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Speech in the Schools

Your Clinical Space has a Voice
January 26, 2015 12:17 PM by Teresa Roberts

There are occasional jokes about the types of rooms that are available for specialists who provide services to students in public school settings. Many school buildings are packed with classes, special activities, storage, and designated work/meeting areas.

Clinical spaces may vary in size from an entirely empty classroom, a classroom shared with three other specialists (and partitions), a small office, or a repurposed storage closet, to even a section of the hallway. It’s likely that you have impressive stories of the smallest, the loudest, or the most awkward clinic rooms you’ve ever seen.

Maybe these were once your room or the room of one of your colleague: a clinical space that was previously the boy’s locker room, or the corner of the stage in the auditorium. We spend a lot of time in our clinic rooms. Our students regularly spend time in our clinic rooms and we hope that we are offering them a safe haven to develop and increase their skills.

Many basic factors are often outside of our control: room size and shape, wall color, overhead lighting, acoustics, ventilation, etc. Even though it may feel like there are limits on the freedom of design, there are still many factors within our control: layout of furniture, organization of materials, items on the wall, etc.

Some clinicians change the lighting and ventilation by bringing in lamps and an air purifier. You may spend eight hours or more per day in one room. You have the ability to customize your space.

Your clinic space is talking to you everyday. Brooks Palmer, Author of “Clutter Busting”, reminds us that we have the ability to listen to the messages our clinic space has to share. He recommends the following (excerpted and adapted from his book): At the end of a busy workday, sit in the middle of your clinic room all alone. Ask the room a series of questions:

“How was your day today?

“How did you become a clinical space?

“What do you think helps the students learn?”

“What do the students love about you?”

“What are your secret dreams for yourself?

“What are your favorite clinical materials?”

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

“Off the record, what do you secretly hate?”

“What do you think the students would like you to change?”

Answer honestly, speaking from the voice of the room. What does the physical space want you to know? When we are able to analyze something familiar in a new, fresh, and objective manner, we may have insight into what we need to do.

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Teaching About the Articulators
January 19, 2015 7:49 AM by Teresa Roberts
Do your students know about their own mouths? Teaching children about the parts of their mouth and the placement of sounds increases proprioceptive skills and may improve volitional control over speech sound production. Once while walking two kindergarten children to the speech room, I stopped the pair, as one child was ‘walking' a bit exuberantly, nearly skipping down the hallway. I said to him, "Remember, we walk in the hallway. Look down at your feet and tell them that they need to walk." He looked up at me with an expression of disbelief and adamantly responded, "They're your feet. You can't tell them what to do. They just go." This exchange led to an interesting discussion about what we can and can't control.

We have the ability to teach children that they have the capacity to alter their own motor patterns, and we can show them how. Many clinicians introduce children to their own mouths, but if you don't do this yet, here are some tips. Start by teaching the landmarks of the mouth (include both the passive and active articulators) by having the children point, touch, and label their own:

  • Top lip
  • Bottom lip
  • Top teeth
  • Bottom teeth
  • Front teeth: the first teeth you see when you smile
  • Molars: the large square teeth in the back of your mouth
  • Alveolar ridge: the speed bumps on the top of your mouth behind your front teeth
  • Hard palate: lick the top of your mouth and feel the hard round bone on the roof of your mouth
  • Soft palate: lick your tongue back as far as it can go and see if you can reach the soft, squishy part at the very back of your mouth
  • Jaw: put two fingers right below your ears (at the bottom of your earlobes) and feel the bump when you open and close your mouth
  • Tongue tip: stick your tongue out and make it really pointy -- that's the tip

Give the children each a penlight (small flashlight) and a tiny cosmetic mirror so that they can see inside their own mouths. After they become familiar with the articulators for speech, practice comparing and contrasting front and back sounds that they are able to produce correctly, such as "t, t, t" and "k, k, k." Ask them to say the sound slowly and identify whether the sound was in the front or the back of their mouth (an alveolar or a velar sound). Have them make the sound slowly and freeze the position in their mouth. Ask them to describe what they felt for each sound. When we empower children to recognize that they are in control of how they form sounds, we may be fostering the skills they need to make positive changes.

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Is It Time to Donate Some Therapy Materials?
January 12, 2015 7:59 AM by Teresa Roberts
Professional organizers and wardrobe consultants tell us that we only wear 25% of the clothes we own. Apparently, the other 75% just takes up space in our closets. Perhaps this same ratio holds true for our therapy materials. You may order a book, game, activity, resource guide, etc., based on the title, a passing recommendation from a colleague, a discount or promotional special, or after reviewing a couple sample pages. You usually can't try it before you buy it. You may not know how well it works for your students and for you until you've used it a few times. As clinicians we may change work settings and have new caseloads periodically. At any given time, we may have a variety of materials that we no longer use.

In one of my first years of work, an SLP who was planning to retire gave me a box of her materials. She was slightly hesitant and said that she wasn't sure if I would want them. I was excited and gratefully accepted everything. Apparently these materials had been in her possession for a long time. I realized that they were no longer culturally relevant and that I probably wouldn't use them. I never told her because I didn't want her to feel bad. Don't let this happen to you. Look at what you are storing in your cabinets, on the shelves, in your closets, etc. There are probably items that have been stuffed to the back of the drawer, or are sitting in storage bins.

A common organizing trick is to evaluate whether you have used an item in the last twelve months. If you haven't used it in a year, it is less likely that you will use it again in the future. There is a new clinician who might use these materials right now. Somebody else needs the materials that you aren't using -- recent graduates, SLPs who have changed work settings, special education teachers, families, etc. Give other therapists the chance to explore their clinical style by augmenting the materials they have. Even your out-of-date items may spark their creativity.

Use a series of guiding questions to help you rehome some of your materials:

  • Have I used this item in the last 12 months?
  • Do I already have something else like it that I prefer?
  • Does the item align with the learning needs of the students?
  • Do the students like using this item?
  • Do I like using this item?
    • Is it easy to use?
    • Can it be adapted to different levels?
  • Does this item support the cultural and linguistic background of the students?
  • Is this item current and relevant to students?
  • Who else could use this item?

You can make sure that everything you are not using finds its way to where it needs to go. You can help other clinicians by sharing and gifting materials. You might even end up with a cleaner, more streamlined office, too!

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Teaching Gratitude: Perspective and Resilience
January 5, 2015 9:18 AM by Teresa Roberts
One of my talented colleagues uses a "Gratitude Wall" to teach students about recognizing the positive aspects of their lives. She was inspired by the Mind Up Curriculum, a structured social-emotional program, which emphasizes kindness and the development of empathy skills. My colleague works with children and families experiencing life stressors, ranging from lack of financial resources to significant domestic issues. She has an important holistic perspective about student needs, as do so many of us.

"Gratitude" is a complex concept -- an abstract noun that represents an intangible expression of a feeling or an emotional state. Teaching the concept of gratitude is a semantic task that allows students to explore levels of meaning and how one word can represent so many different ideas that are specific to each individual. Recognizing that we may all be grateful for unique elements within our own lives is part of appreciating the multiple viewpoints involved in perspective taking.

She designed the "Gratitude Wall" to be a quick daily activity at the completion of each therapy session, ensuring that the students leave the room with an optimistic outlook. To make the "Gratitude Wall," she used a blank wall space in the clinic room and a stack of Post-Its. Initially, she provided a general explanation of "gratitude," e.g., "something that you are thankful for -- something that you are glad is part of your life." Students wrote their responses on a Post-It note that they stuck on the wall. For younger students she wrote their verbal response or had them draw a picture.

In the beginning stages, students frequently interpreted the definition as preferences or favorites, and wrote things like videogames, foods, music, etc. While recognizing personal preferences is an important part of self-awareness, my colleague would push them further to think about things that are meaningful to them and things that make their lives good. She provided modeling and made suggestions. Whenever a student shared good news, she would ask, "Aren't you grateful about that?" which raised their consciousness and awareness of gratitude. Responses gradually changed to include family members (siblings, relatives), peers, situations (when X happens), and opportunities (when I get to X).

Finding positive elements of one's life and within any given situation may serve as a lifetime tool for resiliency, the ability to recover from challenging events. Recognizing and being grateful for the wonderful parts of the human experience may help us to maintain hope and strength amidst hardships. As speech-language pathologists, we teach the meaning of words, and our words reflect our thoughts. We teach students ways to organize ideas and express themselves. By teaching gratitude, we have the opportunity to instill an understanding of higher-level semantic content, varied perspective, and increase internal fortitude through attitude and outlook.

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Using Disney's "Frozen" in Speech Therapy
December 29, 2014 8:53 AM by Teresa Roberts
Have you ever thought that going to the movies could be part of your job? Think about the students on your caseload and the movies they are watching. Keeping current with blockbusters lets you add culturally relevant context to therapy. If you work with elementary children, you will likely watch family films and animated offerings. If you work with adolescents, you may need to do a little research to find the top teen films of the year. Adding contemporary culture to therapy helps make connections across topics and settings. Using current references may be an important part of generalization. You don't even have to see movies in the theater, because there is often a resurgence of attention when the DVD is released (and many children and families do not have the resources to see the film when it debuts anyway).

When you watch the movie, think about how different elements could be used in a therapeutic setting. Let's take Disney's "Frozen" as an example:

Articulation: Make note of the names of characters, places, events and actions. Use these words to create custom word lists:

  • Frozen /s, z/ words: Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, Hans, princess, sister, frozen, snow, snowman, freeze, ice/icy, trolls, castle, sleigh, horse, save, ice skates, and more.
  • Use the words to create tongue twisters: "Elsa and her sister ice skated."

Semantics: Use the setting to generate semantic webs (connect objects and concepts relating to the theme). Discuss the relationship between the different items and generate synonyms and antonyms.

  • Frozen themes: castles (king/queen/princess, doors/chambers/halls, kingdom/realm/village), winter (ice/snow/cold, hats/gloves/jackets, seasons/months/holidays).

Syntax: The events in the movie can serve as sentence starters with coordinating (and, but, or) and subordinating (because, before, after, etc.) conjunctions.

  • Elsa had magic abilities but (Anna) ...
  • It looked like the King and Queen were talking to mossy rocks, but (they were really) ...
  • Elsa wore gloves all the time because ...
  • Elsa ran away from her sister because ...
  • After Elsa ran away, (Anna) ...

Pragmatics: Characters in the movies have feelings and expressions. Still images of characters show how facial expressions indicate an emotional state. Identify the physical clues that show emotions, generate reasons (using the context of the story) for the character's feelings, and make hypotheses about what happens next or what could have happened.

  • You can use Google Images or Disney's Frozen Gallery.
  • Frozen addresses important social and relationship elements, such as duplicity (e.g., Hans lying/pretending to like Anna), and accidents (e.g., Elsa inadvertently harming Anna). Have students relate these situations to their own lives.

We can bring our perceptual, analytical and reflective abilities to create therapy activities using popular media. Movies for children and teens contain elements that can add fun to treatment sessions. We can help students express themselves with topics they love.

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"What Do You Do? Noble Work!"
December 22, 2014 8:36 AM by Teresa Roberts
Our work is noble. We are making improvements in the lives of our clients and their families. The communication and swallowing therapy that we provide has the capacity to change the course of a person's life, and it's time that we let people know about the great things that we do! It's common to be asked about your profession, from the friendly conversation-starter, "What do you do?" to the more deliberate information seeking, "So, what do you do for a living?"

Every time we are asked about our careers, we are given an opportunity to increase public awareness and understanding of our field. We are the professionals who represent a legacy of service to improve an individual's ability to communicate. We can pique interest, share stories, make connections and even provide referral and consultation advice simply by how we answer a stranger's query.

Let's try new ways of responding to this common question:

  • "I ensure that all children have the ability to develop friendships and interact with their peers. I work as a speech-language pathologist with children with autism spectrum disorder."
  • "I provide training to parents and caregivers to help them talk with their children. I work as a speech-language pathologist in early intervention."
  • "I help young adults prepare for their future jobs and living settings. I work as a speech-language pathologist in adult community transition."
  • "I assist adolescents with organizing their thoughts and ideas to be successful in school. I work as a speech-language pathologist in a middle school."
  • "I am proud to help every child have a voice and share their thoughts and ideas. I work as a speech-language pathologist in a school."
  • "I provide children with special needs with a meaningful way to communicate. I work as a speech-language pathologist in augmentative and alternative communication."
  • "I help children speak clearly and express themselves. I work as a speech-language pathologist in an elementary school."
  • "I support reading and literacy development for children with language and learning challenges. I work as a speech-language pathologist in an elementary school."
  • "I support adolescents with special needs to become part of their community. I work as a speech-language pathologist in a high school."

Think about your work and how it is different from everyone else's work. Your clinical setting is unique. Your skills and training are specialized and you provide important services. Every exchange is a teaching opportunity. Personal interactions within the community - our neighbors, our distant relatives, friends-of-friends, etc., all of these people need to know that we change lives. Let's start to tell them.

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Patient Handouts

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Apps Resource Center

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Salary Survey Results

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Emotional Intensity in Adolescence: Teaching Nuance
December 15, 2014 8:55 AM by Teresa Roberts
Semantic gradient is the fancy term for ranking concepts along degrees of intensity -- making nuanced measurements of meaning. We use gradients in everyday casual speech. When someone asks you how you're doing, you might use gradations of neutrality, e.g., "so-so," "okay," "not bad," "fine," "alright," or "pretty good." Reading Rockets, a wonderful early literacy website from public broadcasting, describes how to use semantic gradients with younger students, including specific directions and a video of children comparing size differences from miniscule to gigantic.

We can use semantic gradients to help adolescents understand their feelings and internal states of being. Adolescence is a time of heightened emotional responsiveness, as students are forming their identities, navigating peer relationships and group belonging, establishing separation from parents/caregivers, and are challenged with higher-level academic content. All of these changes transpire while they are undergoing incredible physical and neurological growth. Even in our modern world, from an evolutionary biology perspective, adolescents are innately programmed to perform socially to attract potential mates. The emotional highs and lows may be unique to this time period. We can teach them about varied levels of emotional responses by sorting and ranking adjectives for emotional terms.

  • Adjectives for mad: confused, bored, cranky, crabby, irritated, annoyed, perturbed, agitated, flustered, exasperated, mad, angry, furious, livid, etc.
  • Adjectives for sad: blue, listless, sad, unhappy, hurt, depressed, despondent, distraught, devastated, heartbroken, etc.
  • Adjectives for happy: interested, curious, hopeful, pleased, amused, delighted, happy, overjoyed, enthused, elated thrilled, excited, ecstatic, etc.

Students can work in small groups and rank the positive and negative responses along degrees of intensity. Recognizing shades that exist within any given emotional reaction increases students' self-awareness and descriptive vocabulary skills. There is not one correct way to complete a hierarchy, as emotions do not necessarily have discrete linear elements; however, it is important that students recognize extreme ends of the continuum. Once the adjectives are ranked, you are able to bridge to a variety of activities using the emotional terms:

  • Describe the physiological reactions related to the different emotions (heart racing, changes in breathing, body posture, etc.)
  • Describe (role play, photograph, video model, draw) the facial expressions associated with the emotions (always end the lesson with happy emotions -- we can feel the feelings we imitate)
  • Match adjectives to emoticons or icons
  • Use the emotional terms for daily check-ins or journaling
  • Choose emotional responses based on sample social situations (pictures and short narratives)
  • Self-reflect and generate examples of times that students have felt different emotions
  • Choose from a variety strategies to self-calm for the different emotional responses
  • Self-reflect about how quickly the students move along the continuum of emotions (does a student go from irritated to livid immediately?)
  • Match the adjectives to characters in sample social situations, literacy texts, videos, etc. (social perspective)
  • Expand the lists to include gradations of amusement, fear, surprise, etc.

Think back to your own adolescence and remember the intensity of feelings that we all felt at 16-years-old. We can use this melodrama as a learning tool!

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Creativity in Therapy
December 8, 2014 9:34 AM by Teresa Roberts
You are a creative thinker. You are using a heightened form of behavioral artistry every day in your job. For those of us who work in school settings, from preschoolers in Early Intervention through young adults in Adult Community Transition Programs, we understand creativity. Ensuring that therapeutic intervention is a positive experience for a toddler, a third-grader, and a less than enthusiastic adolescent isn't an easy task. We take all of the content knowledge of our field and transform it into interactive and engaging activities that address specially designed goals and objectives.

Artist and photographer Chuck Close achieved incredible levels of photorealism in portraying the human face with a restricted palette of colors, frequently using only black, white and gray. Limitations themselves can bring about greatness.  The act of providing speech and language therapy in a public school setting is a study in using a restricted palette. Restrictions are essential to target discrete achievable goals within a limited time frame; however, there are often even more restrictions based on shortages of resources and overly extended personnel. Restrictions need not be barriers -- they can prompt us to create our own forms of art. These words give you license to try new things in your practice. Think about the parameters that are under your control:

  • Movement: In what ways can you change physical positioning to modify the appearance of a task? Stand up, sit on the floor, walking in place, stretch, etc.
  • Speaking voice: How can you modulate your speaking voice to bring about excitement, anticipation, humor and surprise? Whisper, pause, change your rate, intonation, cadence, etc.
  • Materials: We can use materials found in the everyday natural environment, from the classroom, commercially available sources and more. Are your materials allowing you to try different activities? How can you adapt and modify them for new activities?
  • Activities: Rules are important, but so is experimentation. How can you give you and your students the freedom to complete an activity or play a game in a new way?
  • Pacing: We can control the pace of the session and we can modulate the pace depending on how we transition between activities and present information. Pacing affects engagement.

Speech-language pathologists are creative folks. In essence, our primary job is to guide another person to change a behavior (which will ensure access to the fundamental human right to communicate and/or the basic need to swallow). Changing patterns of habituated behavior is challenging on the neurological, physiological and psychological level. We scaffold the learning tasks to maximize success. We provide our clients with multiple opportunities to demonstrate, practice, and generalize new behaviors. We have the ability to analyze communicative acts and separate them into definable steps. Amidst all of these incredible feats of technical prowess, we develop positive and fun activities for individuals across ages and needs. We combine the concrete with the innovative. We are all artists. Reclaim the elements of intervention that belong to you and let your clinical imagination run loose.

How are you being creative with your students?

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A Bit of Insight
October 8, 2014 1:43 PM by Valerie Lill

Over the years, I've worked with numerous students with speech sound needs -- from simple non-developmental sound substitutions or distortions, to kids with numerous phonological process, to kids with severe speech intelligibility issues that didn't seem to follow any rhyme or reason. The majority of these students made good progress and were dismissed from speech while I was working with them.

However, there is still one issue that is nagging, even for kids who are dismissed -- carryover. Some kids just carryover on their own, with little to no reminders from me. Once they get their sounds, they "get" them. End of story. I find that most often in kids who have multiple articulation errors or those who are highly motivated to use correct speech. I often find these types of students to be in the minority. Most students who work on speech skills need help and practice to carryover skills taught in therapy. What is our role in carryover? When is enough enough? I'll address part of this in this blog and go into this issue more in future blogs.

I feel this has been an ongoing debate in my mind for years, and I can't be the only one who has stressed about this. How many times have you had a student who, once you offer an initial prompt or reminder of his/her targeted sound, immediately uses sounds correctly in the session, but the second he/she leaves your room, the child resorts back to their old speech patterns. Frustrating? Yes, for us as the SLPs. Yes, for our students also.

I never went to speech therapy as a child, so I haven't truly experienced what it was like to be a "speech student." There have been times I've wondered, "This child is so bright. Why can't she remember her speech sounds?" The reality is, it isn't easy and doesn't always become automatic as easily as we'd like. The realization of how hard this truly is occurred to me at my "speech therapy" -- a place where I'm learning new motor plans, and it isn't easy --- the gym.   

I've taken the class Body Pump on and off for the last 8 years (Google it if you haven't heard of it). The muscles are worked in the same order using different tracks of music every time. I've taken this class tons of times. It is still hard. I'm still clumsy. I still don't have my legs in the right position for lunges and squats. My elbows, arms and wrists aren't always doing what they're supposed to be doing, and I still have residual weakness in my left arm due to a fracture I sustained last November. I try, but it isn't easy. Even with an instructor giving directions and motivating me (like we SLPs do in our speech sessions), and a college intern walking around offering corrective feedback on body positioning, I still struggle. I find that when I take it regularly, it is much easier, less of a struggle, and I can go up in weight without groaning.

I now have a bit more understanding and insight to how my students working on articulation skills feel. Yes, it is our job to coach and motivate them, and their job to use what we've taught them; however, instead of being frustrated by lack of consistent carryover, we need to show understanding. It isn't easy. It can be a struggle. It sometimes is frustrating. It isn't automatic. It takes time and practice. If students practice regularly, it will become easier over time. 

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Apps Resource Center

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Working After Hours: For the Love of the Job?
September 24, 2014 7:00 AM by Valerie Lill
One thing school-based SLPs know, is that there is a lot of paperwork and "extras" that everyone takes for granted that we do as part of our job. These can range from writing Evaluation Reports and IEPs, medical access billing, to contacting parents on the phone or via email, consulting with teachers, planning therapy activities making communication boards, programming devices, writing social stories, doing research online about a particular therapy approach, device or app ... the list really never ends ... Sure, teacher contracts allow for planning time each week; however, with the responsibilities in our job being so great and the planning time being so little, the reality is, some, if not most of this work that needs to be done has to get done some other time than during our paid, contracted work day.

That's where the "big debate" amongst SLPs comes into play. How much of your own "free," unpaid time are you willing to give up for your job? (I know, it is a career, but for the sake of semantics, I'm writing job here, because I feel that my career is that of an SLP no matter where I work, but my job is my current place of employment). 

My two jobs that I held prior to working in school rarely, if ever, required me to work beyond my contracted hours. The only "afterhours" work I recall doing in my days covering a maternity leave in a pediatric outpatient rehab center was putting these red and white cards into a machine and punching them for billing. That took all of about 15 minutes at the end of the day. My second job was providing home- and center-based Early Intervention speech services. Never once do I ever remember having to do work at home. However, once I began working in schools, that all changed.

I can still remember the first time I brought work home once I started in the schools. I remember the names of the two kindergarten boys whose IEPs I worked on while sitting on my sofa one evening after school. They are now old enough to be in college! Since then, the amount of paperwork required by SLPs and the time spent outside the paid workday on such paperwork has dramatically increased. When I first started working in schools, I was single (though dating my now-husband) and living alone. I had time to spare. I didn't mind coming in 30-45 minutes early and staying sometimes up to an hour after my contracted day ended. For the love of the job, I did it. Oh how times have changed.

Once I got married and started thinking about having a baby, I realized how much the demands of being a school-based SLP interfered with my "me" time on evenings and weekends. I remember spending literally 8 hours every Sunday doing paperwork (thank goodness for football season - always provides something to have on in the background while doing school work!!).That is a full day of unpaid work. At that point, it wasn't for the love of the job any more, it was about survival. My caseload was in the 70s, and I serviced three different buildings. I was nearing my breaking point.

Life and priorities changed dramatically for me when my son was born. From that day forward I realized that he is more important, and always will be more important, than any student on my caseload. For the love of my son, the job and its commitments had to take a back seat. Sometimes doing the bare minimum is all I was able to offer at work. When I realized that the demands of work (hours and hours of unpaid paperwork at home) were interfering with my love of the job, I got out. I switched to another school district. Best decision ever.

Now I have one building with a caseload in the 40s, half of whom have moderate-severe impairments, and for the first few years (when my son was a toddler/preschooler) I rarely, if ever, brought schoolwork home. Do I do schoolwork at home? Yes. Do I spend 8 hours on a Sunday afternoon doing schoolwork? No. Never again. I find myself saying to my son now and then that I can't do something because I have "schoolwork to do," and I hate myself for that. The love of my son vs. the love of my job? A fight that the job should never win, though sometimes I let it. 

What about the readers out there? How do you keep your personal life and work commitments in balance? How much unpaid work are you willing to do before you realize something needs to change? Does the love of your job outweigh your priorities in your personal life?

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First Day for an SLP
August 27, 2014 7:45 AM by Valerie Lill

I'm writing this blog after sitting at two hours of baseball practice on the first day school. Although the calendar says summer, that means fall is here to me. So how does a school-based SLP spend the first day of school? I've been reading posts on online discussion groups about what SLPs do the first week(s) of school. Some SLPS start therapy day one. Most handle other job responsibilities for the first week or two.

Here's a list summarizing some of the things this SLP did on her first day of school:

  • Morning bus duty - trained a new teacher to my building how to do morning bus duty, got lots of hugs from former and current students, and greeted many other students (speech and non-speech)
  • Scheduling, scheduling, and more scheduling -This is how I spent the vast majority of my day. It is probably one of my least, if not the least, favorite tasks to do during the school year.Every year, I never think it will come together, and every year it always manages to! I try to get a schedule up and running as soon as possible, but definitely by next week if I can't get it all figured out by this Friday.The classroom teachers have their schedules pretty much worked out, but the learning support teachers do not. I also need to compete with specials, OT and PT for scheduling speech. Never a fun thing to do. Plus, I'm one of those SLPs who asks teachers for time preferences, though I know some who just make their students' schedules and don't consult with the teachers. That would probably make my life easier, but I just don't see myself ever doing that. Luckily, I had several teachers email me multiple time slots that work for their students, so hopefully I can get something figured out soon!
  • Meeting with the OT - the OT travels to three buildings, so we met to discuss the days she'd be at my building. We worked on her pull-out schedule (so it didn't conflict with times I had scheduled for students), scheduling co-treat sessions, and planning on when we'd have our once per cycle Life Skills team meeting. We also reviewed some student IEPs and discussed new students.
  • Kindergarten registration screenings - I went through the screenings from last year and created a pass, fail/follow-up, and did not receive the screenings list. I also prepared and sent home "informed consent" notes to the parents of all the students who either failed part of the screening or were never screened.
  • Printing, printing and more printing - I printed off enough student therapy logs to make it through the first month of school and hopefully a bit longer. I also printed off class rosters, notes to send home and information to display for parents at Back to School Night.
  • Emails, emails and more emails - Every time I looked at my email icon at the bottom of my screen there was a number on it, indicating the number of emails since I had last checked it. I received some good news from my emails - the teacher of one of my students with multiple articulation errors commented that she "didn't have any trouble understanding" the student (not the case last year) and guessed that he "must have made a lot of progress." I am looking forward to talking to this student and getting a speech sample!
  • Afternoon bus duty - This was my duty last year, so I helped "train" the teacher who has the duty this year. It was a great opportunity for me to see the majority of my speech students, one of whom excitedly asked, "Am I in your class again this year?" followed by, "When can I come to your room?"

Is this a comprehensive list of everything I did today? Not even close. Tomorrow I'll start to meet with some of my students to gather baseline data and do some observations/push-in for my new students.  Now that I'm back, in some ways, it feels like I never left!  How did you spend your first day of the new school year?

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Get your Year off to a Great Start
August 21, 2014 7:39 AM by Alexandra Streeter
I am such a school SLP nerd. I love going back to school and seeing all the fresh faces!  It's always so motivating to try to make each year a great one!

How can you get your year off to a good start as a school based SLP?

Here are some suggestions!

1) Get your scheduling done and start seeing kids ASAP! It can be very difficult to schedule everyone, but the sooner it's done the better. Teachers and parents don't like when SLPs and support staff take too long to get started.

2) Brush up on curriculum! Get a list of classroom themes for the first few months, and figure out the key concepts you're going to target

3) Revisit the school wide behavior expectations, and come up with some activities to target the vocabulary. Most PBiS schools have three behavior targets, such as Respectful, Kind and Caring. Create lessons and social stories that help our kids understand what those mean.

4) Touch bases with your teachers and provide information about the kids you share.

Being proactive at the beginning of the year can influence how the rest of the year goes! I hope you have a great one.

What are doing to ensure a smooth start?

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But I Have NO Artistic Talent!
August 13, 2014 8:00 AM by Valerie Lill

By "no" artistic talent I have zero, zip, none whatsoever. (Ironically one of my brothers is an amazing artist and graphic designer ... must be a recessive gene that passed me by). Normally when you are an SLP, a lack of any artistic skill is a non-issue. I'm pretty sure SLPs who are doing swallowing studies or are worried about billing the insurance companies in private practice give little or no thought to using artistic skills at work. School-based SLPs? We are not so lucky (well if you are artistic/visually creative, then maybe you enjoy using those skills). Although we aren't "teachers," we are still part of our school's community and have certain obligations as part of it - namely, decorating our rooms.

I remember my college roommate actually having a class on making bulletin boards as part of her early childhood/elementary education studies. I recall going to a room in the basement of the library to see her bulletin board that was a huge part of her final grade. This while I was taking "Science of Speech & Hearing" (my least favorite SLP class ever ). However, here I am over 15 years later, and I'm wishing I could've taken a bulletin board class! I can't cut a straight line, let alone decorate an entire bulletin board! Yet, it has been an expectation nearly every year I've been a school-based SLP. Fortunately ,now I only have one building (therefore only one room to decorate) and when my SmartBoard was installed in my room 2 years ago, my lone bulletin board was taken down to accommodate.  However I still have rows of cork stripping in the hall outside my room and inside my room, plenty of wall space and a chalkboard that I essentially use as a bulletin board (Does anyone even use a chalkboard for writing on any more?). So some decoration is necessary, meaning some creative and artistic skill is needed on my part.

When my current principal started at my building, she initiated the use of a building-wide theme. Rooms, hallways, assemblies, activities, etc., at school all revolve around the year's theme. For me (and my lack of room decorating skill), this is pure genius. It makes decorating my room easier since the theme gives me direction!  This year our school's theme is Dr. Seuss. We can do a general Dr. Seuss theme for our room or pick a book and decorate our room accordingly. I decided to go with If I Ran the Zoo since this has always been in my top three favorites of Dr. Seuss stories (along with The Sneetches and The Lorax - though I already knew of a teacher using this theme, so I didn't want to copy). I have done lots of online searching, bidding and purchasing to find items for my room that go with my theme. For a small monetary investment, I've gotten bulletin board pictures of animals (that I'm going to rename in a speechie way - something like "articupotamus"), a copy of the book, a laminated enlarged card with text and a picture from the book, a stuffed Bippolobungus and a few ideas floating around my head. Next week, I'll be going in to my room to laminate my decorations and decorate my room for the start of school (among a million other things I need to do). I'm hoping my room turns out in the way I'm imagining and that my students enjoy their visits to my zoo!

Do you enjoy decorating your room? What creative ideas have you used over the years? Does your building use a theme? Do you use that theme to help decorate your room?

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Using Facebook as a Resource for SLPs
August 6, 2014 7:57 AM by Alexandra Streeter

One nice thing about summer is having time to browse SLP offerings on Facebook. Lots of clever SLPs share information on Facebook, and I want to share some of MY favorites with you!

For SLPs, subscribing to ASHA: https://www.facebook.com/asha.org?fref=nf  is a must. There is lots of information and interesting and useful articles.

I LOVE this SLP group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2212002912/?fref=nf

There is always good discussion, with the sharing of good ideas!

Here is a thread providing support for SLPs new to the field: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2212002912/?fref=nf

There are always great tips and sometimes giveaways from Dynavox: https://www.facebook.com/dynavoxtech?fref=nf

Super Duper shares a free worksheet each day, with tips and information about their sales: https://www.facebook.com/SuperDuperPublications?fref=nf

These amazing SLPs links their Teachers Pay Teachers site to Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Natalie-Snyders-on-Teachers-Pay-Teachers/103784796477051?fref=nf and https://www.facebook.com/AllisonSpeechPeeps?fref=nf

A recent discovery gives information about free apps: https://www.facebook.com/techinspecialed/photos/a.373728459312644.94578.181038188581673/787676864584466/?type=1&theater

Finally, last but not least, don't forget to "like" the ADVANCE page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ADVANCEforSpeech

There are lots of resources, and contests for SLPs!

What are YOUR favorite SLP "likes" on Facebook?

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The BEST Part
July 30, 2014 8:51 AM by Valerie Lill

I'm a school-based SLP. If you're reading this blog, it is likely that you are also. Let me be honest here. There are a lot of things I love about my job, and other things that I don't love so much. However, by far, the best perk of being a school-based SLP is the summer "off." I'd be lying to you if I tried to pretend that I don't absolutely love being "off" in the summer. Here are just a few reasons why: Sleeping in a bit (though not much as I'd like to given that my husband's alarm blares bright and early at 7:00 a.m. every weekday!). Having time to go to the gym and work out multiple times a week (and being able to take morning classes instead of the dreaded afternoon and evening classes when I'm already exhausted). Getting together with my friends I rarely see during the school year - including those in education (all of whom are also off in the summer, as I discussed a bit in my last blog). Having time to clean my house (ok, maybe this is not a perk...). Being a stay-at-home mom to my son and all the fun that comes with it - taking him to swimming lessons, using our season passes to visit a local amusement/water park at least once a week, mini golf, fishing, bowling or going to the movies on a rainy day, playdates, going to the library, eating ice cream at one of the many local joints, family vacations, day trips ... the list is nearly endless. The bottom line is, having TIME is what I enjoy. I'm in the midst of loving every bit of my summer vacation (because once that calendar turns to August, I know it is the beginning of the end).

One of my biggest pet peeves is when non-education folks bash professionals who work in schools with declarations that we are overpaid and underworked because we have "three months off" every summer and get paid for it. I know all of you out there know (since you work in schools like me!) this statement simply isn't accurate. The last time I checked, mid-June through mid-August is only slightly more than 2 months off. We don't get "paid" for our summers off either. Depending on where you work, you likely either only get paid for 10 months of the school year or your salary is stretched throughout the year to get paid year-round (my district does this; however I opt to take the lump sum in June.)

To all the naysayers out there and those who constantly criticize and question those of us in public education ... Yes, I am "off" in the summer. Yes, I love being "off" in the summer. Yes, it is a great perk. Yes, I believe we deserve to be "off" in the summer. We work our tails off mid-August through mid-June, arriving to school early, staying late, and still bringing home our laptops so we can complete mandatory paperwork on our own time. If you add up all the hours I spend outside of my contracted day (8:15-4:15) doing schoolwork during the school year, it likely adds up to the number of work hours I'm "off" in the summer. Here is the real reason I think the public complains that no person working year-round would admit to: Yes, I understand that you are at least just a teeny bit (if not more) jealous of the life of leisure that I'm currently enjoying. I put "off" in quotes because I know that a lot of other school-based SLPs do a lot of work in the summer or even work another job in the summer. I'll be honest with all of you blog readers, I don't do a lot of school-related tasks/work in the summer. Thus far, I've watched a two-hour online training  while my son and some neighborhood kids were playing in the backyard, bought one new game - Magic Jinn, which I've blogged about before - on clearance for $2.98 at Target, voted on the proposed  teacher contract, exchanged my old school laptop for a new one at the high school, checked my email at least weekly and responded when needed, posted to a speech pathology discussion group on Facebook looking for ideas to decorate my room based on my school's Dr. Seuss theme this year, and wrote this blog every other week. That's it. Do I feel guilty about this? Not in the least. That's what summer break if for! Come August, I'll get back into "school mode" again, I promise!  I hope all of you are having a great summer "off!"

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Columns, blogs, webinars and more: the latest pediatric hearing and speech therapy resources at your fingertips.

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    Speech in the Schools
    Occupation: School-based speech-language pathologists
    Setting: Traditional and specialized K-12 classrooms
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