This will be a place where therapists can share ideas, problem solve and express concerns. Lets work together to make our jobs easier!
One year ago this month I published my first 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 don’t have to explain to SLPs why I was compelled to write this book. It evolved first in my head, then as a powerpoint and then as a small book. Tired of feeling overwhelmed and disrespected, I pushed the completion of the book into high gear after winning a self publishing contract through my publisher Booklocker (which I highly recommend as a self publisher).
Publishing this book was a milestone in my life. To celebrate that and to thank my many followers, I want to give away 5 copies to active followers of my blog, The School Speech Therapist. To become an active follower, sign up through the feedburner link on the right. You will receive an email to activate your subscription. Winners will be chosen at random on April 30th 2016.
My book sales have been slow but steady. I’ve been pleased with the feedback I’ve received from other SLPs. I’m still working on getting it into the hands of those who need it such as school administrators. I’ll take any suggestions on how to do that. We all need to do a better job advocating for ourselves, our skills and our students. There is too much wrong with the way most of us service students in schools, primarily around workload. We have become blurred with teachers and most administrators don’t believe we have a lot to contribute. I’m rarely consulted on practices, policies or even student decisions beyond showing up to IEP meetings where they legally have to have us there. This book is just a start and I hope someone with more energy and better connections will expand the fight (yes unfortunately it is a fight at this point).
Thank you to everyone who follows The School Speech Therapist and my companion Facebook page. If you can’t wait to buy my book it is available through Amazon (see link below), Barnes and Nobel and through my publisher Booklocker.
This past week I participated in a chat on Facebook that focused on never leaving an empty space in your school schedule. I’ve know for years that when administrators see even a 15 minute block empty, they seem to think the SLP has a ton of time to spare. Not sure where this mind set comes from but I guarantee the school psychologist is not under the same scrutiny.
The fact that SLPs are having a discussion tells me there is something wrong with our situation. Either we are not respected as professionals or administrators really have no idea what we do. I’m going to go with the latter (because I can do something about that). I also know a lot of the squeezing we receive is because of budget. Administrators, especially those higher up the food chain are often not aware of our education, training and background. For some reason our profession has become aligned with teachers when we really should be aligned with the school psychologist. Many school systems are requiring our student goals to be in line with Common Core Standards when everything we we’ve ever been taught is based on child development. When and how did we let this happen? That’s an issue for another article but part of the underlying problem.
I don’t know about you but if I have a 15-30 minute block free I’m usually doing one or two of several things. I might be catching up on time because I’m running late with my sessions, I might have a report (or two), an IEP, medicaid paperwork or progress reports to work on. I might take that “extra time” to do an observation for RTI. I might do a make up session. I might find a teacher or other professional to consult with. I might test one of my students with a short attention span. I might take the time to prepare materials for my sessions. I might be responding to emails or contacting parents. I might even take the time to research or consult with another therapist on a puzzling case. You get where I’m going with this. First I really don’t believe our administrators know all the little things we do and that is our profession’s fault. Second, I don’t believe (some) administrators feel we can be independent without goofing off, that’s insulting. Third, I don’t believe administrators realize how much work we end up doing at home (teachers have the same problem).
When I complete my final schedule I always list all possible activities I might be doing during an empty block. One person in the Facebook chat mentioned that they put a question mark when scheduling their “lunch?” block because they never feel lunch is a guarantee. Reality is we have different paperwork responsibilities and need extra time in our schedules to at least get started on those activities. “Prep time” negotiated with or given to teachers does not fit our needs. We’re writing legal documents that have to hold up in court. It’s hard to write a coherent document in small blocks of time.
In the hopes of giving administrators a better idea of our role and all that we do, I wrote a book just for them. The School Speech Language Pathologist, An Administrators Guide to understanding the role of the SLP in schools along with strategies to aid staffing, workload management and student success. In this book I talk about all the little things we do, the time it takes to complete tasks, schedule solutions and so much more.
Several years back I wrote a somewhat related article called Proactive Scheduling. Using the process outlined in the article, the entire special education staff was scheduled in June for the following year. It was one of the my best professional experiences. Not only did it save massive amounts of time in September, we were able to start seeing students day one. My team facilitator initiated this scheduling process. Not only did it give her a clear picture of staffing needs she also understood our workloads. Since she took an interest in the process she never felt the need to question our time management.
Well even with all my articles on the importance of liability insurance and reminderst to my readers to renew their liability insurance……guess what I did? I forgot to renew my policy by Feb 1. For some reason I had the 15th in my head. No problem I was within the grace period so Trust Risk Management renewed my policy without question. Next time you take the time to check on your CEU status (which is something else I can’t seem to remember without writing it down) check on your liability insurance renewal date.
Every so often the topic of “Which bag is best” come up on an SLP Facebook page. No matter what setting you’re in SLP’s need bags. I doubt many of us could not function with out 2-3 or 10 good bags at our disposal. Having a bag that is functional and of course stylish is the main goal of any serious SLP.
I personally can’t leave the house without at least 4 bags hanging across my body and both arms. Each morning when I load up the term “Pack Mule” comes to mind.
- A big bag to shlep our daily materials from place to place. The younger the students the more physical materials we need, the bigger the bag.
- A bag to keep our files organized. We need 24/7 access to our paperwork since a good chunk is always done at home
A bag to bring our office wherever we go. These days our office is much more than just a day planner. Our computers and iPads and phones need to be protected. We carry all our cords and external chargers. Given the way we work we still need all those old school office supplies too.
- A lunch bag big enough to back two meals, a snack and thermos. No time to stop, no time to go anywhere, little time to heat up and school cafes are not usually an option.
- Our purse, we still need our stuff (Guys not so much…lucky them)
- One large empty bag to help shift materials around or to try and consolidate so you only need to make one trip into the building.
After that last Facebook discussion on bags I decided to share some of the styles suggested. My own personal choice leans toward the medium canvas LL Bean Bag with long handles. I keep one for each setting I work in. My computer and files fit in well with some room to spare. The medium bag is also big enough for some smaller kid materials. I’ll use a larger Bean Bag or my ADK Packworks bag (which doubles as my grocery bag) if I have larger materials or tests to shlep. I also have several smaller pouch type bags for cords, office supplies, personal items, and stickers. Below are some of the bags mentioned as preferred by SLPs.
31 Large Utility Bag-This bag was mentioned several times and comes in many fun patterns
Lands End School Uniform Large Bag-this is very similar to the LL Bean bags I like to use
Roxy Woman’s Story Teller Shoulder Bag
Scout Bags-many cute styles and colors
Hobby Lobby Rolling Craft Bag-Not sure which style the SLP reporting was referring to but the rolling craft bags or carts have usually have lots of smaller compartments for all the little things we use. I’ve noticed more and more teachers using the rolling carts. I’ve also seen them struggle up stairs, even though we’re in accessable buildings.
Vera Bradley Carried Away Tote-You’re either a Vera Bradley fan or you’re not. However, this bag looks roomy. I wonder how the seams hold up.
Kelty Zippered Bags-The Kelty products look very strong. I couldn’t find the exact product the SLP mentioned but it look like three bags that fit into one. Not sure it had handels or not. Let me keep looking
Longaberger Craft Keeper Basket-This is a really cute idea. I own one Longaberger basket and do like it as a decorative piece. To make this work you would have to be a very savvy shopper, finding one on ebay or similar site. I use old baskets all the time in my office. You would also have to be fairly organized and have a special place in your car or office for it.
One person suggested picking up the free bags from Super Duper. I guess they’re pretty good and only found at ASHA
INC bags-again not sure which one was suggested many nice styles.
ADK Packworks-this doubles as a grocery bag
LLBean Bags-available at LLBean
I don’t think we’re ever going to get away from carrying our “speech stuff” around. If we have to carry bags we might as well do it in style. Maybe one of our eentrapaurnal colleagues with a family member in the luggage business will design a matching set of bags just for SLP’s. Light weight, functional and stylish bags that could rival Coach or Louie Vuitton, but be within an SLPs budget. So what is your favorite therapy bag and why?
March 2nd is The National Education Association’s Read Across America Day. Read more about it on the NEA website . Does your school do anything special for the Event. My school usually does a little something to rah rah reading. While this is a very important event, don’t forget to encourage your students or your children to read all the time. Reading is a great way to develop language, vocabulary and background knowledge.
Lots of cute t-shirts out there to celebrate the day and of course the required Dr. Suess hat
Several years back the powers that be came up with RTI or Response to Intervention. Seriously what a semantically flawed title. RTI was interpreted and implemented differently in every school system based on the administration’s perspective. At first I disliked RTI, I felt it was a program that delayed needed services. RTI also suggested that accommodations could be a cure all for students who struggled.
Then for a while, I thought RTI was really working and it did for some kids. It was very dependent on the understanding/knowledge of the RTI team and willingness to put effort into the process. Teachers were beginning recognize weaknesses/issues and bring up names of at risk students sooner. However, looking back I think the names were brought up because teachers were more concerned that the student in question would not do well on state wide testing without accommodations. (It’s amazing how those students got fast tracked.)
There has to be some sort of a referral process but I’m still not convenience RTI is an effective model. RTI is set up to be a regular education service. Who makes up the RTI team will determine the quality of the accommodations presented. I’m just not convinced that those without a special education background can identify the possible weaknesses and make the proper suggestions for accommodations. Some school systems include a School Psychologist as part of their RTI team which is a big plus moving the process along in a more efficient manner, perhaps even skipping right into formalized evaluation.
Basically what comes out of Tier I and Tier II RTI levels are a lot of accommodations, many suggestions and a few observations. The teacher is instructed to put the generated accommodations in place to see if that works first. This makes perfect sense with some students but not all. With more involved students it’s 12 weeks or more wasted collecting data on accommodations. In many cases accommodations that a special educator, SLP or School Psychologist could tell you are not going to target the student’s specific underlying needs. Developmentally, 3 months is a very long time for a struggling student.
What is happening to the student during this long period of time without specialized instruction? Gaps in learning are going to emerge making it even harder for a student to catch up, school is going to get more difficult and confidence will flounder. Only those educators with a strong special education background are going to understand the underlying consequences.
Now look at IEPs, we actually have a section for accommodations in the document. Yes, most students will benefit from some accommodations. Some disabilities must have accommodations. However, since the advent of RTI and state wide testing the list of accommodations written into an IEP has grown significantly. Do accommodations without instruction, models and guidance really work? When it comes to accommodations, (written in RTI, 504s or IEPs) that is only one of many questions to be asked.
- Are we giving a false impression to parents and teachers that accommodations are going to cure the problem?
- Are students passing both classroom tests and state wide exams only because they are given every accommodation in the book?
- Do we provide so many accommodations without needed instructions that students have a false sense of their own capabilities and success?
- Are we teaching kids to expect the world to accommodate them in all situations? (Imagine the implications with college and work situations)
- Are we keeping kids from understanding their issues and disabilities, not holding them responsible for their behavior and learning?
- What is wrong with the system if we have to provide accommodations for so many students?
- Are individual accommodations needed because the need for universal supports and expectations has been ignored?
- Why would a special education national screening program be set up in a way that those suggesting accommodations do not have the educational background to understand learning disabilities and weaknesses?
- How can accommodations work when the underlying issues have not been formally identified or recognized by specially trained staff?
Every time I sit down to write accommodations for my speech and language students I focus on if the accommodation is needed, will it be effective, can it actually be implemented on a regular basis, will teachers/parents understand what an accommodation will achieve and will the accommodations keep the student from achieving higher expectations. I know one of the reasons I write so many accommodations, in an IEP, is to try to impress upon teachers (and those working with language disabled children) that language disabilities affect all aspects of learning. I also have the advantage of working on the underlying language needs and to help the student develop their own understanding and strategies for success.
Increased reliance on accommodations less specialized instruction is just a trend I have observed since the implementation of RTI and state mandated testing. Has your experience been the same?
The timing might not be right but it is time to make sure your ASHA dues is paid for the year. It is also a good time to check the status of your other licenses, update your CEU progress and check on your liability insurance renewal date.
If you want to work as a Speech Language Pathologist in the United States you have to have that ASHA certification there is no way around it. This year I decided to join one special group so my total bill was $285. I still find it very interesting that we have to be members in a private group with corporate sponsors but that’s an issue for another day. I had a very hard time signing that check this year knowing the Pearson is a corporate sponsor. I guess in the long run it is probably better than the government running our certification process.
This year I also had to renew my state license for $68 dollars. I still have a few years until my state teaching license needs to be renewed. My CEUs/PDPs for the state are well on track since they are giving me acknowledgement for writing my book (ASHA said no). I do need to look for a few interesting conferences over the next year.
Lastly, it is extremely important to carry your own liability insurance. Your place of business or school system will carry some liability insurance but you can always be personally sued. Granted that in 30 years I’ve not once had a concern about being sued but I always felt better knowing I was protected. Last year the Trust Risk Management Services became and advertiser on The School Speech Therapist. I did a comparison of rates and coverage and decided to switch. I recently received notification that my insurance renewal was coming up in February so I made a note to pay in January.
After checking, updating and paying I can start the first of the year with a plan for continuing education and not worry about anything else.
Today I am publishing a retread article I first wrote for examiner.com back in 2012. I thought about this article after presenting a paraprofessional training last week. The attendees asked if I could give them some specific examples of pragmatic difficulities in more typical students. While I was able to provide examples, my response wasn’t as organized as I would have liked. I think I will be sharing this article (or improving on the article) next time I present to paraprofessional or parents. As always suggestions and comments welcomed. Teresa
Reading and understanding social context is key to good pragmatic skills
When kids are taught “context” most classroom teachers are usually referring to the context of a story. Students, especially the ones who have non verbal learning disabilities, aspergers or even just lack social experience may not understand the “context” of social situations. Not understanding the context of a social situation may cause misunderstandings and this is where difficulties arise. Students may not understand when they are being teased or even bullied. They may not be able to distinguish bullying from playing around. They may not “get” the jokes. They may not understand sarcasm.
The students who for what ever reason miss or misinterpret social cues, social language or social context, are the kids who fall through the cracks. These students are usually bright enough to pass standardized tests. They’re usually doing well enough in the classroom to get by. Classroom teachers know something’s wrong but they just can’t put their finger on it.
Whenever teacher’s or parents suspect needs within the social skills area, it’s just as important to make a referral to the student support team. General supports may help a little but they will not significantly aid this type of disability.
So what’s going on? At that point it’s important to take a look at the child’s manner of performance and general interactions in both structured and unstructured situations. A skilled speech language pathologist or school psychologist will easily identify children who miss or misinterpret social cues on a regular basis. Those professionals will recommend further formal assessments if necessary. You many also begin to hear the term “pragmatics”, which is the all encompassing professional term for children who demonstrate needs in the social skill areas.
Administrators tend to say, “Just put them in class where they can practice their social skills.” That’s not the solution. Most people don’t understand children or even adults who have difficulty in the pragmatic realm. They can’t remediate social skills on their own. People with pragmatic difficulties may not even understand or realize what they are missing or misinterpreting. If remediation of pragmatic skills was that easy or automatic we wouldn’t have kids or adults with these issues. The reality is that these kids need some therapy, instruction or coaching, whatever you want to call it. Just like reading and math, awareness, learning and carryover of appropriate pragmatic skills is not going to happen without intervention.
Students need to learn about social context, how to analyze it and how to read it. You have to keep in mind that even with good instruction, pragmatic skills will probably always be an area of weakness the student. It’s important to give them the best tools possible. In most school systems either the School Psychologist, Speech Language Pathologist or better yet a combination of both will service the student with pragmatic needs. There are specific programs out there to address social skills or pragmatic development. However, it is just as important to learn and practice pragmatic skills in a naturalistic context.
Below are some beginning suggestions to help students raise their awareness around “reading situations” which aids understanding of social context. Many of these beginning skills are also referred to as learning to recognize and interpret nonverbal language.
- Look at the relationship of the person or persons involved. Is it a family member, a close friend, a stranger, a teacher or other respected adult. Go over several examples of how they might approach or react to different people.
- What is the tone of the interaction. Is it a happy situation, mad situation, sad situation. Go over several examples of this, be dramatic if necessary. Most children can tell what tone their parents are using so begin with that as an example.
- Are the people using sarcasm? How do you tell? Is someone joking around or are they serious. This takes a lot of practice. Even during role playing sometimes the kids aren’t sure if examples are serious or not. To see the confused look on their faces tell it all.
- Facials Expressions….It’s extremely important to know how to read those. You have to be aware and know what to look for. This come easy for most of us but for people who have difficulty with this pragmatic skill or have difficulty making eye contact it’s challenging. You miss a lot of nonverbal cues thus contributing to misinterpretations.
- Gestures…same as facial expressions you have to look for them and interpret them correctly to help understand intent.
- Mood….What is the mood of the situation. How can you tell? Did something just happen to make the person angry? In that case you will approach the situation differently. This again could invite a variety of emotions and all have to be figured out.
Most people develop pragmatic skills so naturally it’s rarely noticed. Even people who don’t have a specific diagnosis, associated with difficulties in the pragmatic realm, may misunderstand or misinterpret social situations. These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg when beginning work on improving awareness and understanding of social context and overall pragmatic language development. Children who experience pragmatic difficulty have to be walked through almost every misunderstood situation for meaning and intent until they can start to do it on their own. It is highly suggested that a professional with experience working with pragmatic skill development be consulted.
Explain, explain and explain some more. If you have a child who frequently misinterprets social situations talk to them about it all the time. Let teachers and other adults they encounter know about the struggles your child has. Talk about how to handle situations and how to react to situations. If you know the child is entering a situation that may be difficult for them to understand, be proactive and prepare them for the situation. Talk to them about what to expect and how to handle a situation. Remember, you are your child’s best teacher and advocate.
Read more of my articles on Examiner at http://www.examiner.com/speech-pathology-in-boston/teresa-sadowski
One of the most challenging things about promoting a niche book is how to get it into the hands of the people the book is meant for. I’m sure most of my book sales have been to SLPs who hopefully share it with their administrators or at least find it supportive.
A couple of weeks ago I received a message on Facebook from a consulting service, mentioning that they purchased a couple of my books. The purpose of their purchase was to give the books to school administrators. The information I provided in the book not only explained the role of the SLP in schools, it helped outline and justify time needed to properly service the schools they contract with. I was blown away and thrilled. I had not even thought of this as a use for my book The 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.
Where I live most schools provide their own staff to service Speech and Language students. Occupational therapy and physical therapy are more likely to be contracted out because they service fewer students. However, there are a few schools in my area that contract out to hospitals and agencies. I do believe this practice is seen more often in urban areas or areas where SLPs are hard to find.
Agencies who contract to schools, probably have to maintain a delicate balance with schools to develop and maintain contracts. School administrators in most situations probably base their needs on the time written into the IEPs or number of students. The problem with this is that an SLPs workload far exceeds the number of hours spent on direct service.
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, is organized to first explain the role of the SLP, what areas we service and who we might service. Then the book goes on to explain the workload tasks involved, time needed to complete workload tasks and variables that may increase both direct services and workload tasks.
If you are a speech and language consulting service looking for a guideline you can offer schools, this book might be right for you. Please take a look at reviews on Amazon or read excerpts on my publisher’s site, Booklocker.
With the beginning of the school year it is time to make sure you professional liability policy is up to date. This year I switched my policy to Trust Risk Management Services, who does continues as an active sponsor on this blog. TRMS provides Professional Liability Insurance for Speech Language Pathologists offering comprehensive policies tailored to your specific needs and reasonable rates. You can request an instant quote and learn more about professional liability insurance by going to the TRMS site or clicking the link located in the menu above.
I feel very strongly about the need for Speech Language Pathologists to carry personal professional liability insurance. While the schools and agencies I’ve worked for over the years obviously carry liability insurance, I understood that I couldn’t always depend on my employer for enough protection or cover me if I was sued personally. Carrying my own liability insurance also gave me the flexibility to work with private clients as the opportunities arose without worry. Professional Liability insurance for Speech Language Pathologists is affordable and easy to obtain.
Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc
AKA The School Speech Therapist