Give and Take: 3 Tips for Getting School Staff Flexibility

October 17, 2018 BY Kira Wright, CCC-SLP

You would think that by October, the schedule ordeal would be over. 

But you would be forgetting that scheduling is never complete! There are changing service times, students making progress and graduating, and of course new referrals!  

A lot to juggle

 There are so many instructional priorities within the short school day, even at the elementary level – core literacy, math skills, social and small group opportunities, active move-around time, exposure to science and technology. It can be challenging to work within all these shifting activities while ensuring that all students get to do things they enjoy and are good at, are exposed to new ideas and concepts, and have adequate time and support to work on things that are hard. Teachers, other specialists, and administrators are on your team to serve these students, and managing priorities requires flexibility all around!

Be flexible or demand flexibility?

Speech/Language therapy time, because it is often provided individually or in very small groups, is one of the last pieces of a child’s schedule to fall into place. For the school-based SLP, this means flexibly working around other people’s schedules! As great as it is to be flexible, there are times when you need flexibility from others. Getting flexibility from others requires patience and skill. Here are some tips for getting the flexibility you need: 

staff flexibility

Ask for it. (And Explain)

I love to take my schedule in to teachers for them to look at. I highlight groups their student might fit with, as well as any available holes. And I make sure to emphasize how the speech/language goals are supporting classroom work. “I think it’s really important to make some progress on these speech sounds this year, especially when it comes to his writing and spelling skills.” “It looks like she is really struggling on the vocabulary assessments. Is there class time spent on vocabulary? What if she came to speech during that time and used the classroom vocabulary to address speech goals? She would get more opportunities to use the words, and I could maybe get a handle on what is making the assessments difficult.”

Give choices

Yup, just like when you’re working with your students. Or with toddlers! Everyone feels more valued and in control when they’re given choices. “So, if we have to use this particular time, is it better for us to be in the classroom or to work in the speech room?” “If she’s going to miss some of this time, is it better at the beginning of instruction or during independent work time?” 

Maintain perspective and a sense of humor

That student that takes a long time to walk down the hall? The fact that the music schedule changed after you finally fixed your 2nd grade therapy time? Sometimes you have to laugh! And take a deep breath before diving into it all again.

Our students have lots of demands on them, and IEP teams design services to support student success. If you are having trouble coming to a consensus on a particular student’s schedule, maybe it’s time for a team meeting to look at service minutes and talk about what the priorities are. Keep the big picture in mind!