Easy Report Writing?

Oct 14, 2012 by

Easy Report Writing?

Is there such a thing?  If you think I have the answer you’d be wrong.  You haven’t heard from me in awhile because I am in the throws of report write ups.  When you’re a school therapist you don’t have the luxury of  clinics who will take months sometimes to write up a report.  We have deadlines and they have to be met.  However, I am a procrastinator and almost always wait till the last minute to pull things together.  Luckily the due dates for the report write up and the actual meeting are usually a few days apart because unlike clinics that drop their reports off at our doorstep, we still have to write up the educational plan in time for the meeting.

Even after so many years of experience report writing is still extremely time consuming for me.  I often wonder if I write too much, try to be too specific, write too slow or do too much testing?  When I worked a full time school job, I was lucky if I had 2-4 hours in my week devoted to testing.  Since it takes at least 2-4 hours to properly test any student and anywhere from 2-6 hours to write up a thorough report, if you have one or more a week, there is a lot of paper work to do at home.

Here are some suggestions to speed up your report write ups.

1. Work From a Template:  Take the time to design your own evaluation template.  Create a heading.  It’s really nice when the whole department uses the same heading it looks more professional.  I’ve only worked with a couple of department heads that supported this idea.

a. Arrange your template in a manner that makes sense to you.  I personally like reporting test by test rather than by skill.  I’ve seen evaluations arranged by receptive subtests and then expressive subtests.  I personally find that hard to follow.  If I want to compare similar skill areas I will do that in my summary.  I find that to be a more organized way to talk about strengths and weaknesses.

b. Make sure your template has only generic information in it.  This saves time switching information.  I use a filler for the students name to make changing easier.  If you’re really efficient have a boys and girls version so your he’s and she’s don’t get mixed up.

c.  In my template I have test/task descriptions as initial paragraphs.  I may include scoring information and results as part of the template.

d.  Tweak your template as often as you need to.  This will save time consuming changes when you are writing your report.

e.  Make sure charts are uniform.  This is my downfall and it looks bad.  Over the years I’ve made individual templates for each test, probably in Microsoft.  Now I use a mac and the charts are not uniform.  A goal of mine this year is to update my charts.

f.  It’s always quicker to take away than add.  I keep a list of the tests I use frequently in my template.  I also have a paragraph explaining the gap when comparing the PPVT and EVT.  It’s there if I need it cut out if I don’t.

2.  Finding Time:  Face it there is never enough time and few realize how time consuming this can be.

a.  If you can’t get a long block to write in try to work in blocks of tests or subtests.  I found that’s one way that I can get chunks actually completed.

b.  If I have to skip over a section because I either don’t have the information or the time to write up a big section, highlight the section you missed.  That makes it easy to go back and fill in information.

c.  When writing up subtests I often begin thinking of what I want to say in the summary.  I use to keep those notes on a separate piece of paper.  Now I just quickly scroll down to the empty summary and jot a quick idea.

3.  Spend more time and effort on writing a good summary and recommendations:  Ultimately,  this is the information people want.

a.  Right after I look at the test scores my eyes go immediately to the summary.  The summary is the section most people are interested in.  If they remember anything about your report it will be the summary so make sure that section look and sounds good.

b.  Don’t write cookie cutter recommendations.  Those are recommendations that are the same for every student.  If a school or staff is familiar with your work they will totally not follow your advice if it is the same for every student.

c.  Write recommendations that have a good chance of being used in the school setting.  This is very good advice especially for outside evaluators.  Many time the recommendations suggested by outside evaluators to a school are grandiose and almost impossible to implement in a school setting.  That isn’t to say that schools don’t need a push once in awhile or can’t learn new methods.  The do and they have to.

4.  Don’t over think.  Trust your skills:  Your professional judgement is probably better than you think.

a.  This is another area where I fall short.  I am so worried about missing something especially with a complicated student that I spend more time analyzing test results and performance than I should.  I do this because I often feel that manner of performance is often as or more important and revealing than test scores or other isolated data.  (That of course is a conversation for another day).  Never hesitate to comment on manner of performance it adds so much to the evaluation and makes it more personal.

b.  Yes we all proof and edit but we are not professional copywriters or editors.  We are bound to make mistakes no mater how many times we have proofed and edited.  It is embarrassing to find an error in my report during the presentation but it’s occasionally bound to happen.  Usually it’s just a simple typo and not a major contradiction which is good.  I’ve read other’s reports and they all have the same type of errors.

If I stay organized and of course focused I can cut my writing time a little.  However, keep in mind that each child has his own unique learning style and needs.  I don’t believe many people other than maybe the school psychologist realize how much work goes into our evaluations.  I would love to find a way to pare down my reports without sacrificing testing or information.  Is that possible?  I really don’t know.  If anyone has suggestions I would love to share them on The School Speech Therapist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Carin

    I agree with your recommendations in regard time manage for successful report writing. I do wish to clarify a couple of points you suggested. I am fortunate enough to work in a Pediatric medical outpatient setting and an public educational setting each week. Both have time limits for report writing. I am greatly concerned to hear that anyone would take months to write a report. We have a 48 hour time limit in the hospital and it is tied to billing requirements. Both settings have a set of rules and both settings require essentially a plan of care (IEP). If a report does not have a plan of care or goals, that child better be functioning at age-level.

    Perhaps your experience at receiving a copy of a report has taken a while…which again is not acceptable. We are all professionals and need to conduct ourselves as such. If you are having difficulty receiving information from outside resources, I encourage you to contact them by phone and/or ask the parent to do the same.

    Thank you for your blog, I appreciate reading your informative posts.

    • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

      Hi Carin
      Thanks so much for taking the time to look at The School Speech Therapist. I am glad to hear your clinic has some rules around this. Hospital clinics have gotten better at getting their reports out in the timely fashion but it hasn’t always been that way. I haven’t had to deal with too many outside evals the past 6 years but it still happens a lot. I can’t tell you how often outside evaluators show up with notes or a protocols in hand rather than a report. Just last spring I tested one twin for pragmatics, the other went out for a similar eval, mine was done we had the meeting. The school year ended and we still didn’t have the report in hand.
      Your right it is completely unacceptable especially when a long amount of time has passed. I think that is why it sticks with me. It’s usually not our responsibility to get the reports but the parents. Last spring I did call that outside therapist, I needed info on their testing because I still needed to do other testing and write something up on the student but it still didn’t get them moving.

      Thanks
      Teresa

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