This page is designed for parents who have questions about the child’s speech and language development. Please visit my other pages too, especially Your Middle Schooler even if your child is years away from the tween years. Please contact me if you have any specific questions or need information in any specific area of speech and language development.
I recently found this opinion article through the Race to Nowhere Facebook page. “Schools need a timeout on standardized tests”
This is an opinion piece by Joshua P. Starr, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. Sometimes others say the exact things you are thinking. There are three sections in his article that really struck a cord with me.
“Most U.S. public school systems are attempting to implement at least three things at once right now: revamped accountability measures, reforms as part of the federal Race to the Top program and the Common Core State Standards. This is simply too much at one time.”
I’ve worked in a few different school systems the past 7 or so years and all the changes are just too much at once. When, not if (in my opinion) the new reforms fail there will be no way to figure out which parts work and which parts don’t. This has been the history of failing education reforms. Schools tend to change things dramatically rather than work the problem.
“But these same state-level departments have been hurt by the recent fiscal crisis. Moreover, they are beholden to legislators and executives whose assumptions about public education make them more likely to endorse a continued over-reliance on standardized tests to evaluate schools and educators.”
Schools have not been given the funding, time or training to make many of these changes possible. The people making the decisions on curriculum, funding and judging success probably have little background in child development and education. In my opinion, child development is hugely overlooked and that’s one of the reasons our special education numbers are so big.
“This includes teacher evaluation systems that rely too heavily on individual student performance on the current state standardized tests — a practice I vehemently oppose.”
Classrooms and kids are more than just numbers and data. If one teacher has more special education students, more kids in crisis or more kids without home support, their scores on any classroom assessment are going to be lower no matter how gifted the teacher is. There has to be a better way.
I’m not happy with the changes I’m seeing in education and I know it is affecting our students in a negative way. In general, I see a lack of memory skills, lack of automaticity with facts and general information, poor phonological skills, decreased processing speeds, poor critical thinking skills and a general lack of background knowledge with typical students. Schools are so worried about taking data (because they have to) that key teaching opportunities are missed or there is no time in the day to take them. Changes are needed, but across the board and all at once isn’t the answer. Students and schools in different areas of the country have different needs and different problems. Some school systems are actually dumbing down their curriculum to meet Common Core Standards, others are trying to figure out how they can do this all at once and a few schools are just saying we can’t do this and handing themselves over to the state.
Schools need good curriculums to turn out good productive citizens. Losing time to practice test taking and learning a curriculum based upon a test is not going to improve or prove anything.
College can give you a good foundation but the real learning comes once you start working. And if you’re smart you’ll learn from everyone you work with, colleagues and clients.
When I started working in early intervention 20 some years ago, I knew little about child development, family issues or caseload management. So I faked it for awhile until I was able to watch, listen and learn. Luckily it was a job where we talked and consulted a lot. We did arena assessments where one person facilitated and the rest of us observed. I was able to watch, listen and read the final reports of all professionals involved. Now that I look back I was lucky to find a first job where people really respected what you had to say and at least considered your recommendations.
During those years I watched and listened not only the other speech therapists on staff but the physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses and social workers. The information I gathered in those two years has served me well throughout my years of working in the public schools. The biggest lesson I learned in Early Intervention was to always listen to what other people have to offer, consider their view point and if the information makes sense use it or at least remember it.
These days it pains me when I sit in team meetings and see no one taking a note as the school psychologist gives her report and recommendations, I want to stand up and yell “Write this down, this is good stuff, it will help you understand the students learning style!” In team meetings it isn’t just classroom teachers that need to take notes. If principals and vice principals were smart they would be taking notes too, so when an issue arises they can refer to the notes when dealing with special needs children and parents. When you sit in a team meeting as a passive member you are missing out on a learning opportunity. Not to mention when you also look passive or even uncaring to the parents.
Within the public schools, services can often seem so fragmented. The team meeting is one of the few scheduled opportunities to listen to and collaborate with your colleagues. Beyond that there is often little time to consult with others working with a student. However, another thing I noticed is that everyone is often on their own agenda, “only do what I have to do with the student to achieve my goal.” When you walk into a classroom and see none of the recommendations that specialists have suggested in place, you have to wonder if the teacher was listening or even considering making changes.
More than likely four things may have happened that keep the teacher from implementing accommodations, either the teacher was not present when you made recommendations in student meetings, the teachers did not even take note of your recommendations, the teachers are so overwhelmed with what they have to do it’s impossible to carryout or remember even the simplest accommodations or they have little understanding of the child’s disability or needs.
I have worked in schools where they made the teachers an important part of the meetings (hiring a sub so they could attend) and in schools where teachers buzzed in said their piece and buzzed out. When the school allows or even requires the teachers to stay in team meetings they have a much better understanding of the specialists roles and recommendations. How can you expect teachers to understand a child’s disability or unique learning style when they weren’t even there to learn from the specialists. If I was the parent I would either question or at least wonder why my child’s teacher is not present to hear this valuable information.
Like I mentioned above. I’ve sat in many meetings where not one person (other than myself) is taking notes on what any the specialists have to say, nor did they take a copies of the reports. What does that say. It says they are not taking the opportunity to learn from another professional. When learning from other professionals isn’t encouraged, it not only disrespects everyone involved but in the end the child loses out.
ATTN: Now please understand I don’t mean to ruffle anyones feathers with this article. I know there are a lot of therapists who don’t agree with my position. If you have a co-teaching model or push-in therapy model that really works for your student, not for you, your schedule, your high numbers or your administration, please share it in the comments section. Please share not only your model but how the model evolved and your caseload. I base my perspective on my experiences and those who have shared their experiences with me.
The past 10 years or so there has been a big push for therapists to use a co-teaching or push-in model. I have no clue where this idea came from and I don’t feel like doing the research. I honestly think one morning someone (who does not work directly with kids) woke up and said wouldn’t it be great if the speech therapists saw their students in the classroom.
On the surface that sounds like a great idea. You have a speech language pathologist come into the classroom, imagine what they could offer. An actually if it was a true co-teaching model where the speech language pathologist worked in tandem with a classroom teacher, they planned together, delivered lessons together and evaluated the students together, that could be great. What has happened, is that therapists are being asked to provide in-class services, either planning a class activity for that time or just going in and hoping they can somehow integrate themselves into the class for that one half hour a week. On paper that too is called co-teaching (apparently co-teaching on paper looks good to the powers that be). Oh did I forget to mention that in some situations therapists are expected to do this in every single classroom.
The problem I have always had with therapists as co teachers is that we are usually told “just do it” without any regard for the student’s needs, a lack of understanding of our level of expertise, a lack of respect for what we can realistically offer, a lack of co-planning time, scheduling constraints, teachers that aren’t willing to coordinate, no planned way to measure effectiveness and no training. I have never felt that I have been able to offer my language disabled students the level “therapy” they need in the classroom setting. Never have I worked in a organized co-teaching model.
There have been times when the teachers not only ignored me in the classroom but ignored the fact that I am there to work with or at the very least observe particular students. With that said there have also been some wonderful teachers who will switch thing up a little when they see me come in to accommodate my limited time. Even with accommodating teachers, without sufficient planning and evaluation time, a therapist going into a classroom is usually no more than a glorified aid. Being a glorified aid makes my job very easy. There have been times when I have only had one or two direct or indirect interactions with my student during my 30-45 minutes in the classroom. That hardly gives me time to address or observe my goals and objectives.
I don’t really think the disconnect is so much between the teachers and the therapists, most of us are willing to learn new methods, if they’re effective. I believe the problem lies between the administration/school board and their lack of understanding about how schools work, special education and how children learn. It somehow sounds better if a school says they use a co-teaching model. Most people don’t understand how loosely that term is used.
Here is a link to 6 different types of co-teaching models. http://faculty.felician.edu/caseyb/Types%20of%20Co-Teaching%20notesheet.doc. Take a look at it and see where the services at your school fall. I can’t site the author because there isn’t one. Another site claims 5 co-teaching models http://trailblazers.wikispaces.com/file/view/co_Teaching_Models-W.pdf. I guess my point is even people who feel strongly about co-teaching haven’t decided the best way to go. Again no author sited.
I was a huge fan of co-teaching when it was first introduced 20 some years ago. However, most schools have never been able to put in the time, energy or resources necessary to make it work. So my observations conclude that kids often miss out on valuable “therapy” time, when services are delivered within the classroom setting. That’s not to say that when they are ready to integrate newly learned skills that they can’t benefit from some services provided within the classroom setting. (then we get into scheduling issues so lets not go there).
Speech language pathologists really need to look at their overall effectiveness within the classroom setting. Are the student’s need being met? That’s the key question. If your answer to this is “no” then congratulations, you’ve become a glorified aid.
I have always said that I can turn or modify any game into an educational experience. Me at my advanced years was thinking only about board games. Over the years I’ve been able to teach almost every single language skill through conventional games. Unfortunately, those days are numbered because it’s hard to collect data when your having fun.
I was extremely pleased when I came across this article on Geekslp.com Angry Birds Educational Tool. This article truly validates what I already know. I am so glad the younger generation of SLP’s are able to see the value of games in learning. I love angry birds but never even thought to bring it into my therapy as a tool but I have used it as a reward. Why I never thought of this I don’t know. This article presents an excellent perspective and shows just how creative speech language pathologists can be.
Reality is kids just don’t know how to play anymore. Our students are usually at an even bigger disadvantage for knowing how to initiate play with others, feel successful and how to accept wins/losses gracefully. Anytime we play a game with our students we are providing a learning experience that they will not get from their peers or even their parents.
I actually have a whole section on my blog called Modify that Game, which I will admit is dated with it’s information. Still the point is there, games can have educational value.
I was following up on an article a friend sent me. Basically I said that video games are good but you would still need a skilled teacher to fill in the gaps. I’m not a video gamer so I reserved making any harsh judgements.
However, I was writing about the importance of play long before that. The Importance of Play
I am still amazed at the number of children I encounter that truly don’t know how to play and I’m not just talking about our language disabled kids. Kids are so managed these days that they are loosing their negotiation skills, critical thinking skills, imaginations, flexibility with interpersonal skills and play skills.
Recently an SLP contacted me to tell me that she was not allowed to use games in therapy any more. I thought how sad that we’ve gotten to the point where fun had to be squashed in order to make sure kids pass a test or that enough data gets collected. I figured that was the reason or that their administration was nuts.
Enjoy the articles highlighted above, put a little bit of fun into your therapy setting, worry about data collection around progress report time. Modified games can play a huge role in therapy not to mention increase motivation. Funny that it’s more accepted if the games are presented on the computer or iPad that out of a dusty old box. However, games are much easier to modify out of the dusty old box. Personally I can see the value in both conventional games and some computer games/apps. Just like conventional games and therapy games, there are a lot of junky computer games and apps that are not worth even trying out.
Happy New Year
The School Speech Therapist
Schools I feel do their best to make their schools secure but honestly most fall very short. In most schools there is a sign that says visitor have to check in with the office. Some schools do lock their front doors and you have to be buzzed in. Visitors are often buzzed in without verbal confirmation of who they are by untrained and very busy office staff looking at a 6×6 screen. It’s also very easy to piggyback into the school if there is a person in front of you. In no school that I have ever worked in was there a locked door between the office and the rest of the school. Basically once someone is in a school they could go anywhere.
Newer schools might have a better set up with cameras and newer security systems but older schools just were not designed anticipating this type of concern. Schools were designed to make it easy for staff and students to access the office.
When I first started teaching all we ever had to practice is fire drills. Today that’s a no brainer, you line up the kids and take them outside. Lockdown procedures began for me about 5-6 years ago. I took this seriously but also knew that they fell far short of really being able to protect children. To initiate lock down an announcement is made. Hopefully, a teacher is actually able to hear and attend to the announcement. I could also see situations where the announcement could not get sent out. We were asked to use our own cell phones incase of emergency, then told to slip either a green or red card outside our locked door to tell them if we were ok or not. To me that was like saying “here we are.” One day we had a power outage and the principal asked me to go around and ask the teachers to turn on their cell phones so they could be contacted, well over half either had no power or left them in their car. Another school I worked at in an urban area as recently as 2 years ago didn’t even know what I was talking about when I asked about their lock down procedures. Even something as simple as everyone having a good functioning room key to lock doors is often a complicated procedure in school systems. Security seems to depend greatly on the beliefs and efforts of the school system and local law enforcement.
Sadly it is doubtful that anyone other than law enforcement could have stopped this monster from getting into the school and killing these children. If he didn’t have access to guns he would have found another way. In the days to come we might find out why he did this or if he was showing any behavior that could have indicated he was capable of this. Was this a planned or spontaneous act. Is it even going to matter unless we are able to identify these individuals and intervene. Is that even possible?
Every school system in America is thinking about how they should improve their school security this morning. I’m almost sure that in the long run little will be done to make schools safer. Schools will talk about it at every school committee meeting, some will hire consultants, a few will put new or updated procedures in place, a select few will actually make the expensive changes needed that will actually be somewhat effective. Part of the problem with this is that most communities do not want to believe something this tragic can happen there. Especially communities where many don’t even feel they have to lock their doors. Administrators with no security training or never having even experienced living in areas where crime is an issue are not equipped to make security decisions or plans. Law enforcement needs to step in and design the security for school buildings. In many situations I am not confident that local law enforcement will even take it seriously enough.
I can’t even imagine the grief Newtown Ct. is feeling today. This is no doubt a parents, teachers, first responders, community and even nations worse nightmare come true. My condolences and prayers go out to everyone directly effected by this horrible tragedy. I am so sorry this happened.
During the month of December The School Speech Therapist will be focusing on consulting and co-teaching. Any ideas, questions, concerns or thoughts on this topic I’d love to hear from you.
I will continue to follow up on the surveys around entrance and exit criteria and vocabulary testing. Just waiting for the data to come in. So if you haven had a chance to take a couple of quick surveys I’d really appreciate it.
I have to apologize for being so lax about posting. I had the grandest plans for this month, writing about the speech and language assessment process. Well to make excuses, I can tell you that work has exploded. I work part time for a school system doing evaluations and they’ve decided to move up their time line on all of the evaluations. I actually think it’s a great idea but it shoves more work into my limited time. And lets not forget those pesky report write up that mostly take place at home. I also picked up another wonderful part time job at a vocational high school which will be a new experience for me. They too have me testing to meet deadlines.
Since I love evaluating I don’t mind being busy but that leaves little time for other ventures. Today I’m going to recycle a post from last January. It has an evaluation theme so it fits my plan. When does a Middle School Child need a Speech and Language Evaluation
It’s still not too late to participate in my survey on speech and language assessment. Right now I am putting together a report on the data gathered and I can always include more. Assessment Survey
Hope everyone enjoys their weekend. Around here it’s the calm before the storm and we will be securing lawn chairs this afternoon.
I came across this article on ASHAsphere and wanted to share. The article Relationship and Communication Development in Children Adopted From Abroad by Deborah HWA-Froelich focuses on the uniqued differences in overall language development in children who are adopted from other countries.
I’ve worked with children who have come from other countries who speak both languages in the home and those that acquired english early on after listening and possibly speaking (or beginning to speak) in another language. As Ms. Froelich points out, the foreign adopted children experience a disruption in language development. I know from experienced that these children, when brought to my attention, are clearly more language disabled than the typical ESL/ELL child.
ESL/ELL children have their own set of issues. I see a lot of splinter skills in their vocabulary and comprehension especially if the second language was introduced early, before their native language was firmly developed. However, most typical ESL/ELL students improve and compensate without intensive services. ESL/ELL students usually demonstrate typical pragmatic skill development and interact well in their environment.
We all know that children who are exposed to some type of neglect and abuse are going to have difficulty developing in some if not many ways. This is an added layer, to the development of a child from a foreign adoption that must be considered as part of their profile.
School’s need to be cautious and thorough when assessing the needs of a child from a foreign adoption. Teams will almost always initially assume it is ELL/ESL issue without a complete evaluation. When this happens precious months or years are wasted. I believe the two points made by Ms Froelich, probable abuse/neglect with foreign adopted children (or at least the lack of nurturing at at early age) and the complete disruption in language development are two very valid reasons to conduct a complete Core evaluation on a struggling student with history of foreign adoption.
English is more than likely the dominate language at that point so evaluations should be conducted in English. Look at the child as a language disabled student when planning what test measures to use. If the students are very young when initially tested do not assume that language/learning development will progress as naturally as native speakers. Overall development of foreign adopted children needs to be monitored closely throughout the school years. We know that children who have difficulty acquiring language as young children often experience difficulty down the road with development of higher order language.
When you assess these students do not be surprised at if you see atypical test results. Scores will not fall into the typical patterns you expect, scores may be quite low, scattered and errors will appear throughout many areas of language. Do your best to interrupt the scores and develop a plan. Keep in mind that no matter how enriching their environment is now, these children have missed out and do not have the experiences to draw from to aid consistent development.
Many years ago I started a new job in s school district that was rumored to have some problems in their special education department. I was able to confirm the rumors almost immediately. While going through the caseload files I noticed that there were a high number of students who had gone out for their speech and language evaluation. Comparing dates I noticed that the outside speech and language evaluations were either part of the initial request or requested after a speech and language was completed through the school.
Now we have all had this happen. A parent or the team isn’t happy with our findings. This happens when we find problem and when we actually rule out problems. We’re never going to make everyone happy 100% of the time. However, something was different with the pattern I was seeing. There were just too many outside evaluations.
Reading the evaluations, it was easy to see why this happened. The evaluations done by the school speech language pathologist were void or any narrative or analysis. Scores were reported, ranges were given and summaries were sparse. Most of the school speech and language evaluations were 2 pages at best. The quality was poor and no supplemental testing was ever given. I wondered if the therapist was really that bad, never learned the right way to evaluate or just didn’t have time to do the job properly. I wondered how these reports were presented to the parents. Was the therapist able to go into more specific detail in the meetings? The IEP’s didn’t reflect this so I doubted that parents or teachers were given any more information. Basically the evaluations I read raised more questions than they answered.
Parents talk, even in large districts. It only takes one parent or team member to say something negative about a report for that opinion to spread. Pair that with a general lack of confidence in the school’s special education program and you can see how easily a situation like this may occurred. (I’ve seen poor evaluations from clinics and hospitals but somehow it doesn’t seem to sully their reputation as much.)
With the help of a dedicated staff and a strong team leader this particular school was able to turn around the perceptions of most of the parents. The first step in this process was to improve testing in all areas.
- The school administration supported more testing and meeting time, they were at the point where they realized it was cost effective.
- The team took the time to look over many report styles and picked the best formats and pieces from each one to help develop testing templates.
- Our program manager developed a heading for our written evaluations which immediately gave a more professional and coordinated look to our testing.
- While testing students we collaborated with the other team members. The school psychologist often asked me to dig a little deeper in some areas. I always went to both the regular and the special education teachers to ask them what their biggest concerns were and if there was anything specific they wanted me to try and rule out.
Because of our efforts, we not only looked more professional and coordinated, we were more professional and coordinated. Parents were no longer confused when they left the meeting because everyone had their own different opinions. We did such a good job of coordinating our efforts that we rarely missed anything and our testing almost always dovetailed.
The meetings are another key factor to completing good evaluations. When reviewing testing, marathon meetings are a must. It takes a long time to review 3 or more evaluations thoroughly and to develop a good IEP. When schools take the time to answer parent concerns, parents view the schools as caring and personal. Sometimes we actually split the meetings into two if the reports were long and involved, developing the IEP a day or two later (if we had the time legally). This school system was dedicated to improving their evaluation process and hired substitutes so the teachers could stay for most if not all of the meeting. Nothing tells a parent you care less about their kid than leaving a meeting in the middle of it.
With some coordinated team effort and administrative support we were able to turn this particular situation around, keep testing in house and keep costs down. Our testing and our reports became more thorough and looked more professional than some of the previous outside evaluations. In some cases our testing was even better because we often knew the student prior to testing, we were often able to include formal and informal observation, we were able to gather first hand information from parents and teachers to direct testing and we were able to see the kids in a familiar setting over a longer period of time.
Because we collaborated informally ahead of time
- Our recommendations, accommodations and service delivery were truly team decisions.
- We were able to look at all factors such as student need, teacher concern’s, parent’s concerns, other school demands, who would be responsible for accommodations and how to fit the needed services into the students day while developing the IEP.
- Our IEP’s were some of the best and most individual specific I had ever seen.
The outside evaluations often contained recommendations and accommodations. However, they were often generic or grandiose. Suggested service delivery from outside evaluations did not take the schedule, the child’s overall needs or other educational demands into consideration.
I was very proud of the work we did in that school district over the three year period that this particular team worked together. I learned a lot. Watching parents perceptions change and confidence in the school grow was especially rewarding. We knew we had a lot to do with that. Our team leader problem solved and we implemented simple and very common sense changes that made us look good. Best of all the students ended up with an effective IEP. With teachers involved in the process they had an easier time following through on classroom accommodations and modifications. The teachers also knew they could come to us for support.
Did we keep 100% of our testing in house? No of course not but our percentage of in house evaluations shifted significantly with very few evaluations in any discipline completed outside of school. With simple and professional changes we were able to improve the way we did CORE evaluations without a mandate or law. Our team leader took the talents and strengths of smart, caring professionals and gave us the time and tools to improve (not change) our evaluation process. Bottom line we were effective, we looked good and felt more professional.