Showing posts with label SLP Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SLP Tips. Show all posts

9 Reasons to Consider Working in a School Setting

Where to work? A school setting, a hospital or a private practice? You are a lucky SLP if you have your choice of settings, but how to decide? Think about the reasons and goals you have for choosing this field.  I can weigh in on what I’ve learned from working in a school setting, although that was not my first choice.

I had always thought that I would work in a hospital setting since in the 80’s school SLPs were looked on as people who corrected lisps and /r/. After my clinical placement at Johns Hopkins Kennedy Krieger Institute, it was my dream to work there. But jobs weren’t available there and a school system wanted to hire me. Nothing like student loans and a need to eat to get you taking any job offered!

So, I started in the schools. Time for a disclaimer: An offer to write a blog post came to me from Therapy Travelers to receive money for writing about why to work in the school system. I usually don’t accept these offers, but the thought kept going through my mind- why did I stay in school systems all those years?

So, here are my reasons. 

Why work in a school setting? 9 reasons to consider it!

Why work in a school setting?


1. After working in 13 different schools, I can tell you that each school has its own culture.  If one building is not a good fit for you, that doesn’t mean that you won’t love working in a different one!

2. You get to work with a wide variety of problem areas and severity levels in a school system. It’s not just /l/, /s/and/r/ anymore!

3. It is a great way to solidify your skills at treating various speech/language disorders in children as a new clinician and possibly using pre-existing IEP paperwork.

4. You can learn a lot over the years by observing special educators and having a chance to talk over problem behaviors with the other members of your student’s related service team even if you are the only SLP in the school.

5. While people mistakenly think that working in a school is a 9 to 3 job, you often have the flexibility of putting in the extra hours for planning and paperwork from home, which is great if you have a family.

6. If you have children, it is very helpful to often have overlapping school day hours and vacations to help reduce the need for childcare.

7. Having a steady income and benefits from a school system is a plus, although changes in student population can affect your job even after working in a school for many years.

8. Working in a school broadens your horizons and increases your flexibility. You can make many decisions about your treatment plans, but a variety of factors are out of your control, so you learn to cope. You get exposed to a wider variety of cultures and socioeconomic levels than you would if you only work with private clients whose parents can afford therapy. It helps you learn what a diversified country we live in!


9. While working in 3 different school systems over the years was often hectic, it was never boring!


And if you try it and don’t like it, you can always change your mind later and step out into the world of private therapy, keeping your income steady as you build a client base. For me, working in school systems provided a much more interesting career than I ever imagined as a newly graduated therapist. 

What is your reason for working in the school setting?

3 Tips for Taking Care of Paperwork so Creative Fun Can Start!


Is the paperwork on your desk piling up higher and higher as you are trying to get the actual creative fun of therapy started? The joke goes, More paperwork, please!” said no SLP - EVER!”

Despite some differences, there is a flow to therapy routines over the course of a school year that can help you prioritize how to spend your time each month and get that dratted paperwork done to get you to the creative flow of therapy.

For example, have you ever received a student from another school system with IEP goals that make you wonder? Why does he have this goal? How is working on this going to help him this year? Is this really what he needs in his current classroom placement? My middle schooler, "C," made me wonder these things, yet I had all of the monthly business to take care of, too.


Tips for What To DO



Click on any of the topics if you’d like to read more information on it. You will be taken to another blog post specifically for that topic.

Business for the First Month


Every year, the first month is busy with organizing your materials and therapy space. If you’d like some tips (and horror stories) just click on the topics. Some school systems move SLPs around depending on caseload numbers, but almost every school has you packing up for cleaning over the summer. So each year, you get a chance to revamp your therapy space and get organized.

In some schools, therapists have the same caseloads each year, with changes occurring when new students start at the school and others move on. Other schools, with multiple therapists, give out new caseloads every year. Either way, there are lots of IEP reviews and material purchases (or creation) going on to meet new IEP goals and student needs.

Keeping that paperwork under control
Lots of paperwork! Updating student information, setting up log notes and data sheets, and of course, the dreaded scheduling!

Don’t forget, you also need to set up your room behavioral expectations and make sure that the students you have grouped together fit in some way.

Because of all this paperwork, and having new students and/or new IEP goals, having open-ended activities around can be very useful at this time of year. Other lifesavers include books, crafts, comic strips, wordless videos, and computer activities.


Business for the Second Month


By now you have probably gone through multiple scheduling changes. If you don’t use post-its for scheduling yet, you should definitely give it a try. SLPs usually need to make schedule changes all year long for a variety of reasons: classroom schedule changes, students coming and going, and IEP related service changes being a few.

Many schools have a back to school night sometime during the fall that SLPS are expected to attend. It is a good idea to think about these general topics ahead of time in case you get asked questions.

•  Do you give homework and how would you like parents to help?
•  Do you have a session make up policy in your school system?
•  How do you stay in touch with parents regarding student progress?
•  What are your room rules and incentives?
•  Have a general discussion of what speech/language therapy involves ready to educate parents. You may be surprised how many really don’t know why their children are coming to you. Excellent free handouts can be found on TpT.
•  Have a statement ready to let parents know that this is not an individual conference, but that you will be happy to talk to them another time regarding their child’s specific needs.
•  Parents always love to see work their students have done. Make a bulletin board in your room for this!


Informal Assessments

Now that you hopefully have some of the basics going steadily along during the school day, the second month is a good time to do some informal assessments to get a better idea of your students’ strengths and weaknesses, both in their IEP areas and general speech/language skills.

Options can include:

•  Language samples
•  Pre/post tests
•  Recordings of speech production
•  Using computer activities for skill assessments
•  Making videos where they explain something they have completed, retell a story or give a narrative about an event.

My verbal students loved recording themselves and knew more about using Quick Time than I did. If you haven’t used it yet, here are some links to get you started.



http://osxdaily.com/2016/12/04/record-video-mac/

CREATIVITY- the Magic


Planning month by month at the start of a school year
You know all of those additional assignments that SLPs tend to get? It is true, they take us away from that endless pile of paperwork we have to complete, but they also provide an opportunity we might as well take advantage of since we are stuck.

To me, the creative magic of therapy comes with a flow you get when students are really involved, interacting with each other, and getting a chance to improve skills that they really need. Not just what the IEP goal says.

"What?" You might be asking yourself this. Speech/language test results and IEP goals are based on concrete, measurable skills, but life isn't concrete and measurable.

Take "C," a sweet middle school boy who was floundering in a regular education class despite having a good auditory memory, great syntax and sentence structure, and comprehension of facts. He came to my caseload with a goal for following directions, but he could follow 4+ steps and most concepts. I felt the magic begin to happen when I started to figure out what he really needed.

"How?" you might ask.  

Observe. While you are walking to the photocopier, doing bus or lunch duty, or popping into the classroom, observe your students in their natural interactions of the school day.

Listen to what your fellow educators have to say about this student, especially the classroom teacher. They don't look at the student's problems from the same perspective as we have, obviously, but teachers spend a lot of time with your student in a group setting and are your best resource for real life observations. Respect your teachers for the skills they have in managing groups and understanding the larger picture of how your student functions in that group, all while teaching a curriculum and managing their own paperwork. Your therapy will be much more on target!

Act. When you co-ordinate the observations of your fellow educators regarding your student's needs, the observations you have made of how the student functions in the school environment, and your knowledge of communication needs, you can apply all of this information to how you address the IEP goals and the creative flow begins! You may not ever place a number value on it, or write it on a session note, but when you integrate the social, behavioral and communicative needs of your student into your therapy sessions, you will make noticeable changes that impact your student's whole school day.

And my student, "C"? After doing this, I realized that his real problem was being too literal! He didn't follow classroom directions well if they were ambiguous or could be interpreted too literally. So, we worked on following directions by figuring out different meanings of words and sentences, then reasoning out which one the teacher actually meant. Success!


So, don’t let the endless paperwork get you down! Once you have the basics outlined here under control, you can use your knowledge of your students’ needs to start getting creative in therapy! 

Enjoy!

Playing to Have Fun Learning Halloween Social Routines

What better way to have fun learning social routines for Halloween than with a little trick or treat playPlay is the best way to do therapy, especially with little ones! Kids pay attention better and learn more easily when they are having fun. 

Why Practice the Halloween Routine? 

Have fun in speech learning the language for Halloween!
Halloween has become a big holiday in the US and can be a bit scary for young children or autistic kids. It is worthwhile to use your therapy time practicing Halloween routines to help familiarize them with not only the day itself, but all of the decorations they will see in stores and houses.



👻 Kids who don’t have the language needed will have a harder time participating with their peers.

👻 Learning the routine and playing with (a little bit scary) Halloween figures can reduce fear for kids who get frightened by Halloween.

👻 There are so many repetitive phrases and short sentences that you can use to build language skills: Knock on the door. Open the door. Trick or treat. Thank you. Put it on. Take it off. Share with me!  Put it in. Take it out.

👻 Kids with motor speech problems benefit from the sing-song repetition of “Trick or Treat.”  They can practice the vowel change combination even if they can’t get the whole word.

👻 For articulation errors, there are so many costumes and candies, you are sure to find something that will get them practicing their target sound. Some ideas for the common L, R, S errors that could come up in conversations at Halloween are:
I’ll wear a ____ costume.                                I like that candy.
I see a ____.                                                    I’d really like to get ______.
Trick or Treat!                                                 See what I got!
I’d like to get more ___.                                  So where should we go next?

Practice the social routines of Halloween to familiarize your students.
How to Practice the Halloween Routine?

Books and play, of course! Combined is even better Keeping the language simple, in a repetitive routine, lets kids get lots of practice.

Shoebox play
Shoeboxes are so useful for making therapy materials! Glue on some construction paper, draw a door and some pumpkins, or just decorate it with some Halloween stickers. Then, punch a hole to tie some string into so you can open and close the door easily. Look what a fun Halloween activity you have!

Play using shoebox props imitates the real routine and can easily support symbol use/exchange as well as verbal language, eliciting the repetitive phrases listed above. Start by having a new friend inside the box every day. Getting excited about what new toy was inside can help preschoolers with transition problems do it easily. An added bonus for starting your sessions with play!

Introduce the name of the costume, and do the trick or treat routine before moving on to the ‘work’ you need to accomplish that session. After a book and some activities that reinforce the skills being worked on,  the kids can have a little free play with the toys at the end of the session. Toys where the costumes come on and off are certainly worth keeping your eyes peeled for when you are at garage sales!

Familiarizing young or autistic kids with trick or treating makes it less scary.

Toys
Be on the lookout for toy sets that let kids easily dress play figures. You may recognize the Halloween set in the photo from your childhood days. It is a great example of easily putting on and taking off Halloween costumes.

If you can’t find these at a garage sale, don’t worry!  Kids like to pretend, so you can use any toy kids to play. Just cut out pictures of Halloween costumes in the approximate size and put them on the figures with poster putty. It shouldn’t do any damage as long as you take it off before storing.
Of course, don’t use poster putty with kids who still put objects in their mouths!
Playing trick or treat on the iPad is great for teletherapy!

iPad Play
Limiting screen time is recommended for children, so make your iPad time a valuable learning experience! While particularly useful for teletherapy since you can still practice the trick or treat routine, it won’t be 3D!  If you are working with a child in person, be sure to combine hands-on activities along with iPad use, especially if your student has autism.

Using a paper duplicate of the onscreen activity can be a good way to help autistic children start to interact in real life. Since they are already familiar with the activity, the new skill is playing it with a person. 

Just take screenshots or photos of the activity steps that require interaction.  Have students point or communicate the information for the number of responses they are capable of, and build up until they can do the entire activity in an interaction with you before gaining access to the iPad version.
Try it, and let me know how it works out! Just comment on the pin.

What is your favorite Halloween activity for speech sessions?

Why Books are the Best Tool for Speech Therapy


Books are the best speech therapy tool! They provide a great way to work on a variety of goals and the central activity ties mixed groups together. And you know that our kids need more exposure to books!

In preschool, simple repetitive books are great. Children love that they can ‘read’ by repeating the refrain, and truly, it is a way to teach children to begin to read.

Adapted, interactive books keep kids engaged.


Why use repetitive books?


👀 To reinforce the speech or language skill you just worked on in a very functional activity.

👀 To help students with apraxia or motoric speech disorders to build their skills in connected speech with a rhythm.

👀 To get lots of sound repetitions with a repetitive refrain that incorporates their target sounds.

👀 To easily make interactive adapted books.

👀 To have simple language that usually matches the illustration on the page.

What a wonderful gift we are giving to students if we help them learn to love books!

If your students have problems attending to market picture books, it could be from difficulty attending that long or that the language and the pictures don’t sync well enough for students to gain meaning.

Interactive adapted books can be made as short or as long as your students’ attention spans allow! The language used is reflected in the pictures and the interactive nature keeps kids involved during reading.


This free set can help you learn to use interactive, adapted books with your students when you join my Literacy Group.


But what about older kids?


It can be difficult to find good books for older, lower-level students.  Look for books that:
👀 have pictures.
👀 are not too babyish.
👀 use inferring skills.
👀 have multiple characters and plot lines.
👀 have character interactions that let you work on problem-solving and social skills.

A tough set of requirements to fill! The high level/low-interest books tend to have limited vocabulary and very simple plot lines, which work well for reading out loud but aren’t the language rich books that SLPs need.

Why literacy in speech? Therapy tips from young to old.

Some of the books by Chris Van Allsburg fit this bill if your students are impossibly lost with grade-level texts.

“The Stranger”  is a great book for making inferences with beautiful illustrations. The plot of the story is just difficult enough to use for skill-building, while the illustrations keep it from looking babyish.

👀 Students with auditory memory problems need to practice the strategy of looking back at the text to find the important details and answer factual questions. 

👀 Making inferences is a skill practiced over and over again in both the pictures and text of the book in order for students to understand the plot.

👀 There’s even a great YouTube video to use as a follow-up activity. It is well-acted and lets students practice interpreting facial expressions and body language.

👀 Elicit language for comparing and contrasting the video version with the book.


The Widow’s Broom is another great book to read if your students have social language difficulties.

👀 Students who are working on narrative skills can practice retelling the beginning of the book from two different character’s points of view.

👀 For conversation or past tense goals, have them retell the story as if they were telling a friend about what happened.

👀 It is also great for working on theory of mind. Will your students realize that the widow has no idea about the witch’s activities that night since she was sound asleep?

👀 Practice perspective-taking by discussing the varied point of view characters have about the broom. Is it wonderful or evil?

Using books like these with your students can also be a learning experience as a therapist. When middle school students have problems with the inferences and perspective-taking skills needed for these books, it becomes easy to understand why they are so frustrated with the books the curriculum requires.

What books do you like to use in therapy during the fall?

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