Anyone ready for lemonade?
I thought after 28 years of working in the schools I’ve seen every trend there is in public education. However, I’m finding I am once again trying to adapt to changes in special education. Here in the Pacific Northwest, because there is a shortage of SLPs in the education setting, and for financial reasons, school districts are using SLPAs to fill the gap. Unfortunately, most of the SLPs have received little training on how to provide supervision or deal with the logistics of higher caseloads in multiple buildings. So I thought this post may be helpful for those who are trying to cover large caseloads. These are some of the things I’ve found helpful so far.
It has been 20 years since I’ve supervised a speech assistant (SLPA). At that time the SLPA shared a classroom with me and it was easy to do the monitoring. At that time the team concept was not established and collaboration with teachers and special education staff wasn’t as prevalent. Since then, the paperwork and case management duties have increased and overtaken the therapy aspect of the job. It has become more difficult to gain control of the workload versus the caseload since it isn’t as defined and people tend to reach for a number rather than relate to the behind the scenes responsibilities. We are seeing the same number of students on a caseload but the workload is vastly different. I am finding that I need to be more efficient to make this work.
On the plus side, technology has entered into the picture and become more therapy friendly. Previously we were lucky to have a computer to complete reports. The computers were not often portable. There was often not room for students to view a single computer screen. Most computers were not internet connected and needed the purchase of expensive applications for student use. They were not practicable for very many therapy activities. Now I Pads and computers connect to the internet and make a wealth of materials available for therapy and managing the workload.
The district I am working for with the help of a grant purchased IPads for all the SLPs. This is probably one of the best therapy tools I have ever received. I have been busy exploring the many possibilities for using it in therapy and cutting down on my workload. There are many apps made specifically for speech therapy and many others that can be adapted for use. The IPad can provide quick and motivating therapy activities and that cuts down on therapy preparation time.
Today I discovered another feature that brings a wealth of therapy materials to my fingertips. I’ve found I can bookmark sites such as Bogglesworld, Carol Bowen’s start page, and even this site. I can click on the articulation, and reading worksheet downloads which open up for ready viewing. I can see where Carol Bowen’s screening tool for articulation could be really useful in this format. These sites are all on the blog roll to the right side of this post if you are looking for them.
I have also searched for ways to help with the additional paperwork and monitoring required with the addition of the SLPA. The SLPA and I are finding that https://www.dropbox.com/ is helping us to stay connected. It is a site that stores data in a central location that can be made accessible to selected people who have internet access and given permissions. I uploaded our excel schedule and therapy data sheets (the goal sheets in therapy tools) to the drop box. The therapy plans are written directly on the schedule which expands to accommodate the extra writing. I find making plans is quicker because I can cut and paste an activity and then and make adjustments for the objectives of the group. The SLPA is writing the progress therapy notes directly on to the data sheet for each child. I can open up the notes later to find out how the last session went and actually continue the notes if I see the child next.
Scheduling meetings has become a major obstacle. The team members are not the same in each building. Everyone appears to be rotating schools on a separate schedule. It’s very easy to run into conflicts or have meetings scheduled on top of each other. We have reduced conflict by having a calendar that is on a server and available to multiple people. Our district mail server is able to to form a workspace. This allows a group to have access to a common calendar and folders where documents can be kept. The Keep and share site on the blog roll also has a calendar and file folder options associated with it. A group may be able to form a similar calendar group.
I am curious if people are finding other ways to conquer their workloads. Please share any ideas or comments you may have. Also if anyone is looking for employment as an SLP, I know a district near Portland that would love to hear from you. It may make our load here a little lighter since there is a position that hasn’t been filled.