This will be a place where therapists can share ideas, problem solve and express concerns. Lets work together to make our jobs easier!
In my state, teachers and all professional staff have to generate personal SMART goals. With all the work SLPs do, the last thing I wanted to do was have to keep complicated data on something I was doing. At that point I decided to do something very easy for me that would benefit all students not just those with language issues. My SMART goal was to write monthly articles focusing on language development.
Initially, I found it wasn’t that easy to find universal themes that could be beneficial to all. However, knowing all we know about language and learning once I had a topic writing for parents was easy. I created articles about once or twice a month for that school year. The idea was well received by my principal. Basically it was free content for the school newsletter. Best of all if I published one article a month (sometimes weekly) I achieved my goal without extensive data collection.
I’ve slowly made these articles available to other SLPs on Teachers Pay Teachers. Here is my current list of articles available on TPT. These articles are written in a word document so they can be edited to fit the needs of you specific setting.
The School Newsletter: Practice Those Memory Skills-free
The School Newsletter: 10 tips to building a strong vocabulary (5 article series)
The School Newsletter: Don’t Drop Picture Books Too Soon
The School Newsletter: Don’t Forget The Details
The School Newsletter: Strengthen Language Skills Through Conversation
My section of the school newsletter was titled “Notes from the School Speech Therapist.” If I were to introduce this at another school I would probably change that title.
The articles are available in my TPT store. This was such an easy way to achieve my Smart goal. I received some very nice complements from my staff and administrators. It also made my presence in the building more obvious, helped to encourage language and learning beyond the school day and hopefully made parents more aware of what they could do to support their child’s development. I believe the articles were also a universal support that helped with general language development. Better Speech and hearing should be highlighted all year around not just in May.
Let me know what you think. I do have other articles to post so please check back often. If you have ideas for articles I would love to hear them.
The School Speech Therapist would like to welcome guest blogger Mirla G. Raz. I first became acquainted with Ms. Raz when I was asked to review her most recent publication Preschool Stuttering: What Parents Can Do. I was duly impressed with the book (you can read my review here). As it turned out I was already very familiar with Ms. Raz’s work since I had been using her books from her Help Me Talk Right series for years. The Help Me Talk Right Books continue to be a staple in my therapy room.
Ms. Raz has shared an excerpt taken from her newly developed course Stopping the Stuttering Trajectory in the Preschool Years available through Northern Speech Services. The course is designed to teach SLPs how they can help parents navigate the emotional and often confusing landscape of stuttering. Given that Ms. Raz’s book was so helpful to me, I believe her course will significantly add to your body of knowledge. Teresa
From Stopping the Stuttering Trajectory in the Preschool Years By Mirla G. Raz
Stuttering during the preschool years can be an easy problem to solve, one that may stop the child’s stutter before therapy is ever needed. We can do this by helping parents understand the disorder and advising them how best to communicate with their preschooler.
When parents hear their child stutter, their first inclination is often to intervene without professional input. They believe that what they do will help their child stop stuttering. They may not realize that their actions can be counterproductive. We can help parents by asking them to avoid specific interactions. We can help them by offering replacement interactions.
Below I have listed the interactions to be avoided:
- Speaking for the child.
- Finishing words or sentences for the child.
- Interrupting the child when he is speaking.
- Facial or body language that shows the child the parent is anxious or upset about the child’s speech.
- Asking the child to perform or recite in front of others.
- Talking about the child’s speech when others are present.
- Getting upset or distressed when the child stutters.
- Calling the child a “stutterer.”
- Limiting the amount of time the child has to speak or indicating that the parent is in a rush and does not have the time to listen.
- Bombarding the child with questions.
- Poking fun of the child’s speech or teasing him about it.
Parent can replace unhelpful interactions with the following:
- The parent should get down to eye level with the child and make eye contact.
- The parent should listen to what the child is saying.
- The parent should not interrupt the child or try to help him as he stutters.
- When the child is done talking the parent should comment on what the child has said, not how he has said it.
Mirla G. Raz has been working as an SLP for over 40 years. She is the author of the popular Help Me Talk Right books. Her most recent publication, Preschool Stuttering: What Parents Can Do is a comprehensive book designed to help parents understand stuttering during the preschool years. The book explains what happens when a child stutters, stuttering facts, the role of emotions and temperament in stuttering, the emotions and roles of the parents, what can cause the stutter to be better or worse, the impact of the child’s environment, when and where to seek professional help and more. The books are available through her website www.helpmetalkright.com and Amazon (see links below).
The School Speech Therapist would like to welcome guest bloggers Lisa Kathman, M.S. CCC-SLP & Sarah Bevier, M.S. CCC-SLP. I met Lisa and Sarah at the 2016 ASHA convention. Sarah gave me a quick demonstration of their product, SLP Toolkit and every aspect of it made sense. My initial impression was that it really could help school based SLPs. The following day I attended their formal presentation and continued to be impressed. For school SLPs the biggest drag is the copious amount of paperwork and vast amount of data we are suppose to collect. SLP Tool Kit has programs set up to take care of everything from goal writing to progress reports. They’ve set up ways to keep/measure data and have it organized for progress report writing. I’ve seen many a program over the years that is suppose to help with one thing or another but none with the universal potential of SLP Toolkit. I want every school based SLP to know about SLP Toolkit. Please take the time to check out this web based product. If you like it, don’t wait for your school to approve it. Sign up for a free trial or just get it for yourself. It might just make your life significantly easier. Teresa
Why does every school-based SLP dread the end of the grading period? It may have something to do with the 60 or so progress reports that go along with it (and the fact that you usually have to complete them over your vacation).
If you look at your current caseload, chances are that most of your goals are written in a format that uses SLP data as the criteria for measurement. So progress reports involve you pulling out your speech files, pouring through the session notes, doing some math, and hoping you have what you need to fill in the progress section on your report…because if not, you will be doing some last minute scrambling to collect data points or even worse, making “smart guesses” on progress.
The issue is not whether we collect data. We are speech-language pathologists! We not only are trained to take data and are good at it, but it is in our nature to love data. The problem is the the fact that the data we collect doesn’t necessarily align to how a goal is written. Let me explain further. The whole point of taking data in speech therapy is to make ongoing treatment decisions (e.g. What cues/intervention strategies worked best? What isn’t working? Is change occurring? What direction do I want to go in next time?) This is usually different data than what we need for a progress report, which is the performance on a skill in percentage format that you want a student to achieve within a year.
This is especially true for new IEPs when you may be working on underpinnings for the skill or related skills, but not the skill exactly as it is written in the IEP. Even when you think you are taking black and white data, for example for a skill like naming synonyms, there can be a wide variation in scores you record in your notes if there is no consideration in selection of stimulus items during therapy. For example, if one week you’re asking the student to name a synonym for the word “big” and the next week you’re asking for a synonym for the word “artificial”, scores look very different. No wonder panic and meltdowns happen at the time of writing progress reports.
This is where criterion referenced tests (CRTs) and rubrics can come to the rescue! CRTs measure a student’s performance against a predetermined criteria. Teachers frequently use CRTs to evaluate whether students have learned a skill or have met the expected academic standards. This form of measurement is also an excellent way for SLPs to collect baseline data on communication skills and then retest the student’s performance using the same criteria each quarter to monitor progress. The consistency of using the same CRT to retest improves accuracy of the data. The same set of stimulus items is used each grading period to determine progress on the skill.
As with any other assessment, it is important not to teach the items on the criterion referenced test. In treatment you are working on the strategies a student needs to acquire that skill in various contexts and then use the CRT at the end of the grading period to determine if those skills can be applied to the test.
Another effective way to measure progress on IEP goals is to use a rubric. Rubrics list a set criteria for mastery that include both quantitative and qualitative data in a way that makes sense to teachers and parents. They can include objective performance data on the skill, level of cueing needed, setting skill is used among other things, making it a more authentic measurement of the skill, with points assigned for each level of performance. Rubrics are particularly helpful for breaking down and assessing the complex nature of social skills, which can be complex and subjective. However, they are not limited to this communication area.
When using a rubric, it is important to attach the rubric to the student’s IEP so it is clear how the goal is being measured. Otherwise parents/teachers/unfamiliar readers may interpret a rubric score of 14/15 as a ratio rather than a total number of points to achieve.
If you would like to see some examples of CRTs and rubrics, SLP Toolkit has created a large bank with hundreds of speech/language CRTs and rubrics for a variety of communication skills. Sign up for a free trial at www.slptoolkit.com to access all content within the app for up to five students, including the progress monitoring tools.
For more information on criterion referenced tests and rubrics, check out our video tutorials on our Vimeo channel.
A little about Lisa and Sarah: Both hold master’s degrees in communication disorders from Arizona State University. Lisa has been an SLP for 20 years and is the lead SLP for Mesa Public Schools. She has presented on multiple topics in a variety of communication areas to general/special education teachers, directors, and students. Sarah has been in the field of speech pathology as an SLPA, speech technician and SLP for 10 years. Sarah has experience providing training to SLPs, school staff and university students on therapy topics and assessment.
Today The School Speech Therapist wants to introduce guest blogger Rochel Lieberman MA CCC-SLP who has recently written a children’s book called Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day: A story about how a sprinkling of mistakes can be a recipe for success. Perla is written for children aged 4-12, particularly those who experience anxiety or developmental issues. It demonstrates that you can’t succeed unless you try and that it’s ok to make mistakes. Pearla’s strategies for solving her problems will help children to overcome their own hurdles. Read more about Pearla and the motivation behind this book below. Please consider sharing this book with the children in your life. Teresa
There is a charity bake sale at school. Sara, juggling two jobs while raising her three children does not have the time nor energy to bake a cake for the sale. She thought about putting in the effort, but her previous baking attempts have not been successful. On her way home from work, she picks up a tray of large round cookies at the supermarket. She meets Lisa, her close friend, and they begin with the “mom talk”. Lisa relays that she does not enjoy baking, will probably stay up late to bake a cake anyway, and wonders aloud why she is struggling with herself for this endeavor.
I believe that there are multiple sources for the intense pressure for perfection that is found in both children and adults. Thankfully, there are a great many ways to combat that pressure. While genetics, family of origin, and innate personality can lay the foundation for pressure, there is also a mindset that plays a significant role in how one views perfection.
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset:
Dr. Carol Dweck, a world leading researcher on motivation and success from Stanford University, studied why some people succeed and others do not. What she uncovered was that there are some people who believe in a fixed mindset, that basic traits and talents which you were born or endowed with, like intelligence, are fixed. Others, she found, believe in a growth mindset, where success is attributed to hard work and effort. Individuals with a fixed mindset usually only choose items and activities that they know they’re good at. Individuals with a growth mindset welcome mistakes and accept that it they are part of the path to success, thus increasing their successful opportunities.
In Pearla and Her Unpredictably Perfect Day, Pearla embarks on a journey that begins with a fixed belief that mistakes are “just not okay in Pearla’s perfect world”. In this story we meet other characters who share similar limiting beliefs; we meet Mrs. PeggyOpal and daughter Darla who come from the other side of the river wearing matching sundresses. They travel with a tester, a person to taste each confection before they eat it. Darla and her mother, are horrified to see the mistake cupcakes, and say, “I only eat tall cupcakes with perfect wiggly white cream”. As is typical of those with a fixed mindset, the PeggyOpals leave the store without any cupcakes to take home. While they are stuck in their fixed mindset of success, even proudly displaying their peg-board status on their license plate (“Pego”), Pearla begins to question her beliefs and thinks of a promising plan to deal with her mistake. In doing this, she develops a growth mindset. At the end of the entertaining tale, she learns an important lesson that she will never forget: “Sometimes things don’t go perfectly. By staying calm, we might see that imperfect changes can turn into perfectly perfect plans!”
While the reader can feel empathy for the PeggyOpals, it is important to understand that anyone can adopt a growth mindset. At the end of the story, the PeggyOpals reconsider if they should try the imperfect confections! They can be seen standing outside the bakery with their taster. Although we do not know if they will indeed enter the bakery, this a big step in developing their growth mindset. Individuals with a growth mindset understand that challenges will arise and problem solving will be required. Take one second and ask yourself ask “in what area of my life do I have a fixed mindset?”
To read more about Rochel and to purchase Pearla and Her Unpredictably Perfect Day visit www.ariberspeech.com
Back in mid-December I attended a one day workshop called “Yoga and Mindfulness in the Classroom: Tools to improve self-regulation, learning and classroom climate” Lisa Flynn, E-RYT, RCYT presented a program that she designed to help bring yoga and mindfulness into the classroom. Not only did she present the concrete parts of the program, Ms. Flynn also did a good job explaining how students could benefit both academically and behaviorally.
My motivation for attending was to learn a little bit about mindfulness and incorporate some quick and simple techniques into my therapy sessions. I was actually planning for that to be my smart goal for the year. The initial sequence presented focused on activities that could easily fall under the SLPs scope of practice. One listening activity focused on auditory attention, some breathing and head/neck movements could fall under oral motor, movements that pair up with others could fall under social and another activity focusing on relaxation/imagination is basically visual imagery. I’m sure I could find many more examples.
Ms. Flynn has modified many of the basic yoga positions to be “school friendly.” This means nothing too challenging, minimal space requirements and no touching the floor. Even more impressive is that she has put together a variety of sequences to choose from depending on needs. Ms. Flynn was also very mindful of the time constraints schools face, creating sequences that vary from 1-2 minutes to 20 minutes. Her suggested sequences include
- Morning meeting
- Take a Break
- Pre-Writing and Writing Break
- Pre-Test and Test Break
- Mood/Energy Shift
- Close of Day
Several of these 1-2 minute sequences would be perfect for speech/language therapy sessions.
Yoga and Mindfulness in the Classroom was hosted by PESI. It really was a good bang for the buck. Not only was Ms. Flynn very knowledgeable but she also shared an awful lot of information and the take homes were very complete. If you wanted to implement her techniques on a larger scale there were materials available to purchase. Ms. Flynn has created sets of cards to guide, explain and demonstrate the aspects of her program and I must say they were quite good.
If it would up to me, I spend some consult dollars on this program to have Ms. Flynn train the teachers and develop a program that would fit my schools needs. I see this approach as proactive and being able to help in so many ways. I could also envision physical education teachers taking the lead on this to help incorporate this into daily practice. This is a program all kids could benefit from. This could be considered a universal support in schools and foster skill development in so many areas.
This was honestly one of the most enjoyable workshops I’ve been to in a long time. I do have to wonder if it was enjoyable because we got to get up and move around. If movement and breathing made the workshop more enjoyable that just proves it works. I’m looking forward to incorporating many of these techniques into my therapy sessions.
Read more about Lisa Flynn’s Yoga 4 Classrooms program on her web site
Well it’s been over a month since I attended the ASHA Convention in Philly. I’ve been wanting to follow up my ASHA Convention Experience article series with a summary of my experience and thoughts on the whole thing. Overall my whole ASHA Convention experience gets a flexible B to B-.
There were two main reasons in my mind to go to ASHA. One was the amazing amount information I expected to be exposed to. ASHA gets a solid A for the quality of speakers. With 15,000 in attendance, ASHA presented a nice variety of sessions in terms of topics and length. There were always several sessions I wanted to attend that fell at the same time. Overflow was handled well when sessions were extremely popular.
My Poster Session
The second main reason to attend the ASHA convention was to present my poster (based on my book) on Educating School Administrators about the Speech Language Pathologist’s scope of practice and role in schools. Unfortunately, I presented my poster on Saturday the last day and last session. There were several people who had made it a point to come and talk to me and that was great. I couldn’t even linger afterward to talk with the few still milling about because the venue kicked us out. I also think at that point people were on “information overload” and either left the conference or were more interested in vendor deals. I did end up giving away a few of my books. Yes I am a soft touch. I also had a great rack card handout to give to principals and administrators. I was surprised more were not taken. However, when people took the time to read the rack card info they often came back for more or sent their friends over to get one.
I like to talk speech language pathology as much as the next guy but three full days is almost too much of an overload. I know by Saturday I was ready to ditch the sessions I planned to attend. I forced myself to go since I had paid for the conference. I was glad I did.
The Mira App
I did like using the Mira app. I think it helped to organize my time to help me get the maximum ceus possible. Organizing for this convention was overwhelming because so many sessions were offered. Not only did I prepare before I went but I firmed up my schedule the night before. I used my IPad to reference the uploaded conference materials during sessions and that helped with note taking. I ended up with 17.5 CEUs and that was with very little down time. If you plan on using your IPad at any convention make sure you have an external charger handy those batteries drain quickly.
I found that ASHA can be a very lonely place when you go alone. Honestly, I keep myself busy so that really doesn’t bother me. However, it would have been nice to have some formal opportunities to really discuss topics with other SLPs rather than just listening to lectures. Of course I would chitchat with people sitting next to me or sharing a table at breakfast but it was just surface conversation. I wish ASHA would offer roundtable discussions where you could meet and discuss current topics/concerns/share ideas/possible initiate change. I’m also at the point in my career where a few more opportunities to network and collaborate would be nice. (Sorry SLPs I have to say this…we’re still a very clicky crowd.)
The Keynote Speaker
I have to give a shout out to the keynote speaker, Drew Dudley, he was excellent. I usually don’t go in for the rah-rah of opening ceremonies but I am glad I went. He actually inspired me to make a key decision regarding my career.
The biggies were there such as Pearson and Super Duper. Apparently it is a tradition for many to leave with their yearly Super Duper bag that they give-a-way. I will admit it is a nice bag. There were lots of raffles so I hope someone won something. Tag scanning makes entering a lot easier. A few of the bigger ones were giving away like one copy of one test-such Princes. Too many staffing agencies were there trying to get you to sign up with them (that will be an article for another time). There were also several vendors hawking TENS units. Those small vibrators that are suppose to help pain. I have to wonder if SLP have a higher percentage of pain compared to other fields because of all the bags we carry. And yes there was a bag lady there. At least she was an SLP. There were not as many tchotchkes to pick up as there were 30 years ago. I didn’t buy anything but I did see a few things that would work for me in therapy. Some of the vendors were offering conference discounts. I noticed the private practice folks loading up on discounted materials.
I did meet the ladies who have created SLP Toolkit and they have one heck of a product that I want to try.
When all was said and done I spent around 1,500 to go to ASHA. I got the early bird ASHA conference fee (no discount for presenters which I think is wrong). Airfare was reasonable. Now I stayed at the Marriott to be at the venue so that added significantly to the cost. Sharing was not something I would have ever considered, even in my younger days. Let’s think about this ladies….do you think men go to conferences and ask, “Who will I room with?” I doubt the men of ASHA were sharing hotel rooms. Why would that even be something to consider, we are adult professionals. Poster costs were minimal but the hours involved in prep were not. (Poster presenters do not even get credit for the time they stand at their poster presenting-it isn’t a great deal CEU wise) However, presenting is voluntary and if you aren’t willing to put in the time you don’t have to do it. It is obvious they have no difficulty getting quality presenters with the current system. I doubt other fields give away their information like that.
The food situation at this particular conference was terrible. The venue did not have enough staff on to even sell coffee in the morning. Long lines were everywhere and so many food stands were not even opened. There was very little time between sessions to get something to eat. A half hour was not going to be enough given the food situation. The hotel restaurants had incredible waits (due to poor staffing from what I could see). Even lines at the giant food court across the street were huge. I ended up eating hot dogs off a food truck for two lunches. I might consider the box lunch option if there is a next time. Luckily, I participate in the Marriott rewards program so I had breakfast and enough of a snack around dinner to call it a meal. Now I did have a lovely dinner one night with an old friend and her husband. We picked a great spot and got to see a little bit of the city.
It would have been nice to have some time built in to see the city or take a tour. I know other professional conferences offer that. ASHA is all business. SLPs just don’t have the luxury of taking time off from learning.
I am glad that I went but I can’t say I enjoyed the experience. I think I just went in with expectations that were too high. The funny thing about that is that after 30 years of continuing education, I know better. The content presented in the sessions I attended was better than average. Very rarely do you actually get practical information out of any conference you attend. I would say that I took away good ideas from around 50-75% of the sessions I attended. Which I think is pretty good.
I think it was more the social aspects of ASHA that didn’t meet my expectations. I was hoping for more opportunities to talk shop with other SLPs, find out what others are doing and share some thoughts. It’s almost like ASHA and SLPs need a pragmatic goal or expectation. We are so isolated in our work that I though perhaps at the ASHA convention I might get to meet and discuss issues with like minded SLPs. Unless I decide to present again I won’t go to another ASHA till it comes back to Boston. I’ll spend my continuing education budget on smaller conferences. But who knows, I’m thinking about submitting to present at the Schools Connect, Health Care Connect, and Private Practice Connect in New Orleans in July. The only turn off there is New Orleans in July. I’m still not giving up my mission of advocating for SLPs and speech/language students through increased education for school administrators.
A couple of days ago I attended my second Ed Camp in Lynnfield, MA. Once again I had a really nice time, had some great conversations and went home with a prize. I proposed 3 topics Auditory Processing (what difficulties might look like in the classroom and strategies that can be implemented), universal supports and importance of higher order language development.
The auditory processing session went well. Many of the teachers asked some stellar questions. I like to talk about auditory processing because it is one of the most asked about topics in schools. I hope I was able explain how auditory processing difficulties present in the classroom, what it might look like at different ages, that it might look like other things/importance of differential diagnosis, when Central Auditory Processing Disorders can be diagnosis and how they are diagnosed. This time I was prepared with links on general information and strategies that could benefit those suspected with auditory processing issues in the classroom. The room we were in had a noisy heater so it was the perfect example of background noise and how that might effect processing if the noise can’t be tuned out.
The universal supports session took a technology turn. Most of the teachers in the room were at the middle school level. While I was looking to talk about simple things like behavioral supports, procedures/expectations for lowering volume in common areas, gaining attention, developing some standards/expectations for listening, teaching vocabulary in a similar manner, consistently providing background……universal supports that target language skills, the group assumed the session focused on Universal Design. Which I came to learn is exactly what I meant by universal supports just taking a step further into technology. One woman was particularly knowledgeable and provided a lot of information on resources. The main thing she recommended was UDL toolkit which provides tons of free resources.
The people working with the older students were already using some of technology recommended and they went away with some good resources. What I took away from it was, technology can also be a universal support. Schools need to find out what works best for their students and stick with it. Using similar programs across curriculum instead of every subject/teacher using something different provides consistency.
What universal supports come down to, is that administration recognizing a problem (or just an area that could be improved), creating a universal support to help all students, including staff in development of universal support so they get buy in and consistent follow through and training to maintain the universal support
The Higher Order language session also went well. Listening to teachers talk, my suspicions were being confirmed. Kids are not as savvy as they use to be when it comes to understanding and using higher order language. Perhaps cultural shifts, over use of technology, lack of expectations and even the changes in education system can be blamed for this shift in language development. We discussed the gaps we are seeing in language development, learning of skills and problem solving. Speaking with someone who worked at private prep high school, that just opened a middle school, we thought it will be interesting to see what 9th graders higher older language looks like in three years. At that point, the private prep kids will mix with the new incoming 9th graders who were exposed to common core. Will there be a difference in their learning styles, overall use of language higher order language abilities, quality of work and problem solving? I might have to remember to follow up on that.
Everybody I meet at Ed Camp is so knowledgeable and some are very good speakers. I have to wonder why school districts spend so much on “educational consultants” when so much brain power and experience is at their fingertips. Ed Camps are a great way to spend the day. Perhaps we should consider doing an SLP Ed Camp.
*****I’m always looking for topics to talk about at Ed Camp that are speech and language related but relevant to teachers. If you have any ideas please pass them on.
I recently came across a set of online flash cards, focusing on the language development needs of younger children. These articulation/vocabulary/phonemic awareness cards are designed Kimberly Marino M.A. CCC-SLP, and are truly worth a shout out. Ms. Marino has used her expertise as a speech language pathologist to choose early acquired high frequency words focusing on the early developing sounds of /m/, /h/, /p/, /w/, /b/, /n/ and then pairing those words with clear photographs. I particularly like the photographs, with the white background the photograph pops.
Any Speech Language Pathologist will look at these cards and see their immediate value as a therapy tool or something to give to parents for practice at home. I would have loved to have a set of these when I was working in EI or with more involved preschoolers. These cards may look simple but are tailored to the developmental needs of young children.
My First Sounds and Words cards can be purchased on Esty for $10. There are several printing options to created different sizes. There is also a My First Sounds and Words set 2 focusing on the next level of sound development T, D, K, and G.
Kimberly Marino M.A. CCC-SLP is also the author of Speech Mama Blog, Empowering parents with the tools they need to help their little one or big one become a better communicator. Follow her at thespeechmama.com
With the beginning of the school year it’s a good time to check your liability policy and make sure it is up to date. Yes, you are always technically covered through the school but you also can be sued personally. It’s worth it just to have one less thing to worry about. My current policy is through Trust Risk Management Services I was pleased with what the policy provided and pricing. They will give you a quote.
About a week ago I asked school SLPs this question on Facebook, “What is the biggest challenge you face working in schools?” I received over 60 responses. With 30 years under my belt, I was pretty sure what the responses would be but I wanted to hear from others.
Paperwork was the biggest challenge hands down. I know my paperwork requirements have increased significantly in 30 years. The advent of the computer just increased the amount of paperwork, but helped us to do it faster. That’s just a change in society that we can’t do anything about. Imagine how long it would take us to do all our paperwork tasks by hand these days. However, the time given to me to do paperwork within the school day has shrunk as my caseload numbers have grown. Reality is we have different paperwork needs than teachers. Many of the documents that we produce have legal ramifications and must be done correctly. We have a much better chance of our documents, notes and assessments ending up in court at some point. So you would think that schools would give us significant blocks of time to organize thoughts and string coherent sentences together. What we need to do is to make those differences known and advocate for more paperwork time. It’s a little hard when your contract is basically a teacher contract not a SLP contract. Even if you are able to get your principal or other school administrators on board understanding the need, based on a contract you are only eligible for as much paperwork/prep time that teachers get.
What can be done:
Point out that you are sacrificing other support services such as classroom consult and homework in lieu of getting paperwork done.
Limit the time you spend working on paperwork at home.
Showing up not totally prepared will be an awful feeling but sometime necessary to make the point.
Say, “No I can’t do that,” when given a new paperwork task.
Keep track of paperwork and present data
Caseload came in a close second. Caseloads are too big and too diverse. Schedules are too tight, groups are too big, groups are not matched well. We need to stop talking even to each other about caseload numbers. Caseload is just a number. What we need to do is to start emphasizing WORKLOAD. Workload will include paperwork and any other tasks that you do on a regular or as needed basis. I could treat 30 articulation students in my sleep. However, given a diverse caseload with a few severe needs thrown and you have a totally different ballgame. Longer reports, more meetings, more consultation time….more everything.
What can be done:
Again say ”No,” tell administration there is no way this workload can be completed within the specific time frame.(especially if you work part time)
Point out there isn’t enough time
Ask for more help
Point out that specialized instruction requires time and practice. Give them the realities of therapy. If you have a group of 3, working on 3 different areas, that’s only 10 minutes per student once or twice a week. That 10 minutes is only good if you haven’t been cut short by your pick up/drop off. Not enough to make effective progress.
Scheduling came in third. So much of the scheduling process is dependent on a decent and consistent school schedule. For 10 of my 30 years I worked at a middle school with a perfect schedule which scheduled in flexible blocks where students could receive extra support services. No other school I’ve worked in had those flexible blocks. There was only one other year where scheduling wasn’t a problem. Our program manager was very organized and had us schedule as a team one of the last days in June. She was also organized enough to have the majority of our meeting completed in early June. (yes it was an amazing year). We actually started servicing the student the second day of school in September. Although I have tried to replicate that scheduling process at other schools, I just can’t seem to get the team mentality working. State audits will ding you if there is too much time between the beginning of school and services starting on a regular basis.
What you can do:
Get the school schedule and any other information you need the minute you get in the building
If scheduling is too daunting, ask your principal to do it for you. Especially if your school has some sort of crazy waterfall schedule, an unusual day cycle or block scheduling. Make sure you use the word
Try to coordinate and schedule as a team. It streamlines the process and gets the schedule up and moving faster
Write in pencil, it’s always going to change
Expect this to be a difficult process.
Suggest a school schedule with flexible blocks
Point out anything that takes up significant time even pick up/drop off of kids.
Other areas mentioned:
Time: Not enough time to service, not enough time to consult, not enough time to educate staff not enough time to complete paperwork tasks.
IEP Season: Not sure what exactly that means but I have an idea it means all the IEPs are updated at the same time. If your IEPs are not scattered through out the year, I’ll be praying for you. I wonder if direct services cancelled during IEP Season?
No coordination to help carry over skills: This stems from lack of time, lack of understanding of our roles and lack of understanding of language disabilities.
Space: Face it we are always doomed to get the smallest, dingiest spaces, with the worse acoustics. However, what’s worse is an SLP sharing an office with 4 other people with make shift walls. Space alone speaks volumes on how we are perceived. Whenever I’m linked to a new school being built either in the town I work in or the town I live in I alway advocate for decent small spaces with good acoustics.
Medicaid: Medicaid billing is easy for some hard for others. Different states require different documentation. Some schools will have more students on medicaid than others. What I have heard of is putting time into the negotiated teachers contract to provide specific time to do this.
Lack of Parent support: It’s a fact few students actually practice their speech/language skills at home even when extensive home programs are set up. I’ve encouraged use of paper materials and apps with little to no feedback. Students actually tell me they didn’t practice. Frankly I have little time to encourage and follow up with this.
School administration not understanding who SLPs are, our diverse training and background, how we help, who we work with and our role as SLPs in schools: Too many time we are lumped in with teachers and our role is very different. My feeling is we should be working to show how we should be align with the school psychologist in terms of our overlapping interest in language/memory/neurology, our legal responsibilities, paperwork similarities and common goals we might address. That we are viewed in the same lens as teachers, I believe is the crux of the problem.
One SLP commented that even with educating several of her administrators over the years, there was never any significant changes. I believe this to be true and that is why most SLPs are just willing to go along with the status quo. It’s easy to say I have too much paperwork and to big of a caseload but problem/reasons goes much deeper than that? Why are workloads too big? Have you done anything successfully to address these issues in your school? Have you worked with other SLPs in your system or state to improve your situation? If so, share!
Footnote: I cover many of the issues mentioned in my book “The School Speech Language Pathologist An Administrator’s Guide to understanding the role of the SLP in schools along with strategies to aid staffing, workload management and student success.” I provide a breakdown of time factors, suggestions for administrators and even a little education for administrators. Hoping at some point I find out that my book made a difference somewhere.