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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Paperwork: The Necessary Evil

Published April 19, 2010 4:13 PM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling
Back on March 12th, I wrote a post where I began describing the roles and responsibilities of a preschool speech language pathologist. One of the challenges I mentioned was the dreaded but oh-so necessary PAPERWORK: the lovely little task that eats up most of my time and consistently hangs over my head like a vicious storm cloud!

Ok, so here is the set-up:

  • Annual IEPs and ERs—As you all know, IEPs (Individualized Education Plan) are due once a year. With a current caseload hovering around the 40+ mark, this works out to about 2-3 a month. For some of these children an ER (Evaluation Report) is also required, which also increases the paperwork demands.
  • Quarterly Progress Notes—These are written and sent home every four months (January, April, July, October) and are basically an IEP report card that lets parents know how their child is performing with regard to their speech and language goal(s). One of the challenges that exist with this system is that we receive children from two different parts of the county so the paperwork for each is different and be both confusing and cumbersome.
  • Data Sheets—This is a form that my employer created in order to help us with maintaining appropriate data on every child. We must use the form to maintain appropriate documentation of absences, therapy sessions that occurred, what goal(s) was addressed and how the child performed during that session. It is this data that drives all the other paperwork that is required. If we are ever audited, the data sheets are part of the documents that are reviewed.
  • Billing—As I stated above, we receive children through two different placement centers for our county so the paperwork for each is different and has unique forms and requirements for completion. This paperwork must be completed by the last day of EVERY month. Last month, I calculated that it took me roughly 20+ hours to complete. It can be quite grueling and must reflect the IEP and all the information that is written on the data sheets.

And finally...

  • Notes and Emails—We are expected to maintain an open and frequent line of communication with all the parents, so emails and/or therapy notes are encouraged  weekly to biweekly to keep families up to date on the latest therapy plans and their child's progress.

As the weeks progress, I am finding my groove and getting a handle on all the data that is required. I have become better organized which saves time and allows me to be more productive in the classroom. I also recently learned that much of the paperwork is about to change in June and a new system will be introduced..... hopefully it will alleviate some of the demand so that we can spend more treating children and less time writing about it!


I think you have all documented the reason our profession is a crumbling one!  Sad to see it happen.  It is caused by government intervention (mainly federal, which filters down to state and local).  I feel so discouraged when I see all you  young, talented, creative SLPs burning out, because you cannot actually do what you had trained to do (therapy).  Please speak out when you can, refuse unrealistic demands when you can, and remember this at the voting booth.... And by, the way, it is happening not just in speech pathology, but in medicine also...

Donna Ridley September 25, 2011 7:51 PM

SLP's are the greatest, most creative, and most flexible  time managers I know. We all have vast experience in being all things to all people. The problem is that school administrators are demanding more and more of us and providing less time. So to keep up and stay sane, you must either go in very early/ stay late each day and/or take work home. Anyone who never does so is either blessed to work in an ideal setting or is short-changing their students. With 16 years of experience, I became quite skilled in managing my time, including converting to computerized data/ attendance sheets and graphs. I realized one day that I was spending mire time talking and doucumenting my work with my students than I was actually seeing them directly. While they were still making progress, I knew they could do so much better. I wasn't allowed to provide them the service they needed and deserved. This is a recipe for burnout and I worry about the future of our profession.

Annie, SLP May 3, 2010 9:03 AM

It amazes me how paperwork differs from state to state. In Georgia, the DOE is now wanting SLP's  to do the Work Sampling System for all 3 and 4 year-old prek students. I am dreading this additional paperwork which will make us have to document progress throughout the year on other developmental areas. This documentation will include pictures and work samples that will be compiled into one portfolio. This task will not be as difficult for students enrolled in a Bright From the Start prek program, but I will be the sole person involved in documenting speech only children that do not attend a program. I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to implement all of it and provide the services that the child definitely needs! If anyone in GA has piloted this and has any great info, I'd love to hear it.

Holly April 27, 2010 10:45 AM

I've been so overwhelmed with assessments at one school district this year that I haven't seen kids much at all.  The paperwork is burning me out.  I've never seen a year like this one.  I've been asked to do double data collection so that one set remains in the classroom or place where I see kids (which is in multiple sites).  The 0-3 requirements are even more so.  My caseload is over 100 students right now between 2 districts.  Public schools are extremely difficult to handle right now.  They are beginning to farm services out to companies using Skype instead of direct services "live".  

Deana SLP, Education - SLP, Multiple School Dist April 26, 2010 1:56 PM
South Bend WA

The MOST tedious part of working with young children is the ever inceasing amount of data and paperwork to support the much needed services given by dedicated, certified SLPs.  I am constantly searching for ways to streamline the paperwork with less expense involved.  Spread sheets have been the answer for our company.  One form that includes all the information requested, creating as many workbooks as needed and no additional expense such as online services.  Willing to share with others and receive ideas for change.

Jane Burrell-Griffi, EI - SLP, Tar River Speech April 25, 2010 12:07 PM
Louisburg NC

Spending more and more time doing paperwork and meetings and less time providing direct service to kids is exactly why I left public schools for EI. I was tired of having to constantly prove that I was doing my job and seeing kids in groups that made slow progress. I love working 1:1 with families and their children. They make consistent, good progress and I have time to plan lessons and do my documentation. I've rediscovered the joy I use to feel doing speech therapy and I will never return to schools.

Annie, Slp April 25, 2010 12:20 AM

The K-12 paperwork is demanding and constant, but, IMO, all the docs required for the Birth- 60 mos. programs are even worse!

More pieces of paper for the IFSP than the IEP, 6 month reports, feedback to family and Head Start staff every time I see a child.

For SLP students, state-mandated use of the AEPS for each child evaluated, unless they are "CD only", which then requires "Ages & Stages", in addition to the SLP evaluation.


BTW, I, too, would like to see a useful, flexible data sheet that actually works. I prefer to have a computer-based document because I hate to write manually, and good-luck with reading my hand-writing (left-handed & arthritic.)

I created a "too simple" (per my supervisor, a non-SLP) Excel document that lets me quickly note if a child was absent, unavailable, etc., and how well they did that day (1,2,or 3).

I write in their name and number of the goal(s) we're working on, each date I work with students, etc.

However, that form doesn't allow me to put in a quick note about each session beyond the basics.

OTOH, last year we used individual sheets for each student, with only notes/narrative.

This served to track the SLPA's supervised time as well as daily notes, but there was no quick way to note who was absent, when they were absent (or not available), etc.

I want it all, and free, and on my pc.  :-)

Sandra, SLP - SLO, EI/ECSE & K-12 April 20, 2010 8:49 PM
NorthWest OR

I am on the other side of the state from you so we have very similar paperwork-PLUS have to write up The Form after every session to "communicate with the teacher and parent" in triplicate (one for teacher, parent and me) and leave it there that day.

I am starting to collect data on mailing labels and then I can paste it next to the goal I worked on that day.  In the end it saves the number of sheets of paper in a childs folder

Lisa April 20, 2010 8:18 PM

I'm trying to create a better data sheet/daily note form - if anyone has a form that works well or any suggestions to share

Julia, SLP April 20, 2010 2:18 PM

Welcome to the "politics" of schools. Budget your time and you will not be overwhelmed. This comes from experience. It is NOT as hard as you make it out to be.

Bob Roza, Speech - President, Integrative Speech April 20, 2010 12:48 PM
Westchester IL

Don't forget we have to assess preschool students before they enter Kindergarten! So we have "triennials" every 2 years, instead of 3 years! And in our district, we hold Kindergarten transition meetings with the incoming K teacher and therapist at the end of the school year. That's another 10-20 meetings at the end of the school year!

DUYEN, SLP - SLP, Elementary School April 20, 2010 10:29 AM

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About this Blog

    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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