5 Easy Tips for SLP Baseline Progress Measures

Data! I know some SLPs love taking and analyzing date, but I'm NOT one of them. I learned  to do it, and do it well, because it is a vital piece of the work we do.  I actually thought that I was good at analyzing data until I started trying to apply my skills to running a blog and TpT store. SURPRISE! I'm not a natural at data. Thank goodness, then, for the training I received in graduate school!

The Frenzied SLPs are tackling Baseline Performance and Measuring Progress this week to help your SLP life be a little less frenzied!

Figuring out ways to qualify/quantify student progress is important for measuring student progress and filling out session notes for medicaid, but I've found it is even more important for our clinical techniques. Anyone who has worked with students know that every child is unique. Students with "normal" cognitive and language skills are able to learn without specialized teaching methods since their brains are able to make connections between concepts and retain information. Our students with disorders need a bit more help along the way.

Over my many years of therapy, I've developed a large repertoire of strategies to use with my students, but it is only by taking baseline measures and frequent progress checks that I am able to tell if the strategies I am using are actually helping a particular student. If I find that it isn't, it is back to the drawing board to use another approach!

What do I actually do? It starts with thinking about each student I have and asking myself these questions:
Tips for Taking Baseline Data from Looks Like Language

What type of educational program is the student in? 
A student who is in an academic program has different long term needs than a student in a life skills program.

What behaviors is the student currently displaying that is hindering reaching full potential, no matter what type of educational program?
If you address the communication needs that underlie the student's behaviors, you are more likely to be supporting their ability to learn throughout the day.

How can all the current IEP goals and student needs be addressed in a holistic way that supports functional learning and carryover of skills?
Since my students have significant deficits in making connections between and retaining new knowledge, I need to constantly connect what I am teaching with the information learned earlier in the year and review skills.

What functional application of the goals can I expect my students to achieve during this school year, given all of the previously mentioned factors?
I give my best shot at coming up with an activity I hope each student will be able to accomplish at the end of the school year and take my baselines either from the end point I hope to achieve, or from steps that need to be reached along the way. The first time I do this with a student or a goal, I measure a step I hope will be achieved during the year. If the student accomplishes this step earlier, fantastic! Demonstrate the progress and take a new baseline measure! This is so much more positive than overestimating what a particular student may be able to do, frustrating the student and setting an unobtainable goal.


In practical terms, what does this look like at the beginning of a school year? It is definitely a stressful scramble in the beginning, but if you are able to stay with the same type of population over a few years, you start to see some patterns and can fine tune your measures.

1. Get a quick LANGUAGE SAMPLE (oral or written) related to the specific goals you will be addressing this year. I try to collect some fun activities that will accomplish this, but I do resort to worksheets that address each skill. I keep some page protectors with a copy of worksheets that combine the IEP goals, often ones at ends of units, so I can make photocopies easily at the beginning of the year.

2. Read a fun book and get an example of their STORY RETELL. For older students, ask them to tell you about their favorite movie, TV show or game. You will learn a lot about their language skills! Being able to tell a narrative is such an important skill. You might be surprised to find which students on your caseload have difficulty with this skill, including students with emotional/behavioral difficulties.

3. Think about board games that you own and what skills are involved in being able to play them. Have your students play the game and take data and qualitative information about what is keeping them from playing easily. This lets you see SOCIAL LANGUAGE SKILLS in action and gives an idea of what to measure more closely afterward.

4. For students who are able to generalize skills, I try to take my baseline performance data from a material that I won't be using regularly to teach the skills. It could be as simple as having a separate set of questions or task cards that I use only to assess performance. OPEN ENDED GAMES are wonderful for this, since you can take measures on a different skill for each student in the group. While this packet has its own task cards, my students have always liked this set of game boards since the characters look like the ones in games!

Open ended games make taking data fun!

5. If you have students who need much help to be able to generalize skills, such as those on the autism spectrum, I can't stress enough that you should put a lot of thought into the materials that you are using and make sure that the language relates to a FUNCTIONAL LIFE SKILL! Teacher input and observations of the student in the school environment are essential.

When one set of materials is mastered, move to another similar set teaching a slightly varied skill. My File Folder Sentence Activities for Autism are one way to do this. Click here to see a post on how to make your own! Your baseline data will just be what the student is able to do the first time you pull out a set of materials and regular data taking will show whether progress is being made.
Be sure to choose functional language for students with autism! Looks-Like-Language
Good luck taking data! Hoping it is a year full of progress!
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