This is part of a continuing series of posts on therapy ideas to support assistants (SLPAs) and paraprofessionals in the schools in their work with students and their supervising SLPs.

It’s a fine line between “routine” and “rut”. While a routine can streamline things and boost productivity, being in a rut can lead to boredom, depression, and inefficiency. Students and teachers alike often find themselves falling into ruts this time of year, and speech/language clinicians are no exception! 

It takes time to recreate things that work, so focus on changing one component and leaving other pieces alone. That is often enough to create new interest and energy, without losing the benefits of your well-designed routine. 

Here are some easy ideas for breaking out of a rut:

  • Swap around your schedule a bit – Before you panic and tell me there is no way, just listen to how some little tweaks might make a difference. Is there one group that just does not seem to be working? Or a student that’s not making the progress you’d expect? Or maybe an artic group that started out with similar needs in the fall has grown more disparate – someone’s made lots of progress while others haven’t and your added a new student to boot! 

    Think about small changes you could make to reflect the progress students have made: Maybe a student could be seen in-class? or half their time in-class, half pull-out? Maybe some students are ready to shift from more intensive instruction on tongue placement in front of the mirror to “quick artic” 10 minutes per day in the back of the classroom?
     

  • Think about how skills learned in one setting could be generalized to another - Did you have some activities or themes that were really successful in the fall? Where else could you have students practice that skill? Could they do the same type of project on a different theme? Or complete the same type of task, but with a different partner or in class or with the school secretary?
     
  • Refocus – In the same way that reviewing the progress that’s been made can give you direction, careful examination of where there has not been progress can be equally enlightening. Work with your supervising SLP to review progress notes to identify goals that haven’t been targeted yet. There are always a couple. Think about what has been keeping you from them. 

Most important is to think small in terms of what kind of changes you are making mid-stream. There are likely a lot of things that are working. Just change enough to pique your interest again. And before you know it, spring will be here! 

SLPAs and paraprofessionals should always operate within the scope defined by state and national licensing organizations and should only conduct allowable tasks under the supervision of a speech-language pathologist.