It’s hard to believe, but summer is almost over. In the next few weeks school-based SLPs will head back into their offices and start gearing up for the school year. At SL3, we’ve found that being prepared at the beginning of the year is the best way to keep our various roles under control. Here are some tips for getting started:
Creating a Schedule
Start with a draft before going to teachers. It will change many times over the first few weeks of school, so remember, its only a draft. We’ve found two great ways to do this:
Option 1: Posterboard & Post-it Notes
Jen divides up a poster board into a M-F schedule and blocks unmovable times for meetings. She then creates post-it notes for each student. She color codes by need area (e.g. pink = articulation, green = language, blue = both) and writes each student’s name on a post it for every 30 minute session (e.g. if a Julie is seen twice a week and has goals in articulation and language, Julie has 2 blue post its with her name on it). As she schedules, she carries around this large board to all the teachers, moving post its (students) to accommodate teachers. The added benefit of this visual system is that teachers see how difficult it is to create an SLP schedule, which often makes them more flexible.
Option 2: Shared Google Doc
Naomi creates her draft schedule in a google sheets, again blocking unmovable times for meetings. Naomi color codes by classroom and service type (e.g. blue = push-in, orange = pull-out, purple = RTI). She inputs all students, and shares the document with the teachers that have her students. She allows teachers “comments only” access, so that they cannot make changes, but can mark problem areas.
After your draft is finished, start talking to teachers. In our experience we've found the following order to be most efficient:
- Check times with the OT, social worker, and special education teacher: If you plan to co-treat or co-teach (and you should!) make sure the times you have proposed work for both staff members.
- Start with the most severe students first: these students will most likely have the most conflicts.
- Fill in the rest of your schedule: making sure to leave time open for planning, consult, and lunch.
Co-treating & Co-teaching
Take extra time to plan for groups that you will co-treat or co-teach with an OT, social worker, or special education teacher. It is a good idea to block common plan time in your schedule, so that you can have ongoing consultation. We also recommend having a general plan in place for what this group structure will be, and plans for the first month. For example, an SLP and social worker might structure a conversation group around the "Six Second Story" from Mindwings Productions.
Google docs is the easiest way to do this, because they are editable and accessible from any computer, and can be shared with administrators as needed. Next to each student’s name, it helps to have a column for notes and updates. We also recommend highlighting those students that have an evaluation coming up this school year, so that we can plan appropriately for testing time.
Getting out IEPs
Classroom teachers need to have access to their students’ IEPs. For speech-only students, the SLP is usually the case manager and is responsible for distributing this information. Most online IEP systems have “IEP summaries” that are printable. These are great because they do most of the work for you. If your system does not have an IEP summary, write up your own overview including essential information: present levels, goals, accommodations, and minutes per week. You can then send an individual e-mail to the classroom teacher with the IEP overview, making sure you state:
- that the teacher has access to the full IEP in your office at any time.
- that the IEP is confidential information and must be stored in a place that is not accessible by others.
Data collection can be time consuming and uninformative if not done right. At SL3 we recommend getting data sheets ready before beginning sessions.
Option 1: Hand Written Data
Naomi likes to use google docs to keep her data organized. For efficiency during sessions, she puts 4 students on a single page, clustering those students that she sees together. She also allows for 4 weeks of data to be collected on each page, so that the data can be easily accessed when writing goal updates. Each goal is listed as a phrase that reminds her of the complete goal. A sample is below:
Option 2: Data App
Jen prefers to collect data on her iPad using Super Duper's Data Tracker. Data Tracker allows SLPs to enter their own goals into the app. Then, the SLP can use the red, yellow, and green buttons to show levels of prompting. Notes about each student can also be entered. The app also allows students to be added to groups, enabling the SLP to scroll between various students during the same group. Another benefit is that the data tracker app can graph progress by pushing one button on the screen. Data and graphs can also be emailed easily.
One key thing to keep in mind: update your data sheets after any change to the IEP, otherwise you might end up collecting data on the wrong goal!
We hope these tips will help school SLPs start the year more organized. If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org