Balancing SLP Life as a School Based SLP {10 Success Tips}

 

The job of a speech-language pathologist truly varies based on her work setting and it is essential to know how to skillfully balance and complete tasks. For SLPs in the school setting, I have learned ways that make it easier to get the job done with excellence. After all, you need to have the energy, materials, and enthusiasm to provide your students with engaging speech language therapy sessions.

If school based SLPs only had to complete evaluations and instruct students during therapy sessions, SLP life would be MUCH easier. However, you may start to feel like a professional juggler once you throw in attending special education eligibility meetings,  IEP meetings, re-evaluation meetings, data collection, writing reports, medicaid billing, team meetings, etc.  I have discovered 10 helpful tips that will ensure that you are effectively balancing your SLP life as a school based SLP. No, I don’t have a magic wand to make your paperwork or computer work disappear. Sorry…so sorry. The good news is that I have 10 success tips that will help you manage the therapy, paperwork, and meeting aspects of your job.
THERAPY TIPS:
1) Gather seasonal/holiday themed materials on Thursdays and Fridays before the season changes or upcoming holiday. Keep them in an accessible place that is near your therapy table.
*Fiction/non-fiction books (with companions/related activities)
*Speech-language activities from Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT)
*Token boards (fall, winter, spring, summer, holidays)
*Game boards
*Sports games (football, basketball, soccer, baseball)
*Seasonal worksheets for mixed articulation/language goals
*iPad activities
2) Vary activities in monthly sessions to maintain engagement.
Students can sense when you are not interested or excited about   an activity. It’s okay to switch activities from one that you initially   planned on using that day. Remember to try your best to make sessions meaningful, educationally relevant, yet fun!
PAPERWORK TIPS:
3) Use progress monitoring forms for articulation, speech fluency, and language objectives.
* Store master copies in a binder near therapy table.
* Put forms in students’ group therapy folder so that you can easily
   use them on data collection days (e.g. I organize attendance
   sheets, data sheets, therapy printables in folders per group).
* Remember that you do NOT have to take therapy data in every
   session!
4) Schedule time to write IEPs and evaluation reports.
It will hold you accountable with getting paperwork done with less stress. If you didn’t get to complete what you planned, just scratch it out in your planner and re-assign it to another day’s task list.
5) Arrive to work early or stay late to complete documentation.
I think it’s important to set boundaries between SLP work life and personal life. I recommend that you avoid bringing home student files, IEP work, evaluation reports, or medicaid billing.
If you have children, you may try arranging for extended childcare
hours 2 days a week so that you can arrive early or stay late at work to complete documentation. You may be surprised how a slight adjustment will improve your efficiency.
EVALUATION & MEETING TIPS:
6) Schedule daily tasks in your planner.
Write down meeting dates and times. Note changes to usual schedule such as testing student vs. typical therapy session.
7) Schedule time for lunch (social meeting).
I think that it is important to give yourself at least 30 minutes that does not involve you eating at your desk while checking emails or doing other paperwork.
8) Schedule time to test students for upcoming speech/language screenings, comprehensive evaluations, and re-evaluations.
Contact SLP testers in your district if they are available to help lighten your testing load.
9) Learn to politely say no.
I know that you may want to help serve as a team member on special school projects, committees, and clubs. However, you most likely don’t have time to attend these extra meetings.  It’s perfectly ok to say no without feeling guilty.
Instead, you can attend after school events (e.g. concerts, literacy night) to support your students and build rapport with families when you can.
10) Request to be excused from some meetings.
With parental permission, you can be excused from IEP meetings. Since SLPs typically have high caseloads and often must cancel therapy sessions to attend meetings, it is appropriate to be excused from attending an IEP meeting. However, you should always use your professional judgement when asking to be excused. This will need to be documented in the IEP online documentation or meeting minutes. It is best to send home speech therapy updates and proposed goals & objectives in advance when possible.
Check out my TPT store for time-saving theme based activities and progress monitoring tools. These resources are engaging therapy materials and will simplify the data collection process with your students!
Thanks for reading the blog. These tips help me tremendously during the school year. I’m now in the final stretch of the school year, but first it’s time for SPRING BREAK!
Tamara Anderson

Why Do You Teach Categorization in Speech-Language Therapy ?

Many children with language disorders struggle with understanding the skill of categorization. Pediatric speech-language pathologists frequently write objectives for children to improve their ability to name items in categories, name categories when given items in the group, and identify what items do not belong in a category. SLPs select these objectives in therapy often because a child did not demonstrate mastery of this skill on an assessment. 

Do you really think about why this is such an important language concept for your client with communication disorder to master? As speech-language pathologists, we need to be able to readily explain to parents, special education teachers, and administrators, the reason we are targeting categorization in speech-language therapy as well as the skilled therapy techniques we use to improve this area.  

Children need to learn categorization because it is a critical language processing skill. Semantic or vocabulary processing is a large part of how children understand language and effectively retrieve words. After young children learn to label basic nouns and express their functions (e.g. verbs) during their daily routines, they naturally progress to learn word associations. Categorization is typically the next skill in this developmental hierarchy. 

Children need to learn categorization because when they do, it helps them effectively store new words and information in their brain. In doing so, they connect a new vocabulary word or concept to their schema or pattern of knowledge that they already know. For example, when a child learns the subcategory of desserts his or her brain makes an association because he or she already knows that is a type of food. When an older child learns about the water cycle, he or she can make meaning based on previous knowledge about weather, types of precipitation (rain, sleet, snow, etc.), and/or sequence of events. 

Preschool children and children in grades K-2 with language disorders need to learn various categorization tasks with Tier I vocabulary words. They need to practice divergent naming task or expressing items in categories such as food, clothes, transportation, and shapes. They need to practice convergent naming tasks that require them to say the category name when told examples of items in that category. Similarly, they need to be able to distinguish what item does not match the group during an elicited task. 

Children in grades 3-5 can further their development of categorization by practicing divergent and convergent naming tasks with Tier III academic vocabulary. Since many speech-language pathologists support teaching the language underpinnings of the common core state standards, they can teach their students how to categorize English/Language Arts vocabulary. For example, students can sort parts of speech vocabulary, types of nouns, types of literature terms, or figurative language vocabulary into groups. They can name Tier III words when given a category and state the category when given examples in this group. 

So, what materials do you use to take data, instruct children, and provide language practice opportunities for categorization objectives? I have several items in my TPT store to work on these goals. Some of these include:

1) Categories Data Check- 8 forms to quickly assess Tier I vocab
       * If you own my Vocabulary Progress Monitoring Tool, it will be updated with this  
          expanded category data check. Email me if you have questions at tamaraanderson.bsl@gmail.com
2) My Speech Language Category Book- sorting Tier III E/LA 
    vocab
3) E/LA Comprehensive Categorization Bundle- Tier I & III vocab
4) E/LA Vocabulary Memory Concentration Activity

So the next time someone asks you why you teach categorization in speech therapy? You can remind them that you also provide language therapy and then effectively explain your rationale. 

Thanks for reading my blog today! 

Until next time,

Tamara Anderson

January 2016 Sale-bration! 1/20th-1/21st

I have some great news to share! My Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) curriculum store will be on sale this Wednesday and Thursday! I am joining in on the fun for the Start Your Year Inspired TPT sale! You can save 28 % when you enter the sale code, START16, when you checkout. This is a great way to gain immediate access to some great speech-language therapy and English/Language Arts products. Don’t miss out on purchasing my specially created resources if you haven’t already!! Make sure that you follow my blog this week because it is also my 3 year Blogiversary and there will be other EXCITING announcements!!!!
It’s always great to have new activities to use in speech-language therapy and time-saving progress monitoring tools too! As busy SLPs or educators, it’s helpful when we have a variety of effective materials to improve the communication, language, and literacy skills of children! Thanks for reading my blog today. Until next time…
Visit my curriculum store here!
Tamara Anderson

Product Feature: Wh Questions Progress Monitoring Tool

In May of this year, I realized that I needed to create a WH Questions Progress Monitoring Tool because so many children on my caseload were working on improving their language processing skills in this area. I provide therapy services for many children who have receptive/expressive language disorder with co-occurring autism, specific learning disability, and/or intellectual disability and struggle immensely with this skill.

This tool has really enabled me to improve my ability to take data prior to beginning intervention with kids and after several speech-language therapy sessions.

Last month, I expanded this tool from 6 progress monitoring forms with 75 question probes to 12 progress monitoring forms with 165 question probes to evaluate children’s ability to answer who, what, where, when, and why questions about everyday events. This informal assessment is ideal for use in therapy sessions with kids identified with a communication disorder and for children in the Response to Intervention (RTI) process.

 

This WH Questions Progress Monitoring Tool includes:

1) 25 Who Questions- 10 questions for baseline data elicitation and post intervention progress check; 5 questions for 2 week interval checks (3 of these) *same for what, where, when, and why Q’s
2) 25 What Questions
3) 25 Where Questions
4) 25 When Questions
5) 25 Why Questions
6) 40 Mixed Wh Questions- 25 questions for baseline data elicitation and post intervention progress check; 5 questions for 2
week interval checks (3 of these)

It is recommended that this tool is used prior to beginning language therapy or RTI instruction with a child on a targeted comprehension skill. Then, the SLP or teacher should give the included 5 question data check every 2 weeks to monitor progress. Next, the SLP or teacher should repeat the longer wh questions data check after 8 weeks or more to assess a child’s comprehension and oral expression skills in the targeted areas. Last, I have included a data summary form to record all data for easy review.

This essential informal assessment product is available in my TPT store.  Here is what some buyers had to say about it:

“Great product! I am an SLP at an elementary school and we do a lot of “Wh” questions. This is going to be a great way to progress monitor!”

Incredibly helpful assessment tool! 🙂

Great resource to use in the RTI process!

Thanks for reading the blog today. Make sure you purchase this essential tool to enhance your ability to take data. Click here to access a complimentary digital download of my one page WH questions freebie.

Tamara Anderson

Stay current with all the latest best practices guidance in communication, language, and literacy. Join the community of those receiving complimentary materials!