ACK! Your SLP leaves and no one is available to help!
Family leaves for the benefit of babies is an easy leave to see coming. Literally. These are the leaves you can talk about at length and plan for.
But what happens when someone takes ill, quits, or has an emergency? These leaves you can’t always see coming.
And yet, kids show up the next Monday still scheduled for service. What is an administrator to do? Don’t panic. Here’s my top 4 tasks to help you manage your next unexpected SLP leave.
Request a prioritized workload list
If at all possible, request that your existing SLP provide a prioritized workload list before they leave. If getting the list ahead of time isn’t a reality but your SLP is available to speak with you (as is often the case), spend 15 minutes with them on the phone and gather what information you can. Critical information includes:
- Evaluations that are already in process that another SLP can finish.
- IEPs that are already in process that another SLP can finish.
- IEPs and 3-years due in the next 4 weeks.
- Up-to-date caseload for a list of students that who may experience an interruption in services.
- Building or teacher teams the SLP engaged with and what their role was.
If there is going to be an interruption in service, tell families as soon as you possibly can. Tell them how you intend to potentially problem-solve in the weeks ahead (i.e., contract with a short-term sub, reorganize district SLPs’ responsibilities, prioritize testing for a period of time, etc.) Conflict with parents most often stems not from what we do but what parents misunderstand or what wasn’t communicated well. Getting in front of poor perceptions is half the battle!
Tap into your professional network
Talk with trusted administrator friends and colleagues outside of your district about potential problem-solving avenues. They may have leads of individuals who recently inquired with them for employment, or resources for short- and long-term assistance. Don’t know anyone in the area? Make it a priority right now to attend regional events and conferences in the coming months. The value of attending these events is to connect with others who will share your niche pain and support you when you’re in need.
You may not want to hire one of our clinicians but we are always happy to share your vacancy within our extensive network of professionals. When opportunities like this materialize, they are often filled by word of mouth. If that’s the case, you want as many mouths as possible INSIDE the profession to be talking about your needs. And from our perspective, there are always folks who are not a fit for us but are seeking employment with a school district. We’ll always post your vacancy to them and within our internal network. Drop us a line or give us a call and we’ll help however we can.
Finally, don’t forget that when someone returns after their leave, your job isn’t over. Transitioning that SLP back requires a thoughtful and intentional approach. You want this professional to feel and be successful. Retention is the other side of recruitment and the much easier partner to address proactively. And if your SLP decides not to return? Make sure you complete an exit interview (read my tips for successful exit interviews here) and learn what you can from the situation so you’re better prepared next time it happens.