Proving your value as a school-based SLP

A post by Elissa…

teacher appreciationletter

During my first year as a speech-language pathologist, a CF, in the school system, I had an interesting conversation with a classroom teacher. I was walking down the hall one day (who knows where I was headed- to pick up a student, to attend a meeting, to talk to a teacher…). She was standing at the door and commented, “I wish I could walk around all day…how do I become a speech teacher?”

I’m sure the look on my face was priceless and I took in this statement and calmly responded as non-condescendingly as possible. I don’t remember my exact words but it was something to the effect of, “Well after I completed my undergraduate degree I spent 5 semesters getting my Master’s degree including practicum experience in about 5 different settings…”

Silence, wide eyes…and, “Oooooohhhhh, maybe not”

That was the first (and definitely not the last) time that I had to justify my worth and the value I add to the students, the teachers, the classrooms, the school.

It’s frustrating, right? Who really understands what we do?

“why does he go to speech; he talks fine”

“you can’t pull him from reading, it’s really hard for him”

“why do you need bigger room?”

Even better “why do you need your own room?”

So whose job is it to show everyone what you have to offer? Only you can!!

Most non-SLPs are really never going to fully understand your role but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.

Some ways I’ve done this include:

  • Trainings for staff (and parents) on communication disorders:

highlight the relationship between language and the curriculum

highlight the relationship between articulation/phonology and phonemic awareness/reading

share the impact of a social language impairment

teach about the communication impairments associated with some of the common syndromes or disabilities

invite administrators to observe some of your sessions-I know they’re busy but keep trying to get them in there

  • Go into the general education classrooms – even if you pick one room, one teacher…word of mouth is powerful and good news travels fast!

 

  • Be seen in the school – don’t hide out in your room; eat lunch with staff; get in on their conversations about struggling students – give suggestions to show what you know

 

  • Give your students tools to be successful in the classroom so they can show what you are capable of – and share them with the teachers

 

  • Take on an extra responsibility in your school – I know you are already SO busy but even a small effort can make a huge difference. You may be pleasantly surprised by the things that get offered to you after that – and of course you can say no!

What are some of the ways you have had to advocate for yourself and show your value in the schools you serve? Comment below…

Educational impact and school-based practice

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So there’s this three-pronged approach to determining special education eligibility in the school system…

  1. A student exhibits a disability
  2. The disability adversely affects educational performance
  3. Specially designed instruction (and/or related services) are required for the student to progress in the general education curriculum

So step one doesn’t seem to be too difficult. Standardized tests, criterion-referenced assessments and other formal and informal measures are available to SLPs for this purpose. Didn’t we all spend most of our graduate school class time studying the various communication processes and what constitutes them being ‘disordered’?

Step 2 – that’s another story we’ll come back to in a minute…

And step 3…well let’s just say that most SLPs want to help everyone. It’s kind of in our nature! But we cannot do it all. And we have to think about all of the expertise in a school building and what EACH are specially trained to do. If the student can’t get their needs met by other individuals on the team, perhaps they require your specialized instruction. But, let’s be honest, sometimes someone else can do it.


So back to step 2…what is adverse educational impact anyway?

Well, of course, it’s determined on an individual basis so there’s no formula for it. But it definitely includes academic and social-emotional performance.

The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) provided some clarification to ASHA in 2007 confirming that educational performance does not just refer to academics.

We’ve touched on the communication skills evident in the Common Core State Standards (see that post here). The skills addressed by an SLP are clearly required for so many of these skills – easy way to justify that educational impact? We’d say so.

And it’s fair to say that educational impact for language skills is WAY easier than articulation, voice or fluency skills…but not an impossible task at all. Sometimes getting the documentation from the teachers is the hardest part.

We know that even a single-sound articulation error MAY impact a person’s self-confidence and social-emotional well-being. It’s that word ‘MAY’ that we have to be extra careful using.

Unless you are one of those SLPs with a crystal ball,

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shouldn’t we consider if there is an impact AT THE TIME OF eligibility?

Is decreased intelligibility an educational impact? Sure…how do you determine progress in the curriculum if you can’t understand the individual?

Refusal to read aloud or participate in classroom discussion? Of course, if we can pinpoint that this is related to the communication disorder.

Does the student spell like they speak? Probably some good evidence that the student isn’t even discriminating.

What about teasing? It absolutely happens…but we’d venture to say that not every student is teased and those that do experience it are not always bothered by it. Shouldn’t part of the evaluation process include how the students themselves feel about their own speech?

There can be this mindset that the educational model neglects students with communication disorders unless they are failing academically. But there is so much more to success in school than just academics.

What does adverse educational impact mean to you?