Back to School!
Speech Language Pathologist
Los Reyes Elementary
San Antonio, Texas
Back to school can mean so many different things to different people. For students it means summer is over and they are no longer able to sleep in, for parents it is finally back to a routine, for classroom teachers it is sleepless nights thinking about what needs to be done to make the first day perfect, but what is it for speech pathologists? The answer is a little bit of everything.
On the surface it looks like the school-based speech language pathologist has it easy for the return of school. The classroom is small so less prep work needs to be done, students don’t typically start speech services until week two of school so naturally SLPs get an extra week “off”, and if the SLP is returning to the same school there is no nervousness about meeting the new “class” because he/she has the same students from year to year. But if you take a deeper look, under all the paperwork, you will find the SLP and it is not as easy as it appears.
As school-based speech pathologists, we look forward to getting to the routine just as much as the next educator. The beginning of school includes more behind the scenes work than can be imagined. One of the top items on the list for back to school is the natural concern for the students. Did they regress over the summer break? Did they continue with the speech homework and drills? Will their new classroom teacher understand them? But it doesn’t stop there. Every year for the past 7 years that I have been in the school-based setting, I return to work with at least one (typically more) email, phone message, or file waiting for me. Someone has requested testing and wants it done ASAP, or a child has transferred into my school and I need to locate the official documentations to determine eligibility, and the number one concern for school based SLPs is, you guessed it, SCHEDULING!! How will I formulate the groups? Will the classroom teachers allow me to remove the students for speech at this time? Will the students get what they need from their speech session?
This year, I opened a brand new school to my district. In doing so everything that is typically weighing on the SLP’s mind at the beginning of school becomes multiplied by 100! I arrived back to work 3 weeks before my contract started and was met with a box of files for students I have never met who are transferring from at least 4 different prior schools. Everything has to start from scratch. Every SLP and school has their own way of writing IEPs, and it is now my job to make sure they all “mesh.” The last month has been spent reading files, understanding goals and objectives written by other SLPs, scheduling ARD/IEP meetings (with a new “district way of doing things”) with parents, and of course scheduling. I have edited and tweaked my schedule at least 50 times in the last week and to top it off, once I thought I had it perfect, technology at its finest LOST my document. Yes, it was technology’s fault because not only is the school new but so are all its computers and printers and there are always things that need to be “tweaked.” Luckily I had a printed copy so I did not have to reinvent the wheel, but you can imagine my frustration. We are now in the second week of school and I couldn’t be happier to start seeing my students. I am a realist and understand that many more changes will be done as the school year continues. Students will be evaluated and qualify while others will be dismissed. But I can say with confidence that as the second week of school begins, I am ready and excited to face the challenges. From here on out everything should begin to become second nature again, I say with hope. Students understand their schedule and speech goals, I have become familiar with the students and their needs, as well as knowing my schedule so well I can recite it in my sleep. Of course I plan on being able to complete the oh-so-loved paperwork as if I have been doing this my whole life and nothing has changed. Here’s to the 2012-2013 school year; bring it on!
SpeechandLanguage.com would like to thank Madeleine for writing her first blog for us! Madeleine is also a member of our Speech and Language Advisory Panel.
Be sure to view the webinar, “Build a Foundation for Treatment in the First Weeks of School” presented by Sarah James here.