want and need outside input. Find ways to make your findings and recommendations meaningful and helpful
This is the third of three (long winded:) articles focusing on the School Speech Language Pathologist and the problems with their changing role. This really goes against what is trending in education. My first two articles “Have School Speech Therapists Lost Their Focus” and “Is the gap widening between school speech language pathologists and clinical speech language pathologists” generated a lot of interest. As always looking for you feedback.
Last January I wrote a couple of articles about Pearson’s Q-Global scoring system. As result had some nice conversations with Pearson regarding the scoring for the CELF-5 and how we use the data. In response to my concerns and the concerns of many other SLP’s, Pearson made some nice changes to the Q-Global system.
This week I ran into a new challenge with Q-Global, I had to purchase some scoring credits. My school system does not have an account. I assume my colleagues are scoring by hand and without complaint since I haven’t heard anything. I wanted to buy 10 scoring credits. Pearson’s web site made this difficult to do quickly. I ended up having to spend time calling Pearson only to be told the credits would not be available for one to two hours. Which for such a big company in this day and age was unacceptable. Of course I sent this concern to my contact at Pearson.
Then I started wondering, just how many SLP’s are actually using the Q-Global system on a regular basis. I’m curious but not sure I would get a straight response from Pearson. So I put together a short survey asking some simple question to try and figure out if SLPs are using Q-Global on a regular basis and if SLPs like it.
CELF-5 and the Q-Global Survey
When I went to school my courses focused primarily on child development, language acquisition, understanding how the brain worked (and didn’t work), remediation techniques for articulation and language and learning about disabilities that resulted in a language delay or impairment. We didn’t just learn about working with kids or adults but all ages and disabilities. My coursework was clearly based on a medical model but I was trained to work in all settings.
Throughout my career, I’ve carefully evaluated my students, identified their strengths and weaknesses through testing designed specifically to assess language functioning across receptive, expressive and pragmatic areas. Based on my testing, I wrote goals that focused on improving “language” abilities. I always felt that my purpose was to target and improve underlying language skills. The goal was to improve language abilities so students could be on the path to develop mature adult language, function among their peers, work independently, do well in school, have a shot at successful higher education and become productive adults.
At what point did the role of the Speech Language Pathologist change within the public schools? Who was it that thought it would be good for the Speech Language Pathologist to base their goals on the curriculum rather than the child’s development or skill level? Several years back in one school system I worked for, it was made very clear to me that we were not supposed to be thinking in the “medical model”. I found that just absurd since language and learning are brain based. My vast experience also told me that if students did not acquire language in a prescribed developmental manner gaps in language development, understanding and usage, would be the end result.
The way we are supposed to provide “therapy” and write goals has changed, yet our testing and most of our materials have remained the same. That’s a clue right there. The materials we use are rarely leveled. We use our clinical judgement to find appropriate starting points, when to raise/lower the bar and when modification of instruction/material is needed. Language develops on a continuum, ideally developing and improving slowly over time. Language skills are extremely difficult to measure on a weekly basis. With any luck at all you are raising the level of the material slowly but how can that really be reflected in the goal?
I know I sound like an old therapist who can’t accept change. Perhaps maybe that’s part of it. However, I also know that children need strong underlying language abilities to “access the curriculum” (I am so sick of that term). Writing our goals and changing our methods to reflect specific curriculum will not target underlying skills, no matter how you spin it. It’s my belief that working on language through curriculum only promotes the development of splinter skills. We are therapists not co-teachers. That doesn’t mean that I am not familiar with school curriculums or that I don’t occasionally incorporate a vocabulary list, book or specific classroom task into therapy. Reality is school Speech Language Pathologists only see students 1-2 times a week, hardly enough time to keep up with specific classwork. Therapy groups may consist of students from different grades/classes. That alone makes working within curriculum on a regular basis impossible. (I do realize there are other effective therapy models that are designed to work within the curriculum but those SLP’s are not carrying 50+ students on a caseload and those schools are supporting time for program development.)
My feeling is schools do not realize what skills Speech Language Pathologists bring to the table. They don’t understand how extensive and varied our training was. Note that School Psychologists (who also base their training on a medical model) have not been asked to change in the same way Speech Language Pathologists have. Because we are trained in the medical model we have a deeper understanding of why students have language/learning disabilities. We know how to help remediate language using specific techniques/materials unrelated to school curriculum. We need to reclaim our role as “therapists” in the public schools. Given the changes that have taken place in education, I’m not sure that’s possible.
With the update and name change of the Test of Language Competence (TLC), the term CELFie takes on a whole new meaning in the world of speech and language pathology. The TLC is now The Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals 5 Metalinguistics. Now that we have two major CELF test batteries, I’m curious. How many of us SLP’s out there are now true CELFies?
I guess I’m a CELFie. I’ve been using the CELF probably since it came out. I easily remember using the CELF 3, 4 and now 5. I used the CELF, back when I still had a typist typing my reports. I’ve always liked it and found it easy to use and reliable. I also liked the Test of Language Competence and used it often with my middle school population and once in a while with my little ones. The TLC desperately needed a makeover. In general, I like the new TLC or as it’s now called The Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals 5 Metalinguistics. Now I have two CELF products that are mainstays in my test battery. My only disappointment is that I purchased the CELF 5 Metalinguistics on good faith without much research and it does not have a component for younger children.
Just because I’m a CELFie does not mean I don’t use my clinical judgement to choose the right subtests and tests for my students based on their need. It just means I find the CELF works well with most students.
Even private practitioners, clinics and hospitals are becoming CELFies. I think this is going to be a problem down the road. We use to turn to outside evaluations to go more in-depth, use other testing to differential diagnose and for second opinions. The last several outside evaluations I’ve read the past 2 years, even language testing as part of neuropsychological evaluations, have consisted primarily of the CELF or subtests of the CELF. This will eventually create one of two out comes, schools will have to accept previous testing from the outside agency or buy other test materials. Both outside agencies and schools will have to keep a close eye on administration dates. I don’t want to be sitting in a meeting and have to tell a parent their outside evaluation, for which they paid dearly for is not valid because the student was given the same test three months earlier. Nor would I want to make the same mistake.
So are you a CELFie?
Have you ever been a CELFie?
What do you like best about being a CELFie?
If you don’t consider yourself a CELFie what is your favorite test battery?
Have you run into difficulty with outside evaluators using the CELF 5 exclusively?
I was a big fan of the Test of Language Competence (TLC). Almost every middle school student I tested received the TLC. It looked at areas of language not addressed by most basic language batteries. The only problem was, it was seriously outdated. Whenever I lost access to the test, I called Pearson to find out if an update was in the works. The answer was always no but I could never bring myself to purchase the TLC because it was so outdated. You can only imagine how thrilled I was to learn they were finally updating the TLC.
The Test of Language Competence has finally been replaced by The CELF-5 Metalinguistics. The CELF-5 Metalinguistics just arrived in the mail a few days ago so I won’t get a chance to administer it until the fall but I have had a chance to look it over thoroughly. My first impression is that I think I am going to like it. It is extremely similar to the TLC but with updated examples, pictures and other diagnostic material.
The major addition is a Metalinguistic Profile checklist. This is similar in style to the pragmatic profile on the CELF and is designed to be filled out by someone familiar with the student and the students culture. Finding that person might be a little tricky. I notice the language used in the Metalinguistic is rather professional and might be difficult for a parent or caregiver to understand. An SLP may have to walk the familiar person through the checklist. A standard score can be rom the checklist. Being a little old school myself, I’m not sure I like getting a scaled score from an observation. If we need to show data, we’re all set. However, the scaled score from the Metalinguistic Profile is not part of the composite scores.
- The Making Inferences subtest is exactly the same format as the Listening Comprehension: Making Inferences subtest on the TLC.
- The Conversation Skills subtest is very similar to the Oral Expression: Recreating Sentences subtest on the TLC. However, the context and prompts on the Conversation Skills subtest are more specific, meaning the student will have to be more specific on how they interpret the situation presented. I believe that’s a wonderful improvement that will provide significant diagnostic information.
- The Multiple Meaning subtest is exactly the same format as the Ambiguous Sentence subtest. This has always been one of my favorite subtests so I am glad they did not change it too much. Just noticed the new version still has the test item involving relatives visiting. Oh the things we SLP’s find funny.
- The Figurative Language subtest is the only subtest where the name hasn’t changed. I am a little concerned with the new examples but I’ll have to reserve judgement until I give the test a few hundred times. When I present figurative expressions to students, I always try to make sure several are within their realm of experience.
Just like the CELF 5 item analysis is provided at the end of each subtest. I don’t believe item analysis was available on the TLC. Item analysis might turn out to be very helpful or too much information. Personally I rarely used or reported the composite score from the TLC. I felt that the subtests were very different in the skills each addressed on the TLC. I was very selective about which TLC subtests I gave to students and always based my decision on their specific needs, abilities and cognitive skills. The CELF 5 metalinguistic, just like the TLC is not for everyone. (I often use the Test of Auditory Processing Cohesion Index or the Test of Problem Solving to obtain some similar information),
My first impression is that I am going to enjoy giving this test. I feel I will be able to obtain the diagnostic information that I will need to write appropriate educational plans and find entry points into therapy. My only disappointment is that the test does not go lower than 9. The TLC had separate but similar test items that went down to 5. I didn’t use the TLC that often for the students under 9 but when appropriate it was a excellent diagnostic tool.
If you are using the CELF-5, the CELF-5 Metalinguistics is a must have, especially when working with older children. It gives many test items in each section and is fairly quick to give.
I would love to hear about your first impressions, especially if you’ve had a chance to give the CELF-5 Metalinguistics.
“Fed Up With Lunch”
By Author: Sarah Wu
As a 30 year veteran of the public school system, I can tell you honestly that I haven’t voluntarily eaten a school lunch since 1983. I won’t go into the gory detail but lets just say that the meal of pulled BBQ pork just didn’t sit well. I’ve worked in many school systems and have witnessed many attempts to upgrade school lunch programs. These changes included hiring a new person to run the school lunch program, new schools with elaborate cafeterias, bringing in an outside service to run the food program, salad bars, menus with fun upbeat names and finally the worse going from a lunch lady who actually cooked the food to a service that provided styrofoam trays pre-filled with extremely small portions of reheated food (I guess that saved money). Despite these attempts to improve school lunch, to me the lunches always looked like the same crap food served in a different way.
As you can tell I have a total distain for school lunch programs so when a related search turned up Sarah Wu’s book “Fed Up With Lunch,” I knew it was a must read.
“Fed Up With Lunch” is based on Sarah Wu’s experiment and original blog. She vowed to eat a school lunch everyday for a year and blog about it. In the process she observed a few disturbing secrets about school food programs. Some of Mrs. Wu’s research involved looking at the ingredients in school food, analyzing menus, what actually passes for nutritional requirements, lack of fresh food, over packaging/processing and where some of the food comes from. Her school lunch journey has taken Mrs. Wu from blogging anonymously as Mrs. Q to appearances on various national panels to this book.
Along with talking about “the food” in school lunch programs. Mrs Wu also delves into the fact that children are rushed through meals at school and have little or no opportunity to move through the day. This is what I have personally observed in every public school I have ever worked in. Mrs. Wu was also careful to point out that Lunch Ladies are not cooks anymore but servers. Yet what they are given to serve often reflects badly on them when what to serve is usually an administrative decision.
Mrs. Wu’s book goes just short of criticizing government policies, Michelle Obama’s Lets Move program or school administrators. In her book she chooses to take a more active approach by suggesting her own ideas for positive change and providing several suggestions on what parents, teachers and students can do to improve their school lunch programs.
This was an informative and well organized book. Reading it should make any parent, teacher and school administrator think twice about what school are serving and what their kids are eating. I find it ironic that just about every school in America has alined themselves with the government sponsored wellness program, but yet the food served in schools in the United States has not improved one bit and physical exercise is not strongly encouraged. Under the new wellness programs in schools, I can’t give a hungry student a granola bar or even an apple but school cafeteria still serve grey green beans, mystery meat or tater tots several times a week. The amount of food thrown away on any given school day in any school I’ve ever worked in is astounding. Parents have no way of knowing what or if their kids are eating unless they make a concerted effort to ask or occasionally observe. Apparently in some school districts, bringing a lunch from home is not even an option.
I loved the idea of Mrs. Wu’s project and enjoyed reading about her experiences. It made me think, perhaps school food would be better if all the administrators were required to eat school lunches or not allowed to bring lunches from home. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the food served to the kids at lunch was also served at school functions and administrative meetings, styrofoam trays and all. Something tells me food services would improve greatly. Any administrators or districts that want to take on that challenge?
Mirla G Raz author of the Help Me Talk Right Series, which focuses on how to teach /r/, /s/ and /l/ in 15 Easy Lessons has come up with another winner. This time she focuses on helping parents of preschool stutters in her new book “Preschool Stuttering, What Parents Can Do”. This book is a common sense guide for parents, giving them all the information they need to give and get their preschooler the help they need. “Preschool Stuttering, What Parents Can Do” is also designed to try and help alleviate concern through knowledge.
The initial chapters help to demystify disfluency in young children. Ms. Raz thoroughly explains stuttering risk factors and typical vs. atypical disfluencies observed in preschoolers. She goes on to give many important tips an examples on how to respond to a child who is dysfluent. The emotional impact of stuttering is also discussed in-depth along with the impact of environmental changes or life event changes.
The latter chapters of “Preschool Stuttering, What Parents Can Do” focus on getting professional help. Ms. Raz provides guidelines on when to seek professional help , what type of therapy services are necessary for making the most effective progress, what to expect from the therapy process, question to ask and the parents role in the therapy process.
“Preschool Stuttering, What Parents Can Do” is written and organized in such a manner that it is easy to understand and follow. There is a brief bulleted preview and review for each chapter pointing out key points. This provides a wonderful summary and makes it very easy to find information at any point. Some subsections of this book are also bulleted also providing a quick review. The final chapter is a Q and A of questions that may come up during the course of reading this book.
“Preschool Stuttering, What Parents Can Do” in my opinion covers it all. This is not a book only to be recommended by Speech Language Pathologists. It’s extremely parent friendly and would provide an excellent starting point for parents who are concerned about their child’s disfluencies. Preschool teachers, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, psychologists and counsellors should all be familiar with this book. It is one of the best parent information guides I’ve seen in years.
Other books by Mirla Raz (and yes I do use them!)