Speech language pathology by the numbers: A new school year begins

It’s that time of year……

Isn’t it amazing how quickly the summer flies by?  For many school based SLPs the summer is over and they are reporting back to work.  Hopefully you used the summer to get recharged, whether it be by resting, traveling, organizing yourself, or planning.  Looking at the start of our new year by the numbers……


# of preplanning days: 4 – definitely not enough

# of SLPs to start the school year: 175+

# of vacancies: it changes everyday

# of schools they serve: 101 plus a couple dozen daycares

# of weeks until winter break: too many to count


# of new SLP trainings to deliver: we’ll start with 3, but do they ever really end?

# of new CFs to mentor: 14 (we have some help with that)!!!

# of SLP Assistants to supervise: 6 (and they are the best!)

# of professional learning days: 3

# of SLP department meetings to plan: 6

# of audiometers to distribute: 300! That may be a slight exaggeration…or NOT

# of students on [average] caseload: can we stay below 40?

# of IEP meetings to attend: to be determined…

# of times my computer will crash: Please, no, not again!

Making it count for the 16-17 school year!

Are you off to a great start? Tell us how your numbers are adding up!





Did you ever have those clients that have been working on the /r/ sound for years?  We all have. You’ve tried placement using a tongue depressor, peanut butter, mirror, or anything else you can think of but you still get a distorted /r/ sound.  These students may have been working on this sound at 6, 7, 8 years of age.  By this time he is BORED as he has been working on the same thing and can’t get it right.

You know Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity right?


It’s time to try a different approach.  You have nothing to lose.

So what can you try that you may not have already attempted? Why not try an oral motor approach?

While the efficacy of oral motor exercises is a controversial topic, all you have to gain is the chance at a correct /r/ production.  Have you done an extensive oral motor examination? Give it a shot!

You will likely find some weaknesses in the oral musculature impacting correct placement for /r/.  Focus on making these weak muscles stronger and getting the articulators in the correct placement and the odds are you will get better productions.

Remember that the oral motor strength and movements are NOT the goal of treatment. The production of the sounds and speech intelligibility are the ultimate goal!

Don’t be the definition of insanity…try something different.

What are some of your successful oral motor exercises for improved production of /r/?

For more information and interesting reading on the oral motor controversy, check out The Oral Motor Institute including monographs on the oral motor debate and a recent narrative review by Dr. Kay Kent.


Service delivery and the adolescent: A classroom model

He was first found eligible at age 6 when he struggled with literacy skills in kindergarten – primary significant developmental delay (SDD) in communication and cognition, secondary speech-language impaired. By age 9, he was categorized with specific learning disability along with speech-language impaired, still struggling to read and comprehend or express himself orally and in writing. Off to middle school, still far behind typical peers – language scores barely changing; some dropping. We don’t want him to miss MORE class but he can’t keep up. His foundational language skills are SO weak and he has little to no strategies to apply in class.

What do we do? He’ll never make it through high school!!!

This was the scenario for so many students in our district. We knew we had to try something different.


What about a language class? Taught by the SLP? Everyday?

Strategy-based instruction, intensive therapy, skills to increase performance in ALL classes.

Sounds great…how do I manage that one??

Keep reading for tips on how we got this model started in our large metro school district.

Step 1: identify a small group of interested secondary level SLPs and brainstorm all the pieces of the puzzle, including obstacles

Step 2: outline course objectives, assessment tools, how to sell it to administrators at the district and school level (this was actually easier than one may think – the logic behind it kind of sells itself but research helps-download a reference list here)

Step 3: identify course #’s that allow the SLP to be the teacher of record. This will vary greatly by state and district. In ours, the SLP can only be the teacher of record for elective courses (due to us having a service certificate rather than teacher). So we chose study skills course numbers

Step 4: identify possible students – by far the EASIEST part. The best candidates seem to be those with a primary learning disability or other health impairment (such as ADHD) and secondary language impairment. It is recommended that this list be lengthy because scheduling won’t work for many. Individual SLPs will need to determine their comfort level with class size and whether the class should be year-long, a semester, or even a quarter in some cases.

Step 5: obtain parent and student permission (download a sample here) for those whose schedule worked!! And amend IEPs to accurately reflect the service time/model

Step 6: build and share lesson plans/ideas for course content

Step 7: try to keep going and growing!

This model is NOT for every student OR SLP…

                Some tried it and loved it

                                Others tried it and despised it!

Others tweaked it to make it work for them – such as co-teaching with a study skills teacher daily or weekly

For some, the success varied based on the group of kids!

But students thrived, making more progress than before; showing up to speech, working hard for a grade; appreciating the extra support and carrying over more skills to other classes.

Are they still delayed? Of course! But they are getting more from the SLP expertise without missing any class!

Have you ever attempted a model like this? Share your experiences!

Comment or email us if we sparked an interest and you want more information!


Service delivery: Determining service time

2 X 30 mpw (1)

Working in a large school district, we read a lot of IEPs and talk with SLPs often about service delivery time and scheduling.

What do we see and hear most often? Students being served in 30-minute increments! 2×30 minutes per week (in the speech room) seems to be the most common choice. Of course, many students have more than 60 minutes per week or have an in-class session thrown in there. Many students in middle and high school may be seen once a week for the length of a period (stay tuned for our next post about an alternative service delivery model for adolescents-link).

But overwhelmingly, students who receive speech-language services for 60 minutes per week are seen in two 30-minute sessions, regardless of the type of communication disorder(s). Sometimes the justification can’t even be expressed – we’ve asked!

We’ve talked about getting out of the speech room (link) and provided some tools (link) for collaborating. But regardless of where you serve, the reason(s) for the amount of time and how it is broken down are just as important – and are determined on an individual basis. There is more than just 30 minutes!

45 minutes one time per week may be sufficient

What about 3×20 minutes/week?

90 minutes broken down into 2×45 instead of 3×30?

4 hours per month instead of 1 hour per week? Because one week may necessitate 90 minutes while another only 30!

There is a lot of talk about quick articulation drill sessions like Speedy Speech or 5 Minute Kids. These are amazing models for students with speech sound disorders.

Frequent and intensive therapy is definitely efficacious for apraxia of speech.

And students with language disorders and/or learning disabilities can absolutely benefit from extra practice with skills and strategies.

Do you have a parent who is anxious about a recommended reduction of service time? Is it the AMOUNT of time or the decrease in weekly consistency they are most worried about?

                3×30 => 2×30 can be a little frightening but…

                                3×30 => 3×20 may soften the blow

Scheduling is a beast involving so many factors but students’ needs are ultimately where it should begin!

We have found a few states with severity rating scales:

Maine, Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia

But they don’t equate to specific service time recommendations – though there may be states or districts out there who have developed their own. However you determine service time recommendations, be sure they are individualized and incorporate team decision-making including the severity of the disorder(s), level of educational impact, and need for specialized instruction from the SLP!

How do you determine service time recommendations for your students?