Lots of Language

Join a new SLP as she discovers what it means to do her job

ASHA 2014

Hi all! I’m posting today from Orlando, FL and I’m so excited about everything I’ve learned! A larger more in depth post will follow. I can’t wait to share with you all!

Side note #1… It’s rainy and cold today. I was definitely not prepared for this weather. (Thanks a lot weather people!)

Side note #2…Going to Hogsmead tonight! I’ll let you know if I see Harry!

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Chaos, Mayhem, and two days of Fun!

Thursday and Friday this past week, at my school, was assessment day.  This is when each child is scheduled to attend for half a day one of the two days and is assessed in the area of literacy.  My school uses the DIBELS Next program, I know nothing about this assessment so have no opinion either way regarding whether it’s better or worse than other assessments, it’s just what we use.  Each teacher take one student at a time and administers the test, while the remaining students are carted through stations throughout the school.  We had a movie room, an arts and crafts room, and others.

The OT and I were concerned because I was going to be in the Cafeteria “babysitting” (for lack of a better word) students in there while the OT was going to be testing 4th graders.  The reason we were concerned was because we both felt that, while important, neither of these jobs were within our scopes of practice nor were they a good use of our time and expertise.  Plus, both of us had planned to use those day to administer screeners for the 60+ kindergarteners, the OT for handwriting and me for speech/language.  These screeners are not required of us but we both feel strongly about early intervention and that while not directly related to the DIBELS Next testing it was directly related to literacy and the achievement of the kindergarteners within the school year (in that if we identify a need we can serve it, thus increasing the chances of the students success); which was kind of the whole point of the assessment.

The other issue was; I’m the new girl.  I don’t have any bargaining chips.  The OT had the ability to say, “I have never refused to do anything for the school, but I need to refuse to do this.”  I couldn’t say that.  They don’t know me.  They don’t know my work ethic.  They don’t know that I was willing to do what was asked if absolutely necessary, I just didn’t think it was absolutely necessary.  I also knew that if I didn’t stand up for my practice now I would be roped into doing these things for the rest of my time at the school and each time it would be harder and harder to say no.

So what did we do?  Well, the OT and I went and talked with the woman in charge of scheduling the two days and came up with a win-win situation in which the kindergarteners would be in our room for the two days and we would take turns doing the screening that we needed while the teachers did the assessment they needed.  And that is how I ended up with 63 kindergartners in my room over two days.

They really were fun days, and the kindergarten teachers were a big help.  The students were amazed that they got a day of pure playing and showed their enthusiasm with all the energy they could muster.  We had a couple different stations set up and it was a crazy free-for-all.  They could paint, jump on the trampoline, do somersaults, play with the kitchen, bean table, or farm toys.  We had puzzles and musical instruments.  It was pure chaos.  It was pure joy!

I used this screener and it was fabulous.  Very easy to use and easy to make clinical judgments based on the information provided.  I based my rescreen list off a 80% accuracy on the screener, i.e. any student below 80% will be re-screened in January.  I also hope to use some of this data as my artifact for my evaluation…

Anyway, this experience was definitely an exercise in standing by your scope of practice and your ethical responsibilities, but also being a team player and making sure that everyone’s needs are being met.

What experiences have you had with this?  Would you have done it differently?  Let me know!

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Speech Teacher vs. Speech Language Pathologist


It’s an argument I hear about on a regular basis and I felt the need to express my own views.

I worked hard for the P in SLP. I also think that people/colleagues should know I do more in my job than just fix articulation (speech) errors. The L is a huge part of my job.

I said to some of my SLP peers the other day that I will say, “I’m your speech teacher,” to my students.  Can you imagine the look on a Kindergartner’s face if I said, “I’m your Speech Language Pathologist.”  They would have no clue what I was talking about!  When I was working with high-schoolers I did introduce myself as the Speech Language Pathologist, because it was a great opportunity for them to learn some new vocabulary.  In addition, it was a great way to start talking about why they were seeing me and what my purpose in their schooling was.  Teenagers just want to hear it as it is and want to be treated as adults.  I also make sure that I am educating other teachers, parents, and adults by introducing my self as the Speech Language Pathologist and would never ever call myself the speech teacher to that group of people.  How can I expect people to call me that when I don’t?

I work in a district where I am treated like a teacher.  I’m paid like a teacher, hold a license through the department of education like a teacher (in addition to my national license through ASHA), and I am evaluated like a teacher (although thankfully my state is moving toward a Special Service Providers evaluation).  Let me stop there briefly, I have nothing but the utmost respect for teachers and what they do.  Both my parents and grandparents are/were teachers.  There is nothing like what a teacher does on a daily basis and I have thought in the past while watching my friend who are teachers teach that I could never stand in front of students all day long and do what they do.  I enjoy my 30-minute bite sized therapy sessions with kids and am grateful when I can send them back to class.  But the fact of the matter is, I am not a teacher.

I don’t know how to lead a class of 20+ student.  I don’t know how to plan a lesson (except for my therapy sessions).  I don’t know how to organize centers, or teach math, or develop tests, and homework, and on and on.

What I do know is: how to assess and treat communication disorders.  I know phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics.  I know the difference between receptive and expressive language.  I know when to use dysfluent and when to use disfluent and that fluency isn’t just about reading.  I know communication. I am an SLP!

Having said that I believe there are more important thing to worry about than what people are calling me (although I would  be pretty upset if they were calling me Buttface).  I believe in actions; that if I am doing my job and helping students become better communicators than it doesn’t matter if I am a Speech Teacher or a Speech Language Pathologist.


Do you have any thoughts on the subject?  I would love to hear them!  Please comment below!




Data Collection

Today’s blog will be about how I collect data.  It’s a topic thrown around all the time with special service providers, “how do you take data?”  Data is the life blood of our field, so much depends on the accuracy of our data collection and if we don’t take it we don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to IEP meeting, dismissal or continuation of services, and our evaluations.  So this is how I do it…

The Speechstress on TpT has finally posted her new Caseload Manager: Therapy Log and Data Tracker and it is amazing!  It’s so much better than the previous version, so ignore the post from earlier because this one is very different. Note this does not work on a Mac as Excel for Apple does not support the macros used in the spreadsheet.  

She has a tutorial included in the .zip file so if none of this makes sense check there.

First you’ll come to a sheet named ‘Enter New Student.’  This is where you input all your student information.  If you are using Excel 2010 (as I am) there’s a minor issue when hitting save, but follow the directions from here and here and you’ll be just fine!  Once the information is entered hit save and a “Save successful” message should pop up.  Do the same for all students.





The next sheet is a page with all your student information that you just entered.  There is a drop down menu where you can select the student name that you need.


The next sheet is where you input your data from each session.  This is my favorite part!  Click the button that says Enter new session and a new window opens.  Use the drop down menu to find the correct student, enter the data in the appropriate boxes and hit save and the information appears in the spread sheet.  You can sort the spread sheet by name, date, % correct, whatever makes you life easy.


On the goal accuracy sheet there is a table for overall progress, for a custom date range, or by month.


The caseload sheet shows all the information you entered from the first page in one place.  Here you can sort the students according to any of the columns (name, teacher, grade, etc.)


The absences & service time page shows if you have seen the student for the minimum number of minutes and how many days the student has been absent/unavailable for services.


The last page is where you can find graphs either overall, or by month.



I should mention that there are two additional sheets in the file that are colored black.  These should be ignored at all costs!  They contain the information for the formulas used and could ruin everything if messed with.  So just pretend they’re not there.

Anyway The Speechstress spent a lot of time on this product and it is absolutely amazing!  I highly recommend it and it’s only $4.  It’s great for any data collection and is not specific to one field.  It would be great for monitoring RTI data, tracking growth in academic areas, OT/PT goals, really anything.  

That’s one piece of the puzzle, after the session.  This is how I manage data collection within the session.

Each student has a working file.  I use those sturdy medical files with the two prongs at the top.  I’ve seen some SLPs use ones with a divider to give them more places to store information, but I like just the 2 sides.  One side has the student’s attendance sheet and the other has a data collection sheet that I created and you can find here for free if you would like to use it.  The data boxes are big enough to hold a standard Avery mailing label.  I carry around a sheet of those and take directly on them, then when I’m back in my room I can peel the label off and stick it right on the data sheet.  That way I’m not having to carry a big binder or a million files around the school and I’m not having to transfer data over to multiple places.

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Underneath the data collection page is a page to record indirect/consultation time, and I slip a graph in loose for the student to graph their own progress.  The graph comes from this binder, which is a really neat tool for progress monitoring.  The more I use it the more I’m glad I bought it (as I bought it on a whim…).

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Then I take the information from here and input it into the spreadsheet from above and voila data collection complete!

Hope that helps you figure out something that will work for you and makes you a more effective therapist.


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1st week back

Had a fun filled first week back.  Spent most of it finishing organizing my room and getting my caseload organized (data sheets, student profile sheets, progress monitoring etc).  I absolutely love my progress monitoring binder that i mentioned in a previous post.  I’ve completed data sheets and graphs for each student and I think it will be really helpful this year, especially as my district is rolling out a new evaluation rubric for Special Service Providers and this binder will make an awesome artifact!

I’m so excited for my room set up!  My husband was super sweet and helped me to bring all my materials to my car and then went the extra mile to ensure they made it to school safely.  

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After all the work I spent on them it was nice to know that someone cared that they stay nice. 🙂

Here are a few pictures of my room.

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I’m so pleased with how everything turned out.

I met a few of my new students and even gave out the first of my birthday treats.  Poor kid didn’t really understand what was going on, I think he was expecting an actual book and didn’t realize he had to wait until the Scholastic Book Catalog came out.  But he liked the Pixie Stix, so that’s good!  I left the coupon with his teacher and as soon as the first catalog comes I will help him pick out a good book.

This coming week I plan on finishing up some paperwork odds and ends and start screenings for Kindergarteners and collecting baselines for my current caseload.  


Getting Ready!

What a busy week!  I went to school on Tuesday for an extra duty meeting, so that I could meet everyone and get a feel for the culture of the school.  I was really impressed!  Everyone seemed so positive and excited for the school year.  They all were dedicated to making this year successful and were so welcoming and kind.

Thursday was our district’s first official day back for staff.  It was another day of meetings and more of the same positive attitude.  I really hope that this feeling lasts for a while if not the whole year.

Friday was a teacher work day and I just had so much fun setting up and decorating my classroom.  I don’t have any pictures yet, as it’s not completely done yet (one more work day on Tuesday to finish that).  I purchased a Owl classroom decor pack  and spent all Friday evening cutting out the detailed pieces and laminating them.

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They are going to be so cute in the classroom.  I mentioned last week that I am operating under the slogan “Outstanding and Wonderful Leaders in Speech/language.”  So everything is Owls.

I also wanted to do something special for my students on their birthdays.  I took this pack and this pack and combined them to make a special owl themed birthday bouquet in which each student can pick a “flower” on their birthday (or half-birthday).  I had quite the adventure trying to make these.  I had gone through the effort of combining the different colors so that there was a variety of options for the students to pick from.  They were sorted into nice neat piles, like this:

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And then my cat happened…

Who could imagine that this precious face…

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….could cause this level of destruction?

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But it all turned out fine and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out.

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In addition each student will get a coupon to pick out a book from a Scholastic Book Catalog.  I work in a Title 1 school and most of my students do not have access to very many books, so this is my way to help them get more literacy in their lives.  I used this coupon but you could easily make your own.

I hope your preparations for school are going well and I’ll see you next week!

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Binder Explosion

So, I may have gone a little nutso during the recent TpT Back to School Sale…

I think I now have a binder for everything.

I have:

In addition I printed (and laminated!) some classroom objectives that I can hang in my therapy room to cover that “posted learning objectives” box on my evaluation.

I spent all of yesterday and most of the past week printing, laminating, and filing all this great stuff into binders and had so much fun.  I can’t wait to get it into my room next week!

My husband mentioned to me the other day that after having me at home all summer and with me going back in a few days, he plans on using this change to really grind out a good, organized, productive schedule for his day.  He work from home, so having me here has completely disrupted his work flow.  I realized when he said this that I was doing precisely that.  Last year, being as it was my first year as an SLP and with a population that I was not particularly comfortable with, I completely flew by the seat of my pants and had no clear direction in my therapy or in my caseload management.  Moving to this new school I really want to start off on the right foot; knowing that I am capable, that I do have direction, and I can manage my caseload in an effective way.  (And also I want to show off to my new boss and prove that the faith he put in the woman who transferred me and the faith she put in me is justified).

I also purchased, while wondering around Staples and Office Depot waiting for my prints to be completed, an Owl theme classroom decor kit.  My plan is to have everything be Owl related (behavior rewards, birthday cards, etc.) and go under that slogan of “Outstanding and Wonderful Leaders in Speech/language therapy.”  Anyway, that’s a a blog post for next week when I get my room set up.

Until then!



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Caseload organization

So while I am absolutely thrilled about switching from middle/high school to elementary, it means that all the work I did on my caseload at the end of last year is null and void — I have had to start all over.  As I was working on this last week I thought what a great topic for my blog.  My process is probably a little redundant, but it works for me.  The first thing I have is an excel spread sheet, this one in fact from Lauren Morrison on Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT).


I think I added an additional three columns for the minutes because I do direct and indirect minutes.  I also think I added the Eligibility column.  What I like about it is that it is very easy to read and has all the important information.  I also like that the “next AR” column adds a year and a day to give you the exact date you need on the IEP.  It took me a while to find a spread sheet that I liked and this one is great!

The next thing I do it then copy some of that information into a word document that I can print out and carry with me or hang by my calendar.  It is available on my TpT store here.  It has the student’s name current review and when their eligibility date is due, as well as their therapy minutes.  I try to have all my students relatively the same amount of time, but that is not always possible to do.  I found that I would forget that I had changed one student’s time and not update it so I was seeing them more (or less) than I was supposed to.  Having the print out made it easier to remember and I update it and reprint about once a month.

The last thing that I do it create a data collection spread sheet.  The one I use is currently unavailable as the author is testing the new version for the 14-15 school year and has not released it yet but I will make a follow-up post as soon as she releases it.  It’s from The Speechstress, her other products are amazing too.  Go check her out.

Anyway, the data tracker has four sheets within it.  The first is an basic information and data collection list.  It also has a spot to write out the goals.  I like to copy and paste directly from the IEP just so I know exactly what I’m measuring.


The next page is a goal accuracy page that shows the goals again and then has an overall goal accuracy box and a month by month box.


The third page shows attendance and if the minimum number of minutes was met.  Awesome!


And last but certainly not least the last page has graphs of the data by month and for each goal.  For a graph junky like me this is pure gold!


As you can see this is the 13-14 version so I’ve had to tweak some of the dates to give you a good example of how the tracker works, but the 14-15 version is promised to be out soon.

Anyway that’s my caseload organization, it took me all last year to figure it out and I’m excited to start the school year with this already in place.  Much less scrambling and general fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants (ing).

Until next week!

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New School Year’s A-Comin’

I got really excited yesterday because I’m finally able to see my school on our district student information system.  I spent the whole afternoon and evening setting up my caseload and getting to know my new students.  I actually enjoyed the work time; being on summer and doing nothing is great and all but sometimes a person just needs to have purpose in her life.

Last year I was split between a middle school and a high school.  I had 64 students total: 8 at the middle school and 56 at the high school.  I was at the different schools 1.5 days and 3.5 days respectfully.  It’s crazy, now I’m at an elementary school full time and only have 39 students.  How does that even happen?!

Anyway, the excitement of setting up my caseload got me wanting to start this blog that I always think I will but never actually do.  So anyway, here it goes!

Here’s to a great new school year!

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