Thursday, August 29, 2013

Calendar Stress

Somebody please tell me September is almost over.  It's going to be a looong month, y'all.  Out of 19 school days, I have 16 meetings.  That means being at school early for IEP Meetings.  By early I mean 7:15.  That means leaving my house at 6:30 to allow myself enough time to get to school, gather my things (and thoughts), get materials ready for my 8:00 group, and head to the conference room.  My calendar looks like this:
(Click on the pictures for a better view)
I use brown to remind me to send invitations to the meetings and other "to do" tasks, yellow for the meetings already scheduled (with the principal and teacher being notified), and blue is for tentative meetings.  At the beginning of the year, I look at all of the IEP due dates, put those in red, look at the month before and tentatively put them in.  Then, I'll look 2 weeks before that, and put in the reminder to send the invitations.  See the little arrow in the bottom right corner of the 20th?  That means that there's more that wouldn't fit on the screen.
I prefer my months to look like this:
Did you notice the month?  I had to go all the way to February to get to it.  It's going to be a long few months.  Luckily we have these little breaks called "Fall Break", "Christmas Break", and "Spring Break" to get re-energized.  I'm looking forward to this long weekend to hopefully get a little ahead.  I feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants right now as far as planning.  It has to get better, right?


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mass Screenings

The school system where I work is in Day 2 of our county-wide Kindergarten screenings.  When I came to this county 9 years ago, we screened all Kindergarten and First Grade students.  We used a formal screener, Speech-Ease Screening Inventory.    Up until this year, the students would come to the school in their zone the April before they started school, and have their readiness skills, vision & hearing, and speech & language screened.  The SLPs (we have 12 for 15 elementary schools, 4 middle schools, and 2 high schools) would team up and screen the students.  It made for a nice break from therapy right after TCAPs, as we closed out the school year.
For those students who were identified as possibly requiring further evaluation, we would then individually rescreen our own schools at the beginning of the school year.  If there were language difficulties, we would wait and rescreen those students after Fall Break.  This was to give the children time to get used to the school routine.
That was then, this is now.  This year, the Kindergarten teachers "Briganced" the students during the first week of school, when the students were on a "staggered" schedule.  For the first 2 weeks of school, the Kindergarten students came 2 days/week, and only until 12:30.  The third week, reality hits them!  They come 5 days, and stay all day.  The teachers assess their readiness skills during those first 2 weeks, when they don't have all of the students there at one time.
The SLPs are again teaming up to complete the screenings, but now we only screen Kindergarten students.  We found that we were taking up a lot of time screening all of the First Graders, since the majority of them passed the initial screening in Kindergarten.  We use the PLS-4 Screening using the articulation stimuli from the previous screening.
Here is how I keep up with my screening results:
Following the completion of the screenings, I write in each child's name on this form:
(Apparently this is an older form; I've made a column for vision/hearing that I now use!)
For the students who had difficulties, I will look at their birthdate, the errors, and determine if I want to refer for an evaluation or rescreen.  If I decide to rescreen, I decide when I want to rescreen.  This will depend on their birthdate.  If I decide to rescreen later that year, I put the information on this form:
(Again, this is an older form that I used; I've added a column for their errors.)
I keep this form in my therapy notebook so I'll see it and remember to screen at the beginning of the month.
If I decide to wait until the next year, I transfer their information onto this form:
I put this form into a file on my computer for the next year.  I've also learned the hard way to make sure to back up all of my files onto a thumb drive before I leave for the summer.  Last year, I got back to school to find that all of my files had been wiped out.  I'm not sure if it was because I switched schools, or if there was an update that wiped them out.
And, that's my Mass Screenings in a nutshell.  If there are any forms you'd like, let me know and I'll be happy to email an updated copy to you.  I can't take credit for most of them; these are forms we used when I worked in South Carolina!
How does this compare to your screenings?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Love It & List It Linky


I love linky parties!  On my personal blog, there are a couple that I do every week.  They've helped me get to know some of my fellow bloggers a little better.

I've been following Jenna at Speech Room News for a while, but now that I started this blog, I can participate in her linky!  This month's subject is "organization".  Are you kidding me?  I'm known as an organizer by my fellow SLPs.
(Click on the pictures for a bigger view.)
1)  I organize my data collection notebook this way:

I have each group sectioned off into their times.  The first thing you'll see is their "sticker charts" that I got from "Year Round Lifesavers and TimeSavers for  Speech Pathologists" (from Super Duper, Inc.). 

 After that, progress charts (again from "Year Round Lifesavers and TimeSavers for Speech Pathologists"), S-Cat results, a progress form (that I use to make writing those progress reports easier!), attendance forms, and finally a piece of cardstock with their objectives that I stick their data labels on.  (The "Year Round..." books that I have were an older edition, so the forms may have changed!)

Progress Chart

Sample of the Progress Form:
Attendance Form

2)  To keep up with when IEPs are due, when I'm having my meetings, and when I'm sending out Invitations, I use my Outlook Mail (which we use at school) Calendar.  At the beginning of the year, I pull up my caseload for each school on our computerized IEP program, then sort according to IEP date.  I put in when the IEPs/Re-evals are due and highlight them in red.  Then, I look at the month before each one is due, and put that child's name in.  Then, I look at 2 weeks before that and put in "Send Joey" (for example) and highlight that in brown for "to do".  (Unfortunately, I'm not showing you a picture due to confidentiality.)

3)  I organize my therapy sessions this way:  the students come in, and on Mondays/Tuesdays we check their speech folders for homework and signatures.  Then, we do an activity.  Wed./Thurs./Fri. are "Game Days" (we've been known to sing the beginning of "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne on those days!); Mondays & Tuesdays are "5-minute Days" (more on that in an upcoming session).  Following the activity, the students get their sticker(s), and walk quietly back to class.

I'm looking forward to participating in next month's Linky:  Vocabulary Activities!

Monday, August 19, 2013

That "S" Word

Let's just jump right in, shall we?  One of the things that SLPs dread the most at the beginning of the year is that "S" word.  I'm not talking about the "S" word that public school SLPs love in the winter, either.  I'm talking about "Scheduling".  With Common Core and the emphasis on testing, it's getting harder and harder to schedule students.
When I first started working, I used something very similar to what I use now.  I sent out a page to each teacher notifying them of the speech students in her class and how many times I was scheduled to see them.  Then, I would ask that they mark the 3 best times for me to take them out of class for speech/language therapy.
As time marched on, a lot of the teachers would only put down 1 time.  So, I decided to switch it up.  It's worked for me for quite a few years.  I know some SLPs who will look at the school's specials (PE, Music, Art, Library) schedule, the lunch schedule, recess schedule, and each individual teacher's schedule and attempt to schedule the students.  I know some other SLPs who have a chart with the times, and will ask teachers to come by and sign up for a time.  Who knows best when a student can be out of the room?  Yep, the teacher.  I'm not saying my way is fool-proof.  There are some years that I have to go to teachers, show them my schedule, and beg them to be flexible.  The trick is to know which teachers you can depend on to be flexible, and hit them up first.
The best thing about doing it this way is that it's actually a time-saver.  I put the requests in the boxes, email to let them know they're there, and go about my business until I have to work things out.  Another trick here is to not look at the completed requests until you have all of them in hand. It's kind of like peeking at Christmas presents before the big day.  In this case, though, you won't be disappointed, you'll be stressed.
Now that I have your interest piqued, here's the big reveal:  (Click for a larger picture.)
It looks so easy and simple because, in reality, it is.  The form you see above is for my school that I go to 2 times/week.  I forgot to block off time for S-Team, so be aware that I normally would do that.  Lunch?  I work it around the teacher's schedule, since I can be a lot more flexible than they can.  I refuse to have lunch at 10:30, or after 12:30; it usually ends up being at 11:00 or 11:30.  

I think it's easier for the teachers, as well.  They look at the times and block off the times when they absolutely don't want their students to be out of the classroom.  I still have years when a teacher will mark every time off except one.  Most of the time it's one of the upper grades, and, since they bear the brunt of the test scores, I try to schedule them first.  Kindergarten is usually the easiest to schedule:  most of the time they're the ones who will take the "leftovers".

Give me your opinion:  Is this something that would work for you in your school?  How do you schedule students?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Why Old School Speech?

I've spent a lot of time lately reading Speech Blogs.  While most of them have some great ideas that I'm anxious to use in my therapy, I've realized that I've got some ideas that may make some things easier for the "younger" Speech Pathologists (SLPs).
I am in my 29th year in my profession.  My job titles have been Speech Therapist, Speech Clinician, and  Speech Pathologist.  All but 2 of the 29 years have been in a public school system (I did a two year stint for a rehab company that contracted with nursing homes).  I've worked in 6 school systems in 3 states, and came away from each system with invaluable experience.  I don't plan on leaving the job I have now until I retire, which will probably be in 10-15 years.
I'm a traditionalist in many ways:  My articulation therapy is "old school" with a few tweaks here and there that I've discovered through the years.  While I have done "push-in" therapy (inclusion) in the past, I have a hard time believing that my students are really getting what they need without receiving small group attention.  Maybe I'm just not doing it right...that's where the younger SLPs may be able to help me with ideas!
While it would appear that I'm close to retirement, I'm still going strong and am nowhere near being burned out.  I'm all for learning new techniques that increase the progress of my students.  Heck, I'll try just about anything if it will help!  
I began my career right after undergrad school, back when states were transitioning to requiring a Master's Degree to work in the schools.  5 years later (and driving 1.5 hours a couple of times/week for 2 years after working all day in the schools), I had my Master's Degree in hand.  I was lucky enough to have a job waiting for me when I graduated with my B.S., and I was lucky enough to work for a school system that financially helped me with my graduate tuition.  
In this blog, I will talk about my therapy room, therapy techniques that work for me, behavior management, working with parents and staff, and homework.  All of these are just my opinions, and what I have found works best for me.  It's not that my way is the only way, it's just the way that works best for me.  If I can help one other SLP find an easier, better way of doing things, then I will have completed my objective for this blog! 
My "pseudonames" are tnslp on Instagram, tnslp29 on Twitter, and blountslp on Pinterest.   You may even see "Life in a Small Town" through my personal blog that I've had for a couple of years.   Oh, and I love Teachers Pay Teachers, but only as a buyer!  I just don't have enough creativity in me to actually create things and sell them!
If you're an SLP and ever have suggestions, by all means, let me know.  After all, we're all in this together! 

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